Windows Vista Mobility: Why Should You Care?
“Why should I upgrade to Windows Vista™?” is the single most-asked question I get at work these days. Curiosity is driving a lot of folks towards this latest and greatest operating system from Microsoft. What’s new? What does it do? What’s in it for me? Everyone wants to know what’s so special about it and if it is worth it. “How much time do you have right now?” is usually my first reply, closely followed by, “Do you have a laptop?”
Of course many professionals and knowledge workers do have a laptop, and that often includes application developers too. Windows Vista offers tons of new features and enhancements, from the new spiffy hardware-accelerated user interface with Aero to all the built-in .NET Framework 3.0 technologies (WPF, WCF and WF), Microsoft® Windows® SuperFetch™ to Windows ReadyBoost™, Microsoft packed a lot of power under the hood (see sidebar, Windows Vista: Beyond Mobility). But throw Windows Vista on a mobile PC and get ready for some serious improvements for the mobile professional. The term mobile PC describes all portable computers such as Ultra-Mobile PC, notebook, laptop and Tablet PC running the full Microsoft Windows operating system.
Windows Sync Center allows you to manage the synchronization of all your data and files between various computers, devices, external storage, and network servers.
Following the release of Microsoft Windows XP Professional in 2001, which also saw the launch of the new Tablet PCs, Microsoft went back to work to bring mobile PCs to the next level. Today, Windows Vista pushes the envelope on mobility over its predecessor and it shows. Where Windows XP introduced us to the Tablet PC features of using pen computing and electromagnetic digitizers; Windows Vista extends the Tablet PC experience with support for touch. Where Windows XP featured a standard recognizer that could decipher your handwriting and convert it into text fairly accurately, Windows Vista can learn the quirks of your penmanship (or lack thereof) using a personalized recognizer and automatic learning.
You do not have to explore very far to notice all the mobility features integrated in Windows Vista. Simply pop open the mobile PC options in the Windows Vista Control Panel, and you’ll discover a plethora of goodies enough to make your notebook smile, be it a brand new machine or your newly upgraded trusty companion. In this article, I’ll explore Windows Vista and its new mobile PC-related features, be they from the end-user point of view, or from the developer angle looking to exploit the power of Windows Vista for mobile applications.
First Look: Popping the Hood Open…
Windows Vista Control Panel sports many options, all organized by category. You will find old classics in there like the ability to adjust display settings and uninstalling programs, but you will also notice new options, like a dedicated security section and a whole new section just for mobile PC settings. Figure 1 illustrates the various sub-sections related to mobile PC settings, which include the following:
Figure 1: The new Mobile PC section in Windows Vista Control Panel provides everything you need to manage your laptop or Tablet PC, from power settings and connecting to a projector, to customizing the tablet pen and connecting to Windows Mobile devices.
- Windows Mobility Center
- Power Options
- Tablet PC Settings
- Pen and Input Devices
- Windows Sync Center
- Windows Mobile Device Center
I cover most of these features over the next few pages, and for many of them, you get the chance to dig deeper into these mobility topics by reading the subsequent articles included in this special CoDe Focus issue.
Getting Started with Windows Mobility Center
Windows Mobility Center presents you with many useful options related to the day-to-day use of a mobile PC (Figure 2). Each pane in this window provides you with a quick setting you can adjust with a single click, including trivial but essential features like adjusting your screen brightness level or adjusting or muting the volume control. You can click an icon like a button in each pane, allowing you to customize your settings to your liking. You will also find interesting settings that were normally only accessible by jumping through Windows XP hoops, or entirely new features, including the following:
Figure 2: The new Windows Mobility Center, accessible via the Mobile PC section of Windows Vista Control Panel, provides quick adjustments to various mobility features. Clicking on each pane’s respective icon opens a settings window where you can customize how each of these features operates.
- Adjust your immediate Display brightness, or click the icon to change your Display, Sleep (discussed below), and Brightness settings whether you’re running on battery or AC power.
- Adjust the Volume, mute the sound, or use the icon to access your sound device properties.
- Change your power scheme, also known as your Battery Status, to the standard settings like Balanced, Power saver or High performance. The icon allows you to configure each of those power plans.
- Turn your Wireless Networking (i.e., Wi-Fi) access on or off. The icon pops open the Connect to a network dialog box that shows available Wi-Fi access points.
- Provided that your mobile PC has the tablet feature (as a slate or convertible laptop), a Screen Orientation option is available to easily rotate the screen between portrait and landscape modes. Unfortunately Windows Vista still does not remember separate desktop icon position sets for portrait and landscape modes. The Panel icon provides access to the Tablet PC Settings dialog box.
- If you’re like me, you connect your laptop to a lot of external monitors and projectors. Windows Mobility Center features a button to easily connect to an External Display, or use the icon to access the Display Settings.
- The new Windows Sync Center, accessible here, allows you to manage the synchronization of all your data and files between various computers, devices, external storage, and network servers. I will cover this setting in greater detail below.
- You also have access to a one-click Presentation Settings toggle that lets you enter Presentation mode where you can enable or disable notifications and screen saver, adjust your volume, or temporarily change your Windows Desktop background image. Use the associated icon to configure these settings.
Your applications should know about the current power status in order to adapt their behavior depending on the power mode.
Use Windows Vista Mobility Center to get access to the most often used mobile PC functions. Finally, users won’t suffer from any fumbling around to locate the proper mobility option when they’re on the go.
By: Nickolas Landry
Windows Vista-like its Redmond-born predecessors-has two stories to tell: an end-user story, and a developer story. From the perspectives of the mobile PC user and the mobile PC developer, Windows Vista provides many chapters with bold tales of enhanced ink support, personalized recognition, touch input, better data synchronization, new programmatic interfaces for power and network awareness, and more.