Windows Aero (a backronym for Authentic, Energetic, Reflective, and Open)[1] is a design language introduced in the Windows Vista operating system. The changes made in the Aero interface affected many elements of the Windows interface, including the incorporation of a new look, along with changes in interface guidelines reflecting appearance, layout, and the phrasing and tone of instructions and other text in applications.

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 "glass-like" window border effect of Windows Aero on Windows 7


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.[2][1]

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.[3][4] Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 also support Windows Aero as part of the "Desktop Experience" component, which is disabled by default.[5]

Aero Wizards

Wizard 97[6] 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 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.[7] Larger icons and multiple font sizes and colors are also introduced with Aero's notification windows.


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).


Aero's base icons were designed by The Iconfactory, which had previously designed Windows XP icons.[8]

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".[9]


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".[10]

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.


Retrospectively, an 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.[31] The term was coined in 2017, as a combination of Aero and the Frutiger typeface.[32] The aesthetic focuses around gloss, CGI renders of scenes with nature and technology together, transparency, nature symbolism, bokeh photography, and elements of skeuomorphic design.[31][33][34]

See also


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  3. ^ "Windows Vista Enterprise Hardware Planning Guidance". TechNet Library. Microsoft. February 2007. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
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  9. ^ "Style and Tone - Win32 apps". Windows App Development. Microsoft. November 2021. Retrieved January 9, 2023.
  10. ^ "Forbidden Windows: An Early Look At Longhorn Alpha - ExtremeTech". Retrieved February 27, 2022.
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  12. ^ "What is Windows Aero?". Windows Portal. Microsoft. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
  13. ^ "Using Windows Flip 3D". Windows Portal. Microsoft. Archived from the original on January 14, 2016. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
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  15. ^ Zheng, Long (November 30, 2008). "From Microsoft patent to Windows reality: "X-ray browsing", circa 2005; Aero Peek, circa 2008". iStartedSomething. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
  16. ^ Townsend, Reed; Matthews, Dave; LeGrow, Ian. Sinofsky, Steven (ed.). "Touching Windows 7". Engineering Windows 7. Microsoft. Retrieved November 30, 2008.
  17. ^ What's new in Windows 7: Faster & easier Archived February 26, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Kiriaty, Yochay; Goldshtein, Sasha (July 2009). "Introducing The Taskbar APIs". MSDN Magazine. Microsoft. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  19. ^ Webster, Andrew (May 18, 2012). "Microsoft reveals Windows 8 desktop UI changes, drops Windows Aero". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  20. ^ a b Harris, Jensen (May 19, 2012). Sinofsky, Steven (ed.). "Creating the Windows 8 user experience". Building Windows 8. Microsoft. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
  21. ^ "RIP Aero Glass; Windows 8 Sticks a Fork in Familiar UI". PC Magazine. Ziff Davis. May 19, 2012. Retrieved May 20, 2012.
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  24. ^ "How to Manage Virtual Desktops in Windows 11". PCMAG. Retrieved February 27, 2022.
  25. ^ Andronico, Michael (September 30, 2014). "Microsoft Unveils Windows 10 with New Start Menu". Tom's Guide. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  26. ^ "Windows 11 comes with big multitasking improvements. Here's what's new". Windows Central. October 5, 2021. Retrieved February 27, 2022.
  27. ^ "Keep It Tidy: How to Use Snap Layouts in Windows 11". PCMAG. Retrieved February 27, 2022.
  28. ^ Salter, Jim (June 24, 2021). "Windows 11 is much more than a new theme slapped onto Windows 10". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on June 25, 2021. Retrieved June 25, 2021.
  29. ^ Krasnoff, Barbara (October 5, 2021). "How to use snap layouts in Windows 11". The Verge. Archived from the original on November 9, 2021. Retrieved November 9, 2021.
  30. ^ "Mica material". Microsoft Learn. Microsoft. Retrieved July 29, 2023.
  31. ^ a b Holliday, Laura (February 3, 2023). "What is frutiger aero, the aesthetic taking over from Y2K?". Dazed.
  32. ^ Unveiling the Mystery: Exploring the Fascinating World of Frutiger Aero
  33. ^ Cortés, Michelle Santiago. "What Frutiger Aero teaches us about niche internet aesthetics". i-D.
  34. ^ Cinko, Anthony (December 17, 2022). "What is Frutiger Aero? Uncovering the nostalgic 2000's aesthetic - US Mobile blog". Prepaid GSM Carrier News.