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 visual look, along with changes in interface guidelines reflecting appearance, layout, and the phrasing and tone of instructions and other text in applications.
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, though a number of stylistic changes were introduced between then and the operating system's release. Aero was used in Windows 7 with some added features, such as transparency.
Windows Vista 
Windows Aero incorporated the following features in Windows Vista.
- Windows Flip improvements - Windows Flip (Alt+Tab) in Windows Vista now shows a live preview of each open window instead of the traditional application icons.
- Windows Flip 3D - Windows Flip 3D (Windows key+Tab) renders live thumbnail images of open windows, allowing one to switch between them while dynamically displaying them in a three-dimensional view.
- Taskbar Thumbnails - Hovering over the taskbar button of a window displays a live preview of that window in the taskbar.
Windows 7 
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:
- Aero Peek - Hovering over a taskbar thumbnail shows a preview of the entire window. Aero Peek is also available through the "Show desktop" button at the right end of the taskbar, which makes all open windows transparent for a quick view of the desktop. A similar feature was patented during Windows Vista development.
- Aero Shake - Shaking (quickly dragging back and forth) a window minimizes all other windows. Shaking it again brings them back.
- Aero Snap - Dragging a window to the right or left side of the desktop causes the window to fill the respective half of the screen. Snapping a window to the top of the screen maximizes it. Windows can be resized by stretching them to touch the top or bottom of the screen, which fully increases their vertical screen estate, while retaining their width, these windows can then slide horizontally if moved by the title bar, or pulled off, which returns the window to its original height. In spite of the "Aero" moniker, this feature is available if one uses the Classic theme.
- Touch UI enhancements - Windows Aero was revised to be more touch-friendly. For example, the title bar buttons are now slightly bigger.
- Maximized windows remain transparent instead of becoming opaque.
- When hovering over the taskbar button of an open program, the button glows the dominant RGB color of its icon, with the effect following the mouse cursor.
- When moving windows, the CPU and GPU load is reduced by limiting the frame rate that the Aero part is rendered in order to provide better performance to applications and programs.
- The cyan outline on the bottom and right side of active windows has been changed to white in Windows 7.
- Progress indicators are present in taskbar buttons. For example, downloading a program through Internet Explorer causes the button to fill with color as the operation progresses.
Windows 8 
- The Aero Glass theme has been replaced by a new theme that conforms to the Metro design language by using a flatter design and no transparency (aside from the taskbar, which also no longer blurs the background behind it).
- A new option also allows the color of the window borders to automatically coordinate themselves with the user's wallpaper.
- Flip 3D has been removed; its former shortcut is now used to switch between apps and the desktop.
- The Desktop Window Manager is now permanently enabled at all times. Software rendering is now used on incompatible hardware.
User interface 
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.
Aero Glass theme 
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 Control Panel\Personalization\Window Color and Appearance, 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 maintained a refined version of the Aero Glass theme, including larger window buttons, the removal of the cyan highlight from window borders, 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 RAM (or at least 64 MB of 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 "non-genuine" Windows. Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 also support Aero Glass, but it is disabled by default in favor of the "Windows Classic" theme, however the theme is added with the "Desktop Experience" component.
Although beta versions of Windows 8 used an updated version of Aero Glass with a flatter, squared look, Aero Glass is no longer the default theme on Windows 8, as Microsoft developers felt that interface designs imitating natural materials were becoming dated. Instead, the desktop interface incorporates elements of the new Metro design, which uses a flatter look with fewer transparency effects, solid colored window borders (designed to attract more attention to the content of a window), and fewer rounded edges.
Aero Wizards 
Wizard 97 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.
- To increase the efficiency of the wizard, the "Welcome" pages in Wizard 97 are no longer used. (A precursor to this change was implied in a number of wizards in products such as SQL Server 2005 where a check-box was added to welcome pages, allowing a user to disable the welcome page in future uses of the wizard.)
- Aero Wizards can be resized, whereas the Wizard 97 guidelines defined exact sizes for wizard window and content sizes.
- The purpose of any given Aero Wizard page is more clearly stated at the top.
- A new kind of control called a "Command link" provides a single-click operation to choose from a short list of options.
- The notion of "Commit pages" is introduced, where it is made clear that the next step will be the actual process that the wizard is being used to enact. If no follow-up information needs to be communicated, these are the last pages in a wizard. Typically a commit page has a button at the bottom-right that is labeled with the action to be taken, such as "Create account".
- The "Back" button has moved to the top-left corner of the wizard window and matches the visual style of the back button in other Vista applications. This is done to give more focus to the commit choices. The "Next" button is only shown on pages where it is necessary.
- At the end of a wizard, a "Follow-up page" can be used to direct the user to related tasks that they may be interested in immediately after completing the wizard. For example, a follow-up for a CD burning wizard may present options like "Duplicate this disk" and "Make a disk label".
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.
Phrasing tone 
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" and "sorry".
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, the numeral zero ("0") is narrow, while capital letter "O" is wider, and numeral one ("1") has a top hook, while capital letter "I" has equal crown and base.
See also 
- Features new to Windows 7
- Development of Windows 7
- Features new to Windows Vista
- Development of Windows Vista
- Desktop Window Manager
- Windows Vista hardware requirements
- Compositing window manager
- Aqua (user interface)
- Metro Design Language
- What's new in Windows 7: Faster & easier - Microsoft
- Andrew Webster (May 18, 2012). "Microsoft reveals Windows 8 desktop UI changes, drops Aero Glass". The Verge.
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- "Windows Vista Enterprise Hardware Planning Guidance". microsoft.com. February 2007. Retrieved 2009-02-14.
- "Vista won't show fancy side to pirates". news.com.com. April 2006. Retrieved 2007-02-03.
- Sinofsky, Steven. "Creating the Windows 8 user experience". Building Windows 8 blogs. Microsoft. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
- "Wizard 97". Platform SDK. Microsoft. Retrieved 2009-02-14.
- "Windows Vista User Experience Guidelines - Text". microsoft.com. June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-08.
- The Iconfactory. "Iconfactory : Design : Windows Vista". Retrieved 2007-05-22.
- Windows Vista Aero User Experience
- 64 MB RAM supports Aero with up to 1,310,720 total pixels (1280 × 1024) but is not Premium Ready