The Vista productivity debate rages on

The Vista productivity debate rages on

Summary: Well I seem to have hit a nerve (or struck a chord at least) with a lot of people with my recent post about the decidedly mixed reaction to Vista. It's the most heavily trafficked and commented post I've made here at ZDNet and reading through the comment thread reveals a few interesting topics of conversation. Aside from the ever-present Linux (or Mac OS) vs. Windows comments that are a staple of any contentious thread here in ZDNet-land, the actual issue I hoped to address – productivity – was well covered along with the historical perspective suggested by more than a few commenters that things were not so different when Windows XP (or Windows 2000) were first released.

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TOPICS: Windows, Microsoft
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Well I seem to have hit a nerve (or struck a chord at least) with a lot of people with my recent post about the decidedly mixed reaction to Vista. It's the most heavily trafficked and commented post I've made here at ZDNet and reading through the comment thread reveals a few interesting topics of conversation. Aside from the ever-present Linux (or Mac OS) vs. Windows comments that are a staple of any contentious thread here in ZDNet-land, the actual issue I hoped to address – productivity – was well covered along with the historical perspective suggested by more than a few commenters that things were not so different when Windows XP (or Windows 2000) were first released.

I don't pretend to be a historian where such things are concerned but I can say with no reservations that my personal experience with both Win 2K and XP was nowhere near as disappointing or frustrating as what I'm going through with Vista. I recall that when Windows 2000 was first available, the company I was working with at the time had a mix of NT Workstation and Windows 98 SE machines and the upgrade was a huge improvement in both performance and stability. There were, of course, the Service Pack releases that continued to improve things (well, at least until the last one which was a freaking nightmare that we mostly avoided as we had already moved on to XP).

Windows XP was a big UI change – hold the Fisher-Price jokes please – but was also a significant change in the interaction design dimension as well. I remember being very excited about the improvements to the shell experience when I first dove into XP and, despite the changes in Vista, many of those core ideas live on. XP Service Pack 2 was a watershed release in my opinion. As a Tablet PC user, the updated Tablet PC bits in SP2 were a smashing success and made that form factor more than a curiosity and "cool but I don't really need that" feature set.  The way Windows updated and protected itself was also radically changed during this time.

Getting back to the original topic of discussion, all of these releases made me feel more productive which, to date, Vista really has not. As a number of commenters noted, it seems that many of the decisions made related to how controls work and where they were moved to were made more for the sake of change than a comprehensible improvement in user experience.

It's also all too easy to send Vista into a weird fugue state simply by getting a little "mouse happy" and trying to perform too many operations quickly. The system almost always recovers once it's caught up with all my clicking but it's distracting and irritating to see all of my windows dim out and watch that spinning circle thing spin around and around. And no, there's nothing that's in any way less than up-to-date about the system I'm using Vista on – it's a recently released and well-configured Lenovo ThinkPad X61t Tablet PC with 2GB RAM, a big hard drive and a Core 2 Duo processor.

The jury's still out and I have no doubt that ultimately many of these issues will be resolved with the now-rumored performance releases and ultimately a SP1 release sometime in the future. Right now? I'm still wrestling with very mixed feelings.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft

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38 comments
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  • SP1 must COUNT. But will it?

    Personally, I think that XP SP2 is the best Windows release yet. What needs to be said about Vista's already been said so I won't go there again.

    Microsoft well knows that many IT managers wait for the service pack before planning upgrades; I would urge them to squelch the urge to release SP1 simply because corporate adoption is slow. SP1 should be released when it makes sense for technical reasons and not for marketing reasons, or Microsoft risks shipping another turkey on the heels of the first. I don't think they can afford that sort of thing anymore.

    Nevertheless, my cynical side expects less from SP1 precisely because the incentive for premature release is there. I'll have to test triply hard before I recommend deployment even of SP1.
    dave.leigh@...
  • My Vista experience

    I am no expert by any means, however, we have had our new Vista PC at home now for just over a week. The graphics are a little nicer, the dual core processor does appear to be able to handle multiple tasks at the same time better but not like I thought it would. Getting used to the changes is a little time consuming. I wish that the disk fragmenter was easier to find and showed how fragemented the drive is AND how far along it is. Some things are hidden pretty well. Office 2007 does take some getting used to. There seem like alot more options to do things but for the basic person that wants to simply create and print a simple doc it takes some time to get used to. I cannot believe the amount of HD space that Vista requires... mind boggling. I hope the address simplifying the code for the next release of Windows.
    redtrain65
    • I think you got the wrong machine

      <i> but for the basic person that wants to simply create and print a simple doc it takes some time to get used to.</i><br><br>
      If you are talking about yourself here, you probably would have saved a lot of money just getting a basic non core 2 duo with Linux? <br>
      I've noticed Microsoft Works still comes with any machine I've been looking at.....if I had to reason to have Office, I would simply just use works. Or OO. <br>
      Which version of Vista did you get? Maybe your machine came with the basic Office edtion ? (word, excel, outlook).
      xuniL_z
    • You have some good points there

      You have some good points there, about the disk defragmenter (I don't use it, I am going to purchase PerfectdiskRX and use that) and about the Office 2007 being somewhat harder to get used to (Microsoft should have shrunk some of those toolbars!).

      I have to disagree about the time it takes to simply create and print a simple document in Office or using Vista Notepad and Wordpad. Doesn't seem to take any longer for me to do that than it took with Windows XP and Microsoft Works 8.0.
      On the hard drive space thing...... Vista doesn't really take up that much space in all honesty. I checked my parents Media Center Edition installation space...... WOWZERS! It was taking up 4 GB for the Windows directory alone, quite a big space. Vista on our new machine only takes up 5.something GB, so not really a big difference in space taken up.
      Leria
    • About the disk defragmenter

      Don't bother using the disk defragmenter manually. Vista actually does defragmentation automatically during idle times, so doing it manually is unnecessary.
      CobraA1
  • Now and then...Vista & Office the way to go!

    Initially when I got Vista Ultimate installed I spent a lot of time. This is obviously just the time it takes to learn something new, familiarize yourself and 'play'.

    Now that I have been running Vista for half a year and Office 2007, I find productivity is starting to show noticable gains. Vista's Search is comprehensive and lightening fast and I no longer find myself waiting on a search to finish or constanting doing search after search to get to what I'm looking for. Office was a pain to learn in the beginning but now everything is so quick to access and right at my finger tips. (I find myself using the Home tab, Page Layout tab and Review tabs the most, and everything is quickly accessible there...good-bye drop down after drop down menu)

    So six months later, I can honestly say I have noticed getting things done in Word and Excel to be far less time consuming and with a great deal less effort.

    So, yes, some growing pains to learn the new stuff, but now I can honestly say, things are so much easier, faster and smoother with Vista and Office 2007. BTW, The first time I installed Redhat Linux, boy did that take some getting used to. And I'm still going through the learning curve. I'm not even touching the various open source apps that like to have their own interfaces. That opens up more learning and my brain is tired.
    GeiselS
    • But...

      Would that be any different if you installed Office 07 on Windows XP?
      No_Ax_to_Grind
      • My question exacty

        My question exactly, and I'm assuming that this is a NEW computer, so it would probably be FASTER with XP, then with Vista. But I would take Linux over windows any day.

        C@RL
        co-eddy
      • That is the right question

        And my response would be a firm no. The only real advantage to running Office 2007 on Vista is the integration with the built-in Instant Search. Under XP, to search (with any efficiency) inside Outlook you need to install Windows Desktop Search or rely on a third party tool like Google's which doesn't integrate with Outlook 2007 nearly as well as it does with 2003 due to the big UI changes.

        While writing my Outlook book, I learned first-hand that Office 2007 runs just fine on XP.
        morchant
        • Further on Office 07

          One thing I have seen with the ribbon is that newbies seem to like it but every power user I know hates it. Personally, I think it eats up way too much screen space and requires far too many clicks to get what I want.
          No_Ax_to_Grind
          • Office 07 hinders productivity

            I'm a moderately powerful user of Office 2003. Someone came to me with a Word 2007 document that had unwanted page breaks. I did not know how to fix it. Had it been in 03, I would have known exactly where to look. Productivity was certainly reduced in this case. Office 2003 was not broken. M$ "fixed" it only for their financial gain, not to help users.
            bmeacham98@...
      • Yes actually it is different

        I have Vista Ultimate with Office 2007 on my laptop and Windows XP Pro with Office 2007 on my desktop.

        I have the Desktop Search and stuff on XP but its not even close to Vista's search. Moreover typing something into the start menu in Vista has come in very handy as well, XP lacks that ease of access. The other nice thing in Vista is my applications always just seem to be there...with XP I find myself waiting for them to load even though my desktop is AMD Athlon 64bit X2, Windows Vista just seems to perform faster (search, application launching etc...and is smoother on my single core AMD Athlon 64.) Once SP1 comes out, I'll upgrade my desktop to Vista Ultimate...for now until the Hardware Vendors play catch up...I'll wait.

        So, having both in use for sometime, I must say Vista wins hands down, but I wouldn't recommend anyone jump on the Vista bandwagon. When the time comes to upgrade your system, go the Vista Ultimate route then. Overall...Its more "A "NICE" experience" then it is a major productivity improver. Besides, the flowing water DreamScene I find reduces my stress during the day and some days, that's a welcome 'productivity improver'. :-)
        GeiselS
        • Launching Applications.

          Sure enough Vista does load your most used applications quicker than XP. So I guess Vista is more productive if all you're doing is opening and closing applications.

          I mean, after you have saved those precious 4 seconds between opening office on Vista and office on XP, exactly what productivity gains have you got during the next 8 hours?
          Bozzer
  • Shadow Copies

    I think most of the extra space requirement is due to shadow copies. You could turn it off and recover the space but the ability to restore a previous version of a file is one of the best new features.

    You will never be able to count on Microsoft to make productivity improvements. The user interface is getting really dumbed down and they are always finding new ways to waste screen real estate.
    kmatzen@...
  • IMHO, Microsoft has failed on this release of Windows.

    Not very long ago I had a client (maybe 100 PCs) ask me about upgrading to Vista. This client is no ones fool and he asked the question that shoots Vista down. He asked, "What can my people do with Vista that they can't do with XP"?

    Unfortunately my answer had to be, "nothing, if it runs on Vista it will run on XP and in all probability it will run faster on XP." Toss in the fact much of your existing hardware won't work with Vista today (maybe the drivers will catch up) you are also looking at a significant hardware cost. (For speed I've compared redrawing a large AutoCAD file and XP is clearly 10% to 15% faster. That may be due to video drivers but for now it is what it is.)

    Security? Mmmm, it *may* be more secure but this client is running SP2 and AVG anti-virus and has not had a single problem since upgrading XP. Yes Vista may be more secure (remains to be seen) but it is hard to say anything bad about an OS (XP SP2) without a problem with security in two years. Zero problems is zero problems and you can't improve on that very much.

    At the end of the discussion it was decided to remain on XP SP2 unless some truely compelling reason comes along.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Yeah!

      Yeah that's why Vista is no good for the business, and I my opinion for ANYONE. What does it do that XP doesn't? NOTHING (except for better graphics, and now all the games are migrating to it) so all it does is hog resorces, that can be used in much better ways in XP or Linux.

      C@RL
      co-eddy
    • re: IMHO, Microsoft has failed on this release of Windows.

      "What can my people do with Vista that they can't do with XP"?

      -It's more secure. UAC means that you don't have stuff messing up your kernel and system files without permission.

      -Microsoft's new Problem Reports and Solutions center along with totally integrated Microsoft Updates means that updates get onto you PC more quickly and you have much better access to available solutions to problems.

      -Revamped sound system offers much better sound quality and per-application sound controls.

      -New memory management means that more stuff is in fast memory rather than being on a slow harddrive. In addition, Windows tries to some degree to predict your usage and make sure the right application is in memory befor you open it. This is especially apparent in a work environment where you have a fixed schedule that is easy to predict.

      -It's great for gamers, with DirectX 10 and a rewritten graphics system. Once video card manufacturers have most of the bugs worked out, and once more games support DirectX 10, Vista promises to be a great gaming platform.

      You're right, the problems with AutoCAD may be drivers. BTW, when is the last time you updated the drivers? Video card manufacturers have been releasing new drivers quickly, and I know nVidia just released new drivers very recently.

      It may be worth it to try with the newest drivers. And make sure your AutoCAD software is up to date also.

      "Zero problems is zero problems and you can't improve on that very much."

      Yes, but you can't use that as an excuse to stop being secure. You want to keep it that way. If you become lenient and stop attempting to ensure things are secure, that zero will not last long.

      I've had too many problems and close calls when I get lax on security. You just can't expect it to stay secure by sticking with the status quo. You've got to remain diligent and active.


      Mostly, it's a lot of little things rather than one big thing that I like about Vista. I think it's a nice improvement.

      Especially since they removed that Fisher-Price interface in XP that I always shut off. I find Aero much nicer than Luna. Luna was just ugly.
      CobraA1
      • And oh, yeah, forgot

        -Instant search. I don't use it so much because I did some organization, but I know a lot of people really like it because you can find your stuff pretty quickly. It's integrated with email and other things as well, so you're not limited to a file search. And oh, yeah, it's really easy and fast to access: Just hit the start key and type.
        CobraA1
      • Damned by faint praise

        For those who are happy with Vista - super. That's great.

        But are the points you listed really all that compelling?

        From a business perspective - is a better sound system and DX10 any kind of argument? I don't know about your business, but where I work, there are no LAN parties. As for increased security - is an upgrade to Vista cost effective? In other words, is Vista soooooo much more secure that it's worth the expense (for software, hardware, and tech support in upgrading drivers, user training etc.)? Frankly, I don't think so.

        For myself, I have upgrade decisions to make both at home and work. At work, as I mentioned, Vista will cost $$$$ for basically little tangible benefit. At home, where I still have two Win2K machines, I guess I will go with the many reviews that indicate XP is both faster and more compatible than Vista.

        BTW, I have tried Aero and it does not suit my tastes, which in computers means unobtrusive. If I notice the OS, I get upset.

        Anyway, to each his own. It's awesome living in America where you get 100 flavors of pudding and a nice selection of OS's too.
        Takalok
        • define "faint"

          "But are the points you listed really all that compelling?"

          Depends on what you want to do with it.

          "From a business perspective - is a better sound system and DX10 any kind of argument?"

          If your business is music, you would like the better sound. If your business uses AutoCAD or does 3D visualization or similar things, DX10 might interest you. It all depends on what your business does.

          "As for increased security - is an upgrade to Vista cost effective?"

          Depends on how much your business requires the OS to be secure. If you're storing valuable stuff like sensitive customer information, it's worth it.

          "Frankly, I don't think so."

          Frankly, you don't speak for everybody.

          "BTW, I have tried Aero and it does not suit my tastes, which in computers means unobtrusive. If I notice the OS, I get upset."

          Aero is a lot less intrusive than Luna in my experience - Luna uses those big blue bars with candy colored buttons in the upper right. For me, it was big and ugly. Aero IMHO seems smaller and less intrusive.

          "Anyway, to each his own. It's awesome living in America where you get 100 flavors of pudding and a nice selection of OS's too."

          Amen.
          CobraA1