Windows Vista was more than 5 years in the making, and it's definitely the most important Microsoft OS release since Windows 2000—maybe even of all time. The Vista editions that will appeal most to businesses are the Vista Business and Vista Enterprise editions. Vista Business includes domain support and other business-oriented features, such as Microsoft IIS and Windows Meeting Space. Vista Enterprise includes everything that Vista Business offers, plus a few additional exciting features, including the new BitLocker Drive Encryption and licenses for as many as four virtual machine (VM) instances. Vista Business will be preloaded on systems and sold in retail outlets; however, Vista Enterprise is available only to volume-licensing customers. Let's take a look at some of my favorite Vista features, with an eye toward business productivity.

10. Aero Glass UI—Every new Windows version has to have a "cool" factor that separates it from the previous editions, and Vista's cool factor is the Aero Glass interface. Aero Glass boasts rounded transparent windows; animations; and scalable icon support. On the downside, however, the interface does require a DirectX 9.0–compatible graphics adapter with a minimum of 128MB of RAM.

9. New Windows Explorer—Many people prefer the Macintosh-like expanding-folder style of the new Windows Explorer to Windows XP's hierarchical style. One nice Windows Explorer feature in Vista is the new breadcrumb navigation link, which enables you to easily jump to specific directories in your navigation path.

8. New Start menu—Vista sports a new Start menu that's shaped like a button and features an integrated search capability. An expanding-folder style replaces XP's cascading menu style, which makes the Start menu easier to use and uses desktop space more efficiently.

7. 64-bit support—The primary advantage of 64-bit support lies in its ability to break the 4GB memory limit that was part of the 32-bit x86 architecture. There are few applications that need 64-bit support, but the increased memory capacity benefits multiple 32-bit applications running in Vista's Windows on Windows 64 layer.

6. Sidebar and gadgets—One of Vista's productivity enhancements is the Windows Sidebar and its associated gadgets. The gadgets are specialized lightweight applications, such as a clock, a calendar, and RSS readers. You can download additional gadgets from the Windows Live Gallery.

5. Sync Center—The new Sync Center lets you easily synchronize data and files between your Vista desktop and your Vista laptop systems. Sync Center isn't limited to laptops; it also supports file synchronization to multiple systems and network servers. Sync Center compares files between two locations and copies the newer version of the file to the target location.

4. Windows Backup—Windows' backup and restore capabilities have been in a deep freeze since the release of Win2K. But Vista's new Windows Backup feature has a vastly improved UI, takes advantage of Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS), and lets you back up data to optical media such as CD-ROMs and DVDs.

3. Windows Meeting Space—Windows Meeting Space is a new Vista productivity tool that lets you share your system with as many as 10 users. Windows Meeting Space can display your desktop or an application on other Vista systems and enables file sharing and multiple-user editing.

2. Internet Explorer 7.0—Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7.0 is vastly improved over IE 6.0. Like Mozilla Firefox, IE 7.0 provides a tabbed interface, letting you easily open multiple Web sites in one browser window and jump between them. IE 7.0 also features a new search capability and shrink-to-fit printing capability.

1. Security—The most important new features in Vista are all about security. User Account Control prevents applications from running with unnecessary administrative privileges and prompts users when administrative rights are necessary. Vista also includes Windows Defender to protect your machine from spyware, and Vista Enterprise provides BitLocker Drive Encryption, which protects data on laptops.