Windows Aero

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The "glass"-like window borders, a distinctive feature of the "Aero Glass" theme used by Windows Vista and 7

Windows Aero (a backronym for Authentic, Energetic, Reflective, and Open) is a set of interface and design guidelines that were introduced by the Windows Vista operating system. The changes made in the Aero interface affected many elements of the Windows interface and how it functions, including the incorporation of a new look, along with changes in interface guidelines reflecting appearance, layout, and the phrasing and tone of instructions and other text in applications.


Windows Vista[edit]

Live thumbnails on taskbar
Windows 7 Flip 3D, invoked with Win+Tab key combination

The Aero interface was unveiled for Windows Vista as a complete redesign of the Windows interface, replacing Windows XP's "Luna" theme. Until the release of Windows Vista Beta 1 in July 2005, little had been shown of Aero in public or leaked builds. Previous user interfaces were Plex, which was featured in Longhorn builds 3683–4039; Slate, which was featured in build 4042 and was available until build 4093; and Jade (builds 4074, 4083 and 4093). Microsoft started using the Aero theme in public builds in build 5048. The first build with full-featured Aero was build 5219. Build 5270 (released in December 2005) contained an implementation of the Aero theme which was virtually complete, according to sources at Microsoft,[citation needed] though a number of stylistic changes were introduced between then and the operating system's release.

Windows Aero incorporated the following features in Windows Vista.

Windows 7[edit]

Aero Peek, showing the desktop

Windows Aero is revised in Windows 7, with several UI changes, a more touch-friendly UI and many new visual effects and features, including mouse gestures:

Windows 8[edit]

While retaining interface elements introduced by Vista and 7, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 make changes to the visual appearance of the operating system to incorporate the Metro design language. As a result of these changes, the Aero Glass theme was replaced by a flatter, solid colored theme. Most transparency effects were removed from the interface, aside from the taskbar, which maintains transparency (but no longer has a blur effect).[9][10] Flip 3D was also removed; Win+Tab now toggles between apps.

Pre-release versions of Windows 8 used an updated version of Aero Glass with a flatter, squared look. However, the Glass theme was ultimately removed, as Microsoft designers wanted to avoid skeuomorphism. The desktop interface on the final release of Windows 8 was modified to incorporate elements of the Metro design language; in comparison to Windows 7, the interface adopted a flatter look with almost no transparency effects, fewer rounded edges, and solid colored window borders designed to attract more attention to the content of a window.[11][12]


For the first time since the release of Windows 95, Microsoft completely revised its user interface guidelines, covering aesthetics, common controls such as buttons and radio buttons, task dialogs, wizards, common dialogs, control panels, icons, fonts, user notifications, and the "tone" of text used.[13][14]

Aero Glass theme[edit]

The Open dialog box in Windows 7, demonstrating Aero Glass

On Windows Vista and Windows 7 computers that meet certain hardware and software requirements, the Aero Glass theme is used by default, primarily incorporating various animation and transparency effects into the desktop using hardware acceleration and the Desktop Window Manager (DWM). In the "Personalize" section added to Control Panel of Windows Vista, users can customize the "glass" effects to either be opaque or transparent, and change the color it is tinted. Enabling Aero Glass also enables other new features, including an enhanced Alt-Tab menu and taskbar thumbnails with live previews of windows, and "Flip 3D", a window switching mechanism which cascades windows with a 3D effect.

Windows 7 features refinements in Aero Glass, including larger window buttons (minimize, maximize, close and query), the replacement of the cyan highlight from window borders with white ones, revised taskbar thumbnails, the ability to manipulate windows by dragging them to the top or sides of the screen (to the side to make it fill half the screen, and to the top to maximize), the ability to hide all windows by hovering the Show Desktop button on the taskbar, and the ability to minimize all other windows by shaking one.

Use of DWM, and by extension the Aero Glass theme, requires a video card with 128 MB of video RAM (or at least 64 MB of video RAM and 1 GB of system RAM for on-board graphics) supporting pixel shader 2.0, and with WDDM-compatible drivers. Aero Glass is also not available in Windows 7 Starter, is only available to a limited extent on Windows Vista Home Basic, and is automatically disabled if a user is detected to be running a non-genuine copy of Windows.[15][16] Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 also support Aero Glass as part of the "Desktop Experience" component, which is disabled by default.[17]

On Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, DWM is permanently enabled on all systems; additionally, DWM can now use software rendering on incompatible graphics hardware.[18]

Aero Wizards[edit]

A wizard on Windows Vista for connecting to the internet, which utilizes the "Aero Wizard" layout

Wizard 97[19] had been the prevailing standard for wizard design, visual layout, and functionality used in Windows 98 through to Windows Server 2003, as well as most Microsoft products in that time frame. Aero Wizards are the replacement for Wizard 97, incorporating visual updates to match the aesthetics of the rest of Aero, as well as changing the interaction flow.

More specifically:


Notifications allow an application or operating system component with an icon in the notification area to create a pop-up window with some information about an event or problem. These windows, first introduced in Windows 2000 and known colloquially as "balloons", are similar in appearance to the speech balloons that are commonly seen in comics. Balloons were often criticized in prior versions of Windows due to their intrusiveness, especially with regard to how they interacted with full-screen applications such as games (the entire application was minimized as the bubble came up). Notifications in Aero aim to be less intrusive by gradually fading in and out, and not appearing at all if a full-screen application or screensaver is being displayed—in these cases, notifications are queued until an appropriate time. Larger icons and multiple font sizes and colors are also introduced with Aero's notification windows.


Segoe UI font in Windows Vista and Windows 7 (top) and Windows 8 (bottom)

The Segoe UI typeface is the new default font for Aero with languages that use Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic character sets. The default font size is also increased from 8pt to 9pt to improve readability. In the Segoe UI typeface prior to Windows 8, the numeral zero ("0") is narrow, while capital letter "O" is wider (Windows 8's Segoe UI keeps this difference), and numeral one ("1") has a top hook, while capital letter "I" has equal crown and base (Windows 8's "1" has no base, and the "I" does not have a crown or base).


Aero's base icons were designed by The Iconfactory, which had previously designed Windows XP icons.[20]

Phrasing tone[edit]

The Vista User Experience Guidelines also address the issue of "tone" in the writing of text used with the Aero user interface. Prior design guidelines from Microsoft had not done much to address the issue of how user interface text is phrased, and as such, the way that information and requests are presented to the user had not been consistent between parts of the operating system.

The guidelines for Vista and its applications suggest messages that present technically accurate advice concisely, objectively, and positively, and assume an intelligent user motivated to solve a particular problem. Specific advice includes the use of the second person and the active voice (e.g. "Print the photos on your camera") and avoidance of words like "please", "sorry" and "thank you".[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Message boxes differ in Windows Vista and in Windows XP, although you use the same code to generate the message boxes". Support. Microsoft. Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  2. ^ "What is Windows Aero?". Windows Portal. Microsoft. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  3. ^ "Using Windows Flip 3D". Windows Portal. Microsoft. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  4. ^ "About Task Dialogs". MSDN. Microsoft. Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  5. ^ Zheng, Long (30 November 2008). "From Microsoft patent to Windows reality: "X-ray browsing", circa 2005; Aero Peek, circa 2008.". iStartedSomething. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  6. ^ Townsend, Reed; Matthews, Dave; LeGrow, Ian. Sinofsky, Steven, ed. "Touching Windows 7". Engineering Windows 7. Microsoft. Retrieved 30 November 2008. 
  7. ^ What's new in Windows 7: Faster & easier[dead link][dead link]
  8. ^ Kiriaty, Yochay; Goldshtein, Sasha (July 2009). "Introducing The Taskbar APIs". MSDN Magazine. Microsoft. Retrieved 10 November 2013. 
  9. ^ "RIP Aero Glass; Windows 8 Sticks a Fork in Familiar UI". PC Magazine. Ziff Davis. 19 May 2012. Retrieved 20 May 2012. 
  10. ^ Harris, Jensen (18 May 2012). "Creating the Windows 8 user experience". Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  11. ^ Webster, Andrew (18 May 2012). "Microsoft reveals Windows 8 desktop UI changes, drops Aero Glass". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  12. ^ Harris, Jensen (19 May 2012). Sinofsky, Steven, ed. "Creating the Windows 8 user experience". Building Windows 8. Microsoft. Retrieved 21 May 2012. 
  13. ^ "What's New in Windows Vista". Windows Vista User Experience Guidelines. Microsoft. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  14. ^ Allchin, Jim (10 November 2006). "The Sounds of Windows Vista". Windows Vista Team Blog. Microsoft. Archived from the original on 10 November 2006. Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  15. ^ "Windows Vista Enterprise Hardware Planning Guidance". TechNet Library. Microsoft. February 2007. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  16. ^ Fried, Ina (13 April 2006). "Vista won't show fancy side to pirates". CNET. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  17. ^ "Desktop Experience Overview". TechNet Library. Microsoft. Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  18. ^ "Desktop Window Manager is always on". Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 Compatibility Cookbook. Microsoft. 28 November 2012. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  19. ^ "Wizard 97". Platform SDK. Microsoft. May 2002. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  20. ^ "Design: Windows Vista". The Iconfactory. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  21. ^ "Text". Windows Vista User Experience Guidelines. Microsoft. June 2008. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 

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