Windows Longhorn: still the most exciting Windows UI to date

Windows Longhorn: still the most exciting Windows UI to date

Summary: This is a gallery showcasing some of Microsoft's UI thoughts during the most visually-exciting period of Windows development: Windows Longhorn.

TOPICS: Windows, Microsoft

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  • In 2001, flash mock-ups were created to showcase what a finalized Windows Longhorn might look like. Many different UIs were created, but only one was chosen to be the model designers and developers would code into Windows development. This particular demo spawned the Plex (the name of the theme used in M3-M4 builds) era of Longhorn development at Microsoft. Subsequent themes used were Slate, Jade, and various forms of Aero.

    As you can see in this screen shot, there were massive changes planned for the Windows shell.

    Related: 10 epic Windows 7 pranks you absolutely must try

  • Here's another conceptual shot of a Plex-themed Windows Longhorn, circa 2001.

    Related: 10 epic Windows 7 pranks you absolutely must try

  • This is a Plex concept that extends even farther back in time than the previous two screen shots, thus showing the humble beginnings of a wild new look for Windows.

    Related: 10 epic Windows 7 pranks you absolutely must try

Topics: Windows, Microsoft

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  • Totally Agree

    Why can't users have both? On a phone or tablet (touch enabled) give me Metro but on a full PC or Laptop where I want the best experience and I'm not concerned about battery life or the limitations of a dual core, give me something exciting. My PC is an AMD 6 core with 16 GB of RAM and a longhorn interface for Windows 8 would have made me jump to it in a heartbeat. With Metro I'll leave Windows 8 to touch interface because on a system with a mouse and keyboard its just a lack lustre sad excuse for a UI. - Hey Microsoft...isn't Windows smart enough to detect if I'm running on battery or if I'm not using a touch enabled device? I expect my PC to be a bit smarter these days and have some built in logic to give me the ultimate experience based on what I'm using.
    • Same thinking went into removing Aero

      They claim that they removed Aero theme because it was hard on battery life, but just like you it's not an issue for me as I'm either on a desktop or mostly on the plugged in laptop and the new theme for Windows 8 has all windows so squarish as to make them ugly, I loved the "cheesy" shine and transparency of Aero, why couldn't they leave it as an optional theme?
      • Aero

        I too, love the aero theme, and it is in the final release of Widows 8 (on Pro, at least- that's what I'm using on both laptop and a touch screen tablet). But, the earlier release- I've tried them all since the first beta release- did look bland. The windows are still "squarish", but at least the borders and frames are transparent. Of course, the Start screen isn't aero, but since I normally put my laptop in sleep mode, it opens to the desktop without having to enter the password. I love the fact that resume from sleep is nearly instant! On the tablet, though, I do have to login and it opens on the start screen, which I actually enjoy using, mainly on the tablet. You might want to check the "Get more themes online" link to find an aero theme; there are many available.
    • Was My Favorite

      It certainly was the best UI for me, and apparently for the majority of the employees in the company I work for. We even had great success with Vista, probably because it was the easiest for us to move to from XP. Thanks to making sure we had the right components, and taking the time to harden and thoroughly test all of our systems, we experienced a very reliable environment. Obviously, from complaints noted on ZDNet, it wasn't for everyone, but Win 7 is.
      I firmly believe businesses should be given the choice of Modern vs Win 7 style UI's, rather than force Modern on them.
      • No

        I disagree about giving anyone the choice, and here's why: like anything in nature, people tend to stick to the familiar unless they're given no other choice, at least at the outset of the introduction of something new. If the Modern UI were simply a choice, far, FAR too many people would simply turn it off and never give it a chance, purely because it's different.

        In its current incarnation, people who adopt Windows 8 must, short of modifying the OS with apps or tweaks, use the new UI, and learn to live with it. As they do, many will find, as I certainly have, that it's extremely useful, fast and friendly for many tasks, and will embrace it as such. This embrace will encourage developers to embrace the OS as well (in fact, only 8 days after launch the Windows 8 app store had 13,000 apps, just edging out the Mac OSX app store's 12,800ish apps), and while many of them are new and struggling to figure out their identity in the Modern UI world, the teething process has begun, and before long we'll have deep, intuitive, well-conceived applications that make great use of the new UI.

        If it were an option that could be disabled, the impetus for developers to learn and adapt would shrink dramatically. Microsoft made the right choice, just as they did so in Windows 95/NT4 by not making the Start menu/taskbar optional.
        • NO to "NO"

          So instead of people having a choice, you're with the Sinofsky group that would FORCE end users to use Modern/Desktop just because they're 'comfortable' with the old interface. You don't take into account that for some people, the Desktop interface actually works better for them, better in the way they have to use applications. It seems that too many people are very quick to try to force people to accept their viewpoint: It's my way or the highway, whether it's politics, religion, freedom-to-marry, or any of a list of things, even down to what should be personal decisions such as operating system and user interface. At last I still have the option to ignore Windows 8 and stick with an OS that works well for the way I work: Windows 7. I think the score card is still out on whether Windows 8 is a hit or a miss on the desktop and laptops with the general public.
          • everything is "forced"

            If you haven't noticed, all new technology today is crammed down your throat whether you like it or not. All mobile devices are tied to some kind of app store. God help you if you try to stray from it, assuming you even know how to.

            Want to stick to an older iOs, android or even an older version of an app because it worked better for you, you can forget that notion. You can really go out of your way to achieve this but you will go out of your way to do it and the labor and your personal time involved will eventually become ridiculous. As for windows, your options to modify it was always there and was always much easier than say mobile OS. You just had to take the time to find these things yourself.

            A lot of it has to do with support I guess. Companies and developers are tired of having to provide support for a lot of different varieties of xyz. Nobody wants to write a web application that can support IE 4.

            That is just the way of the current world.
          • Not everything is forced, (but the intention to force is always there.)

            I can still take my SIM card out of my Samsung Note and put it back into my Motorola Raz'r if I want to. (I only switched to the Note about 6 months ago.) My home PC is still running XP on a P4 and PATA drives. With a really good older video card, it is still faster then my cable modem, so what good would a faster & newer PC do me? (None!)

            We can disrupt the forcing by simply refusing to buy the next version. In spite of the exaggerated numbers M$ published, the public refused Vista. We can refuse anything, but we would have to resign ourselves to living without until the company gives. Ultimately, as the consumers, we are in control. Unfortunately, too many people just keep buying the crap the monopolies are selling.
        • I find the elitist metality very irritating.

          Basically, it's saying "Yes, you think you know what you like and what you want in an interface. But you're too stupid to know better. We know better than you what you really need and want."
        • No to "No" from me too

          I completely disagree with jasongw and find his Big Brother approach bewildering. If the design of any upgrade is a genuine improvement then the market will flock in that direction. I worked for a large corporate in the 1990s when everybody had Windows 3.1 on their desktops. When Win 95 became available there quickly became a buzz (from the people who cared about this kind of thing) from people who had it on their home PC's to have it at work too. I also noticed it on XP, and to a lesser extent with Vista (despite the fact that it took a year to become stable). I see a similar adoration from people who use iPhones and Android devices. An historical example of where there were a few ardent supporters but no widespread interest was OS/2, which died a slowish death.

          I am an experienced Windows developer and I had Win 8 installed on one of my two computers for a year. I have never fallen in love with it, and I have actually written to all my customers to advise them that if they need to buy a new computer to ensure that it hasn't got Win 8 on, and the feedback I have got back so far has been 100% agreement (genuinely). Metro is OK on a tablet or platform, although it is boring compared to iOS and Android, but it has no place on a desktop - and that goes double for a server version of Windows. What were they thinking letting Sinofsky do this?

          I relish evolution, and would have hoped that Windows 7 would be replaced by a version that included improvements that incorporated the recent growth in content consumption. The fact that they REMOVED Aero is utterly a step backwards, and it is sad to see the blanding down of window design being implemented throughout Microsoft products.

          The point of this article is to remind us that there once was an exciting and ambitious plan to truly evolve the Windows platform. I remember the excitement well, and shared it. The true vision was watered down over time, and it is sad to read elsewhere that the culture within Redmond nowadays is so toxic and counter-productive. I have truly loved Microsoft in the past, but with the advent of Windows 8 the answer sadly is not to knuckle down and learn to live with it, but look elsewhere. We now live in the post-Microsoft era I'm afraid.
          Les Miserables
    • God no

      I'm glad this design line died. The entire notion of adding gobs of bullshit effects to the OS is simply wasteful, tasteless, poor design.

      Thank goodness Windows 8 came out as beautiful, elegant and fast as it did, wasting far fewer resources than this shiny trash.
  • Disagree

    I will have to disagree, I truly hope it's not the direction Microsoft will take. There is no sense of unity everything seems to be from seriously?
    Francis Thibault
    • Edit

      Edit : most visually-exciting time in Windows development? That would be to have the Metro language not Longhorn who looks like a bad Vista
      Francis Thibault
  • Windows Longhorn: still the most exciting Windows UI to date

    It was a very good UI but not the most exciting, that would be the Modern UI. Live tiles are awesome.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • And Richard Nixon

      Is the most honourable and trustworthy president the US ever had.
      Alan Smithie
      • Haha

        He's just the only one that got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
        Sam Wagner
    • Careful

      You're starting to sound like Mike Cox (whatever MS is currently putting out is the best ever).
      John L. Ries
      • John L. Ries ...Loverock Davidson will never go that far to the Right

        or is it the left.....have you noticed that Lovie seems to be mellowing in his positions?....have to agree Mike Cox was a HOOT for years.......
        Over and Out
        • Hi!

          Hello there!!!
          Loverock Davidson-
          • A village (forum) idiot type response

            Shunned by everyone, trying to get someone's attention.