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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Turn Off the Eye Candy

We all want Windows to work as fast as possible, right? Part of the progress with Windows Vista and Windows 7 was the aero special effects. They look cool, but they also slow your system down. So if you care more about performance than eye candy, turn it off.

Open Control Panel and type the word "visual" in the search field. You'll be presented with several things you can do. One of them is "Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows". Click on it and select Adjust for best performance in the dialog box that appears. Click Apply and you should see a nice improvement in speed. Personally I would rather turn things off on my own. So under the selection for Adjust for best performance is a long list of things that can be adjusted. If you feel daring, turn off the ones you can live without. The more you turn off, the faster things go. But I'm guessing you don't want to turn them all off. Post a comment and let me know what you find the least useful in that list and what you find the most useful.



Blogger KT~MolarArtist said...

Foster: Thanks for the tip on the "visual." I recently upgraded to Windows 7 and thought, "Wow, this is cool... but at what cost?"

Instead of going straight for the minimalist "Adjust for best performance," I'm clicking on a few things at a time and see how they work and look. For now, I dumped the transparent glass, and all the fades and shadows. The "Enable Aero Peek" seems a bit silly; I don't usually keep much on the desktop.

I do, however, like the thumbnails popping up when I hover over the task bar.

9:23 AM  
Blogger Jimbo said...

Thanks for the tips, this was really helpful.

After using Windows 7 for a day or so at work, I was dying to turn off all the eye candy. As far as I can tell (albeit after only a day or so of use), the candy adds very little to the function of the operating system from the user's perspective.

Yes, things move around the screen relatively smoothly and, yes, it feels much more modern than the XP box I was using before. But, all the visual effects just don't do anything to improve the UI. After all the great things I had read online about 7, I was expecting some pretty clever little UI enhancements that would make Windows more of a pleasure to use, even if they were just a rip-off of Apple's innovations over the last few years. Practically, I was hoping for a few enhancements that would save me time in doing some of the more repetitive tasks that we office workers do, for example, moving files around, dealing with 20 windows open at the same time and saving lots of documents in the file hierarchy.

Instead, MS has offered-up a resource-hogging layer of useless eye-candy that does more to distract from core functions (like switching between programmes and windows) than it does to improve the user experience IMHO. I can't see anything in Aero that lessens the time I have to spend on the mundanities of using a computer.

Contrast this to my very old eMac that runs OS X at home. Expose is a great little UI enhancement that has some similarities to Windows 7 changes; it looks smooth, modern and interesting. It encourages a certain 'wow' in the casual observer. It moves live objects (docs, movies, etc) around the screen in ways that look very Minority Report. However, it is actually USEFUL and speeds-up mundane tasks like switching apps.

MS has only managed to rip-off part of Expose; the bit with the prettiness. The bit where it is actually useful for the user is totally absent.

In Windows 7, now all I'm using is text smoothing, with the rest turned off. Now it just looks like XP 3, or Vista 2, or NT 6.1, or whatever you want to call it and, as horrible as it still is to use, at least it's honest.


12:59 PM  
Blogger George Gray said...

Unless you are running a relatively older pc, turning off the 'eye candy' doesn't do much performance wise. In fact, switching off Aero all together could actually hurt since Aero is optimized for the underlying graphics system. Switching to the awful, outdate and butt ugly 'classic' theme can also hinder certain things.
@Jimbo-actually, much of the eye candy does serve a useful purpose. For example, Aero Snap is quite useful for doing exactly what you were citing: copying files. Dock the source to the left, dock the target to the right and drag-drop. Simple and effective. Aero Peek is another useful feature. There are times when I want to get to the desktop quickly and this accomplishes the task nicely. The visual cues on the new combined task bar, for example, is another useful addition. When downloading a file, you can see the progress by simply looking at the icon on the task bar. There are many others as well. Give it a chance, dig around. There are a ton of usability improvements.

1:12 PM  

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