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New Windows Offer Better View
by Russell Shaw

The new Microsoft XP personal computer operating system, which will be sold beginning sometime this fall, is now available for download from

More reviews by Russell Shaw:
Computer backup software
Remote storage
Wireless devices
Desktop scanners
Online office furniture

Is it cool? Oh, yeah. Do you need to upgrade now? Not really, unless you're like me and have an I'll admit it an ego-driven need to own and operate the latest computing gear and software programs.

One of the best things about XP is that it's easier for non-experienced users to operate than older operating systems.

It has an attractive interface that includes large, round icons. The commands for various functions are organized into logical groups of tasks that use the icons to clearly point to the correct path.

The Windows Start menu, which on current operating systems can get cluttered with the newest programs you install, has been tweaked in XP to remember the programs and tasks you work with most frequently and show them first.

It will also be easier for the home user to run multiple applications such as a quick check of your e-mail while your kids play computer games.

And, how many times has this happened? You're downloading new software over your home dial-up connection, when your daughter bursts in and just has to upload a Microsoft Word file to send to a classmate. With Windows XP, you can log out of your own configuration, let your daughter take over the computer, while your lengthy download continues in the background.

Other worthwhile additions include an easy-to-use My Pictures folder, which makes editing or e-mailing digital photos much easier, and an improved Windows Media Player, which plays streaming music files as well as MP3s and provides a read out of each track's title and length.

A new version of Microsoft Office is coming, too. Windows Office XP, which will be available for download starting April 30, will offer easier and more intuitive integration between component programs such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Why not upgrade now?

The fact is, there's nothing mission-critical here, such as the great leap forward from the primordial Windows 3.1 to Windows 95, way back when.

I've also learned from bitter experience that when it comes to operating systems, the upgrade procedure can be balky and buggy, beyond the perceived competencies of non-experts. Programs can get overwritten, new and unfamiliar icons can appear, and data files can be more difficult to find.

That's why I haven't installed XP on my own machine. It's my livelihood, and besides, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Trial versions usually don't come with customer service support. If anything went wrong during installation, I would be on my own. Plus, since it is a beta, the new version will expire on a given date, and you'll have to reinstall it.

The good news is, if you prefer personal computers with the Windows operating system, you will be able to run XP eventually. Starting this fall, most new PCs will come with XP already installed.

If, like me, you tend to be overwhelmed by curiosity, try out XP now if you must. Better yet, wait until you buy a new PC equipped with XP. Let Microsoft do the work for you.

Related Stories
• Keep Tabs on Your Young Techies
• Tech-Savvy Kids Reconfigure the Family
• Work On the Road Right
• Floppy? Interface? Speak English!
• Coping with Computer Eyestrain
• Penicillin for Your PC

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Related Stories
• Keep Tabs on Your Young Techies
• Tech-Savvy Kids Reconfigure the Family
• Work On the Road Right
• Floppy? Interface? Speak English!
• Coping with Computer Eyestrain
• Penicillin for Your PC

Web Links
• CNET's Windows XP review page
• Maximum PC Magazine Windows XP Sneak Peek
• ZDNet: Windows XP
• Microsoft Office XP
• Microsoft Windows XP

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