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Windows XP shipped with Direct X 8.1 which brings major new features to Direct X Graphics besides Direct X Audio (both Direct Sound and Direct Music), Direct Play, Direct Input and Direct Show.
Direct3D introduced programmability in the form of vertex and pixel shaders, enabling developers to write code without worrying about superfluous hardware state, and fog, bump mapping and texture mapping.
To help the user access a wider range of common destinations more easily from a single location, the Start menu was expanded to two columns; the left column focuses on the user's installed applications, while the right column provides access to the user's documents, and system links which were previously located on the desktop.
Links to the My Documents, My Pictures and other special folders are brought to the fore.
The total number of GDI handles per session is also raised in Windows XP from 16384 to 65536 (configurable through the registry).Underneath “Other Places” is a “Details” area which gives additional information when a file or folder is selected – typically the file type, file size and date modified, but depending on the file type, author, image dimensions, attributes, or other details.If the file type has a Thumbnail image handler installed, its preview also appears in the "Details" task pane.Advanced taskbar grouping options can be configured from the registry.The user can choose to always show, always hide or hide some or all notification area icons if inactive for some time. The Taskbar, if set to a thicker height also displays the day and date in the notification area.