Windows 95 Usability Testing Builds

Usability Testing Builds
Build of Windows 95
OS familyWindows 9x
Version number4.00

The Windows 95 Usability Testing Builds are a series of builds for Windows 95 (codenamed Chicago). They were shown in various videos recorded by Microsoft demonstrating the usability testing process of Windows 95 from late-1992 to around mid-1994.[1]

The first video was released in 2012 on MSDN Blogs as part of a post on Windows UI evolution and Windows 8 user experience with two demos shown from either December 1992 or January 1993, which makes them the earliest confirmed builds of Windows 95.[2] Despite the very low quality of the video and similarity to the much newer build 58s, some visual differences can be observed. It is generally believed that both of these are earlier than build 34.

PLEASE NOTE: The information below is based on observations from the video and speculation by the author of the article. Therefore, it should be treated as such, rather than fact.

First build[edit | edit source]

The first half of the video showcases the first of the unknown builds, running what appears to be some kind of interactive tutorial (some have noticed it greatly resembles the old Windows 3.1 Tour) about using the new shell as well as the graphical user interface in general. The most obvious difference spotted here are the Start button icons, which look rather different than in build 58s. Instead of the Windows logo, there is a computer icon, while help icon is a simple question mark at this point. The search icon is very distorted, so it's hard to tell if it's different than the one in later builds or not.

Another difference is the Recycle Bin name – it was originally called the "Wastebasket". The same name is also used in some concepts or mockups pertaining to Chicago usability testing.[3] The status bar in the File Cabinet window also says "2 Files in Folder", whereas in build 58s it would say "2 Objects in Folder". The menu bar at the top of the window is also slightly wider than in build 58s and the second unknown build later in the video. There appears to be no icon in the File Cabinet window title bar unlike in later builds, and the full directory path is displayed. However, this feature can also be enabled in build 58s and later. The volume label for the C: system partition is not displayed and instead of the drive icon that was introduced later, it has the same icon as normal folders. The system partition is also the root of the folder tree in both builds – this was later changed so that the File Cabinet would be the root folder (the functionality of which is reminiscent of the "My Computer" shell folder found in later builds).

There is a strange, bright-grey line at the very bottom of the screen that could be part of the taskbar, but neither does the second build or 58s have it. Both words in the name "File Cabinet" appear to be capitalized, which is also not the case with other builds. The Desktop icon text has no background color unlike in the other build, but it is not possible to determine whether this feature is present or disabled. The last visible difference is the lack of two chevrons after the "File Cabinet" name on the desktop. This could mean two things: either the File Cabinet icon on the desktop is not a link, or links did not have these chevrons added to their names in this build yet. The Programs folder also lacks this, which is the same as in build 58s but not in the other build demonstrated within the video.

The File Cabinet icon color (either gold from Windows 3.1x or grey from later Chicago builds) cannot be determined as it is selected and thus highlighted throughout the entire first half of the video. Because footage of the person conducting these tests is covering the lower right corner of the screen, it is impossible to tell if the system time is displayed in the taskbar like it is in later builds.

An interesting observation is that the tutorial instructs the user to close applications via the "File" menu and not the close button sitting just above it.

Second build[edit | edit source]

The second build appears closer in appearance to build 58s, with some minor exceptions. The title bar now only contains the folder name, like build 58s and not the full path as in the first build. Again, this feature can be enabled in build 58s as well. The close button on the left is also apparently different from the standard Windows 3.1x one used in all builds up to 81. It is likely that there is a folder icon in place of the standard horizontal line on the close button (refer to the Conclusion section below). The status bar still says "Files" instead of "Objects", but the menu bar at the top is now the same width as in build 58s.

The Wastebasket shell folder has been renamed to "Recycle.bin" and the word "cabinet" in File Cabinet is no longer capitalized, while its icon is now only a link (as determined by the chevrons following the name), similar to what is found in build 58s. The Desktop icon text now has a grey background color. There is an additional folder link seen on the desktop, called "Personal". According to SHELLNOTE.DOC (dated 20 May 1993) from build 58s, this folder is created by the shell by default. After opening a folder in a new window, the new window does not display the menu bar nor the status bar, which is not the case in build 58s.

Aside from the above and the Start menu icons, this build appears rather similar to build 58s.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

A summary of the above reveals that the second build appears closer in appearance to build 58s than the first one. The only minor inconsistency is the apparent change of the close button to the application icon in the second build and then back to original in build 58s. However, SHELLNOTE.DOC document mentioned above also discusses the evolution of the close button and even shows screenshots/concepts, in which the close button features the application icon as seen in the video. Both builds appear to lack any sort of taskbar clock.

It's also worth noting that the Recycle Bin apparently also changed names several times during development. It's called Wastebasket in the concepts and first usability testing build, then it's renamed to Recycle.bin in the second build, then once again to Wastebasket during Beta 1 stage and finally back to Recycle Bin in Beta 2. This remains its official name in English to this day.

References[edit | edit source]