Tuesday, April 1, 2008

New accessibility feature added to Windows

In response alternative operating systems like OS X and Linux becoming increasingly user-friendly, Microsoft has announced a patch for Windows to greatly improve the usability of Windows. Yesterday, a screenshot was published that shows some small but significant changes to the Windows login screen:

The new Windows feature, available as a patch for Windows 2000, XP and Vista, was developed in cooperation with the Microsoft Office team. A stripped-down version of the Office spell checker is included, so Office itself is not required to install or use the patch.

By default, the spell checker's dictionary only contains the password of the specified user account, but the list can be expanded to include others' passwords as well as dictionary words of your local Windows language. An optional feature (enabled by default) is to correct automatically for incorrect capitalization, thereby avoiding the annoying “Caps Lock is on” message. Some more features can be configured through the Group Policy editor, most notably password auto-completion.

“This feature is a great step forward in the accessibility of Microsoft Windows,” a Microsoft spokesman said. “Imagine users with a physical handicap trying to type in their well-chosen seventeen-character passwords, containing eight special characters, two of which are in the Supplementary Multilingual Plane of Unicode. This new feature will get them started with Microsoft Windows faster than ever before!”

To a voicing of security concerns, Microsoft responded: “The new feature actually makes Windows more secure. In the past, people used to write down their passwords on Post-it notes stuck to their monitor, where anyone could read them. Now they can just rely on the spell checker to get their passwords right.” Passwords are never shown on the screen, and the dictionary is stored in a file only readable by Administrator users.

All Windows 2000, XP and Vista machines with Windows Update enabled will receive the patch automatically this Tuesday.