I've been using Windows Vista for several months now, and in that time, I've noticed some nice little ways in which Vista has improved its usability over its predecessor, Windows XP.
Here are a couple of my favorites:
1. In the "details" view of Windows Explorer, when you select a file, the whole line is highlighted.
This may seem insignificant, but it's a pretty big deal to me. I was actually very annoyed with this shortcoming in Windows XP for years, and was really excited to see that Microsoft finally corrected it in Vista.
One common scenario for me when I'm using Windows Explorer is to browse through my music collection. MP3 files tend to have a lot of details associated with them that I'm interested in seeing.
In XP, it's very hard to match up one of the outer columns in "details" view with the name of the file, because they're not visually connected. (This is especially true if the column you want to look at is off the screen.)
But in Vista, it's very easy, because the whole line is highlighted, and the file name is connected visually with all of its details.
2. When renaming a file, the extension is not selected.
If you're like me, one of the first things you do on a fresh install of Windows is turn off the "Hide extensions for known file types" option in Explorer.
This caused a minor annoyance in XP, because when you went to rename a file (F2 for you keyboard junkies), you'd have to stop, de-select the extension, and then type your new file name.
If you didn't do this, you'd probably wipe out the extension and get an unexpected error message.
Fortunately, Vista recognizes that 99% of the time, you just want to change the file name without changing the extension, so it doesn't select the extension.
As someone who tends to pay close attention to usability issues in software, I'm really glad that the Windows shell team is still looking for little enhancements that can improve the interface of such a mature product.