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18 things Vista & XP need to beat Linux & Mac OS X

What Windows needs to be the best once more

There's no doubt that Microsoft Windows is the biggest and the most widely used PC operating system - but it's not necessarily the best. Here are 18 things we'd like to see as standard in the next Windows.

Screen sharing

Available on: Mac

When Mac OS X Leopard hit shelves last year, it came with a handy little upgrade in iChat (Apple's homespun AIM client) that lets two Leopard users share screens with each other on the fly. Want to show your friend or colleague what you're looking at on your display?

Just share your screen with them. Or ask them to share their screen with you. It's free. You get an exact view of everything they can see, as well as the ability to control their mouse pointer and click around as needed. It's a great way to fix your mother-in-law's computer without actually having to go visit her. (Not that you would mind, of course.)

Windows Meeting Space, built into Vista, offers similar functionality but only over a local network, so sharing your screen with a remote relative isn't an option. Fortunately, a web tool called LiveLook allows you to share your screen in moments, no matter what operating system you or your remote pal happen to be running, and it doesn't require an IM session to launch.

Just log in to LiveLook.net and click 'Show My Screen'. LiveLook will give you a unique session ID number to share with your friend. When they enter it at LiveLook.net, they'll immediately see your screen. After the 14-day free trial, LiveLook jumps to a hefty £20-per-month fee, or to a pay-as-you-go plan priced at 1.5p per minute.

Time Machine

Available on: Mac

Apple's Time Machine backup utility is one of the coolest new features in Leopard; with its help, backing up all of your files to an external drive is idiot-simple. Better yet, it lets you quickly recover an older version of any backed-up file, so you can undo all of your horrible, horrible mistakes.

Windows XP, and most versions of Windows Vista, have no such feature. Sure, they have a backup utility built in, but it's nowhere near as easy to work with as Time Machine is, and it will do nothing to help you track down lost versions of your important files. But three versions of Vista (Ultimate, Business, and Enterprise) do come with a utility called Shadow Copy, which lets you retrieve older versions of your files by right-clicking the file and choosing 'Restore previous versions' from the context menu.

What few people know is that cheaper versions of Vista (including Home Basic and Home Premium) do record the necessary data for Shadow Copy to work - they just don't give you access to that data.

A free utility called Shadow Explorer can set that data free, letting you roll back to an earlier version of just about any file on your hard drive, without forcing you to buy an expensive OS upgrade you don't need.

NEXT PAGE: Don't live with ISO burning and stickie when using Windows

  1. Apple's Exposé
  2. Virtual workspaces and remote computing
  3. How to screen share and use time machine in Windows
  4. Don't live without ISO burning and stickies when using Windows
  5. Podcast capture and software repositories
  6. Turn your desktop into a rotating cube
  7. Get automated and partial screenshots on your Windows PC
  8. Cover Flow and a pre-installed web server
  9. Enjoy POSIX compliance on your Windows PC
  10. Single file applications on Windows

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