How we really designed the look and feel of Windows 7

How we really designed the look and feel of Windows 7

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An inaccurate quote has been floating around the Internet today about the design origins of Windows 7 and whether its look and feel was “borrowed” from Mac OS X.  Unfortunately this came from a Microsoft employee who was not involved in any aspect of designing Windows 7. I hate to say this about one of our own, but his comments were inaccurate and uninformed. If you’re interested in learning more about the design of Windows 7, I suggest reading this AP story with Julie Larson-Green as well as these WSJ (membership required) and Fast Company articles. And here is one of many blog posts on the E7 blog discussing the design process of Windows 7.

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  • Picsoe
    7 Posts

    The message of Brandon LeBlanc that starts this thread shows the short-sighted mentality of non-transparency at MS.

    It is really sad to see how MS is treating it's users as idiots and it is dreary to see how MS is publically crucifying one of it's own employees.

  • Hi herl, thanks for the comment! You can find information on how to move from Windows Vista to Windows 7 on your laptop here on this FAQ on

    If you are moving from Windows XP, here is some information for you as well:

    Hope this helps!

    - Brandon

  • spootym
    3 Posts

    Given the runaway success of the Windows 7 Family Pack (ie. its sold out everywhere that matters...) I am curious as to when additional Family Packs will be made available.

  • Guido

    I couldn't have put it better.  Let's not forget that Windows ultimately borrows almost entirely the PARC work done by Rank Xerox.  DOS was never created with a 'windowed' GUI and it was only when Apple's early WYSIWYG was a success that Microsoft started 'competing'.

    Competing successfully means copying sometimes and Simon had the decency not to take us all for idiots (PR-wise) in saying so.  If Windows 7 looked entirely different I would not dis-agree, but it's the similarities that draw anyone with an IQ to the same conclusion.

    Like all politicians, Brandon is asking us to accept that this viewpoint is wrong even when his credibility is seriously undermined by taking Simon 'out back' on the issue.  Not clever, but ultimately  I suppose, laughable.  Or maybe not from Simon's long term career persepective....

  • Herl
    1 Posts

    hey, how can i install windows seven on my laptop?

  • Dear Mr. Brandon LeBlanc, I really hope that Simon Aldous was right and that you are actually wrong. Trying to imitate the best competitor is the best and more intelligent thing to do, especially if you are light-years behind in that particular field (and Windows undoubtedly behind in design and usability compared to Mac OS). There's nothing wrong or shameful in trying to copy the best of the bunch, just the will to offer to your clients the best possible product. When I firstly read Simon Aldous' interview I was happy that finally something seemed to have changed in Microsoft's public relations attitude, because admitting clearly and without any shame what is actually obvious was a really clever and appreciable move. Your post is a huge step backward that makes me think that Microsoft still have so much to improve and copy. Please Mr. LeBlanc after having copied the best OS, as a Windows long time user, I kindly beg you to learn also something in the customer comunications field from the Cupertino's guys.

    Kind Regards,

    Guido Trombetta

  • @tommyako

    OS X up to Tiger had some gel-like features, but it was mostly a gray/white interface. Nothing was really glassy until Leopard when they added it to the Finder and Dock.

  • As for the pinnable taskbar... it's nice, but nothing to crow about.  The Quick Launch toolbar should have still been present because removing it destroyed familiarity.  Also, even if the QL toolbar is re-enabled I find that  the shortcut-key launch for apps placed on it no longer works *even* if the field for it appears!

    This is a prime example of how OS X's UI is a lot more consistent which is part of its beauty.  I still vastly prefer using Win7 over OS X, but clearly the Win7 UI has a lot of warts.  It's like the less pretty girl you're dating with whom you just feel more comfortable being with.

  • I have a Modbook (Macbook tablet) and I choose to run Windows 7 on it 99% of the time rather than OS X.  

    This is because the Windows 7 GUI has some important features that are not present on OS X such as flicks, and handwriting recognition, both of which are indispensable to a tablet user.

    On the other hand, I fail to comprehend why you guys had to take out or change some small, but essential - for me - features which XP fans like me rely on, creating *new* annoyances, instead of removing old ones:

    1) Disabling Taskbar Always on Top.  There's absolutely NO good reason for disabling this *option* no matter how much hemming and hawing I hear about justifications.

    2) Making it much much harder to easily drag a selection rectangle around a group of icons on the desktop, especially with Aero turned off.  First of all, I love the Classic look, Aero's nice too, but it's NOT better than Classic, and while *neither* is anywhere near as pretty as Aqua, I felt much more comfortable with XP in Classic mode because familiarity breeded usability.

    But you guys actually *lowered the usability* of Classic GUI mode in Windows 7!  In XP, selecting and moving a bunch of icons on the desktop was a single smooth fluid motion, and you don't end up selecting the wrong ones, in Windows 7, under Classic mode, it is frustrating because the icons don't show up in their entirety anymore when you drag them around unlike in XP.  Turning on Aero makes this happen, but there is still the problem of having  a very tiny space in between icons from which to start dragging a rectangle.

    Drag-selecting multiple files in the Explorer is also similarly frustrating, now you can't click on the white space after a filename without selecting the file!  This one I can get used to somewhat because there is a gutter area on the left, but I still think the old XP way was much better.

    3) I have enabled Focus Follows Mouse (WITHOUT raise), which might (or might not) have a bit to do with _some_ of the problems in 2).  I've been using Focus Follows Mouse since before TweakUI and you should really consider allowing this mode.

  • @ cfischer83

    Mac OS X 1.0 had a transparent glassy dock and other "glassy" features and was released 3 months before XP. And even the OS X logo had taken a "glassy" approach by then.

  • Brandon

    Which comment do you mean?  Simon Aldous made a clear point.  People here should have complete clarity and buy their products from folks like him from the perspective that he speaks for the company.  Why did you feel the need to comment me?  What would have happened  if you just let be?  Pang of guilt, maybe?

    I love the fact that even whilst I'm taking your organisation through a public court in the UK that you think you can chat me down.  Believe me, you will be making more points :-)

    I bet you've slapped Simon Aldous internally - for avowing anything other than mom and apple pie.  You are (superficially) quite funny.....but I'm not laughing with you of course.

    Should I face-book this?  Feels like time to break out...

  • I-dont-do-tat, this is the only statement we're making on the issue. Thanks!

  • @i-dont-do-tat

    No, it wasn't a typo. Both OSes have a glassy look and feel to them. Vista was released a year before Leopard's glassy dock and finder.

  • Eros
    2 Posts

    OK... it might have the look and feel that catch the eye but if it is like any other Microsoft products, it is still lacking the "REAL" multi-tasking!  Why should we pay for something that should have been delivered way back ago... in their Windows 98...  then Vista... and NOW the Super 7!  The OS never been so "slow" and so ... hum!  "NOT RESPONDING" even if all my licenses are Microsoft stuff duly paid!  Why bother giving away $$$ when we all know that the product will once again be taking their customers as "Beta Testers"... and bring a lot of UPDATE!  It's already starting... Window 7 already have 5 major update since it launch!

    Nice try... but the Geeks at Microsoft should think about 1 single thing... MAC is working... responding... and euh...  Yes... it does not require weekly updates to prevent the OS from falling apart!

    Sorry guy's but I think you'll need to work harder since all my computers with Windows OS are costing a lot more in time lost by my employees....

    So please... unless you really resolve the MULTI-TASKING... don't bring it up!


  • Hi,

    I own 2 macs, with lates OSX OS and I also own a Windows 7 pc still with beta (not rich enough to buy the ultimate copy right now...) and I mostly work in a Wondows XP environnment at my work, I'm a technician.

    You can compare both, but they are different in many ways. I think they both can be inspired by each other and we can't say that 7 was built with OSX in mind, I think 7 is  an original product not a copy.

  • It's interesting to note that the mainstream media are now picking up the significance of this statement.

    In an open request I, for one, would like to repeat previous comments' requests for more clarity on the statement.

    Simon Aldous is a well-adjusted and successful employee of Microsoft and, as such should be a trusted evangelist of the company's messaging.

    Is Microsoft going to continue to lambast his honesty and candour via some lame Blog PR-apparatchik?  A formal press release please.

  • cfischer83, I just wanted to call out a couple of typos in your painful defence:

    Oh, sorry, you're right - Vista did seem glassy - even fuzzy or vague

    But apple went for a 'classy' look.  It persists.

  • I hate how people think that just because MS tried to make something that looked "good" that it is somehow copying Apple. The whole idea is just illogical. Apple didn't go for the glassy look until Leopard which was released a year after Vista's glassy look.

    Having owned XP, Vista and Windows 7 for years, as well as having used Macs for years, since Tiger (currently writing this on my personal Macbook Pro using Snow Leopard) I have to say that it appears that Apple has copied Microsoft more in recent years than vise versa.

    That's the truth, sorry to all the Mac fanatics that are laughing at this mistake by an employee, but the facts can be stubborn things. I'm sure that won't stop most of the crazies though.

  • DaTruth
    1 Posts

    Such ridiculous and inane Apple fanboy comments here.  Grow up, kiddies.  

    Here's a post from "The Apple Blog" on what Apple has "borrowed" from other innovators.  

    So please...this is all absurd.  Get a life.  

  • Most of my fellow commentators need to step back and take a look at how technology progresses. As one of the previous (more informed) posts states, Windows 7 does borrow features from other OSes, as does Apple's OSX. Design and creativity are informed by previous designs, and technology keeps building upon itself to make progress. If you think that the design of OSX (or 7) are completely original, you're probably biased and should take a minute before you launch unscripted attacks.

    Facts are that both OSX and Windows 7 are great operating systems, and I'm happy to have 7 on my computer next to Linux. As for Microsoft, they obviously have participated in some shady business practices. But to say that Apple is the savior of the consumer-oriented tech world-- as they like to portray themselves in the media-- is a big exaggeration as well (there is a an open-source, Apple-backed Unix distro that they regularly take and copyright features from, for example-- Darwin).

    Please, expand your minds a bit. Narrow thinking and the effects of deindividuation when posting on the 'net lead to a lot of wasted server space.

  • I think Microsoft is showing it's real face about efficiency: it's a company with HUGE means but also a dinosaur unable to really invent or reinvent efficient products and deliver something great to its customers. Comes with the philosophy of the company, buy products able to meet customer needs and market this and they did it well. Microsoft are/(where?) marketers, meanwhile Apple are innovators: how to make life easier. That's the price to pay when a company is too big to deliver value to it's customers: Microsoft invested billions into an OS few were interested into. Not efficient at all: forget about the look and feel. Mac OS is an efficient OS that's it. The Apple philosophy is to make users more efficient with customer oriented products: iPhone, magic mouse, Snow Leopard... same target... make my life easier. The best of all, last Mac OS takes less space on your hard disk! How much space does windows Vista or 7 take? Think about it. Efficient and customer oriented... that day Microsoft would beat users expectations, call me! I would take out my Ubuntu (faster than Microsoft and easier to install) and OSX from my PC. Microsoft, there's only one thing customer want: faster, better... not heavier and slower to have the look and feel of a competitor.

  • My real name is Philip Evans - ex-employee of a company that is happy to hang Simon Aldous in a public forum.

    The guy honestly put forward a gentle argument that Windows (largely) follows the Mac for innovation.  After a foray into enterprise software and the failures that have followed, Window 7 is largely the biggest bet on the company's future.

    What's curious about this thread is the inside-out nature of the corporation.  Microsoft trusts no internal employees to communicate it's inner thoughts and I think that this is testament to that idea.  I was regularly embarrassed to find that clients (when I was in their employ) were far better informed about releases, etc than I.

    I'm taking legal action against the company at the moment in the way that they treated me as a corporate pawn.  I just won't stop a corporate outfit push me around in their own interests.

    So, Windows 7 is totally engineered without reference to the best industry model?  Sounds like a recipe for disaster for me.  Call me naiive, but if it works, don't fix it or better, copy it.


  • I thought windows 7 was the MAC OS...well the icons and everything else look the same when I run my MAC next to my PC.... weird how they didn't take anything from Apple... maybe just don't want to look like hypocrites....Arg a pirates life for me

    (and Microsoft)  

  • yulman
    1 Posts

    I can't help but to think you must be taking us for idiots.

    The article from the Washington Times explains in no way how Windows 7 is built and how it's not trying to copy MacOS X.

  • hamids
    1 Posts

    So this is pretty pathetic.

    To try and claim that Windows 7 was not at all influenced by OS X is an indefensible position. To slam a fellow Microsoft employee for telling the truth is simply idiotic at best.

    Next thing you know you'll be claiming that the Apple Store had no influence on Microsoft's decision to open up retail stores or their design.

    Good luck with such claims!

  • tandres
    3 Posts

    Woe be the MS exec who made this comment along with any MS employee caught by Steve Ballmer using an iPhone. We need to form PETMEA (People for the Ethical Treatment of MS Employees using Apple).

  • Perhaps one can take the latest "I'm a PC and Windows 7 was my idea" commercials a little too seriously (such as this one, Kirsten's Taskbar: ;)

    1 Posts

    Simon Aldous, he said the truth and I wait that with their declarations the it won't be discharged of their work in microsoft..... (Ò_Ó)

  • The Win7 interface borrows concepts that have appeared in many other operating systems before OS X such as Amiga OS, RISC OS, NeXTSTEP (on which OS X is based), and BeOS. It also delivers some new ideas.

    I personally like the Win7 implementation of the applications dock the best out of them all. Although, I think demanding user customizability of the application defined “jump-lists” (context-sensitive menus that spring from the new taskbar items) should have been a design guideline. For instance, maybe we’d rather have our Favorites in the IE8 jump list instead of the random selection of frequently used websites that is there by default.

    I think I complained about that stupid Vista sidebar a dozen times during the Vista beta. Desktop gadgets should live on the desktop: like they finally do in Win7. Yet, somehow I feel that the Notes app should have been a gadget too. Not making it so was a strange design departure.

    All in all, the Win7 UI design is a success. It's not Mac, and it never was or tried to be. In addition, users can always switch back to the regular taskbar style if they want.

  • My bigger concern was his statement that Windows 7 is far more stable than Mac OS X.  Can you please tell us what this statement was based on?

  • All we had to do was look at Windows to know where it came from. This dates all the way back to the original Windows to Windows 95, all the way up to Vista and now Windows 7. To deny this is absurd and pathetic.

  • kabuki
    1 Posts

    Dear Mr. Brandon LeBlanc,

    I have two words for you


  • lollht
    44 Posts

    I like 7, but I always disable Aero, even though I have a top of the line machine.  I get a faster machine that no longer looks like a Mac.  Win/win.  This isn't Aero-bashing, because I would always disable the Fisher Price XP interface as well to make the machine double in speed.  Now if I could only get the Win 2000 search back, I'd be set.

  • I know Simon Aldous, having worked in the same UK subsidiar as him for a few years.  He's a good guy who, for me, is telling it like it is.  He's paying testament to the common view that a Mac is cool and a great template to copy.

    Then denying this to your customers just makes you look stupid because the very look and feel of Windows 7 is desperately trying to look like a Mac OS - just admit it.

    Oh, and in the less significant UK region, sales of Macs rose 25% in the last quarter, with like for like PC sales down by about the same margin.  I would try to copy that success.

    Keep pretending guys, can't wait for the next Apple 'I'm a PC' ad :-)

  • how can i download win7 beta for free havent been able to find it anywhere microsoft has it but it wont download help me