After Aerogate, Vista’s Aero partially returns for Windows 10

Windows 10 build 10125, featuring touches of the dark Windows Vista Aero glass on the Start menu and the notification center.
Windows 10 build 10125, featuring touches of the dark Windows Vista Aero Glass on the Start menu and the notification center.

When Vista debuted, one of the first things people noticed was the beautiful user interface, assuming they had a graphics adapter capable of rendering it. Glass windows, a frosted glass Start menu and taskbar, insanely huge and detailed icons, Flip 3D, and several other enhancements. All of these made the move to Windows 7, sans the black Start menu and taskbar, which changed to a basic glass style.

However, Windows 8, which retained the technology behind this UI, dumped the glassy windows but kept the icons and taskbar, presenting a jarring mixture of 2006 and 2012. The UI was largely flattened, while retaining many Vista elements on the desktop. This was the beginning of what I call Aerogate, with users of the new OS upset that it didn’t look like Windows 7.

With Windows 10, beta testers and tech media have been clamoring for Aero Glass to fully return, with Windows 7 often cited as the prefered appearance, and Microsoft has taken note. But rather than looking to Windows 7, Microsoft has reached back to Windows Vista for the color of the taskbar, Start menu, and the notification center.

Several of the new icons which had originally been seen in early builds have now been replaced with updated Windows Vista icons, with a few notable exceptions. Ironically, the current Recycle Bin icon debuted on Earth Day to much fanfare. The faux outrage over the icons which arrived in early Windows 10 builds was what I refer to as Icongate, which has now been largely resolved.

Even with these concessions, I think it is safe to assume that Aero Glass will not resurrected in full, and I’d even argue that Aero Glass would look awful alongside the Metro Design Language. Kudos to Microsoft for finding the middle ground.

After Aerogate, Vista’s Aero partially returns for Windows 10

Those rounded toggles in Cortana are likely going systemwide in Windows 10.

The “new” rounded toggles in Cortana’s settings, with the Xbox app settings open in the background.

You likely know what the toggle switches look like on Windows Phone and in Windows 8.x – They are squared sliders, matching the Modern interface nicely. In Cortana on the latest Windows 10 Technical Preview, many people noticed that the service uses different toggles; ones which are rounded. Initially, I didn’t spot them anywhere else in the OS and wrote them off as a designer just trying something new, something that would go away in the next build.

For a comparison of the old style and the new style, below is a screenshot of the Settings app, which still uses the old style, and above are Cortana’s settings and the settings of the Xbox app as well.

The “old” squared style toggle switches.

Since this new toggle design has made an appearance in the Xbox app, I think it’s safe to assume that this design will migrate out to the rest of the OS, and on the phone side as well. It really makes sense, when you factor in the wireframe icon styling which is apparent here and there on both the phone and PC versions on the Windows 10 Preview.

Those rounded toggles in Cortana are likely going systemwide in Windows 10.

Goodbye, Win32 Calculator. Windows 10 moves Modern apps to center stage.

Windows 10 CalculatorSo long, Windows 7 calculator. You were quite the upgrade over the version that shipped with Windows Vista and older operating systems. You had a scientific mode that most people have no use for. My college professors wouldn’t let me use you instead of a TI 83. You also looked gaudy and didn’t match Windows 8. In Windows 8, you had a successor lurking on the Start screen, so we knew your days were limited. That day has arrived.

When Microsoft released Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 9926, they began removing many redundant features and suppressing others. The old Win32 calculator was one of the casualties. With a Modern version present since Windows 8, it’s an obvious move now that these apps can reside in resizeable windows on the desktop.

Don’t fret however, all the functionality of the old Calculator appears to be present in the Modern version. The only real issue I have is that the Calculator button on my Sidewinder X4 keyboard is bipolar about launching the app, but I’m sure this will be fixed in a later build.

Goodbye, Win32 Calculator. Windows 10 moves Modern apps to center stage.

Emoji Engaged! Using Emoji on Windows 8.x and Windows 10 PCs

Emoji began in Japan, but have been increasingly becoming part of how we communicate on the web and in texts. You’re more likely to see them employed on Instagram and Facebook rather than by users on Twitter, where all characters are quite precious. You’re also not likely to see them dropped into Word documents and Excel spreadsheets, but if you so desire, they can be plopped just about anywhere. Whether they render or not is another story.

So, how do you access Emoji on a PC running Windows 8/8.1/10? It’s actually pretty straight forward. Right click on the taskbar and navigate to Toolbars > Touch keyboard and click on it, assuming it’s not already checked.
UntitledYou will see a new icon on the taskbar, next to the system tray on the right side of the screen. When you are typing something, and would like to drop an Emoji into the mix without picking up your phone or tablet, just click that new keyboard icon and the touch keyboard will be invoked. You can find nearly all existing Emoji categorized nicely by clicking on the smiley face icon next to the spacebar. From there, you can explore the Emoji simply by clicking through the menus.


As you will see, Microsoft has made the appearance of the Emoji match the Modern design language used in Windows Phone 7/8/8.1 and Windows 8/8.1/10. Android and iOS each have a unique take on the emoji as well.

In the real world example in the screenshot below, you can see that I like to insert Emoji into my Facebook posts. You’ll also see that the OS is not rendering Emoji as I type it, but don’t fret about that, the unicode is there and capable devices and websites will display the emoji you used. Some Emoji show up fine on the PC, but most will not unless you’re on a touch screen. Call it a “feature” of Windows if you will.

Many websites, like WordPress and Facebook, will render the emojis after you post using their own appearance, allowing most PC users to see the Emoji you just used instead of blank squares.Untitled1To dismiss the keyboard, just start typing with the physical keyboard, or click something with the mouse.

Lastly, yes, I really did manage to kill the cord on my headphones. 😭

Emoji Engaged! Using Emoji on Windows 8.x and Windows 10 PCs