Windows Aero (a backronym for Authentic, Energetic, Reflective, and Open[1][2]) is the design language introduced in the Microsoft Windows Vista operating system. The changes introduced by Windows Aero encompassed many elements of the Windows interface, with the introduction of a new visual style with an emphasis on animation, glass, and translucency; interface guidelines for phrasing and tone of instructions and other text in applications were available. New cursors and sounds based on Windows Aero design principles were also introduced.

Windows Aero was used as the design language of Windows Vista and Windows 7. The flat design-based Metro design language was introduced on Windows 8, although aspects of the design and features promoted as part of Aero on Windows Vista and 7 have been retained in later versions of Windows (barring design changes to comply with Metro or Fluent).

A distinctive feature of Windows Aero showing "glass-like" window borders on Windows 7

Features

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.[3][2]

Windows Aero theme

Live thumbnails showing the Internet Explorer tabs on the taskbar

On Windows Vista and Windows 7 computers that meet certain hardware and software requirements, the Windows Aero 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 the "Personalize" section added to Control Panel of Windows Vista, users can customize the "glass" effects to either be opaque or transparent, and change the color it is tinted. Enabling Windows Aero 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.

Flip 3D showing the current tabs by pressing the key combination of ⊞ Win+Tab ↹

Windows 7 features refinements in Windows Aero, including larger window buttons by default (minimize, maximize, close and query), 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 Windows Aero theme, requires a video card with 128 MB of graphics memory (or at least 64 MB of video RAM and 1 GB of system RAM for on-board graphics) supporting pixel shader 2.0, and with WDDM-compatible drivers. Windows Aero is also not available in Windows 7 Starter, only available to a limited extent on Windows Vista Home Basic, and is automatically disabled if a user is detected to be running a non-genuine copy of Windows.[4][5] Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 also support Windows Aero as part of the "Desktop Experience" component, which is disabled by default.[6]

Aero Wizards

Wizard 97[7] 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.

More specifically:

Notifications

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.[8] Larger icons and multiple font sizes and colors are also introduced with Aero's notification windows.

Font

Segoe UI font in Windows Vista and Windows 7 (top); Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and Windows 11 (bottom)

The Segoe UI typeface is the 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 prior to Windows 8, the numeral zero ("0") is narrow, while capital letter "O" is wider (Windows 8's Segoe UI keeps this difference), and numeral one ("1") has a top hook, while capital letter "I" has equal crown and base (Windows 8's "1" has no base, and the "I" does not have a crown or base).

Icons

Aero's base icons were designed by The Iconfactory, which had previously designed Windows XP icons.[9]

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", "sorry" and "thank you".[10]

History

Windows Vista

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, with alpha builds containing interim designs such as "Plex".[11]

Windows Aero incorporated the following features in Windows Vista.

Windows 7

Windows Aero is revised in Windows 7, with many UI changes, such as a more touch friendly interface, and many new visual effects and features including pointing device gestures:

Aero Peek showing the Windows 7 desktop when the mouse is pointed on the "show desktop" button on taskbar

In later versions of Windows

Some of the features introduced in Aero remain in modified forms in later versions of Windows.

Legacy

Frutiger Aero images have themes associated with nature, water, glass, and air.

Frutiger Aero

Retrospectively, a design style and Internet aesthetic and UI/UX design trend based on Windows Aero called Frutiger Aero has been identified, which was popular from roughly 2004 to 2013.[32][33]

Frutiger Aero is characterized by modern and organic themes associated with nature, glass, water and air.[34] Common features of Frutiger Aero include shiny and glossy textures, CGI renders of scenes with nature and technology together, grass, transparency, sparkles, bubbles, nature symbolism, a tertiary color palette, bokeh photography, and elements of skeuomorphic design.[35][36][32][37][38]

The term Frutiger Aero was coined by Sofi Lee in 2017, as a combination of Aero and the Frutiger typeface,[39] which was popular with corporate materials of the time.[40][41]

History

Use of Frutiger Aero in UI (KDE Plasma 4)

In the 2000s, Frutiger Aero came as a necessity for tech companies to make new technologies accessible to as many people, using familiar, skeuomorphic and humanist designs.[36] This change came after the futuristic "Y2K" interface that was primarily used on Windows operating systems in the early to late 1990s.[41]

Between 2012 and 2014, user interfaces on desktops, mobile devices, and websites underwent a cardinal shift towards flat design.[42] This shift coincided with the decline of Frutiger Aero and Windows Aero. Later in the early 2020s, Frutiger Aero has known a nostalgic revival on Reddit, YouTube, Instagram as well as TikTok where the hashtag #frutigeraero was used over 30 million times.[34][41]

See also

References

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