Walk, Don't Run, to Vista

January 1, 2008

When Tracy Anderson, a broker-associate with Prudential Preferred Properties in Hinsdale, Ill., bought a new laptop computer last year, she quickly discovered that, instead of the familiar Windows XP operating system, it ran Microsoft Corp.’s new Windows Vista operating system.

“The look is a little different,” says Anderson. But she adds, “It’s been easy to get used to.”

Anderson’s experience hasn’t been shared by all real estate pros who’ve made the switch to Vista.

Indeed, an informal survey of readers of REALTOR® magazine’s daily e-mail news subscribers garnered 50 responses that were roughly evenly divided between those who like Vista and those who don’t. Many of the complaints came from people who found that older software they owned wouldn’t work with Vista.

Still, Vista is the standard operating system for PCs now, so real estate pros will eventually need to adapt. Microsoft says it’s working on compatibility issues for older software, and it’s offered a range of online help for new Vista users.

You’ll notice Vista differences right from the start — there’s no start button, for example, just a Windows flag you click to reveal a list of programs.

“There are a lot of user interface changes,” explains Scott Walker, region B SureClose specialist at Stewart Title Guaranty Co., who led a session exploring Vista at the 2007 REALTORS® Conference & Expo.

Vista will celebrate its first birthday at the end of January. More than 16 million Vista licenses sold in the first six months after its release, a rate faster than Windows XP, its predecessor, sold at when it debuted, says Sean Kapoor, group marketing manager for Windows small business audience at Microsoft in Redmond, Wash.

The pluses for Vista include tools designed for small-business users and more security to thwart hackers, says Kapoor.

New productivity aids include the ability to link different types of files by key words. There are also gadgets — functions that can be displayed on the side of your screen for easy access.

Microsoft has certified roughly 7,000 programs and devices as Vista-compatible and has been testing an average of 35,000 applications a week to address compatibility issues.

Anyone buying a new PC likely will get Vista on that machine. If you’re thinking of converting your old PC, however, several factors should be considered before changing to Vista, Walker and other “technorati” say.

Some older machines can’t handle it — they don’t have enough memory or fast enough processors. Microsoft’s Vista Web site can scan your computer and tell you online whether it can handle Vista.

“From a business standpoint, there’s no reason to rush. Don’t feel you have to upgrade,” says Keith T. Garner, managing director of NAR’s Center for REALTOR® Technology.

If you wait, you could find that upgrades and fixes to some early Vista glitches will be available, making your life a bit easier when you do make the transition, Garner notes.

Vista’s New Features

  1. File grouping. You can link files with a key word search for future use.
  2. Gadgets. Functions such as currency converters and clocks can be left on screen.
  3. Mobility. Make fast connections to wireless networks.
  4. More security. You’re asked for permission to install certain programs or open files.
  5. No Start button. Click on the Windows flag and a program list pops up.
  6. Tablet PC help. Handwriting recognition is better for tablet PC users.

John N. Frank is former managing editor for REALTOR® Magazine.