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A Guided Tour of the Newest Longhorn Build

by Wei-Meng Lee

I had a chance to play with the Windows Longhorn operating system about a year ago and wrote an overview of the features available in that build, which is 4074. (See A First Look at Longhorn.) One year later, Microsoft has released a newer build of Longhorn (5048) and made it available to attendees of WinHEC 2005. So, how much has changed, and how close are we to getting the real thing?

In this article, I'll give you a guided tour of the current build of Longhorn and examine some of the changes to the Windows UI. While this build is not specifically designed for end users, it's worth a look, especially if you are looking forward to the next release of Windows.

Setting Up Longhorn

Once you have obtained the Longhorn DVD, you can proceed with the setup. For my testing, I used Microsoft Virtual PC. There is a bug with the current build of Longhorn--the setup does not work correctly for Virtual PC. When installing Longhorn to a new virtual drive, Setup couldn't see the unformatted virtual drive. To solve this, you need to use a formatted virtual disk from another virtual machine so that Setup can proceed.

Testing Longhorn

Once Longhorn is installed, you will see the familiar startup screen (see Figure 1).

Figure 1
Figure 1. The Longhorn startup screen

By default, Longhorn will automatically log in as Administrator without a password. Even after you have created a password for the Administrator account, subsequent logins are hard-coded to use the Administrator account with no password. Fortunately, though, you are prompted with the login window to enter a user name and password.

Figure 2 shows the Longhorn desktop with the Start menu.

Figure 2
Figure 2. The Longhorn desktop with the Start menu

If you click on the Start menu and select All Programs, the list of programs is displayed within the Start menu (instead of displaying another menu list from which to select the program you want to launch). For example, if you click on Accessories, a list of programs under the Accessories category will be displayed within the menu (together with a vertical scroll bar; see Figure 3). To some people, this is a neat idea, but to others it looks ugly.

Figure 3
Figure 3. The programs listed within the Start menu

I'm still a big fan of the classic Start menu, and you can change it in Longhorn. Figure 4 shows the classic Start menu.

Figure 4
Figure 4. The classic Start menu in Longhorn

One notable new feature in this build of Longhorn is the inclusion of a text box situated under the All Programs item in the Start menu (see Figure 5). Type in the name of an application, and a list of programs matching your input will display as you type. I think this is quite a good feature, as you need not navigate through the Start menu to launch a program.

Figure 5
Figure 5. Finding an application to launch

One notable omission in this build is that the Sidebar is no longer available (see my earlier article, A First Look at Longhorn). That is a pity, since the Sidebar is one of Longhorn's useful features.

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