Technology: Vista Wide Open

The long wait for Microsoft's next operating system, Windows Vista, is almost over. Dramatically redesigned, the new OS features tighter security, slicker visuals and friendlier--one might be tempted to say Mac-like--applications for managing photos, movies and music. Microsoft gave TIME a chance to play with Vista before its January launch. Here's what's new and why upgrading from XP is smart.

DYNAMIC FEEL

Microsoft designed Vista with high-resolution graphics and lots of animations, conveying a dynamic, in-motion feel. Every window has a translucent border. Alongside the main screen runs the Sidebar, a panel of little helper applications called gadgets, among them...

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