What I want from Windows

by Jonathan Gennick

Windows Vista is on the way, with the first beta soon to be released on 3 August. It may be too late to influence Microsoft, but I've put together the following list of features that would get me excited about the next release of Windows:

  • Enforce at the operating-system level a rule that no application is ever allowed to steal focus. It really wrecks flow for me to be typing along at an article only to have the Office Assistant ask me a question, or my spyware scanner interrupt me to say that new updates have been downloaded, or whatever. No interruptions. Ever. That's what I want.

  • More reliable killing of applications. When I ctrl-alt-del, highlight an application, and click the end button, I'd like the app to end right then. I know I can go to the Processes tab to end the underlying process more reliably, but the mapping from application name to process name is not always clear.

  • Longer battery life. This is more of a hardware problem. But Win XP actually does a good job at milking every minute from my batteries. Any further software improvements to extend battery life under Windows Vista would be most welcome.

  • I'd like to see better integration with Linux/Unix. For example, build in really good ssh and sftp clients. Maybe bundle in a good scripting language such as Python.

  • Ship Windows with some sort of built-in programming environment. I know it's easy enough to install, say, Python, but interesting things might happen if we could count on all users to just have it already.

  • Build in a stand-alone address book so that I can manage all my email contacts independently of whatever email program I happen to be using.

  • Take a good, hard look at the Start menu. I think we need a new approach to finding and starting applications. When I got to Start->All Programs, my list is so long that it wraps into two columns. And sometimes I have to navigate through not one, but two folders before I can click on an executable. I wish I had a solution to offer here, but I can't help but think there might be a better way.

  • Throw in a really good text editor. Vim maybe? Just something more capable than Notepad.

I'm sure as soon as I post this that other ideas will come to mind.

What about you? What improvements (seriously, no jokes please) would you like to see in the next release of Windows?


2005-07-29 09:03:10
Sounds to me like you want Mac OS X
C'mon man, give it a try. You know you want to.
2005-07-29 09:11:17
Re: What I Want From Windows
  • This should at least be an option. I'm tired of typing along, and pressing Enter just as some random error message or confirm box jumps in front, leaving me with no clue what I've just authorized or acknowledged.

    Along these lines, I'd also like to banish overlapping windows from all modern GUIs. What possible reason does anyone have for not always maximizing (http://www.southbaypc.com/AutoSizer/) windows? Drag and drop, which, let's face it requires an inefficient level of interprocess cooperation when the clipboard can serve the same tasks more simply. If d&d is really important, add splitters to the desktop, or a clipboard icon to drag from/to.

  • Ctrl+Shift+Esc is a faster way to access the Task Manager, and the Delete key is typically faster than clicking the End Task/End Process button. To find the process behind a task, right-click the task and choose Go To Process. See also taskkill /f and tasklist (XP or later).
  • It'd be a start not to spin up the CD for no reason all the time.
  • The Windows Scripting Host with VBScript/JScript (http://webcoder.info/reference/vbsvsjs.html) is fairly capable.
  • I'm surprised the .NET SDK isn't included.
  • Isn't this the Windows Address Book (wab.exe)?
  • GNOME has this figured out. Put a single menu item into one of a few categories.

    • NO submenu full of useless menu items for Manual, ReadMe, Website, Registration, Uninstall, etc. that are all easily available elsewhere.
    • NO using the menu as advertising space by putting icons in the root of the menu or in three separate places (I'm looking at you, Real (http://www.real.com/) ).
    • NO adding superfluous desktop shortcuts (that's what XP's MRU applications list is for).
    • NO adding totally unneccesary tooltray processes (WinZip (http://www.winzip.com/) , Real (http://www.real.com/) , Sun JVM (http://java.sun.com/) , QuickTime (http://www.apple.com/quicktime/) , Adobe Reader (http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html) , et al.).

    These tactics should be considered malware, since they piggy-back on the installation of the software you want, but degrade system performance and usability.

  • I can't imagine how they could add a serious text editor without irritating the enthusiasts of emacs, vim, jedit, or whatever. They could improve the existing script editor, though.
2005-07-29 09:11:31
Sounds like you want...

It will let you set your window focus.

When you kill something, it dies. (for better or worse)

It has more editors, IDEs and programming languages than you can shake a stick at, including .NET (via Mono)

You can keep using your Windows software via VMWare or Wine or Crossover.

But it doesn't have an application neutral address book. The good news is that you could write one with Mono.

And you don't have to buy new hardware to try it out. Via Knoppix, you can try it out at no risk or cost. And if you decide you don't like it, you can take your data with you without worrying about file formats or compatibility issues.

Now, what's not to like about that?

2005-07-29 17:10:09
HP's have been showing up with Python installed
MS has a real interest with IronPython now but I'm not sure that's a good thing. Could the same thing happen here as happened with Java?

What's to prevent Dell, HP or Toshiba from bundling VIM, Emacs or Joe? Apple has some Open Source applications bundled with OS X.

It would be cool if Microsoft bundled Python and Ruby. After all MS doesn't have any competing products. ;-)

2005-07-30 00:03:44
Quick app access
# Take a good, hard look at the Start menu... I wish I had a solution to offer here, but I can't help but think there might be a better way.

Yeah... It would be being able to just hit -R and then type in the name of the application. Problem is, most installed applications are in separate folders, meaning that you would have to type the whole path or add it to your PATH variable, which gets to be a pain when you have to do it once for every application.

On the up side, you can do this for a lot of built-in system apps.

On the down side, the name of the program isn't nearly as obvious as it usually is when you do the same thing in *nix.

A good middle ground might be something like Gnome's "List of All Known Applications" in their "Run" box, where you can start typing in the common app name (as opposed to the executable name) and run it from there.

2005-08-01 04:57:03
Keep windows maxed, no interrupts...
This is exactly what I want - and as I am using GNU/Linux, I had no trouble getting it. Just a quick ratpoison (http://www.nongnu.org/ratpoison/) install, adding "rudeness 0" to my .ratpoisonrc (actually I have keybindings for rudeness 0/15), and since then I enjoy :)
Jonathan Gennick
2005-08-01 10:41:16
Quick app access
I saw a review of Windows Vista yesterday (wish I'd saved the URL). The review showed a screenshot of the new Start menu. It does appear that Microsoft has done some work there. You still (apparently) have folders and subfolders with all sorts of icons dropped in for each app that you install, but the navigation looks to me to be easier than having to carefully move up and down, and then right, and then up and down, and then right again, etc., all the while hoping your wrist doesn't slip and cause you to lose your position.

So, from what I've seen so far, the Start menu does seem to have been improved.

Jonathan Gennick
2005-08-01 10:43:07
Sounds like you want...
I do use Linux. I'm using Konqueror under Suse right now to write this comment. But I use Windows too, and I see myself continuing to use both for at least the near to medium term future.
2005-08-14 23:55:19
Re: What I Want From Windows
windows builtin telnet client and Hyper Terminal sucks

im using WhiteHorn secure terminal after putty.