is the operating system release that unifies the Microsoft range, with all the desktop versions now built on the NT/2000 code base rather than the shakier foundation of Windows 95/98/Me. That makes XP
a great upgrade for users of the now obsolete 9x and ME line, but for those already on Windows 2000 Professional
it is a closer call. Despite the similar name, there is no special synergy between Windows XP
and Office XP
, which works fine on Windows 2000
XP certainly looks different, with rounded window corners, larger and more detailed icons, and a clean-look desktop that on first installation shows only the taskbar and recycle bin. It is also more customisable than previous versions, including visual themes that let you change the whole appearance of Windows in an instant. That is the window-dressing, but underneath are some significant improvements. One of the most interesting is Remote Desktop. A standard XP feature, this uses technology from Microsoft Terminal Server to enable users to access their computer over any connection, for example by dialling into the office from home. This is not just file access, but lets you run applications remotely as if you were sitting at your desk. This is mature technology, stable and carefully thought-out, so for example you can print from a remote word processor to a local printer. A variation on the theme is Remote Assistance, where the user can allow a remote helper to view their desktop, or optionally gain control of the keyboard and mouse, in order to troubleshoot a problem. The feature can also be disabled, to ease security concerns.
Laptop users benefit from enhanced power management, with options to extend battery life by reducing CPU speed and display brightness. IrDA support has been fixed so that, unlike Windows 2000, XP can easily use modems in mobile telephones via infra-red. A new screen font ClearType improves legibility for laptop or other flat screens, and there is built-in support for wireless networking using the popular 802.11 standard. A great feature of XP, also found in Windows 2000, is the ability to synchronise network files with offline copies. Previously these files could not be stored securely, but now they can be encrypted. For Web browsing, XP comes with Internet Explorer 6.0. The enhancements in IE 6.0 are mainly of interest to Web developers, and in any case Microsoft makes IE freely available for all Windows users. Although Java is not installed by default, it is not difficult to download a JVM (Java Virtual Machine). Windows Messenger, originally a chat client, has evolved into a collaboration tool which allows video conferencing and application sharing.
The most significant new feature for Internet users is the built-in firewall. A firewall protects against one of the most disturbing security risks, where other users unknown to you might connect to y our computer while it is online, reading private files or causing other damage. XP's built-in firewall is a simple affair, but does prevent most types of unauthorised connection.
Windows XP has strong multimedia features. The new Media Player lets you copy music from CD to hard disk, create your own playlist, and write your own music CDs if you have a CD Writer. Although there is loss of quality as a result of compression, the process is easy and convenient. Media Player 8.0 can play back DVD video, but only if a hardware or software DVD decoder is already installed. You can also play MP3 audio files and MPEG videos, but sadly not the popular Real Media formats. In the end, the Media Player does nothing that you cannot also do with free alternatives , but it is slick and nicely integrated.
The XP user interface is not a radical departure from earlier versions of Windows, but there are a number of small changes that together add up to a significant improvement. The Start menu now automatically features the most frequently used programs at the top of the list, and you can add and remove shortcuts by right-clicking the icon and selecting Pin or Unpin from the pop-up menu. Windows online help is integrated into a Help and Support Centre that works like an internal Web site, with searchable help, tutorials and walkthroughs.
Windows XP Professional includes all the features of XP Home, and adds support for dual processors, encryptable file system, offline folders, the Remote Desktop as described above, and extra administration features that come into play when connected to a Windows server domain. XP is demanding on hardware, and it would be a mistake to install it on less than Microsoft's recommended minimum. There is also activation to consider, a mildly annoying anti-piracy measure that requires you to obtain a code from Microsoft for full installation, and in future if you reinstall or make major system changes.
Overall, it's a big step forward for those coming from Windows 9x or ME, and attractive rather than compelling as an upgrade from 2000. --Tim Anderson
Windows XP Professional
, the new standard in reliability and performance, is designed for businesses of all sizes, and for individuals who demand the most from their computing experience.
The advanced productivity tools of the digital age at your fingertips:
With the ultimate communication and collaboration tools, advanced laptop support, remote access capabilities, and more, Windows XP Professional helps you be more productive than ever before.
The new standard for efficient and dependable computing:
Prepare yourself for the most reliable, secure, and responsive Windows yet. Add to that ease-of-use and next-generation Internet services using Microsoft .NET, and this standard isn't just new ... it's unprecedented.
"When you buy a copy of, or upgrade to, Windows XP Professional, £50 cashback is offered by Microsoft and is subject to terms and conditions (including a "purchase by date"). See website for details, terms and conditions. microsoft.com/uk/windowsxp/cashback/default.mspx"
Communications: Ultimate communications and collaboration tool - instant messaging, voice, video, and application sharing. Windows XP Professional with Windows Messenger lets you communicate with customers and colleagues in real-time using text, audio, video, and other collaborative tools. You can make voice calls to your colleagues' computers or phones, or send text messages to their cell phones and pagers. You can send files and documents using Windows Messenger. With a button click, you can start a video session to see who you're talking with, and to share a whiteboard or application. Face-to-face communication makes business calls more effective and improves relationships with your customers and partners. And you can be more efficient and more productive by working with others on documents in real-time.
Go Mobile: Advanced laptop support so you get as much work done on the road as you would in the office, in addition to remote access to all of the data and applications on your office computer.The popularity of laptops shows that people are eager to use mobile technology. But the systems in use today are not as reliable and easy to use as many workers prefer. Windows XP Professional is designed to make mobile computing easier. This operating system is built to provide access to your information while you're on the go. The mobile computing improvements in Windows XP Professional build on the flexibility of Windows 2000 Professional. New features for mobile computing will help you accomplish as much on the road or at home as you do in the office, so you can be productive no matter where you are. Add these capabilities to the rock-solid reliability, performance, and communication features in Windows XP Professional--you have a system that can do things that you always thought a system should do.
Access your office computer from anywhere: When you're away from the office and need a file or application that only exists on your office computer's hard disk, there should be an easy way to get it. With the Remote Desktop feature in Windows XP Professional, you can connect to your office computer from anywhere. You control your office PC while using your home computer, your laptop, or any other computer running Windows 95 or later. While connected, you can use most of your business applications, documents, and network resources on your office computer. Performance is excellent because there is no need to transfer files and applications over the network. Remote Desktop transfers only the screen data, keyboard input, and mouse clicks over your network connection.
Help and Support: Easy to recover from problems and get help and support when you need it. Ever wish you could just click an icon and find the answers to your computing problems? Windows XP Professional answers that wish, with the new Help and Support Center. An easy-to-find icon on the Start menu leads to a central location for Help topics, tutorials, and troubleshooting to keep your computer running smoothly. The Help and Support Center delivers a dynamic, personalized, online resource with easy-to-use search and comprehensive content. Add the performance, communication, and productivity improvements in Windows XP Professional--now you have a system that works how you've always wished a system would. Microsoft has a vast library of information and software tools to help you get the most out of your computer. In the past, these resources were scattered among books, CDs, and Web sites. The newly designed Help and Support Center in Windows XP Professional puts the most useful tools and information in one convenient location-on the Start menu. You can save links to Help information in your Favorites folder, run programs that maintain your computer's health, or search to learn about specific topics.
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