Over at Macworld UK, someone seems to have managed to get their hands on a copy of Windows Vista Beta 1, and has commented on its new features. Macheads seem to love looking at new versions of Windows, if nothing other than to claim "oh, the Mac has been able to do that for ages..." and then go back to their PowerBooks, chuckling to themselves. Nevertheless, the article proved to be a very interesting look at Windows Vista, the operating system formerly known as Longhorn.

However, this beta of Windows Vista is far from the finished product. In fact, Beta 1 will not be available to the general public, and this is in some way due to the fact that many of the user-oriented features Windows Vista will have when it ships are missing. Certainly, there is no new version of Windows Media Player, or support for tablet and Media Center PCs. Nevertheless, Beta 1 remains a valuable insight into the Windows of the future, which will be running on your machine and mine very soon (unless you use Linux and wish that Microsoft would die…)

Some of the more interesting features seemed to be:

-Microsoft’s Avalon display engine makes for more detailed icons, document thumbnails; and on PC’s with modern display drivers that support Longhorn's graphics, users get transparent window frames. This brings to mind instantly the kind of eye candy that recent versions of Mac OS X have brought to the table.

-Internet Explorer 7 integrates an RSS feed reader and uses tabbed browsing.

-Windows Explorer supports “virtual folders” - folders that let users peruse documents by file metadata - information gathered by the file system - regardless of their actual location.

-A new type of user account, called a “Limited Account” that provides fewer privileges than an administrative account but more privileges than a Windows XP guest account. (Can perform routine functions such as installing a new printer, but won't be permitted to install new applications or make big system changes.)

-Faster and more secure startup, both during boot-up and when returning to active status from standby mode.

-Will also have new tools for diagnosing and dealing with problems such as crashes of specific Windows services, hardware failures, networking issues, etc.

Brad Goldberg, Windows client general manager, has said that Windows Vista will instil a "new level of confidence in your PC" by improving security, privacy, performance, reliability, and ease of deployment. Time will tell if this is true or not.