Windows ® XP - Dummies collection

Windows ® XP - Dummies collection
Windows ® XP
by Andy Rathbone
New York, NY ◆ Cleveland, OH ◆ Indianapolis, IN ◆ Foster City, CA
Windows ® XP For Dummies®
Published by
Hungry Minds, Inc.
909 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10022
Copyright © 2001 Hungry Minds, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book, including interior design, cover design, and
icons, may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means (electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise)
without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Library of Congress Catalog Card No.: 2001092737
ISBN: 0-7645-0893-8
Printed in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Distributed in the United States by Hungry Minds, Inc.
Distributed by CDG Books Canada Inc. for Canada; by Transworld Publishers Limited in the United Kingdom; by IDG Norge
Books for Norway; by IDG Sweden Books for Sweden; by IDG Books Australia Publishing Corporation Pty. Ltd. for Australia
and New Zealand; by TransQuest Publishers Pte Ltd. for Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Hong Kong; by Gotop
Information Inc. for Taiwan; by ICG Muse, Inc. for Japan; by Intersoft for South Africa; by Eyrolles for France; by International
Thomson Publishing for Germany, Austria and Switzerland; by Distribuidora Cuspide for Argentina; by LR International for
Brazil; by Galileo Libros for Chile; by Ediciones ZETA S.C.R. Ltda. for Peru; by WS Computer Publishing Corporation, Inc., for
the Philippines; by Contemporanea de Ediciones for Venezuela; by Express Computer Distributors for the Caribbean and
West Indies; by Micronesia Media Distributor, Inc. for Micronesia; by Chips Computadoras S.A. de C.V. for Mexico; by Editorial Norma de Panama S.A. for Panama; by American Bookshops for Finland.
For general information on Hungry Minds’ products and services please contact our Customer Care Department within the
U.S. at 800-762-2974, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3993 or fax 317-572-4002.
For sales inquiries and reseller information, including discounts, premium and bulk quantity sales, and foreign-language
translations, please contact our Customer Care Department at 800-434-3422, fax 317-572-4002, or write to Hungry Minds, Inc.,
Attn: Customer Care Department, 10475 Crosspoint Boulevard, Indianapolis, IN 46256.
For information on licensing foreign or domestic rights, please contact our Sub-Rights Customer Care Department at
For information on using Hungry Minds’ products and services in the classroom or for ordering examination copies, please
contact our Educational Sales department at 800-434-2086 or fax 317-572-4005.
Please contact our Public Relations Department at 212-884-5163 for press review copies or 212-884-5000 for author
interviews and other publicity information or fax 212-884-5400.
For authorization to photocopy items for corporate, personal, or educational use, please contact Copyright Clearance
Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923, or fax 978-750-4470.
Trademarks: All brand names and product names used in this book are trade names, service marks, trademarks, or registered trademarks of their respective owners. IDG Books Worldwide is not associated with any product or vendor mentioned
in this book.
is a trademark of
Hungry Minds, Inc.
About the Author
Andy Rathbone started geeking around with computers in 1985 when
he bought a boxy CP/M Kaypro 2X with lime-green letters. Like other
budding nerds, he soon began playing with null-modem adapters, dialing up computer bulletin boards, and working part-time at Radio Shack.
In between playing computer games, he served as editor of the Daily
Aztec newspaper at San Diego State University. After graduating with a
comparative literature degree, he went to work for a bizarre underground coffee-table magazine that sort of disappeared.
Andy began combining his two main interests, words and computers,
by selling articles to a local computer magazine. During the next few
years, he started ghostwriting computer books for more-famous computer authors, as well as writing several hundred articles about computers for technoid publications like Supercomputing Review,
CompuServe Magazine, ID Systems, DataPro, and Shareware.
In 1992, Andy and DOS For Dummies author/legend Dan Gookin teamed
up to write PCs For Dummies. Andy subsequently wrote the award-winning Windows For Dummies series, Upgrading & Fixing PCs For Dummies,MP3 For Dummies, and many other For Dummies books.
Today, he has more than 15 million copies of his books in print, which
have been translated into more than 30 languages.
Andy lives with his most-excellent wife, Tina, and their cat in Southern
California. He wants a new LCD panel monitor for his main computer,
but then the cat wouldn’t have anyplace to sleep. Feel free to drop by
his Web site at
To my wife, parents, sister, and cat.
Author’s Acknowledgments
Special thanks to Dan Gookin and his wife, Sandy Gookin, Matt Wagner,
the Kleskes, the Tragesers, Steve Hayes, Nicole Haims, Kim Darosett,
and Jerelind Charles.
Publisher’s Acknowledgments
We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our Hungry Minds Online Registration Form located at
Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:
Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media
Senior Project Editor: Nicole Haims
(Previous Edition: Darren Meiss)
Senior Acquisitions Editor: Steve Hayes
Senior Copy Editor: Kim Darosett
Copy Editor: Jerelind Charles
Technical Editor: Lee Musick
Editorial Manager: Leah Cameron
Permissions Editors: Carmen Krikorian,
Laura Moss
Media Development Coordinator: Marisa
Media Development Supervisor: Richard
Editorial Assistant: Jean Rogers
Project Coordinator: Dale White
Special Help
Teresa Artman, Amy Pettinella, Rebecca
General and Administrative
Hungry Minds, Inc.: John Kilcullen, CEO; Bill Barry, President and COO; John Ball, Executive
VP, Operations & Administration; John Harris, Executive VP and CFO
Hungry Minds Technology Publishing Group: Richard Swadley, Senior Vice President and
Publisher; Mary Bednarek, Vice President and Publisher, Networking and Certification;
Walter R. Bruce III, Vice President and Publisher, General User and Design Professional;
Joseph Wikert, Vice President and Publisher, Programming; Mary C. Corder, Editorial Director, Branded Technology Editorial; Andy Cummings, Publishing Director, General User and
Design Professional; Barry Pruett, Publishing Director, Visual
Hungry Minds Manufacturing: Ivor Parker, Vice President, Manufacturing
Hungry Minds Marketing: John Helmus, Assistant Vice President, Director of Marketing
Hungry Minds Production for Branded Press: Debbie Stailey, Production Director
Hungry Minds Sales: Michael Violano, Vice President, International Sales and Sub Rights
The publisher would like to give special thanks to Patrick J. McGovern,
without whom this book would not have been possible.
Table of Contents
Introduction ................................................................. 1
About This Bookl.............................................................................................. 1
How to Use This Bookl .................................................................................... 2
And What about You?l..................................................................................... 3
How This Book Is Organizedl.......................................................................... 4
Part I: Bare-Bones Windows XP Stuffl .................................................. 4
Part II: Making Windows XP Do Somethingl........................................ 4
Part III: Using Windows XP Applications (And Surfing the Web)l.... 5
Part IV: Help!l .......................................................................................... 5
Part V: The Part of Tensl ....................................................................... 5
Icons Used in This Bookl................................................................................. 5
Where to Go from Herel .................................................................................. 6
Part I: Bare-Bones Windows XP Stuff ............................ 8
Chapter 1: What Is Windows XP? .............................................................10
What Are Windows and Windows XP?l ....................................................... 10
What Does Windows Do?l ............................................................................. 11
How Does Windows XP Affect My Older Programs?l ................................ 14
Should I Bother Using Windows XP?l .......................................................... 15
Bracing Yourself (And Your Computer) for Windows XPl........................ 16
Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts ................................17
The Computerl................................................................................................ 17
The Microprocessor (CPU)l.......................................................................... 19
Disks and Disk Drivesl ................................................................................... 20
Floppy disksl ......................................................................................... 20
Compact discs (CD-ROM drive stuff)l................................................ 21
DVD discsl ............................................................................................. 23
Iomega drivesl....................................................................................... 23
Hard disksl ............................................................................................ 24
What does write-protected mean?l .................................................... 24
The Mouse and That Double-Click Stuffl..................................................... 25
Video Cards and Monitorsl ........................................................................... 29
Keyboardsl ...................................................................................................... 31
Groups of keysl ..................................................................................... 31
More key principlesl ............................................................................ 33
Modems and the Internetl............................................................................. 35
_____________________________________________________ Table of Contents
Printersl ...........................................................................................................37
Sound Cards (Making Barfing Noises)l ........................................................38
Portsl ................................................................................................................39
Parts Required by Windows XPl ...................................................................41
Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already
Know .............................................................................................................. 45
Activationl .......................................................................................................45
Backing Up a Diskl ..........................................................................................47
The Cursorl......................................................................................................49
Defaults (And the Any Key)l..........................................................................49
Desktop (And Changing Its Background)l ...................................................50
Double-Clickingl ..............................................................................................51
Dragging and Droppingl .................................................................................51
Filesl .................................................................................................................53
Folders (Directories)l.....................................................................................54
Graphical User Interfacesl .............................................................................54
Hardware and Softwarel ................................................................................55
Iconsl ................................................................................................................56
The Internetl....................................................................................................56
Kilobytes, Megabytes, and So Onl ................................................................57
Loading, Running, Executing, and Launchingl ............................................59
Memoryl ...........................................................................................................59
The Mousel ......................................................................................................60
Plug and Playl..................................................................................................62
Quitting or Exitingl .........................................................................................63
Save Commandl...............................................................................................64
Save As Commandl .........................................................................................65
Shortcutsl ........................................................................................................66
Temp Filesl ......................................................................................................67
The Windowsl..................................................................................................67
The World Wide Webl ....................................................................................68
Part II: Making Windows XP Do Something ..................69
Chapter 4: Starting Windows XP ............................................................... 71
Logging On to Windows XPl ..........................................................................72
_____________________________________________________ Table of Contents
It wants me to enter a password!l.......................................................73
Starting your favorite program with the Start buttonl.....................76
Pull-Down Menusl ...........................................................................................78
Loading a filel ........................................................................................79
Putting two programs on-screen simultaneouslyl............................81
Printing Your Workl........................................................................................82
Saving Your Workl ..........................................................................................83
Logging Off of Windows XPl ..........................................................................84
Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files .... 86
A Typical Windowl..........................................................................................87
Moving windows with the title barl ....................................................88
Bossing around windows with the menu barl...................................89
Moving inside your window with the scroll barl ..............................91
Switching windows with the taskbarl.................................................93
Bordersl ...........................................................................................................94
The Button Familyl .........................................................................................94
Sending commands with command buttonsl ....................................94
Choosing between option buttonsl ....................................................96
Changing a window’s size with Minimize and
Maximize buttonsl............................................................................97
The Useless Control-Menu Buttonl...............................................................99
Filling Out Bothersome Forms in Dialog Boxesl .........................................99
Typing into text boxesl ......................................................................100
Choosing options from list boxesl ....................................................100
Drop-down list boxesl ........................................................................101
Check boxesl........................................................................................103
Sliding controlsl ..................................................................................104
Just Tell Me How to Open a File!l................................................................105
Hey! When Do I Click, and When Do I Double-Click?l ..............................108
When Do I Use the Left Mouse Button, and When Do I Use the
Right One?l................................................................................................109
Chapter 6: Moving Windows Around ..................................................... 111
Moving a Window to the Top of the Pilel ..................................................111
Moving a Window from Here to Therel......................................................112
Making a Window Bigger or Smallerl .........................................................113
Making a Window Fill the Whole Screenl...................................................115
Chapter 7: I Can’t Find It! ........................................................................... 117
Finding Lost Windows on the Desktopl .....................................................117
Plucking a lost window from the Task Managerl ............................118
Tiling and cascading windows (The “deal all the windows in front
of me” approach)l ..........................................................................119
_____________________________________________________ Table of Contents
Finding Lost Files, Folders, Music, Photos, Videos, People,
or Computersl...........................................................................................122
Finding any lost files or foldersl........................................................123
Finding lost pictures, music, or videol.............................................126
Finding lost documentsl.....................................................................127
Finding computers or peoplel ...........................................................128
Searching the Internetl.......................................................................128
Chapter 8: That “Cut and Paste” Stuff (Moving Around Words,
Pictures, and Sounds) .............................................................................. 130
Examining the Cut and Paste Concept (And Copy, Too)l........................131
Highlighting the Important Stuffl ................................................................132
Cutting, Copying, or Deleting What You Highlightedl..............................134
Cutting the informationl.....................................................................134
Copying the informationl ...................................................................135
Deleting the informationl ...................................................................136
Finding out more about cutting, copying, and deletingl................137
Pasting Information into Another Windowl...............................................137
Leaving Scraps on the Desktop Deliberatelyl ...........................................138
Chapter 9: Sharing It All on the Network ............................................... 140
Fiddling with User Accountsl ......................................................................141
Changing a user account’s picturel ..................................................142
Switching quickly between usersl.....................................................144
Creating, deleting, or changing a user accountl .............................146
Skip the Rest of This Unless You Have or Want a Networkl ...................148
Can I get in trouble for looking into the wrong computer?l .........149
How do I access other networked computers?l..............................150
Sharing your own computer’s stuff with the networkl ..................151
Sharing a printer on the networkl.....................................................153
How Do I Create My Own Computer Network?l........................................155
Buying a network’s partsl ..................................................................155
Installing the network’s partsl...........................................................157
Letting the Network Setup Wizard Set Up Your Networkl.......................159
Part III: Using Windows XP Applications ...................162
Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And
Free Programs) .......................................................................................... 164
Rolling Objects along the Windows XP Desktopl .....................................165
Arranging icons on the desktopl.......................................................168
Using the Recycle Binl........................................................................169
Making a shortcutl ..............................................................................170
_____________________________________________________ Table of Contents
Uh, what’s the difference between a shortcut and the
actual program?l.............................................................................173
Shutting down Windows XPl .............................................................174
The Way-Cool Taskbarl................................................................................175
Shrinking windows to the taskbar and retrieving theml................177
Clicking the taskbar’s sensitive areasl .............................................178
Customizing the taskbarl ...................................................................180
Controlling the Printerl ................................................................................182
The Start Button’s Reason to Livel.............................................................184
Starting a program from the Start buttonl.......................................185
Adding a program’s icon to the Start menul ...................................187
Making Windows start programs automaticallyl ............................189
The Start Menu’s Free Programsl ...............................................................190
The Start menu’s first-tier programsl...............................................190
The Start menu’s All Programs areal................................................191
My Version of Windows XP Doesn’t Have the Right
Freebie Programs!l ...................................................................................200
Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program ..................................... 202
Why Is the My Computer Program So Frightening?l ................................203
Getting the Lowdown on Foldersl...............................................................206
Peering into Your Drives and Foldersl.......................................................207
Seeing the files on a disk drivel.........................................................207
Seeing what’s inside foldersl .............................................................209
Loading a Program or Filel ..........................................................................211
Deleting and Undeleting Files, Folders, and Iconsl...................................212
Getting rid of a file or folderl .............................................................213
How to undelete a filel........................................................................213
Copying or Moving a File, Folder, or Iconl.................................................215
Selecting More Than One File or Folderl ...................................................218
Renaming a File, Folder, or Iconl ................................................................219
Using Legal Folder Names and Filenamesl ................................................220
Copying a Complete Floppy Diskl...............................................................221
Creating a Folderl .........................................................................................222
Seeing More Information about Files and Foldersl...................................224
What’s That Windows Explorer Thing?l ....................................................227
How Do I Make the Network Work?l...........................................................229
Making My Computer and Windows Explorer List Missing Filesl ..........231
Formatting a Diskl.........................................................................................232
Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using
Newsgroups ............................................................................................... 234
What’s the Difference between the Internet, the World Wide Web, and
a Web Browser?l.......................................................................................235
Who Can Use the Internet and World Wide Web?l...................................236
_____________________________________________________ Table of Contents
What’s an ISP, and Do I Need One?l............................................................237
What Do I Need to Access the World Wide Web?l....................................239
Setting Up Your Internet Account with the Internet
Connection Wizardl .................................................................................240
What is a Web Browser?l .............................................................................244
How Do I Navigate the Web with Internet Explorer?l...............................246
What’s a home page?l.........................................................................246
How do I move from Web page to Web page?l................................248
How can I revisit my favorite places?l..............................................249
What’s an index or search engine?l ..................................................250
But How Do I Do This?l ................................................................................252
I can’t get it to install!l ........................................................................252
How do I install the firewall?l ............................................................253
I keep getting busy signals!l...............................................................254
The Web page says it needs [insert name of weird plug-in
thing here]!l.....................................................................................254
How do I copy a picture from the Internet?l ...................................255
Little boxes keep popping up on the Web pages!l ..........................256
Managing E-mail with Outlook Expressl ....................................................256
Setting up Outlook Express 6.0 to send and receive e-maill .........257
Getting ready to send e-maill.............................................................260
Composing a letterl.............................................................................261
Reading a received letterl ..................................................................263
What does the News area do?l ..........................................................266
Finding and reading a newsgroupl....................................................267
Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player! .......................................... 270
Understanding Media Playerl......................................................................270
Using Media Guide to Find Videos, Music, and Movie Trailers on
the Internetl ..............................................................................................273
Finding and Playing Internet Radio Stationsl ............................................276
Finding Media on Your Computer and Putting It into the
Media Libraryl ..........................................................................................279
Creating Playlistsl .........................................................................................280
Playing CDsl...................................................................................................281
Playing DVDsl ................................................................................................283
Playing MP3s and WMAsl ............................................................................284
Creating WMAs or MP3sl .............................................................................285
Storing Files in Your My Music and Shared Music Foldersl....................288
Playing Videosl..............................................................................................290
Moving Music or Video to an MP3 Player or Pocket PCl .........................291
Burning Your Own CDsl ...............................................................................294
Adding Skins to Media Playerl ....................................................................296
Fixing Media Player Muckupsl ....................................................................297
It just doesn’t work!l ...........................................................................298
_____________________________________________________ Table of Contents
Does it have to be so huge?l ..............................................................299
Bizarre Multimedia Wordsl..........................................................................299
Part IV: Help! ..........................................................302
Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control
Panel) .......................................................................................................... 304
Finding the Right Control Panel Optionl....................................................305
Appearance and Themesl ............................................................................313
Changing the display’s background, screen saver,
and resolutionl................................................................................313
Making Windows display folders differentlyl ..................................320
Adjusting your taskbar and Start menul ..........................................322
Viewing your computer’s fontsl ........................................................323
Network and Internet Connectionsl ...........................................................324
Add or Remove Programsl ..........................................................................324
Removing programsl ..........................................................................324
Installing a new programl ..................................................................326
Adding or removing Windows componentsl ...................................326
Sounds, Speech, and Audio Devicesl .........................................................327
Changing Windows’ volume and playing with its soundsl ............327
Letting Windows talk to youl.............................................................328
Performance and Maintenancel ..................................................................328
Seeing information about your computerl ......................................329
Turning on or off visual effectsl ........................................................330
Freeing up space on your hard diskl ................................................330
Rearranging your hard disk to speed it up (defragmenting)l ......331
Other Performance and Maintenance iconsl...................................332
Printers and Other Hardwarel.....................................................................332
Adding new hardwarel .......................................................................332
Fiddling with printers and faxesl ......................................................334
Game controllersl ...............................................................................336
Scanners and camerasl ......................................................................336
Making Windows XP recognize your double-clickl.........................337
Phone and modem optionsl...............................................................339
User Accountsl ..............................................................................................339
Date, Time, Language, and Regional Optionsl ..........................................339
Regional and language optionsl ........................................................340
Setting the computer’s date and timel .............................................340
Chapter 15: The Case of the Broken Window ....................................... 341
Restoring Calm with System Restorel ........................................................342
My Mouse Doesn’t Work Rightl...................................................................343
_____________________________________________________ Table of Contents
Making Older Programs Run under Windows XPl....................................344
It Says I Need to Be an Administrator!l ......................................................345
I’m Stuck in Menu Landl...............................................................................346
Keeping Windows Up-to-Datel.....................................................................346
All My Desktop Icons Vanishedl .................................................................347
I’m Supposed to Install a New Driverl ........................................................347
His Version of Windows XP Has More Programs Than Mine!l ................348
I Clicked the Wrong Button (But Haven’t Lifted My Finger Yet)l ...........349
My Computer Is Frozen Up Solidl ...............................................................349
The Printer Isn’t Working Rightl .................................................................350
My Double-Clicks Are Now Single Clicks!l .................................................351
Chapter 16: Figuring Out Those Annoying Pop-Up Messages ........... 352
Access Is Deniedl ..........................................................................................353
AutoCompletel ..............................................................................................353
Click Here to Activate Nowl.........................................................................354
Connect To . . .l .............................................................................................355
Error Connecting To . . .l..............................................................................355
File Name Warningl.......................................................................................356
Found New Hardwarel..................................................................................356
Hiding Your Inactive Notification Iconsl....................................................357
If You Remove This File, You Will No Longer Be Able to Run
This Programl ...........................................................................................358
Missing Shortcutl ..........................................................................................358
New Programs Installedl ..............................................................................359
New Updates Are Ready to Installl .............................................................360
Open With . . .l...............................................................................................360
Privacy Alert — Saving Cookiesl.................................................................361
Renamel .........................................................................................................362
Safe to Remove Hardwarel ..........................................................................363
Stay Current with Automatic Updatesl ......................................................363
There Are Unused Icons on Your Desktopl...............................................364
When You Send Information to the Internetl ............................................365
You Have Files Waiting to Be Written to the CDl......................................366
Chapter 17: Help on the Windows XP Help System ............................. 367
Get Me Some Help, and Fast!l ......................................................................367
Press F1l ...............................................................................................368
Click the right mouse button on the confusing partl .....................368
Choose Help from the main menul ...................................................369
Sending in the Troubleshootersl ......................................................369
Search — letting Windows do the workl..........................................371
Consulting a Program’s Built-In Computer Gurul .....................................372
Finding Help for your exact probleml ..............................................374
Using Windows Help and Support Centerl ................................................375
_____________________________________________________ Table of Contents
Part V: The Part of Tens ............................................379
Chapter 18: Ten Exciting New Windows XP Features ........................ 381
Way Cool Foldersl.........................................................................................381
Remote Assistancel ......................................................................................383
Burning (Writing Information onto) CDsl ..................................................384
Files and Settings Transfer Wizardl............................................................384
User Accountsl ..............................................................................................385
Increased Stabilityl .......................................................................................385
Built-in Firewall against Internet Hackersl.................................................386
Automatically Sets Clockl ............................................................................387
Windows XP Must Be Activatedl.................................................................387
Making Windows XP Run Like Your Old Version of Windowsl...............387
Chapter 19: Ten Aggravating Things about Windows XP (And How
to Fix Them) ................................................................................................ 389
How Do I Change the Volume?l ...................................................................389
What Version of Windows Do I Have?l.......................................................390
I Want to Click Instead of Double-Click (Or Vice Versa)!l........................391
My Bar Full of Buttons Just Fell Off!l ..........................................................391
Keeping Track of All Those Windows Is Too Hardl..................................392
The Taskbar Keeps Disappearing!l.............................................................392
My Print Screen Key Doesn’t Workl ...........................................................393
Lining Up Two Windows on the Screen Is Too Hardl...............................394
The Folder Lists the Wrong Stuff on My Floppy Diskl..............................394
It Won’t Let Me Do Something Unless I’m An Administrator!l ................394
Chapter 20: Ten (Or So) Windows XP Icons and What They Do ........ 396
Chapter 21: Ten Most Frequently Asked Windows Questions .......... 400
How Do I Remember All the Stuff I Can Do to a File?l ..............................400
Should I Upgrade to the Windows XP Home or
Professional Version?l .............................................................................402
How Do I Add a Picture of My Face to My User Account?l.....................403
Why Can’t Windows XP Play My DVDs?l ...................................................404
Why Can’t Windows XP Create MP3 Files?l...............................................405
How Do I Get Rid of the Welcome Screen?l ...............................................405
How Can I See Previews of My Pictures?l ..................................................406
How Can I Make All My Web Pages Open in a Full-Screen Window?l.....407
What Will I Miss If I Don’t Use the Internet with Windows XP?l .............407
Appendix: Glossary..................................................................................... 409
elcome to Windows XP For Dummies!
This book boils down to this simple fact: Some people want to be Windows wizards. They love interacting with dialog boxes. While sitting in
front of their computers, they randomly press keys on their keyboards,
hoping to stumble onto a hidden, undocumented feature. They memorize long strings of computer commands while washing their hair. Some
don’t even wash their hair.
And you? Well, you’re no dummy, that’s for sure. In fact, you’re much
more developed than most computer nerds. You can make casual conversation with a neighbor without mumbling about ordering pizzas over
the Internet, for example. But when it comes to Windows and computers, the fascination just isn’t there. You just want to get your work done,
stop, and relax for a while. You have no intention of changing, and
there’s nothing wrong with that.
That’s where this book comes in handy. It won’t try to turn you into a
Windows wizard, but you’ll pick up a few chunks of useful computing
information while reading it. Instead of becoming a Windows XP expert,
you’ll know just enough to get by quickly, cleanly, and with a minimum
of pain so that you can move on to the more pleasant things in life.
About This Book
Don’t try to read this book in one sitting; there’s no need. Instead, treat
this book like a dictionary or an encyclopedia. Turn to the page with
the information you need and say, “Ah, so that’s what they’re talking
about.” Then put down the book and move on.
Don’t bother trying to remember all the Windows XP buzzwords, such
as “Select the menu item from the drop-down list box.” Leave that stuff
for the computer gurus. In fact, if anything technical comes up in a
chapter, a road sign warns you well in advance. That way, you can
either slow down to read it or speed on around it.
You won’t find any fancy computer jargon in this book. Instead, you’ll
find subjects like these, discussed in plain old English:
A Why did they choose a weird name like “Windows XP”?
A Finding the file you saved or downloaded yesterday
A Moving those little windows around on the screen with the mouse
A Making Windows XP run like your older versions of Windows
A Starting and closing programs by clicking the mouse button
A Making Windows XP work again when it’s misbehaving
There’s nothing to memorize and nothing to learn. Just turn to the right
page, read the brief explanation, and get back to work. Unlike other
books, this one enables you to bypass the technical hoopla and still get
your work done.
How to Use This Book
Something in Windows XP will eventually leave you scratching your
head. No other program brings so many buttons, bars, and babble to
the screen. When something in Windows XP has you stumped, use this
book as a reference. Look for the troublesome topic in this book’s table
of contents or index. The table of contents lists chapter and section
titles and page numbers. The index lists topics and page numbers. Page
through the table of contents or index to the spot that deals with that
particular bit of computer obscurity, read only what you have to, close
the book, and apply what you’ve read.
If you’re feeling spunky and want to learn something, read a little further. You can find a few completely voluntary extra details or some
cross-references to check out. There’s no pressure, though. You won’t
be forced to learn anything that you don’t want to or that you simply
don’t have time for.
If you have to type something into the computer, you’ll see easy-to-follow text like this:
In the preceding example, you type the cryptic string of letters and then press the keyboard’s Enter key. Typing words
into a computer can be confusing, so a description of what you’re supposed to type usually follows. That way, you can type the words exactly
as they’re supposed to be typed.
Whenever I describe a message or information that you see on-screen, I
present it this way:
This is a message on-screen.
This book doesn’t wimp out by saying, “For further information, consult
your manual.” Windows XP doesn’t even come with a manual. You
won’t find information about running specific Windows software packages, such as Microsoft Office. Windows XP is complicated enough on
its own! Luckily, other For Dummies books mercifully explain most popular software packages.
Don’t feel abandoned, though. This book covers Windows in plenty of
detail for you to get the job done. Plus, if you have questions or comments about Windows XP For Dummies, feel free to drop me a line on my
Web site at
Finally, keep in mind that this book is a reference. It’s not designed to
teach you how to use Windows XP like an expert, heaven forbid.
Instead, this book dishes out enough bite-sized chunks of information
so that you don’t have to learn Windows.
When you’re ready for some more-advanced Windows XP information,
pick up a copy of Windows XP Secrets. Written by longtime computer
nerd Brian Livingston, the thick book leads you safely through some of
the Windows XP program’s more tumultuous ground.
And What about You?
Well, chances are that you have a computer. You have Windows XP or
are thinking about picking up a copy. You know what you want to do
with your computer. The problem lies in making the computer do what
you want it to do. You’ve gotten by one way or another, hopefully with
the help of a computer guru—either a friend at the office, somebody
down the street, or your fourth-grader. Unfortunately, though, that computer guru isn’t always around. This book can be a substitute during
your times of need. Keep a doughnut or Pokémon card nearby, however,
just in case you need a quick bribe.
How This Book Is Organized
The information in this book has been well sifted. This book contains
five parts, and I divided each part into chapters relating to the part’s
theme. With an even finer knife, I divided each chapter into short sections to help you figure out a bit of Windows XP’s weirdness. Sometimes, you may find what you’re looking for in a small, boxed tip. Other
times, you may need to cruise through an entire section or chapter. It’s
up to you and the particular task at hand.
Here are the categories (the envelope, please):
Part I: Bare-Bones Windows XP Stuff
This book starts out with the basics. You find out how to turn on your
computer and how to examine your computer’s parts and what Windows XP does to them. It explains all the Windows XP stuff that everybody thinks that you already know. It explains the new features in
Windows XP, separating the wheat from the chaff while leaving out any
thick, technical oatmeal. You discover whether your computer has
enough oomph to run Windows XP. And you end this part (with great
relief) by turning off your computer.
Part II: Making Windows XP Do
Windows XP leaps onto the screen with a snappy beat and overly
excited videos. But how do you make the darn thing do something useful? Here, you find ways to overcome the frustratingly playful tendencies of Windows XP and force it to sweep leaves off the driveway or
empty the dishwasher.
Part III: Using Windows XP
Applications (And Surfing the Web)
Windows XP comes with bunches of exciting free programs. Finding and
starting the programs, however, is quite a chore. This part dissects the
Windows XP backbone: Its annoying “Welcome” screen and User Name
buttons, the mammoth Start button menu that hides all the important
stuff, and your computer’s desktop—the background your running programs rest upon.
This part of the book explains how to store your files so you can find
them again. It shows how to send e-mail and play with that World Wide
Web thing everyone talks about. Turn here for information on playing
music CDs and MP3s and movies. As a bonus, you discover why your
computer screen looks like a blinking billboard for Microsoft products.
(And how to turn those ads off.)
Part IV: Help!
Although glass doesn’t shatter when Windows XP crashes, it still hurts.
In this part, you find some soothing salves for the most painful irritations. Plus, you find ways to unleash the Windows XP program’s wise
new team of powerful Troubleshooting Wizards. Imagine: A computer
that can finally wave a wand and fix itself!
Part V: The Part of Tens
Everybody loves lists (except during tax time). This part contains lists
of Windows-related trivia—ten aggravating things about Windows XP
(and how to fix them), ten confusing Windows XP icons and what they
mean, ten ways to make Windows XP start working again, and other
shoulder-rubbing solutions for tense problems.
Icons Used in This Book
Already seen Windows? Then you’ve probably noticed its icons, which
are little pictures for starting various programs. The icons in this book
fit right in. They’re even a little easier to figure out:
Watch out! This signpost warns you that pointless technical information is coming around the bend. Swerve away from this icon, and you’ll
be safe from the awful technical drivel.
This icon alerts you about juicy information that makes computing easier: A tried and true method for keeping the cat from sleeping on top of
the monitor, for instance.
Don’t forget to remember these important points. (Or at least dog-ear
the pages so that you can look them up again a few days later.)
The computer won’t explode while you’re performing the delicate operations associated with this icon. Still, wearing gloves and proceeding
with caution is a good idea when this icon is near.
Already familiar with Windows Me, Windows 98, or another version of
Windows? This icon marks information that can ease your transition
from old to new.
Some PCs may vary
If Windows XP came already installed on your
PC, be forewarned: PC manufacturers love to
customize their PCs’ versions of Windows. Some
toss in oodles of extra software; some simply
toss an America Online icon onto the desktop.
Still other manufacturers strip Windows XP of
some of its programs. If you think your version
of Windows XP lacks some features, check out
Chapter 15. It describes what to do if somebody
else’s version of Windows has more fun stuff
than your own.
Where to Go from Here
Now, you’re ready for action. Give the pages a quick flip and maybe
scan through a few sections that you know you’ll need later. Please
remember, this is your book—your weapon against the computer criminals who’ve inflicted this whole complicated computer concept on you.
So pretend you’re back in grade school, and you can’t get caught: Circle
any paragraphs you find useful, highlight key concepts, cover up the
technical drivel with sticky notes, and draw gothic gargoyles in the margins next to the complicated stuff.
The more you mark up your book, the easier it will be for you to find all
the good stuff again.
Getting great Windows XP information online
The geeks at Microsoft are always complicating
their products in the name of perfection, and
Windows XP is no exception. Fortunately, your
friends at have found a way to
keep you informed as changes are made to
Windows XP (and as your questions change).
Visit to
find answers to your questions, updates to the
book, and find out how to receive Windows tips
on a daily basis.
Part I
Bare-Bones Windows
XP Stuff
In this part…
ost people are dragged into Windows XP without a choice.
Their new computer probably came with a version of Windows XP already installed; or maybe you had Windows XP
installed at the office, where everyone has to learn it except for
Jerry, who moved over to the Art Department and got his own
Macintosh; or perhaps the latest version of your favorite program
requires Windows XP, so you’ve had to learn to live with the darn
No matter how you were introduced, you can adjust to Windows
XP, just like you eventually learned to live comfortably with that
funky college roommate who kept leaving hair clogs in the shower.
Whatever your situation, this part keeps things safe and sane,
with the water flowing smoothly. If you’re new to computers, the
first chapter answers the question you’ve been afraid to ask
around the lunchroom: “Just what is this Windows XP thing, anyway?”
Chapter 1
What Is Windows XP?
In This Chapter
B Understanding what Windows XP is and what it does
B Finding out how Windows XP affects your current programs
B Deciding whether you should upgrade to Windows XP
ne way or another, you’ve probably already heard about Windows, created by the Microsoft company and owned by one of
the richest men in the world. Windows posters line the walls of computer stores. Everybody who’s anybody talks breezily about Windows,
the Internet, and the World Wide Web. Weird code words, such as, stare out cryptically from magazines, newspapers, bus
stops, and blimps.
To help you play catch-up in the world of Windows, this chapter fills
you in on the basics of the newest version of Windows, called Windows
XP. The chapter discusses what Windows XP is and what it can do. This
chapter also shows how Windows XP works with older Windows programs you may have on your shelf.
Because Windows XP comes preinstalled on most new computers, this
chapter also answers that question nagging away at owners of older
computers: Should I bother upgrading to Windows XP?
What Are Windows and Windows
Windows is just another piece of software, like the zillions of others lining the store shelves. But it’s not a program in the normal sense—something that lets you write letters or lets your coworkers play Bozark the
_________________________________ Chapter 1: What Is Windows XP?
Destroyer over the office network after everybody else goes home.
Rather, Windows controls the way you work with your computer.
Years ago, computers looked like typewriters connected to TV sets.
Just as on a typewriter, people typed letters and numbers onto the computer’s keyboard. The computer listened and then placed those letters
and numbers onto the screen. But it was ever-so-boring.
The method was boring because only computer engineers used computers. Nobody expected normal people to use computers—especially
not in their offices, their dens, or even in their kitchens. Windows
changed all that in several ways.
A Windows software dumps the typewriter analogy and updates the
look of computers. Windows replaces the old-style words and numbers with colorful pictures and fun buttons. It’s fun and flashy, like
a Versace necktie.
A Windows XP is the most powerful of Microsoft’s Windows software—software that’s been updated many times since starting to
breathe in January 1985. XP is short for Experience, but Microsoft
calls it Windows XP to make it sound hip, as if Jimi Hendrix would
have used it.
A Programmer types say Windows software is big enough and powerful enough to be called an operating system. That’s because Windows “operates” your computer. Other programs tell Windows
what to do, and Windows makes your computer carry out those
A Microsoft built Windows XP on the shoulders of Windows 2000, an
older but powerful version of Windows designed for business
users. That means Windows XP is much more difficult to crash
than Windows Me or Windows 98. Unfortunately, it also means
Windows XP is more difficult for beginners to use.
What Does Windows Do?
Like the mother with the whistle in the lunch court, Windows controls
all the parts of your computer. You turn on your computer, start Windows, and start running programs. Each program runs in its own little
_________________________________ Chapter 1: What Is Windows XP?
What version of Windows XP do I need?
Windows XPcomes in two basic versions: Windows XP Home and Windows XP Professional.
Chances are, you’ll use Windows XP Home, the
version designed for homes and small businesses. Like its predecessor, Windows Me, Windows XP Home supports networking, modem
sharing, and other fancy tricks. You can install
Windows XP Home over Windows 98 and Windows Me (but not Windows 95, Windows NT, or
Windows 2000).
profiles, Kerberos Extended Errors facility, and
other indigestible buzzwords. The Professional
version can be installed over Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, and
Windows XP Home.
Larger businesses need the more advanced version, Windows XP Professional, to handle their
more powerful computing needs. It includes hohum things, such as corporate security,
advanced group policy settings, roaming user
Microsoft also sells Windows XP Server edition,
but nobody needs that version—except people
who take advanced computer courses that
explain why they need it.
Strangely enough, Windows XP Professional
works better on laptops than Windows XP Home
does. The Professional version contains better
battery-management features and works better
with wireless Internet connections.
window on-screen, as shown in Figure 1-1. Yet Windows keeps things
safe, even if the programs start throwing food at each other.
Figure 1-1:
run inside
windows on
XP desktop.
_________________________________ Chapter 1: What Is Windows XP?
Windows gets its name from all the cute little windows it places on your
monitor. Each window shows information, such as a picture, a program
that you’re running, or a baffling technical reprimand. You can put several windows on-screen at the same time and jump from window to window, visiting different programs. You can even enlarge a window to fill
the entire screen.
Some people say that colorful windows, pictures, and music make Windows easier to use; others say that Windows is a little too artsy. To
write a letter in Windows XP, for example, do you select the picture of
the notepad, the ballpoint pen, or the folder marked Communications?
A A computer environment that uses little pictures and symbols is
called a graphical user interface, or GUI. (It’s pronounced gooey,
believe it or not.) Pictures require more computing horsepower
than letters and numbers, so Windows XP requires a relatively
powerful computer. (You can find a list of the requirements in
Chapter 2.)
A When the word Windows starts with a capital letter, it refers to the
Windows program. When the word windows starts with a lowercase letter, it refers to windows you see on-screen. When the word
Windows ends with the letters XP, it refers to the latest version of
the Windows software, Windows XP.
A Because Windows uses graphics, it’s much easier to use than to
describe. To tell someone how to view the next page in a Windows
document you say, “Click in the vertical scroll bar beneath the
scroll box.” Those directions sound weird, but after you’ve done it,
you’ll say, “Oh, is that all? Golly!” (Plus, you can still press the
PgDn key in Windows. You don’t have to “click in the vertical scroll
bar beneath the scroll box” if you don’t want to.)
A With Windows XP, your desktop doesn’t have to look like a typewritten page or a desktop. It can look like an Internet Web page, as
shown in Figure 1-2. (You can find more about Web pages and the
Internet in Chapter 12.) In fact, the chameleon-like Windows XP
can run like a Web page, resemble earlier Windows versions, or let
you customize it to your own fancy, which introduces many more
ways for things to go wrong.
_________________________________ Chapter 1: What Is Windows XP?
Figure 1-2:
XP enables
Web surfers
to fill their
with pages
from the
How Does Windows XP Affect My
Older Programs?
Windows XP can still run most of your older Windows programs, thank
goodness. So after upgrading to Windows XP, you won’t have to buy
expensive new software immediately. It runs almost any program that
worked under Windows Me, Windows 98, and Windows 95.
A Because Windows XP is based on the big-business-based Windows
NT and Windows 2000 software, Windows XP runs most of those
types of programs as well.
A You can’t install Windows XP on your five-year-old computer and
expect it to run well. Windows XP is a big operating system for a
big computer. You’ll probably have to buy a new computer or add
bigger shoulders to your older one. (In computer language, “big
_________________________________ Chapter 1: What Is Windows XP?
shoulders” translates to a faster CPU chip, more memory, a larger
hard drive, and a CD-ROM drive.) Unfortunately, adding bigger
shoulders often costs more than buying a new PC. (Chapter 2
explains what type of computer Windows XP demands.)
A Windows XP prefers Plug and Play hardware. That means that it
prefers devices that come on PCI cards. If your computer uses
mostly ISA cards, you’ll probably want a new computer.
A If one of your older programs has trouble running or installing on
Windows XP, use the Compatibility Mode described in Chapter 15.
A When people say that Windows XP is backward compatible, they
just mean that it can run software that was written for older versions of Windows. (Don’t even think about running Macintosh software, though.)
Should I Bother Using Windows XP?
Windows users are elbowing each other nervously by the water cooler
and whispering the Big Question: Why bother buying Windows XP,
going through the hassle of installing it, and learning all its new features?
Well, many people are just stuck with it: Windows XP comes preinstalled on most new computers. Other people prefer Windows XP for its
sturdiness. Microsoft took its strong business version of Windows,
tweaked it, and called it Windows XP. That means it’s better for running
networks. Better yet, it won’t crash as often. If one program stops working, you simply shut down that program. Your computer will keep running, as will your other programs.
Basically, the upgrade question boils down to this answer: If your computer crashes a lot when using your current version of Windows, it may
be time to upgrade. But if you’re happy with your current computer
setup, don’t bother. After all, why buy new tires if your old ones still
have some life left?
_________________________________ Chapter 1: What Is Windows XP?
Bracing Yourself (And Your
Computer) for Windows XP
With Windows, everything happens at the same time. Its many different
parts run around like hamsters with an open cage door. Programs cover
up each other on-screen. They overlap corners, hiding each other’s
important parts. Occasionally, they simply disappear.
Be prepared for a bit of frustration when things don’t behave properly.
You may be tempted to stand up, bellow, and toss a nearby stapler
across the room. After that, calmly pick up this book, find the trouble
spot listed in the index, and turn to the page with the answer.
A Windows software may be accommodating, but that can cause
problems, too. For example, Windows XP often offers more than
three different ways for you to perform the same computing task.
Don’t bother memorizing each command. Just choose one method
that works for you and stick with it. For example, Andrew and Deirdre Kleske use scissors to cut their freshly delivered pizza into
slices. It stupefies most of their houseguests, but it gets the job
A Windows XP runs best on a powerful new computer with the key
words Pentium III, Pentium 4, AMD Athlon, or testosterone somewhere in the description. Look for as much RAM (random access
memory) and as many gigabytes as you can afford. You can find the
detailed rundown of the Windows XP finicky computer requirements in Chapter 2.
Chapter 2
Ignore This Chapter on Computer
In This Chapter
B Finding out the names for the gizmos and gadgets on your computer
B Understanding what all those things do
B Finding out what stuff your computer needs in order to use Windows XP
his chapter introduces computer gizmos and gadgets. Go ahead
and ignore it. Who cares what all your PC gadgetry is called? Unless
your PC’s beeping at you like a car alarm (or not beeping when it’s supposed to beep), don’t bother messing with it. Just dog-ear the top of
this page, say, “So, that’s where all that stuff is explained,” and keep
In Windows XP, you just press the buttons. Windows XP does the dirty
work, scooting over to the right part of your computer and kick-starting
the action. In case Windows XP stubs a toe, this chapter explains where
you may need to put the bandages. And, as always, the foulest-smelling
technical chunks are clearly marked; just hold your nose while stepping
over them gingerly.
The Computer
The computer is that box, usually beige, with all the cables poking out
its back. Officially, it probably answers to one of two names: IBM (often
called True Blue when people try to dump their old ones in the classifieds) or an IBM compatible or clone.
Today, most people just call their computers PCs because that’s what
IBM called its first personal computer back in 1981. In fact, IBM’s first PC
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
started this whole personal computing craze, although some people lay
the blame on video games.
The concept of a small computer that could be pecked on in an office or
den caught on well with the average Joe, and IBM made gobs of
money—so much money, in fact, that other companies immediately
ripped off the IBM design. They cloned, or copied, IBM’s handiwork to
make a computer that worked just like it. These computers, made by
companies such as Dell, Gateway, and others, are compatible with IBM’s
own PC. They can all use the same software as an IBM PC without spitting up.
IBM-compatible computers generally cost less than IBM’s official brand
of PCs, and they usually work just as well (or better) than IBM’s own
line of computers. In fact, more people own compatibles than own
IBM’s own line of personal computers.
A Windows XP runs equally well on IBM-compatible computers and
on IBM’s own brand of computers; the key word is IBM. Computers
from other planets, like the Macintosh, don’t run Windows XP, but
their owners don’t care. They just smile pleasantly when you try to
figure out how to create a Windows XP file association.
A Okay, so a Macintosh can run some versions of Windows software,
but they require special (and expensive) Windows-emulating software. (Head for These days, you’re probably better off sticking with either a Mac or a PC—don’t try to
interbreed their brands of software.
A As other companies built compatible computers, they strayed
from the original IBM design. They added sound, color, and dozens
of exciting new internal parts. Luckily, Windows XP usually identifies what computer parts it’s dealing with, so it knows what tone of
voice to use when speaking with them.
A Laptop and notebook computers can run Windows XP with no
problems—as long as they buy a separateversion of Windows XP
for each of them. (That’s because Windows XP includes
Microsoft’s irritating new copy-protection scheme called Activation; it’s covered in Chapter 3.)
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
A Different brands of computers often tweak Windows subtly, adding
different programs and sticking extra buttons on their keyboards.
Don’t be surprised to see some slight differences between the
instructions in this book and the computer in front of you.
A Palmtops and other handheld computers can’t run Windows XP.
They use an itty-bitty version of Windows called Windows CE.
(Windows CE Version 3.0 powers Microsoft’s new Pocket PCs,
designed to compete with the Palm handhelds.)
The Microprocessor (CPU)
The computer’s brain is a chunk of silicon buried deep inside the computer’s case. Over the years, the CPU has grown from the size of a
cracker to a mammoth chocolate bar. This flat computer chip is the
microprocessor, but nerds tend to call it a central processing unit, or
CPU. (You may have seen flashy microprocessor TV commercials that
say “Intel Inside.” Intel is a leading CPU developer.)
The computer’s microprocessor determines how quickly and powerfully the computer can toss information around. Windows XP isn’t
happy unless it rides on a Pentium III microprocessor or an even faster
one. You can also use Intel’s speedier Pentium 4 and Itanium microprocessors, as well as a speedy AMD Athlon. Yep, if you’re looking to use
Windows XP, you’ll probably want a new computer.
A A microprocessor is the current evolution of the gadget that powered those little 1970s pocket calculators. It performs all the computer’s background calculations, from juggling spreadsheets to
swapping dirty jokes through office e-mail.
A Microprocessors are described by several numbers. Generally, the
bigger the numbers, the faster and more powerful the chip.
A Don’t know what microprocessor lives inside your computer?
Right-click on the Start menu’s My Computer button and choose
Properties from the pop-up menu. When the System Properties
window appears, the processor’s name appears near the bottom. If
the numbers still look confusing, Intel offers free software to identify your Intel CPU at
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
A Don’t be afraid to buy a fast AMD Athlon microprocessor for your
new computer. It’s just as fast, cheaper, and just as good as Intel’s.
(Disclosure: I have stock in Intel, but I’m considering a trade to
A CPU manufacturers assign several numbers to their chips. Intel
usually places a number after the chip’s name: Pentium II, Pentium
III, and Pentium 4. A CPU’s processing speed is measured in megahertz, or MHz. The cache size (pronounced “cash”) is measured in
kilobytes, like 512K. When comparing microprocessors, just
remember that the bigger the number, the faster Windows performs.
Disks and Disk Drives
The computer’s disk drive, that thin slot in its front side, is like the
drawer at the bank’s drive-up teller window. That disk drive enables
you to send and retrieve information from the computer. Instead of
making you drop information into a cashier’s drawer, the computer
makes you send and receive your information from disks. The most
popular types—the floppy disk, the compact disc, the DVD, the Zip
disk, and the hard disk—appear in the next five sections.
Not sure what kilobyte (K), megabyte (MB), and gigabyte (GB) mean?
Head for that section in Chapter 3.
Floppy disks
You can shove anything that’s flat into a floppy drive, but the computer
recognizes only one thing: floppy disks. Things get a little weird here, so
hang on tight. See, by some bizarre bit of mechanical wizardry, computers store information on disks as a stream of magnetic impulses.
A disk drive spits those little magnetic impulses onto the floppy disk for
safe storage. The drive can slurp the information back up, too. You just
push the disk into the disk drive and tell Windows whether to spit or
slurp information. That’s known as copy to or copy from in computer
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
Floppy disks are sturdy 3 1/2-inch squares that are losing popularity in
favor of the compact disc, or CD, which I describe in the next section.
A A disk drive automatically grabs the 3 1/2-inch disk when you push
it in far enough. You hear it clunk, and the disk sinks down into the
drive. If it doesn’t, you’re putting it in the wrong way. (The disk’s
silver edge goes in first, with the little round silver thing in the middle facing down.) To retrieve the disk, push the button protruding
from around the drive’s slot and then grab the disk when the drive
kicks it out.
A Computer stores sell blank floppy disks so that you can copy your
work onto them. Unless your new box of blank disks has the words
preformatted or IBM formatted, you can’t use the disks straight out
of the box. They must be formatted first. I cover this merry little
chore in Chapter 11.
A Computers love to copy things. When you’re copying a file from
one disk to another, you aren’t moving the file. You’re just placing a
copy of that file onto that other disk. (Of course, you can move the
files over there, if you want, as I describe in Chapter 11.)
Compact discs (CD-ROM drive stuff)
Computer technicians snapped up compact disc technology pretty
quickly when they realized that the shiny discs store music in the form
of numbers. Today, most companies sell their programs and information on compact discs. A single compact disc holds more information
than hundreds of floppy disks.
To use a disc, your computer needs its own compact disc drive. The CD
player with your stereo won’t cut it. (The CD player with your computer
will play music, however, provided your PC has speakers.)
CDs enter your computer in a more dignified way than a floppy disk.
Push a button on your compact disc drive, and the drive spits out a little platter. Place the CD on the platter, label side up, and push the little
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
button again. The computer grabs the CD, ready for action. (If the button’s too hard to reach, just nudge the platter, and it’ll retreat.)
A For years, you couldn’t copy files onto a compact disc—you could
only read information from it. Only the people at the CD factory
could copy files to CDs, and that’s because they had a whoppingly
expensive machine. Now, many cheap compact disc drives let you
read and copy files and music to your own discs. In fact, copyright
attorneys are holding international conferences to make sure that
nobody can create copies of their favorite Pearl Jam albums and
give them to their friends.
A Windows XP comes with software for writing information to blank
CDs. To create copies of your favorite Pearl Jam albums, head for
Chapter 13.
A A CD that stores information until it’s full is known as a CD-R. A CD
that can read, write, erase, and then write more information is
called a CD-RW. Naturally, the CD-RW discs cost much more than
their limited cousins.
A Compact disc is spelled with a c to confuse people accustomed to
seeing disk ending with a k.
A Multimedia computers need a sound card as well as a compact
drive; the drive alone isn’t enough to make music. This requirement is the computer industry’s special way of making people
spend more money. (Most of today’s computers come with a builtin CD-ROM drive and sound card.)
A Windows XP’s Media Player can play MP3 files—tiny files containing songs from your CDs. For the latest information about MP3,
pick up my book, MP3 For Dummies, 2nd Edition, published by, er,
Hungry Minds, Inc. (Hey, I didn’t choose the name.)
A The latest compact disc drives play both CDs and DVD discs—the
discs with movies on them. DVD players get their own section
coming up next.
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
A Windows XP offers technology called Autoplay. Just pop the CD
into the CD-ROM drive, and Windows XP automatically revs it up,
whether the disc contains music, programs, or trendy videos of
glassblowers in Italy. Autoplay is one more step toward eliminating
installation hassles.
DVD discs
Although it’s hard to tell the difference between a DVD disc and a compact disc by looking, the computer certainly knows. A DVD disc can
hold up to 25 times more information than a CD—enough information
to hold an entire movie in several languages and extra perks, such as a
director’s voiceover explaining why a certain actress giggled during certain shots.
DVD drives cost a bit more, but they play back music CDs as well as
DVDs (the kind you rent or buy in video stores). Most DVD drives can’t
write to CDs, though, although writeable DVD drives are starting to
appear on souped-up multimedia PCs.
DVD drives are great for computer nerds who love watching movies on
a 15-inch computer monitor with tiny speakers. Nearly everybody else
prefers watching DVDs on their living room TV or home theater.
Although nearly every sound card works with a DVD player, only special DVD-compatible sound cards can play the extra surround sound
stored on a DVD.
Iomega drives
Tired of the void between floppies and CDs, the Iomega company created its own breed of disks and drives. The robotic-sounding Zip and
Jaz are plastic disks that hold up to 2GB of information, making them
convenient for backing up garage-sized boxes of data.
The company’s latest disk, the shirt-pocket-sized PocketZip, holds 40 to
100MB of data, usually music stored as MP3 files for the HipZip MP3
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
Iomega’s drives are very convenient—not only for people who always
run out of data space, but also for people who’ve been burned a few
times and always like to keep plenty of backups.
A Iomega’s Zip drives are the small, portable gadgets that look sort
of like Sony Walkmans. PocketZip disks store music and data, letting the HipZip MP3 player double as a file transporter: Spreadsheets hold hands with Britney Spears.
A Zip, Jaz, and PocketZip disks provide an easy way to move data
from the office to home and back—if you’re forced to even consider such a thing.
Hard disks
Not every computer has a compact disc drive, Iomega drive, or even a
floppy drive, but just about everybody has a hard disk: little spinning
donuts inside the computer that can hold thousands of times more
information than floppy disks. Hard disks are also much quicker at reading and writing information. (They’re a great deal quieter, too, thank
Windows XP insists on a hard disk because it’s such a huge program. It
grabs more than a gigabyte of space for itself.
A The point? Buy the largest hard disk you can afford. A 20GB drive
certainly isn’t excessive.
A If a program has a lot of multimedia —sounds, graphics, or movies—you need an even bigger hard disk or perhaps a second one.
That type of information eats up the most space on a hard disk.
What does write-protected mean?
Write protection is supposed to be a helpful safety feature, but most
people discover it through an abrupt bit of computer rudeness: Windows XP stops them short with the threatening message shown in Figure 2-1 while they are trying to copy a file to a floppy disk or CD.
A write-protected disk has simply been tweaked so that nobody can copy
to it or delete the files it contains. Write protection is a simple procedure, surprisingly enough, requiring no government registration. You
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
Figure 2-1:
XP sends an
message if
a disk is
can write-protect and unwrite-protect disks in the privacy of your own
A To write-protect a 3 1/2-inch floppy disk, look for a tiny black sliding tab in a square hole in the disk’s corner. Slide the tab with a
pencil or your thumbnail so that the hole is uncovered. The disk is
now write-protected.
A To remove the write protection on a 3 1/2-inch floppy disk, slide
the little black plastic thingy so that the hole is covered up.
A All CDs come write-protected. That’s why you must use Windows
XP’s special CD writing tool that prepares the CD and writes the
information. (Copying information to a CD is covered in Chapter
A If you encounter the write-protect error shown in Figure 2-1, wait
until the floppy drive stops making noise. Remove the disk,
unwrite-protect the disk, and put it back in the drive. Then repeat
what you were doing before you were so rudely interrupted.
A Write-protection messages are different than Access Denied messages. If Windows XP denies you access to something, head to
Chapter 9 to understand its reasoning for your slap in the face.
The Mouse and That Double-Click
The mouse is that rounded plastic thing that looks like a child’s toy.
Marketing people thought that the word mouse sounded like fun, so the
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
Disk do’s and doughnuts
A Do label your disks so that you know what’s
A Do copy important files from your hard disk
on them. (You can write on the top side of
compact discs with a permanent felt-tip
to floppy disks or compact discs on a regular
basis. (This routine is called backing up in
computer lingo.)
A Do at least make a valiant effort to peel off a
floppy disk’s old label before sticking on a
new one. (After a while, those stacks of old
labels make the disk too fat to fit into the
A Do feel free to write on the label after it has
been placed on the disk.
A Do not write on the disk’s sleeve instead of
the label. Disks always end up in each
other’s sleeves, leading to mistaken identities and faux pas.
A Do not leave floppy disks lying in the sun.
A Do not place 3 1/2-inch disks next to magnets. Don’t place them next to magnets disguised as paper clip holders, either, or next
to other common magnetized desktop items,
such as older telephones.
A Do handle compact discs and DVDs by their
edges, not their surfaces. Keep the backside
of the discs as clean as possible, and place
them in their cases when you’re not using
them. Don’t use them for coasters unless
they’re in their cases.
name stuck. Actually, think of your mouse as your electronic finger,
because you use it in Windows to point at stuff on-screen.
Most mice have little rollers, or mouse balls, embedded in their bellies.
(Where were the animal-rights people?) When you push the mouse
across your desktop, the ball rubs against electronic sensor gizmos.
The gizmos record the mouse’s movements and send the information
down the mouse’s tail, which connects to the back of the computer.
As you move the mouse across your desktop’s rubber mousepad, you
see an arrow, or pointer, move simultaneously across the computer
screen. Here’s where your electronic finger comes in: When the arrow
points at a picture of a button on-screen, you press and release, or click,
the left button on the mouse. The Windows button is selected, just as if
you’d pressed it with your finger. It’s a cool bit of 3-D computer graphics
that makes you want to click buttons again and again.
A You control just about everything in Windows XP by pointing at it
with the mouse and clicking the mouse button. (The mouse
pitches in with a helpful clicking noise when you press its button.)
Sometimes you need to click twice in rapid succession. The last
sections in Chapter 5 explain mouse-click mechanics.
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
A The plural of mouse is mice, just like the ones cats chew on. It’s not
A Some laptops come with a touch pad—a little square thing for you
to slide your finger over. As you move the tip of your finger across
the pad, you move the mouse pointer across the screen. Other laptops, like IBM’s suave black ThinkPads, have a TrackPoint, a little
pencil eraser that sticks up out of the keyboard, wedged above the
B key and below the G and H. Just push the eraser in the direction
you want the mouse to move, and the mouse pointer scurries.
A Microsoft’s IntelliMouse has what looks like a tiny waterwheel protruding from the mouse’s neck. By slowly rolling the waterwheel
back and forth with your index finger, you can scroll up or down in
your current work, line by line. Fun! Plus, pushing down once on
the waterwheel creates an automatic double-click, depending on
how the mouse is set up.
A Not all mice roll atop balls. Some use little light sensors to track
their movement. Dave Chapman sent me a letter about his optical
mouse that worked intermittently. A replacement mouse worked
similarly, sometimes behaving properly, other times uncontrollably. The problem worsened as spring approached. At his wits’ end,
he noticed his computer-illiterate wife sitting at the desk, holding a
piece of printer paper over the mouse as she worked. “You won’t
believe this,” she said. “But when the sun shines in the window
and onto the mouse, it won’t work.” Dave fixed the mouse by pulling down the window shade when he worked.
The mouse arrow changes shape, depending on what it’s pointing at in
Windows XP. When it changes shape, you know that it’s ready to perform a new task. Table 2-1 is a handy reference for the different uniforms the mouse pointer wears for different jobs.
Don’t worry about memorizing all the various shapes that the pointer
takes on. The pointer changes shape automatically at the appropriate
times. I describe the shapes here so that you won’t think that your
pointer’s goofing off when it changes shape.
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
Table 2-1
The Various Shapes of the Mouse
What It Points At
What to Do when You See It
Just about anything
Use this pointer for moving from
place to place on-screen. Then
click to bring that place to Windows’ attention.
A single window
Uh-oh. You’ve somehow
selected the annoying size or
move option from the Control
menu. Pressing the keyboard’s
little arrow keys now make the
current window bigger or
smaller. Press Enter when you
finish, or press Esc if you want
to get away from this uncomfortable bit of weirdness.
The top or bottom
edge of a window
Hold down the mouse button
and move the mouse back and
forth to make the window grow
taller or shorter. Let go when
you like the window’s new size.
The left or right side
of a window
Hold down the mouse button
and move the mouse back and
forth to make the window fatter
or skinnier. Let go when you like
the window’s new size.
The corner of a window
Hold down the mouse button
and move the mouse anywhere
to make the window fat, skinny,
tall, or short. Let go when you’re
through playing.
A program or box that
accepts text (this
pointer is called an Ibeam)
Put the pointer where you want
words to appear, click the button, and start typing the letters
or numbers. This only works in
areas that accept words,
though, like word processors or
A word with a hidden
meaning in Windows
or the Internet
Click the mouse, and Windows
XP trots out some more helpful
information about that particular subject.
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
Table 2-1
The Various Shapes of the Mouse Pointer
What It Points At
What to Do when You See It
Nothing (Windows is
busy ignoring you)
Move the mouse in wild circles
and watch the hourglass spin
around until Windows catches
up and lets you do something
constructive. The hourglass
often appears when you are
loading files or copying stuff to
a floppy disk.
Keep working. This pointer
means that Windows XP is
doing something in the background, so it may work a little
more slowly.
By clicking the little question
mark found in the top-right corner of some boxes, you create
this pointer. Click confusing onscreen areas for helpful informational handouts.
Something forbidden
Press the Esc key, let go of the
mouse button, and start over.
(You’re trying to drag something
to a place where it doesn’t
Video Cards and Monitors
The monitor is the thing you stare at all day until you go home to watch
TV. The front of the monitor, called the screen or display, is where all
the Windows XP action takes place. The screen is where you can watch
the windows as they bump around, cover each other up, and generally
behave like nine people eyeing a recently delivered eight-slice pizza.
Monitors have two cords so they won’t be mistaken for a mouse. One
cord plugs into the electrical outlet; the other heads for the video card,
a special piece of electronics poking out from the computer’s back. The
computer tells the video card what it’s doing; the card translates the
events into graphics information and shoots the pictures up the cable
into the monitor, where they appear on-screen.
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
Ignore these awful graphics terms
Some people describe their monitors as ‘boxy’
or ‘covered with cat hair’; others use the following strange scientific terms:
A Pixel: A pixel is a fancy name for an individual dot on-screen. Everything on-screen is
made up of bunches of dots, or pixels. Each
pixel can be a different shade or color, which
creates the image. (Squint up close, and you
may be able to make out an individual pixel.)
If your thin new LCD monitor has a tiny dot
that doesn’t match the colors on the rest of
your screen, that pixel is “out.” Complain,
loudly, when you first take it out of the box. It
occasionally results in a replacement.
A Resolution: The resolution is the number of
pixels on a screen—specifically, the number
of pixels across (horizontal) and down (vertical). More pixels mean greater resolution:
smaller letters and more information packed
onto the same-sized screen. People with
small monitors usually use 800 x 600 resolution. People with normal-to-larger-sized
monitors often switch to 1024 x 768 resolution so that they can fit more windows onscreen.
A Color: This term describes the number of
colors the card and monitor display onscreen. Today’s speedy video cards can easily display Windows XP in millions of colors.
A Mode: A predetermined combination of pixels, resolution, and colors is described as a
graphics mode. Right out of the box, Windows XP uses a mode that works for just
about everybody. You don’t need to know any
of this stuff. If you’re feeling particularly
modular, however, you can change the Windows XP graphics modes after reading the
“Appearance and Themes” section of Chapter 14.
A Like herbivores and cellulose-digesting gut microorganisms, monitors and video cards depend upon each other. Neither can function
without the other. In fact, your monitor only displays pictures as
nicely as your video card can dish them out. Also, LCD monitors
require special cards capable of feeding them the right signals.
A Unlike other parts of the computer, the video card and monitor
don’t require any special care and feeding. Just wipe the dust off
the screen every once in a while. (And at least try to keep the cat
off the monitor.)
A Spray plain old glass cleaner on a rag and then wipe off the dust
with the newly dampened rag. If you spray glass cleaner directly
on the screen, it drips down into the monitor’s casing, annoying
the trolls who sleep under the bridge.
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
A Some glass cleaners contain alcohol, which can cloud the antiglare
screens found on some fancy new monitors. When in doubt, check
your monitor’s manual to see if glass cleaner is allowed. My Nanao
monitor came with its own special rag for wiping off the glass.
A When Windows XP first installs itself on your computer, it interrogates the video card and monitor until they reveal their brand
name and orientation. Windows XP almost always gets the correct
answer from them and sets itself up automatically so that everything works fine the first time.
A Windows XP may be dominating, but it’s accommodating, too. It
can handle a wide variety of monitors and cards. In fact, most monitors and cards can switch to different modes, putting more or
fewer colors on-screen and shrinking the text so that you can cram
more information onto the screen. Windows XP enables you to
play around with all sorts of different video settings, if you’re in
that sort of mood. (If you are, check out Chapter 14.)
Computer keyboards look pretty much like typewriter keyboards with a
few dark growths around the perimeter. In the center lie the familiar
white typewriter keys. The grayish keys with obtuse code words live
along the outside edges. They’re described next.
Groups of keys
Obtuse code-word sorters divvy those outside-edge keys into key
Function keys: These keys either sit along the top of the keyboard in
one long row or clump together in two short rows along the keyboard’s
left side. Function keys boss around programs. For example, you can
press F1 to demand help whenever you’re stumped in Windows XP.
Numeric keypad: Zippy-fingered bankers like this thingy: a square, calculator-like pad of numbers along the right edge of most keyboards.
(You might have to press a key called Num Lock above those numbers,
though, before they’ll work. Otherwise, they’re cursor-controlkeys,
which I describe next.)
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
Cursor-control keys: If you haven’t pressed the magical Num Lock key,
the keys on that square, calculator-like pad of numbers are usually the
cursor-control keys. These keys have little arrows that show which
direction the cursor moves on-screen. (The arrowless 5 key doesn’t do
anything except try to overcome its low self-esteem.) Some keyboards
have a second set of cursor-control keys next to the numeric keypad.
Both sets do the same thing. Additional cursor-control keys are Home,
End, PgUp, and PgDn (or Page Up and Page Down). To move down a
page in a word-processing program, for example, you press the PgDn
Pressing the cursor keys doesn’t move the little mouse-pointer arrow
around on the screen. Instead, cursor keys control your position inside
a program, letting you type information in the right place.
The Windows key: Eager to make money from selling keyboards and
software, Microsoft came out with a bold new design: the Microsoft Natural Keyboard, which includes special Windows keys. (The keys, which
straddle your spacebar, boast a little Windows icon like the icon on
your Start button.) Pressing the Windows key opens the Start menu,
which can be done at the click of a mouse, anyway. Ho hum. A little key
next to the Windows key—the one with the little mouse pointer and
menu—quickly opens menus. Table 2-2 shows more things the Windows
key can do—if you can remember them.
Table 2-2
Windows Key Shortcuts
To Do This
Press This
Display Windows XP Help
<Windows Key>+F1
Display the Start menu
<Windows Key>
Cycle through the taskbar’s buttons
<Windows Key>+Tab
Display Windows Explorer
<Windows Key>+E
Find files
<Windows Key>+F
Find other computers on the network
Ctrl+<Windows Key>+F
Minimize or restore all windows
<Windows Key>+D
Undo minimize all windows
Shift+<Windows Key>+M
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
More key principles
These keyboard keys may sound confusing, but Windows still makes
you use them a lot:
Shift: Just as on a typewriter, this key creates uppercase letters or the
symbols %#@$—the traditional G-rated swear words.
Alt: Watch out for this one! When you press Alt (which stands for Alternate), Windows does one of two bothersome things: It moves the cursor
to the little menus at the top of the current window, or it underlines a
single letter in your menus. To go back to normal, press Alt again.
Num Lock: Pressing this key toggles your numeric keypad (described in
the preceding section) from displaying numbers to controlling the cursor.
Ctrl: This key (which stands for Control) works like the Shift key, but it’s
for weird computer combinations. For example, holding down the Ctrl
key while pressing Esc (described next) brings up the Windows XP Start
Esc: This key (which stands for Escape) was a pipe dream of the computer’s creators. They added Esc as an escape hatch from malfunctioning computers. By pressing Esc, the user was supposed to be able to
escape from whatever inner turmoil the computer was currently going
through. Esc doesn’t always work that way, but give it a try. It sometimes enables you to escape when you’re trapped in a menu or a dastardly dialog box. (Those traps are described in Chapter 5.)
Scroll Lock: This one’s too weird to bother with. Ignore it. (It’s no relation to a scroll bar, either.) If a little keyboard light glows next to your
Scroll Lock key, press the Scroll Lock key to turn it off. (The key’s often
labeled Scrl Lk or something equally obnoxious.)
Delete: Press the Delete key (sometimes labeled Del), and the unlucky
character sitting to the right of the cursor disappears. Any highlighted
information disappears as well. Poof.
Backspace: Press the Backspace key, and the unlucky character to the
left of the cursor disappears. The Backspace key is on the top row, near
the right side of the keyboard; it has a left-pointing arrow on it. Oh, and
the Backspace key deletes any highlighted information, too.
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
If you’ve goofed, hold down Alt and press the Backspace key. This
action undoes your last mistake in most Windows XP programs. (Holding down Ctrl and pressing Z does the same thing.)
Insert: Pressing Insert (sometimes labeled Ins) puts you in Insert mode.
As you type, any existing words are scooted to the right, letting you add
stuff. The opposite of Insert mode is Overwrite mode, where everything
you type replaces any text in its way. Press Insert to toggle between
these two modes.
Ugly disclaimer: Some Windows XP programs—Notepad, for example—
are always in Insert mode. There’s simply no way to move to Overwrite
mode, no matter how hard you pound the Insert key.
Enter: This key works pretty much like a typewriter’s Return key, but
with a big exception: Don’t press Enter at the end of each line when typing documents. A word processor can sense when you’re about to type
off the edge of the screen. It herds your words down to the next line
automatically. So just press Enter at the end of each paragraph.
You’ll also want to press Enter when Windows XP asks you to type
something—the name of a file, for example, or the number of pages you
want to print—into a special box. (Clicking a nearby OK button often
performs the same task.)
Caps Lock: If you’ve mastered the Shift Lock key on a typewriter, you’ll
be pleased to find no surprises here. (Okay, there’s one surprise: Caps
Lock affects only your letters. It has no effect on punctuation symbols
or the numbers along the top row.)
Tab: There are no surprises here, either, except that Tab is equal to five
spaces in some word processors and eight spaces in others. Still, other
word processors enable you to set Tab to whatever number you want.
Plus, a startling Tab Tip follows.
Press Tab to move from one box to the next when filling out a form in
Windows XP. (Sometimes these forms are called dialog boxes.)
PrtScrn/SysRq: Press this key, and Windows snaps a picture of your
desktop, ready to be pasted into a graphics program like Paint. Hold
down Alt and press PrtScrn, and Windows snaps a picture of only the
currently active window. Use the Paste function, described in Chapter 8,
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
to copy the snapped picture to another program. (SysRq doesn’t do
Ctrl+Alt+Delete: Pressing all three of these keys at the same time brings
up the Windows XP Task Manager. Described in Chapter 7, the Task
Manager lets you switch from window to window and oust any misbehaving programs.
A If you don’t own a mouse or a trackball, you can control Windows
XP exclusively with a keyboard. But it’s awkward, like when Darth
Vader tries to floss his back molars.
A The Scroll Lock and Pause/Break keys don’t do anything worthwhile in Windows. However, if you hold down the Windows key and
press Break, Windows’ System Properties window appears, displaying lots of technical mish-mash about your computer.
A Finally, some keyboards come with special keys installed by the
manufacturer. My Gateway’s keyboard lets me adjust the sound,
log on to the Internet, control my CD or DVD, or make the computer go to sleep. Information about these keys lives in my computer’s Control Panel under an icon named Multi-function
Modems and the Internet
I admit it. I used my modem the other night to order Thai food from the
restaurant across town. How? My wife and I dialed up
( through the Internet, chose our items from the onscreen menu, and punched in our address and phone number. An hour
or so later, we stuffed ourselves with Mee Krob and other unpronounceable bits of yumminess.
Modems are little mechanical gadgets that translate a computer’s information into squealing sounds that can be sent and received over plain,
ordinary phone lines. We clicked the check box next to Mee Krob on
our computer, a modem at the credit card company tabulated the
whole process, and the electric registers started ringing.
Most new computers include built-in modems for dialing up the Internet’s World Wide Web. In fact, if you bought a new computer, you probably already have all the parts you need to jump on the Internet
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
bandwagon. Windows XP comes with the software you need to power
those parts: Internet Explorer.
With Internet Explorer, you can browse the Web, or blanket your desktop with Web pages, as shown in Figure 2-2. Elaborate Web site art will
fill your desktop like posters along the walls of Parisian streets.
Figure 2-2:
XP enables
you to
spread Web
across your
A Even if you already have a modem and Internet Explorer, you must
pay monthly fees to an Internet service provider (ISP). The ISP
gives you a special name and password that let you access the
A Chapter 12 covers the Internet and the Web. It doesn’t say what
Mee Krob tastes like, though.
A The computers on both ends of the phone lines need modems in
order to talk to each other. Luckily, most online services have hundreds, or even thousands, of modems for your computer’s modem
to talk to over the phone lines.
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
A Some speedy modems don’t use phone lines—they ride on special
cables installed by your cable TV company or phone company.
A Internet access is two-way—you can talk to other people, and they
can talk to you. To filter out evil people who take advantage of this
and try to break into your computer, Windows XP includes a firewall. Chapter 12 shows how to install it.
A Your computer doesn’t have a modem? You’ll find complete installation instructions in one of my other books, Upgrading and Fixing
PCs For Dummies, 5th Edition (IDG Books Worldwide, Inc.).
Realizing that the paperless office still lies several years down the road,
Microsoft made sure that Windows XP can shake hands and send
friendly smoke signals to hundreds of different types of printers. In fact,
Windows XP often recognizes new printers as soon as you plug their
cables into your computer.
If Windows XP doesn’t notice your efforts, Chapter 14 shows you how
to choose the name and manufacturer of your printer from Windows
XP’s massive list. Windows checks its dossiers, finds your printer information, and immediately begins speaking to it in its native language.
That’s all there is to it—unless, of course, your printer happens to be
one of the several hundred printers left off the Windows XP master list.
In that case, cross your fingers that your printer’s manufacturer is still
in business. You may need to get a driver from the manufacturer (see
Chapter 15) before your prose can hit the printed page.
A Printers must be turned on before Windows XP can print to them.
(You’d be surprised how easily you can forget this little fact.)
A Windows XP prints in a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)
format, which means that what you see on-screen is reasonably
close to what you’ll see on the printed page.
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
Networks connect PCs so that people can share information. They can
all send stuff to a single printer, for example, share a modem, or send
messages to each other asking whether Marilyn has passed out the paychecks yet.
Some networks are relatively small—less than five computers in a home
or small office, for example. Other networks span the world. In fact, the
Internet runs on a huge computer network that sprawls through nearly
every country.
A Microsoft created Windows XP on the shoulders of its Big Business
version of Windows. That means Windows XP handles networks
with finesse and delicacy. That also means it offers dozens of bothersome, difficult-to-understand details about local area connections and user names. Chapter 9 holds the full scoop.
A Windows XP Home version contains enough networking gusto that
it lets several different computers share a single printer, modem,
and files. Windows XP Professional version adds more-advanced
networking features that placate system administrators. Home and
small-business users will do fine with Windows XP Home version.
Sound Cards (Making Barfing
For years, PC owners looked enviously at Macintosh owners—especially when their Macs ejected a disk. The Macintosh would simultaneously eject a floppy disk from its drive and make a cute barfing
sound. Macs come with sound built in; they can barf, giggle, and make
really disgusting noises that I won’t mention here.
But the tight shirts at IBM decided there was no place for sound on a
Serious Business Machine. The industry soon wised up, however, and
now nearly every PC comes with a sound card. Plug a pair of speakers
into the sound cards speaker outlet, and the accounting department’s
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
computers can barf as loudly as the ones in the art department down
the hall.
A A sound card looks just like a video card. In fact, all cards look
alike: long green or brown flat things that nestle into long flat slots
inside the computer. Speakers plug into sound cards like monitors
plug into video cards, only the speakers have smaller plugs.
A Although most new computers come with sound cards already
installed, most companies constantly release new software for
making them work better. (Chapter 15’s section on installing a new
driver can help knock a miscreant sound card back into action.)
A Windows XP comes with a wide variety of noises, but it doesn’t
have any barf noises. Windows Media Player, described in Chapter
13, lets you listen to music CDs, Internet radio stations, DVD
soundtracks, MP3 files, and just about anything else that makes
A The latest, fanciest computers come with DVD drives, special
sound cards, software, and extra speakers so that you can hear surround sound when watching DVD movies. Better clear off your desk
for the big woofer and extra speakers that go with it.
A Just like the Macintosh, Windows enables you to assign cool
sounds to various Windows XP functions. For example, you can
make your computer scream louder than you do when it crashes.
For more information, refer to the section in Chapter 14 on making
cool sounds with multimedia.
The back of your computer contains lots of connections for pushing out
and pulling in information. The deeper you fall into the Windows lifestyle, the more likely you’ll hear the following words bantered about.
Plus, when something falls out of the back of your computer, Table 2-3
shows you where it should plug back in.
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
Table 2-3
This Port . . .
What Part Plugs into What
. . . Looks Like This . . .
. . . And Accepts This
Your keyboard. (Some laptops
let a mouse plug into the new
style keyboard ports, too.)
Your mouse. (Known as a PS/2
port, some laptops also let a
keyboard plug into it.)
Your monitor’s smallest cable.
(The monitor’s biggest cable
plugs into the power outlet.)
Serial (COM)
External modems.
Parallel (LPT)
Your printer.
Universal Serial Bus (USB)
gadgets. (Used by digital cameras, gamepads, printers, MP3
players, and more.)
A sound card has at least
three of these ports for these
tiny plugs: one for headphones, one for the microphone, and the other for an
external sound source like a
radio, tape recorder, camcorder, TV card, and so on.
Cable TV
TV cards accept your TV cable
here; some cable modems use
an identical port.
Run a telephone line from the
wall to here on a modem. (The
modem’s second jack lets you
plug in the telephone. Look
closely for a label.)
New Style
Old Style (Pre-1994)
New Style
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
Table 2-3
This Port . . .
What Part Plugs into What
Port? (Continued)
. . . Looks Like This . . .
. . . And Accepts This
Networks use one of two connector styles. 10BaseT looks
like a telephone line, but
slightly thicker. Thin Coax is a
rounded metal cup that
pushes over a rounded metal
Parts Required by Windows XP
Table 2-4 compares what Windows XP asks for on the side of the box
with what you really need before it will work well.
Table 2-4
What Windows XP Requires
Politely Touted by
What You Really
A Pentium 300 MHz
A Pentium III or Athlon running at 500
While at the store, compare
Windows XP running on different Pentium III computers. The faster the computer,
the less time you spend waiting for Windows XP to do
something exciting.
64MB of memory
At least 128MB of
Windows XP crawls across
the screen with only 64MB
and moves much more comfortably with 128MB. RAM is
cheap; if you plan to run programs like Microsoft Office
and multimedia tools, quickly
bump that to 256MB or more.
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
Table 2-4
What Windows XP Requires (Continued)
Politely Touted by
What You Really
2GB of free hard disk
At least 20GB
A full installation of Windows
XP could consume an entire
gigabyte; Windows programs
quickly rope off their own
sections of the hard drive,
too. Plus, all that sound and
video you’re going to be
grabbing off the Internet and
your digital camera will take
up a whole lotta space. Don’t
be afraid to buy a hard disk
that’s 40GB (40 gigabytes) or
larger so your computer will
be useful for a long time.
A 3 1/2-inch highdensity disk drive
Not needed for
installing or using
Windows XP
However, an occasional Windows program still comes
packaged on high-density, 3
1/2-inch floppy disks. Plus,
floppy disks are a handy way
to move your files to other
Color SVGA card
For viewing videos, look for
these qualifications on the
video card box or the computer specifications sheet:
32MB or more of memory,
AGP support, motion compensation support for DVD
playback, and support for
DVI, S-Video, and composite
video output.
12x or faster CDROM or DVD drive
You’ll want a CD-ROM drive
to install Windows XP. (A
DVD drive can read normal
CDs, so it’ll work fine.) For the
first time, Windows XP supports drives that write to CDs
as well.
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
Table 2-4
What Windows XP Requires (Continued)
Politely Touted by
What You Really
Internet access
56K modem or faster
Windows XP relies extensively on Internet communication for everything from
product registration, automatic updates, off-site computer fix-ups, and game
playing. The faster your
modem, the less time you’ll
spend twiddling your thumbs.
Any PS/2-compatible mouse
Microsoft makes some darn
good mice, with much better
warranties than Microsoft’s
software. I prefer the IntelliMouse—the kind with the little spinning wheel on its
A 15-inch monitor or
An LCD monitor
The bigger your monitor, the
bigger your desktop: Your
windows won’t overlap so
much. Unfortunately, superlarge LCD monitors are
What do I install on my laptop computer?
Microsoft designed Windows XP Professional,
not Windows XP Home, to run on laptop or notebook computers. The Professional version
works better with battery-driven computers and
offers more wireless Internet connection
A 600 MHz or faster processor with 128MB
Laptops should be beefed up with the following
in order to run Windows XP Professional:
A DVD player or CD-RW/DVD player
A A separate copy of Windows XP. Remember,
each copy of Windows XP may be installed
on only a single computer. No longer can you
install the same copy on both your desktop
and laptop computers.
A 20GB ATA/66 hard drive
A 8MB AGP graphics adapter and 3D hardware acceleration
A Built-in speakers
A Built-in 56K modem
A Two USB ports
A Port replicator for easy connection to external keyboard, mouse, and monitor
____________________Chapter 2: Ignore This Chapter on Computer Parts
Other computer parts you’ll probably need
Can your computer handle the requirements in
Table 2-4? Unfortunately, there’s more. Windows
XP will work at its most basic level with that type
of muscle, but it needs more before it will reach
full capacity.
cables, which I explain in Chapter 9.
For instance, in order to hear anything from your
computer, you need a sound card and amplified
stereo speakers with a subwoofer. (If you
choose USB speakers, your computer needs
USB ports.) Headphones are great for late-night
Planning on watching DVDs? Then you’ll need
your own DVD-playing software before Windows XP’s Media Player will be able to show the
DVDs. Yes, it’s weird, and it’s covered in Chapter
Planning on connecting several computers with
a network so they can share files, printers, and a
modem? You’ll need a network adapter card for
each computer, as well as their corresponding
To watch TV on your monitor, you need a compatible TV tuner card. (Check your cable TV
connection, too. Most TV tuner cards don’t pick
up much without cable TV.)
To dump pictures from your digital video camcorder into Windows XP’s Movie Maker, you
need an IEEE 1394 (FireWire) port.
Chapter 3
Windows XP Stuff Everybody
Thinks You Already Know
In This Chapter
B Explanations of the strange terms used in Windows XP
B Information on where to look for more details on these strange terms
hen Microsoft Windows first hit the market in 1985, it failed miserably. Windows’ weak attempts at fancy graphics choked the
equally weak computers of the day. Even when it did run, Windows was
slow, awkward, and downright ugly.
Today’s powerful computers easily whip Windows into shape. After 15
years on the market, Windows has turned into a trendy bestseller that’s
preinstalled on nearly every new PC.
Because Windows has been around for so long, a lot of people have had
a head start. Many kids learned about Windows in grade school. Even
today’s major corporations seem to take it for granted that you can successfully navigate their Web pages.
To help you catch up, this chapter is a tourist’s guidebook to those
weird Windows words that everybody else thinks you already know.
Here’s a big secret: You don’t really own Windows XP. Even when you
buy Windows at the store, or it comes preinstalled on your new computer, it’s not yours. No, the fine print says that only Microsoft owns
Windows. You only own a license—permission—to run Windows on
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
your computer. Worse than that, you’re only granted permission to run
Windows on a single computer.
In the past, many people bought one version of Windows—one for their
desktop computer and one for their laptop. And why not? They either
used their desktop computer or their laptop—they never used them
both at the same time.
Windows XP changes that with its new Activation feature. When you
install Windows XP, an annoying window pops up, asking you to “activate” your version of Windows. When you click the Activate button,
Windows XP takes a “picture” of your computer’s components, links
them to the serial number on your copy of Windows XP, and sends that
information to Microsoft over the Internet.
Then, if you or anybody else ever tries to install that same version of
Windows on a different computer, Windows XP says you’re using somebody else’s version of Windows XP, and it won’t work.
A Okay, what happens if you don’t bother to “activate” a copy of Windows XP? It simply stops working after 30 days. The new Activation feature ensures that each copy of Windows XP will only work
on a single computer. Even if Windows XP came preinstalled on
your new computer, you can’t take the bundled Windows XP CD
and install it on another computer.
A No Internet connection? Then you must call Microsoft’s toll-free
number, talk to a customer service representative, and activate
your copy of Windows by typing in a 25-number password.
A If you want to install Windows XP on several computers, it might
be cheaper to purchase a special multi-version license, called a
Microsoft License Pak.
A If you upgrade your computer—adding lots of new parts—Windows XP might think it’s been installed on a new computer and
stop working. The solution? You must call Microsoft’s toll-free
number and convince those folks that you’re not trying to steal
their software.
A Welcome to Windows XP!
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
Backing Up a Disk
Computers store bunches of files on their hard drives. And that multitude of files can be a problem. When the computer’s hard drive eventually dies (nothing lives forever), it takes all your files down with it.
Pffffft. Nothing left.
Computer users who don’t like anguished pffffft sounds back up their
hard drives religiously. They do so in three main ways.
Some people copy all their files from the hard disk to a bunch of floppy
disks or CDs. Although backup programs make this task easier, it’s still
a time-consuming chore. Who wants to spend half an hour backing up
computer files after finishing work?
Other people buy a tape backup unit. This special computerized tape
recorder either lives inside your computer like a floppy disk or plugs
into the computer’s rear. Either way, the gizmo tape-records all the
information on your hard disk. Then, when your hard disk dies, you still
have all your files. The faithful tape backup unit plays back all your
information onto the new hard drive. No scrounging for floppy disks.
Finally, some people buy special cartridge storage units. These mechanisms work like hard drives you can slide in and out of your computer.
Iomega’s Jaz drives, for example, can store up to 2GB (gigabytes) of
information on a single cartridge. (The Peerless cartridges hold 10 or
20GBs.) A single cartridge is much easier to store than hundreds of floppies. (More information about Iomega’s drives lurks in Chapter 2.)
A Don’t use old backup programs with Windows XP. Unless the
backup software specifically states that it’s compatible with Windows XP, the backup might not be reliable. (Windows XP Professional comes with a simple backup program included; Windows XP
Home does not.)
A The average cost of a backup unit runs from $150–$400, depending
on the size of your computer’s hard drive. Some people back up
their work every day, using a new tape or backup disk for each day
of the week. If they discover on Thursday that last Monday’s
report had all the best stuff, they can pop Monday’s backup into
the unit and grab the report.
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
A Windows XP lets you copy files to CDs, which hold around 600MB.
To copy a file to a writable CD drive, put a writable CD in your computer’s writable CD drive. Then right-click on the file you want to
copy, choose Send To, and select your writeable CD drive from the
Computers make plenty of clicking sounds, but one click counts the
most: the one that occurs when you press a button on a mouse. You’ll
find yourself clicking the mouse hundreds of times in Windows XP. For
example, to push the on-screen button marked Push Me, you move the
mouse across your desk until the little on-screen arrow rests over the
Push Me button, and then click the mouse button.
A When you hear people say, “Press the button on the mouse,” they
leave out an important detail: Release the button after you press it.
Press the button with your index finger and release it, just as you
press a button on an elevator.
A Most mice have 2 buttons; some have 3, and some esoteric models
for traffic engineers have more than 12. Windows XP listens mostly
to clicks coming from the button on the left side of your mouse. It’s
the one under your index finger if you’re right-handed. (Windows
XP also lets left-handed folks swap their left and right mouse button controls.) The Windows XP Control Panel, covered in Chapter
14, lets you tweak many mouse settings.
A Windows XP listens to clicks coming from both the left and right
buttons on your mouse. In fact, if you’re ever confused about what
you can do with something in Windows, right-click on it. A little
menu appears, listing the things you can do with that confusing
A Don’t confuse a click with a double-click. For more rodent details,
see the sections “The Mouse,” “Double-Clicking,” and “Pointers/
Arrows,” later in this chapter. The insatiably curious can find even
more mouse stuff in Chapter 2, including the Microsoft IntelliMouse with the little spinning wheel doohickey.
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
The Cursor
Typewriters have a little mechanical arm that strikes the page, creating
the desired letter. Computers don’t have little mechanical arms (except
in science fiction movies), so they have cursors: little blinking lines that
show where that next letter will appear in the text. You can distinguish
between the cursor and the mouse pointer with one look: Cursors
always blink steadily; mouse pointers never blink.
For more information, check out the section “Pointers/Arrows” in this
chapter or Table 2-1 in Chapter 2. Or, keep reading the neatly aligned
items in the following list:
A Cursors appear only when Windows XP is ready for you to type
text, numbers, or symbols—usually when you write letters or
reports or fill out forms.
A The cursor and the mouse pointer are different things that perform
different tasks. When you start typing, text appears at the cursor’s
location, not at the pointer’s location.
A You can move the cursor to a new place in the document by using
the keyboard’s cursor-control keys (the keys with little arrows). Or
you can point to a spot with the mouse pointer and click the button. The cursor leaps to that new spot.
A Filling out a form? Here’s a trick for the lazy: Press Tab after filling
out each blank. At each press, the Tab key kicks the cursor to the
next line on the form. Pressing Tab saves a lot of pointing and clicking to get the cursor to the right place. Hold down Shift while
pressing Tab to move in reverse.
Defaults (And the Any Key)
Finally, a computer term that you can safely ignore. Clap your hands
and square dance with a neighbor! Here’s the lowdown on the, er, hoedown: Some programs present a terse list of inexplicable choices and
casually suggest that you select the only option that’s not listed: the
default option.
Don’t chew your tongue in despair. Just press Enter.
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
Those wily programmers have predetermined what option works best
for 99 percent of the people using the program. So, if people just press
Enter, the program automatically makes the right choice and moves on
to the next complicated question.
A The default option is similar to the oft-mentioned Any key because
neither of them appears on your keyboard (or on anybody else’s,
either—no matter how much money they paid).
A Default can also be taken to mean standard option or what to select
when you’re completely stumped. For example, strangers riding
together in elevators stare at their shoes by default.
A When a program says to press any key, simply press the spacebar.
(The Shift keys don’t do the trick, by the way.)
Desktop (And Changing Its
To keep from reverting to revolting computer terms, Windows XP uses
familiar office lingo. For example, all the action in Windows XP takes
place on the Windows XP desktop. The desktop is the background area
of the screen where all the windows pile up. To jazz things up, Windows
covers the desktop with pretty pictures known as the background. (Earlier versions called it wallpaper.)
Windows XP’s standard desktop background shows a Teletubbies-green
hillside. Not into Teletubbies? Windows XP comes with several arty pictures you can use as replacement backgrounds (and Chapter 10 can
help you hang them up).
You can customize the background to fit your own personality: pictures
of kittens, for example, or centipedes. You can draw your own background with the built-in Windows XP Paint program, which saves your
work in one of the special background formats.
Internet Explorer and other Internet browsers let you automatically
grab any picture you find on a Web site and turn it into your desktop’s
background. Right-click on the cool picture and choose the Set As Background option.
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
Windows XP places a great significance on something pretty simple:
pressing a button on the mouse and releasing it. Pressing and releasing
the button once is known as a click. Pressing and releasing the button
twice in rapid succession is a double-click.
Windows XP watches carefully to see whether you’ve clicked or doubleclicked its more sensitive parts. The two actions are completely different. Clicking usually selects something. Double-clicking usually makes
something jump into action. I clarify this confusion at the end of Chapter 5.
A A double-click can take some practice to master, even if you have
fingers. If you click too slowly, Windows XP thinks that you’re simply clicking twice—not double-clicking. Try clicking a little faster
next time, and Windows XP will probably catch on.
A Can’t click fast enough for Windows XP to tell the difference
between a mere click and a rapid-fire double-click? Grab the office
computer guru and say that you need to have your Control Panel
called up and your clicks fixed. If the guru is at the computer store,
tiptoe to the “Mouse” section in Chapter 14, where I discuss the
Windows Control Panel.
Dragging and Dropping
Although the term drag and drop sounds as if it’s straight out of a Sopranos episode, it’s really a nonviolent mouse trick in Windows XP. Dragging and dropping is a way of moving something—say, a picture of an
egg—from one part of your screen to another.
To drag, put the mouse pointer over the egg and hold down the left or
right mouse button. (I prefer the right mouse button.) As you move the
mouse across your desk, the pointer drags the egg across the screen.
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
Put the pointer/egg where you want it and release the mouse button.
The egg drops, uncracked.
A Big Tip Dept.: If you hold down the right mouse button while dragging, Windows XP tosses a little menu in your face when you let go,
asking if you’re sure that you want to move that egg across the
screen. Always hold down your right mouse button when dragging.
A For more mouse fun, see the sections, “Clicking,” “Double-Clicking,” “The Mouse,” and “Pointers/Arrows” in this chapter and, if
you’re not yet weak at the knees, the information on the parts of
your computer in Chapter 2.
A Started dragging something and realized in midstream that you’re
dragging the wrong thing? Breathe deeply like a yoga instructor
and press Esc. Then let go of your mouse button. Whew! (If you’ve
dragged with your right mouse button and already let go of the
button, there’s another option: Choose Cancel from the pop-up
Although Windows XP performs plenty of work, it hires help when necessary. When Windows XP needs to talk to unfamiliar parts of your computer, it lets special drivers do the translating. A driver is a piece of
software that enables Windows XP to communicate with parts of your
Hundreds of computer companies sell computer attachables, from
printers to sound cards to sprinkler systems. Microsoft requires these
companies to write drivers for their products so that Windows XP
knows the polite way to address them.
A Sometimes computer nerds say that your mouse driver is all
messed up. They’re not talking about your swerving hand movements. They’re talking about the piece of software that helps Windows XP talk and listen to the mouse.
A Computer products often require new, improved drivers. The best
way to get these new drivers is from the Web, usually on the Web
site of the company that made the gadget. Sometimes, the
Microsoft Web page itself will have the proper driver, too.
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
A No Internet connection? If you send a begging letter to the company that made your mouse, the company may mail you a new,
updated driver on a floppy disk. Occasionally, you can get these
new drivers from the wild-haired teenager who sold you your computer. Find a computer guru to install the driver, however, or check
out the section on installing drivers in Chapter 15.
A Windows XP comes with an aptly named program called Automatic
Update. Described in Chapter 14, the program dials a special spot
on the Internet, where a stethoscope examines your computer’s
internal parts and inserts updated software where needed.
A file is a collection of information in a form that the computer can play
with. A program file contains instructions telling the computer to do
something useful, like adding up the number of quarters the kids spent
on SweeTARTS last month. A data file contains information you’ve created, like a picture of an obelisk you drew in the Windows XP Paint program.
A Files can’t be touched or handled; they’re invisible, unearthly
things. Somebody figured out how to store files as little magnetic
impulses on a round piece of specially coated plastic, or disk.
(Yep, these are the disks I cover in Chapter 2.)
A A file is referred to by its filename. Windows lets you call files by a
descriptive phrase, as long as it doesn’t total more than 255 characters.
A Many filenames have optional extensions of up to three letters that
usually refer to the program that created them. For example, the
Windows XP Paint program automatically saves files with the
extension BMP. Microsoft realized that most people don’t care
about file extensions, so Windows XP normally hides them when
it’s displaying filenames.
A Filenames have more rules and regulations than the Jacuzzi at the
condo’s clubhouse. For more information than you’ll ever want to
know about filenames, flip to Chapter 11.
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
Folders (Directories)
Nobody would ever confuse a computer with an office. Yet, Windows XP
tries awfully hard to extend the common office metaphor to your computer. Your monitor’s screen, for instance, is called a desktop. And, just
like an office, Windows XP stores your files in folders.
No matter how hard Windows tries, though, storing files is never as
easy. You can’t just open a file drawer and slide in last year’s tax
returns. Trying to maneuver files into folders in Windows is like trying
to snag the stuffed bear using the crane machine at the fair.
Because files and folders are such painful experiences, they’re
explained fully in Chapter 11. In the meantime, just think of folders as
separate work areas to keep files organized. Different folders hold different projects; you move from folder to folder as you work on different
things with your computer.
A A file cabinet’s Vegetables folder could have an Asparagus folder
nested inside it for organizing material further. In fact, most folders
contain several other folders in order to organize information even
more. You need to be pretty fastidious around computers; that’s
the easiest way of finding your work again.
A Technically, a folder in a folder is a nested subfolder that keeps
related files from getting lost. For example, you can have folders
for Steamed Asparagus and Raw Asparagus in the Asparagus
folder, which lives in the Vegetables folder.
Graphical User Interfaces
The way people communicate with computers is called an interface. For
example, the Enterprise’s computer used a verbalinterface. Captain Kirk
just told it what to do.
Windows XP uses a graphical user interface. People talk to the computer through graphical symbols, or pictures. A graphical user interface
works kind of like travel kiosks at airports—you select some little but-
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
ton symbols right on the screen to find out which hotels offer free airport shuttles.
A A graphical user interface is called a GUI, pronounced “gooey,” as
in “Huey, Dewey, Louie, and GUI.”
A Despite what you read in the Microsoft full-page ads, Windows XP
isn’t the only GUI for a personal computer. The Apple Macintosh
has used a graphical user interface for years.
A You’ll eventually hear people raving about an operating system
called Linux (usually pronounced LINE-uhx, after Linus, the operating system’s creator). Programmers and computer tweakers love
Linux, but this new operating system can’t run nearly as many programs as Windows. Don’t buy a new PC with Linux installed unless
you’re an advanced computer user or married to a friendly one.
A The little graphical symbols or buttons in a graphical user interface are called icons. Chapter 20 displays most of Windows’ built-in
icons and what they mean.
A When combined with other software, like Microsoft Word XP, Windows XP can talk to us using its built-in speech generator. (Check
out the Control Panel’s Speech button for a preview.)
Hardware and Software
Alert! Alert! Fasten your seat belt so that you don’t slump forward when
reading about these two particularly boring terms: hardware and software.
Your CD player is hardware; so are the stereo amplifier, speakers, and
batteries in the boom box. By itself, the CD player doesn’t do anything
but hum. It needs music to disturb the neighbors. The music is the software, or the information processed by the CD player.
A Now you can unfasten your seat belt and relax for a bit. Computer
hardware refers to anything you can touch, including hard things
like a printer, a monitor, disks, and disk drives.
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
A Software is the ethereal stuff that makes the hardware do something fun. A piece of software is called a program. Programs come
on disks or CDs, or they can be copied to your computer from the
A When somber technical nerds (STNs) say, “It must be a hardware
problem,” they mean that something must be wrong with the computer itself: its disk drive, keyboard, or central processing unit
(CPU). When they say, “It must be a software problem,” they mean
that something is wrong with the program you’re trying to run.
Here’s how to earn points with your computer gurus: When they ask
you the riddle, “How many programmers does it take to change a light
bulb?” pretend that you don’t know this answer: “None; that’s a hardware problem.”
An icon is a little picture, like the one in the margin. Windows XP fills the
screen with little pictures, or icons. You choose among them to make
Windows XP do different things. For example, you’d choose the Printer
icon, the little picture of the printer, to make your computer print something. Icons are just fancy names for cute buttons.
A Windows XP relies on icons for nearly everything from opening
files to releasing the winged monkeys.
A Some icons have explanatory titles, like Open File or Terrorize Dorothy. Others make you guess; for example, the Little Juggling Man
icon opens the network mail system.
A For more icon stuff, see the section “Graphical User Interfaces,”
earlier in this chapter.
The Internet
In the late 1960s, the U.S. government worried that enemies could drop
bombs on its main cluster of Department of Defense computers, quickly
turning circuits into slosh. So, the scientists moved the computers
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
away from each other, connecting them globally with high-speed phone
lines and a unique system of information forwarding.
If a computer in San Diego blew up, for example, the data chain from
surrounding computers wouldn’t simply stop there. The other computers would automatically reroute their information to other computers
in the network, and everybody would still have e-mail waiting the next
morning (except for the folks in San Diego, of course).
With this sprawling chain of new networks running automatically in the
background, enemies no longer have a single target to destroy. The system has proven quite durable, and thousands of other networks have
hopped on for a ride. Many academic institutions climbed aboard as
well, helping the system grow to gigantic proportions. Now known as
the Internet, the information chain’s built-in independence keeps it
uncontrollable, uncensored, and rampantly random in quality.
Anybody can use the Internet and its trendy World Wide Web to sample
the information strewn about the globe. Windows XP includes most of
the tools you need to jump aboard.
A In fact, Windows XP relies heavily on the Internet. It includes software for cruising the Web, watching video clips, listening to worldwide Internet radio stations, and downloading software.
A There’s one problem. In order to use Windows XP’s tools and visit
the Web, you need to sign up with an Internet service provider
(ISP). These businesses usually charge a monthly fee, just like any
other utility company.
A For more Internet fun, see Chapter 12.
Kilobytes, Megabytes, and So On
Figuring out the size of a real file folder is easy: Just look at the thickness of the papers stuffed in and around it. But computer files are invisible, so their size is measured in bytes (which is pronounced like what
Dracula does).
A byte is pretty much like a character or letter in a word. For example,
the word sodium-free contains 11 bytes. (The hyphen counts as a byte.)
Computer nerds picked up the metric system much more quickly than
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
the rest of us, so bytes are measured in kilos (1,000), megas (1,000,000),
and gigas (way huge).
A page of double-spaced text in Notepad is about 1,000 bytes, known as
1 kilobyte, which is often abbreviated as 1K. Approximately 1,000 of
those kilobytes is a megabyte, or 1MB. About 1,000 megabytes is a
gigabyte, which brings us to your computer’s sales slip: Most new hard
drives sold today are 20GB (gigabytes) or larger.
A Just about all floppy disks these days can hold 1.44MB. Today’s
programs are huge, so they usually come on compact discs, which
hold more than 600MB.
A All files are measured in bytes, regardless of whether they contain
text. For example, the green hillside background that Windows XP
often places on the desktop takes up 1,440,054 bytes. (For information on placing backgrounds on your desktop, see Chapter 10.)
A A page of double-spaced text in Notepad takes up about 1K, but
that same page in Microsoft Word consumes much more space.
That’s because Word sticks in lots more information: the font size,
the author’s name, bookmarks, spell-check results, and just about
anything else you can think of.
A The Windows XP My Computer and Explorer programs tell you
how many bytes each of your files consumes. To find out more,
check out the information in Chapter 11. (Hint for anxious users:
Right-click on any file’s name and choose Properties from the
menu that pops up; you will find more information about a file than
you want to know.)
One kilobyte doesn’t really equal 1,000 bytes. That would be too easy.
Instead, this byte stuff is based on the number two. (Computers love
mathematical details, especially when a two is involved.) One kilobyte
is really 1,024 bytes, which is two raised to the 10th power, or 210. That
means the 1,440,054-byte green hillside background adds up to 1.37MB.
For more byte-size information, see Table 3-1.
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
Table 3-1
Ultra-Precise Details from the Slide-Rule
Rough Size
Ultra-Precise Size
1 byte
1 byte
K or KB
1,000 bytes
1,024 bytes
M or MB
1,000 kilobytes
1,048,576 bytes
G or GB
1,000 megabytes
1,073,741,824 bytes
Loading, Running, Executing, and
Files are yanked from a file cabinet and placed onto a desk for easy reference. On a computer, files are loaded from a disk and placed into the
computer’s memory so that you can do important stuff with them. You
can’t work with a file or program until it has been loaded into the computer’s memory.
When you run,execute, or launch a program, you’re merely starting it up
so that you can use it. Load means pretty much the same thing, but
some people fine-tune its meaning to describe when a program file
brings in a data file.
Picture lovers can start programs by double-clicking pictures—icons—
on the Windows XP desktop. Word-oriented people can start programs
by double-clicking names in a list with My Computer (although those
programs let you double-click icons, too, if you prefer).
Whoa! How did this complicated memory stuff creep in here? Luckily, it
all boils down to one key sentence:
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
The more memory a computer has available, the more pleasantly Windows XP behaves.
A Memory is measured in bytes, just like a file. The computer at the
garage sale probably came with 640 kilobytes, or 640K, of memory.
Last year’s computer models usually came with at least 64MB of
memory. Today’s computers often come with at least 128MB of
memory installed.
A Windows XP requires computers to have at least 128 megabytes,
or 128MB, of memory, or it won’t even bother to come out of the
Memory and hard disk space are both measured in bytes, but they’re
two different things: Memory is what the computer uses for quick, onthe-fly calculations when programs are up and running on-screen. Hard
disk space is what the computer uses to store unused files and programs.
Everybody’s computer contains much more hard disk space than memory because hard disks—also known as hard drives—are so much
cheaper. Also, a hard disk remembers things even when the computer is
turned off. A computer’s memory, on the other hand, is washed completely clean whenever someone turns it off or pokes its reset button.
Not sure about all that kilobyte and megabyte stuff? Skip a few pages
back to the “Kilobytes, Megabytes, and So On” section.
The Mouse
A mouse is a smooth little plastic thing with a tail coming out of its
head. Most mice rest on a little roller, or ball. The tail plugs into the
back of the PC. When you push the mouse across your desk, the mouse
sends its current location through its tail to the PC. By moving the
mouse around on the desk, you move a corresponding arrow across the
You can wiggle the mouse in circles and watch the arrow make spirals.
Or, to be practical, you can position the on-screen arrow over an onscreen button and click the mouse button to boss Windows XP around.
(Refer to the sections “Clicking,” “Double-Clicking,” and “Pointers/
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
Arrows,” and, if you haven’t run out of steam, turn to Chapter 2 for
information on the parts of your computer.)
Multitasking and task switching
Windows XP can run two or more programs at
the same time, but computer nerds take overly
tedious steps to describe the process. So skip
this section because you’ll never need to know
Even though the words task switching and multitasking often have an exclamation point in computer ads, there’s nothing really exciting about
When you run two programs, yet switch back
and forth between them, you’re task switching.
For example, if Jeff calls while you’re reading a
book, you put down the book and talk to Jeff. You
are task switching: stopping one task and starting another. The process is similar to running
your word processor and then stopping to look
up a phone number in your handy business card
database program.
But when you run two programs simultaneously,
you’re multitasking. For example, if you continue
reading your book while listening to Jeff talk
about the Natural History Museum’s new Grecian urns, you’re multitasking: performing two
tasks at the same time. In Windows XP, multitasking can be playing a solitaire game or adding a huge spreadsheet while you’re
downloading a file in the background and
watching the stock ticker on the Internet.
These two concepts differ only subtly, and yet
computer nerds make a big deal out of the difference. Everybody else shrugs and says, “So
Networks connect PCs so that people can share equipment and information. Every computer on the network can send stuff to one printer,
for example, or people can send messages back and forth talking about
Jane’s new hairstyle.
You, as a Windows XP beginner, are safely absolved from knowing anything about networks. Leave network stuff to that poor person in
A Unless you’re working on a computer in an office, you probably
won’t have to worry about networks. If you find yourself worrying
about them, Chapter 9 holds the answers, including how to set one
up in your own home or office.
A For information about dial-up networks, like connecting to the
Internet through the Windows XP Internet Explorer, head for Chapter 12.
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
This idea sounds easy at first. When you roll the mouse around on your
desk, you see a little arrow move around on-screen. That arrow is your
pointer, and it is also called an arrow. (Almost everything in Windows
XP has at least two names.)
The pointer serves as your electronic index finger. Instead of pushing an
on-screen button with your finger, you move the pointer over that button and click the left button on the mouse.
So what’s the hard part? Well, that pointer doesn’t always stay an arrow.
Depending on where the pointer is located on the Windows XP screen,
it can turn into a straight line, a two-headed arrow, a four-sided arrow,
an hourglass, a little pillar, or a zillion other things. Each of the symbols
makes the mouse do something slightly different. Luckily, I cover these
and other arrowheads in Chapter 2.
Plug and Play
Historically, installing new computer devices has required substantial
technical expertise to configure and load hardware and software. Basically, that means that only geeks could figure out how to fix their computers and add new gadgets to them.
So, a bunch of computer vendors hunched together around a table and
came up with Plug andPlay —a way for Windows XP to set up new gadgets for your computer automatically, with little or no human intervention. You plug in your latest gadget, and Windows XP “interviews” it,
checking to see what special settings it needs. Then Windows XP automatically flips the right switches.
Because Windows XP keeps track of which switches are flipped, none of
the parts argues over who got the best settings. Better yet, users don’t
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
have to do anything but plug the darn thing into their computers and
flip the On switch.
A Of course, the process couldn’t be that simple. Only gadgets that
say “Plug and Play” on the box allow for this automatic switch flipping. With the others, you probably need to flip the switches yourself. (But at least they still work when the right switches are
A Some people call Plug and Play “PnP.” Other, more skeptical, people refer to Plug and Play as “Plug and Pray.” Windows XP can’t recognize everything, particularly older computer parts.
A For the best chance of success, install only new gadgets that say
Plug and Play and Windows XP compatible on the box. And never
install a second gadget before you’re sure the first gadget is working correctly.
Quitting or Exiting
When you’re ready to throw in the computing towel and head for
greener pastures, you need to stop, or quit, any programs you’ve been
using. The terms quit and exit mean pretty much the same thing: making
the current program on-screen stop running so that you can go away
and do something a little more rewarding.
Luckily, exiting Windows XP programs is fairly easy because all of them
are supposed to use the same special exit command. You simply click
the little X in the upper-right corner of the program’s window. (You’ll
find an example in the margin.)
Never quit a program by just flicking off your computer’s power switch.
Doing so can foul up your computer’s innards. Instead, you must leave
the program responsibly so that it has time to perform its housekeeping
chores before it shuts down.
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
A When you press Alt+F4 or click the little X in the upper-right corner, the program asks whether you want to save any changes
you’ve made to the file. Normally, you click the button that says
something like, “Yes, by all means, save the work I’ve spent the last
three hours trying to create.” (If you’ve muffed things up horribly,
click the No button. Windows XP disregards any work you’ve done
and lets you start over from scratch.)
A If, by some broad stretch of your fingers, you press Alt+F4 by accident, click the button that says Cancel, and the program pretends
that you never tried to leave it. You can continue as if nothing happened.
A Windows XP still lets you close most Windows programs by double-clicking the icons in their uppermost left corners. However, it’s
usually easier to single-click the X in the program’s uppermost
right corner. But either action tells the program that you want to
close it down.
A Save your work before exiting a program or turning off your computer. Computers aren’t always smart enough to save it automatically.
Save Command
Save means to send the work you’ve just created on your computer to a
disk for safekeeping. Unless you specifically save your work, your computer thinks that you’ve just been fiddling around for the past four
hours. You need to specifically tell the computer to save your work
before it will safely store the work on a disk.
Thanks to Microsoft’s snapping leather whips, all Windows XP programs use the same Save command, no matter what company wrote
them. Press and release the Alt, F, and S keys in any Windows XP program, and the computer saves your work.
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
If you’re saving something for the first time, Windows XP asks you to
think up a filename for the work and pick a folder to stuff the new file
into. Luckily, I cover this stuff in Chapter 4.
A You can save files to a hard disk or a floppy disk; some people save
files on Zip drives or on writable compact discs. (Check out Chapter 2 for more drive specifics.) Or if you’re working in a networked
office, you can often save files onto other computers.
A If you prefer using the mouse to save files, click the word File from
the row of words along the top of the program. After a menu drops
down, choose Save. Some programs even have a little picture of a
floppy disk along their top edge; clicking the picture saves the file.
A Choose descriptive filenames for your work. Windows XP gives
you 255 characters to work with, so a file named June Report on
Squeegee Sales is easier to relocate than one named Stuff.
A Some programs, such as Microsoft Word for Windows, have an
autosave feature that automatically saves your work every five
minutes or so.
Save As Command
Huh? Save as what? A chemical compound? Naw, the Save As command
just gives you a chance to save your work with a different name and in a
different location.
Suppose that you open the Random Musings file in your Miscellaneous
Stuff directory and change a few sentences around. You want to save
the changes, but you don’t want to lose the original stuff. So you select
Save As and type the new name, Additional Random Musings.
A The Save As command is identical to the Save command when
you’re first trying to save something new: You can choose a fresh
name and location for your work.
A The world’s biggest clams can weigh up to 500 pounds.
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
You’ve probably seen this program, usually abruptly, and at the worst
times. When your computer crashes, the ScanDisk program hops onto
the big blue screen.
Greet it with relief. ScanDisk is a disk detective that examines your hard
drive for errors and then repairs them before allowing Windows XP to
reappear on the screen.
The shortcut concept is familiar to most people: Why bother walking
around the block to get to school when a shortcut through Mr.
McGurdy’s backyard can get you there twice as fast?
It’s the same with Windows XP. Instead of wading through a bunch of
menus to get somewhere, you can create a shortcut and assign an icon
to it. Then, when you double-click the shortcut icon, Windows XP immediately takes you to that location.
You can create a shortcut to the letter you’re currently working on, for
example, and leave the shortcut icon sitting on your desktop within
easy reach. Double-click the letter’s shortcut icon, and Windows XP
automatically wades through your computer’s folders and files, grabs
the word processor, and throws your letter onto the screen.
A shortcut is simply a push button that loads a file or program. You can
even make shortcuts for accessing your printer or a favorite folder.
To create a desktop shortcut to a special file, folder, or program, open
My Computer (or Explorer) and right-click on your coveted item’s icon.
Choose Send To from the pop-up menu, and select Desktop (Create
Shortcut). A shortcut to that item appears on your desktop. Fun!
A Internet-crazy Windows XP even lets you create shortcuts to your
favorite spots on the Internet and sprinkle them around your desktop for easy access. Just point at the icon next to the Internet site’s
address in Internet Explorer and drag it to the desktop.
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
A The ever-helpful Start button automatically makes shortcuts to the
programs you use most often. Click the Start button, and you see
shortcuts waiting for you. To adjust the number of listed shortcuts, right-click on the Start button, click Properties, click the Start
Menu tab, and click the Customize button. That lets you adjust the
number of stored shortcuts from 0 to 30. (Hit the Clear button to
wipe the list clean and start over.)
A A shortcut isn’t a program. It’s a push button that starts a program. If you delete a shortcut, you haven’t deleted the program;
you’ve just removed a button that pointed to that program. You
can still access the program through My Computer or Windows
Temp Files
Like children who don’t put away the peanut butter jar, Windows XP
also leaves things lying around. They’re called temp files—secret files
that Windows XP creates to store stuff in while it’s running. Windows
XP normally deletes them automatically when you leave the program. It
occasionally forgets, however, and leaves them cluttering up your hard
drive. Stern lectures leave very little impression.
A Temp files usually (but not always) end with the letters TMP. Filenames resemble words, such as ~DOC0D37.TMP, ~WRI3F0E.TMP ,
~$DIBLCA.ASD, and similar-looking files that usually start with the
wavy ~ thing. (Typographically correct people call it a tilde.)
A To free up wasted disk space, use Windows XP’s Disk Cleanup
option. Open My Computer from the Start menu, right-click on a
disk drive, choose Properties, and click the Disk Cleanup button. It
lets you delete bunches of old, unnecessary maintenance files,
including temporary files.
The Windows
Windows XP enables you to run several programs at the same time by
placing them in windows. A window is just a little on-screen box.
You can move the boxes around. You can make them bigger or smaller.
You can make them fill your entire screen. You can make them turn into
______ Chapter 3: Windows XP Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know
little icons at the bottom of your screen. You can spend hours playing
with windows. In fact, most frustrated new Windows XP users do.
A You can put as many windows on-screen as you want, peeping at
all of them at the same time or just looking into each one individually. This activity appeals to the voyeur in all of us. Remember,
though, the more windows you have open, the slower Windows
will operate.
A For instructions on how to move windows or resize them, head to
Chapter 6. To retrieve lost windows from the pile, head immediately to Chapter 7.
The World Wide Web
The World Wide Web, known simply as the Web, is merely a way for
sending and receiving pictures, sound, and other information on the
Internet network. (See the section “The Internet,” earlier in this chapter,
or see Chapter 12 if you’re really interested.)
Part II
Making Windows XP Do
In this part…
indows XP is more fun than cheap tattoos from the bottom
of a Cracker Jack box. You can play with its built-in pinball
game, play backgammon with unknown opponents through the
Internet, and edit your home movies to e-mail to friends.
Unfortunately, some spoilsport friend will eventually mutter the
words that bring everything back to Earth: “Let’s see Windows XP
do something useful, like balance a checkbook or teach the kids to
rinse off their plates and put them in the dishwasher.”
Toss this eminently practical part at them to quiet ’em down.
Chapter 4
Starting Windows XP
In This Chapter
B Starting Windows XP and logging off
B Starting a program
B Finding the secret pull-down menus
B Loading a file
B Putting two programs on the screen
B Printing and saving your work
icrosoft designed Windows XP to link large chains of computers
in a corporation. Yet, it’s equally suited to run on a single computer in a living room. But whether your computer lives in solitude or
mingles with other computers, Windows XP looks and acts pretty much
the same, and that’s where this chapter comes in.
Here you find a crash course in opening Windows XP, doing some work,
and closing down when you’re through. You discover how to make Windows XP not only recognize you, but also make you feel at home, as it
changes its colors to meet your personal preferences.
This chapter explains where your Windows XP programs live and how
to address them properly. You discover how to coax Windows XP into
running two or more programs simultaneously without complaining.
You find out how to send your work to the printer so you can convince
doubting coworkers that you are, indeed, capable of making Windows
XP do something useful.
Finally, you discover how to log off Windows XP—a required method of
bidding your computer adieu until you meet again—if you can get the
kids off the computer, that is.
_________________________________ Chapter 4: Starting Windows XP
Logging On to Windows XP
If your new PC came with Windows XP already installed (most do), Windows XP probably leaps to your screen automatically when you first
turn on the computer. But before you can do anything, Windows XP
throws you a fastball with its brilliant blue Welcome screen: Windows
wants you to log on, as shown in Figure 4-1.
Figure 4-1:
XP wants all
users to log
on so it
who’s using
computer at
all times.
See, Windows XP allows bunches of people to work on the same computer, yet it keeps everybody’s work separate. To do that, it needs to
know who’s currently sitting in front of the keyboard. The solution? It
makes you log on—introduce yourself—by clicking your user name, as
shown in Figure 4-1. A few seconds after you click, Windows XP shows
you your desktop, ready for you to make a mess.
When you’re through working or just feel like taking a break, log off
(explained at the end of this chapter) so somebody else can use the
_________________________________ Chapter 4: Starting Windows XP
computer. Later, when you log back on, your newly created mess will be
waiting for you, just as you left it.
A Although the desktop might be a mess, it’s your own mess. When
you come back to the computer, your letters will all be where you
saved them. Jerry hasn’t accidentally deleted your files or folders
while playing Widget Squash. Or, if you left your desktop tidy, it
will be just as tidy when you return.
A By doling out a separate account to each computer user, Windows
XP makes it seem like every person in the house has his or her own
computer, set up the way he or she likes it. Jerry’s desktop is
packed with icons that load his favorite games. Tina’s desktop contains Internet links to her favorite quilting and watercolor Web
sites. And all of Melissa’s favorite MP3 files stay in her own personalized Music folder.
A If you’re the only person using your computer, Windows XP skips
the Welcome screen. There’s no need to log in.
A Of course, the big question boils down to this: How do you put
cute pictures by your user name, like in Figure 4-1? I cover that in
detail in Chapter 9.
A Don’t see a user name listed for you? Then you have three options.
If you just bought the computer, look for one named Owner or
Administrator, and use that one. If you’re not the owner but you
spot the word Guest, click it to log on using the computer owner’s
gracious Guest account. Or, find out who owns the computer—that
person probably set herself up as the computer’s administrator.
Only the almighty administrator can create an account especially
for you.
It wants me to enter a password!
Windows XP lets bunches of people use the same computer without
messing up each other’s work. But how do you make sure Josh doesn’t
read Grace’s love letters to Henry Rollins? How can you set up your
computer so that nobody accidentally deletes your letters? How can
Josh make sure Grace’s pink background doesn’t replace his spaceships
when he logs onto the computer? A password solves some of those
_________________________________ Chapter 4: Starting Windows XP
Running Windows XP for the first time
Just installed Windows XP or turned on your
new computer for the first time? Then you’re
treated to a few extra Windows XP chores.
Depending on how your computer was configured at the shop, some of these forms might
vary, but here’s a sampler of what you might
encounter. (Click Next after filling out each
Regional and Language Options: Windows XP
guesses as to your language and location, so it
can display the correct words, dialects, currency format, and other information. If you’re not
using a keyboard to enter text, use the mouse to
tell Windows about your device.
Personalize Your Software: Type your name and
organization’s name.
Your Product Key: Type the number/letter code
that’s on the CD’s case. (Without this number,
Windows doesn’t work.)
Name Your Computer: Choose a name for your
computer, and type it into the box. (This helps
people identify your computer on networks.)
Modem Dialing Information: Type your country,
area code, and other telephone information.
Date and Time: Windows usually guesses the
correct date and time.
Networking Settings: Unless you’re a guru,
choose Typical Settings.
Next, Windows XP “asks you to spend a few
minutes setting up your computer.”
Internet Connection: Will your computer connect to the Internet through a network or
directly using its attached modem? Click Yes or
No and then click the Next button. (I cover this
more in Chapter 12.)
Activate Windows: Feel free to activate Windows now. You’ll need to within the next 30 days,
or Windows won’t work anymore.
Registration: If you want junk mail from
Microsoft, click Yes. Otherwise click No for this
optional item.
Users: Type the names of people who will be
using your computer, starting with your own
name at the top. Nobody else using it? Then just
type your own name and click Next.
If you’re confused about any of these items,
click the Help button at the screen’s bottom.
You’re through! And if you’ve made a mistake
with any of these options, you can change them
by using the Control Panel, described in Chapter
By typing in a secret password when logging on, as shown in Figure 4-2,
you enable your computer to recognize you and nobody else. If you protect your user name with a password, nobody can access your files
(except for the computer’s administrator, who can peek into anything—
and even wipe out your account).
A Depending on your network’s size and level of security, a password
can let you do many things. Sometimes, entering the password
merely lets you use your own computer. Other times, it lets you
share files on a network of linked computers.
_________________________________ Chapter 4: Starting Windows XP
Figure 4-2:
By using a
you ensure
that nobody
else can
access your
A Because networks can be notoriously difficult to set up and figure
out, most networked offices have a full-time network administrator
who tries to make the darn thing work. (That’s the person to bug if
something goes wrong.)
A Windows XP needs at least one person to act as administrator
even if your computer isn’t connected to other computers. Only an
administrator may set up new accounts for new users, install programs, and access all the files on the computer—even those of
other users. Head to Chapter 9 if you care about this stuff.
A Don’t have a password? After you log on, click the lime-green Start
button, click Control Panel, and click the User Accounts icon. Click
the words Create a Password and type in a password that will be
easy for you—and nobody else—to remember. Type the password
again in the second box, and, in the third box, type a hint that
reminds you of your password. Click the Create Password button,
and Windows XP will ask for your password the next time you try
to log on. (If you’re the administrator, you must first choose an
account and then select the Create a Password option.)
A Have you forgotten your password already? Click the little question mark shown in Figure 4-2 that appears whenever you click
your user name. A hint will appear, reminding you of your password. (That’s why it’s important to type a good hint when creating
your password.) And beware—anybody else can read your hint,
so make sure it’s something that only makes sense to you.
A Keep your password short and sweet: the name of your favorite
vegetable, for example, or the brand of your dental floss. (See your
network administrator if Windows XP doesn’t accept your password. He or she can always let you back in.)
_________________________________ Chapter 4: Starting Windows XP
A Passwords are case-sensitive. That means that the password caviar is different from Caviar. The computer notices the capital C,
and considers caviar and Caviar to be two different words.
Make Windows stop asking me for a password!
Windows asks for your name and password only
when it needs to know who’s tapping on its keys.
And it needs that information for any of these
three reasons:
A Your computer is part of a network, and your
identity determines what goodies you can
A The computer’s owner wants to limit what
you can do on the computer.
A You share your computer with other people,
and each person wants to customize how
Windows XP looks and behaves when he or
she logs on.
If you’re not working on a network, disable the
network password request by double-clicking
the Control Panel’s User Accounts icon and
choosing Remove My Password.
Now, Windows XP will never ask for a password
again. However, anybody can now log onto the
computer using your name and access (or
destroy) your files. If you’re working in an office
setting, this lack of security can get you into
some serious trouble. If you’ve been assigned a
password, it’s better to simply get used to it.
Starting your favorite program with
the Start button
When Windows XP first takes over your computer, it turns your screen
into a pseudo-desktop: a fancy name for a plate of buttons with labels
beneath them. Click a button, and the program assigned to that button
hops to the screen in its own little window. Click the Start button in the
bottom-left corner of the screen, and you’ll have even more buttons to
choose from, as shown in Figure 4-3.
Because the buttons have little pictures on them, they’re called icons.
Icons offer clues to the programs they represent. Click an icon, and its
program pops to the screen, ready for work. Click the icon of the
stamped envelope, for instance, to launch Outlook Express, a program
that lets people send and receive electronic mail on their computers.
Click the big blue “e,” and Internet Explorer arrives, ready to prowl the
Internet. The programs used most often (the list changes as your program usage changes) usually appear below the Internet Explorer and Email icons.
_________________________________ Chapter 4: Starting Windows XP
Figure 4-3:
The Start
button in
XP hides
dozens of
menus for
To find the majority of your programs, however, click the words All Programs. A menu pops out, listing bunches and bunches of programs.
These are programs you haven’t used often enough for Windows to turn
them into big icons and put them on the Big List below Internet
Explorer and E-mail. (Chapter 10 explains how to access those programs in its complete exposé of the Start menu.)
A The Start button is just a big panel of buttons. When you press one
of the buttons by pointing at it and clicking with the mouse, the
program assigned to that button heads for the top of the screen
and appears in a little window.
A If you’re kind of sketchy about all this mouse click and double-click
stuff, head to Chapter 3. You’re not alone.
A Not sure what an icon does? Hold your mouse button over it, and
Windows usually sends a helpful explanatory message or additional menu.
A The Start button can be customized in bunches of different ways,
so yours might look a little different than what you’ve read here.
Chapter 10 shows how to customize your Start button.
_________________________________ Chapter 4: Starting Windows XP
Pull-Down Menus
Windows XP, bless its heart, makes an honest effort toward making
computing easier. For example, the Start button puts a bunch of options
on the screen in front of you. You just choose the one you want, and
Windows XP takes it from there.
But if Windows XP put all its options on the screen at the same time, it
would look more crowded than a 14-page menu at the Siam Thai restaurant. To avoid resorting to fine print, Windows XP hides some menus in
special locations on the screen. When you click the mouse in the right
place, more options leap toward you.
For example, begin loading Windows’ simple word-processing program,
WordPad. If you spot the WordPad icon on the big menu, go ahead and
click it. If it’s not there, you need to dig a little deeper. Start by clicking
the Start button. When the Start menu pops up, click the words All Programs at the screen’s bottom. Wham! A new menu appears. Click Accessories from the new menu, and yet another menu appears. Finally, click
WordPad to bring it to the screen.
Don’t worry if you don’t quite understand all this yet—this is a quick
run-through. I cover the Start menu in its own chapter, Chapter 10.
See the row of words beginning with File that rests along the top edge of
WordPad? You find a row of words across the top of just about every
Windows XP program. Move your mouse pointer over the word File and
A menu opens from beneath File. This menu is called a pull-down menu,
if you’re interested, and it looks somewhat like what you see in Figure 44.
A Pull-down menus open from any of those key words along the top
of a window. Just click the mouse on the word, and the menu tumbles down like shoeboxes falling off a closet shelf.
A To close the menu, click the mouse again, but click it someplace
away from the menu.
_________________________________ Chapter 4: Starting Windows XP
Figure 4-4:
Click a word
along the
top of any
window to
reveal a
secret pulldown menu.
A Different Windows XP programs have different words across the
menu bar, but almost all the bars begin with the word File. The File
pull-down menu contains file-related options, like Open, Save,
Print, and Push Back Cuticles.
A You find pull-down menus sprinkled liberally throughout Windows
Loading a file
First, here’s the bad news: Loading a file into a Windows XP program
can be a mite bit complicated sometimes. Also, loading a file means the
same thing as opening a file.
Now that those trifles have been dispensed with, here’s the good news:
All Windows XP programs load files in the exact same way. So after you
know the proper etiquette for one program, you’re prepared for all the
Here’s the scoop: To open a file in any Windows XP program, look for
the program’s menu bar, that row of important-looking words along its
top. Because you’re after a file, click File, as described in the preceding
A most-welcome pull-down menu descends from the word File. The
menu has a list of important-looking words. Because you’re trying to
open a file, move the mouse to the word Open and click once again.
_________________________________ Chapter 4: Starting Windows XP
Yet another box hops onto the screen, as shown in Figure 4-5. You see
this box named Open appear over and over again in Windows XP.
Figure 4-5:
XP program
tosses a box
like this at
you when
you load or
save a file.
See the list of filenames inside the box? Point at one of them with the
mouse, click the button on the mouse, and that file’s name shows up in
the box called File Name. Click the Open button, and WordPad opens
the file and displays it on the screen.
You’ve done it! You’ve loaded a file into a program! Those are the same
stone steps you walk across in any Windows XP program, whether it
was written by Microsoft or by the teenager down the street. They all
work the same way.
A Sometimes, you won’t immediately spot the file you’re after. It’s
just not listed in that little box. That means that you’ll have to do a
little spelunking. Just as most people store their underwear and Tshirts in different dresser drawers, most computers store their
files in different places called folders. (Double-click a folder to see
what’s stored inside.) If you’re having trouble finding a file for your
program to open, head for the section on folders in Chapter 11.
A See the file you want to open? You can speed things up by simply
double-clicking the file’s name; that action tells Windows XP to
load the file immediately.
_________________________________ Chapter 4: Starting Windows XP
A Whenever you open a file and change it, even by an accidental
press of the spacebar, Windows XP assumes that you’ve consciously changed the file for the better. If you try to open another
file into that program, Windows XP cautiously asks whether you
want to save the changes you’ve made to the current file. Click the
No button unless you do, indeed, want to save that version you’ve
haphazardly changed.
A The Open box has a bunch of options in it. You can open files that
are stored in different folders or on other disk drives. You can also
call up files that were created by certain programs, filtering out the
ones you don’t need. Chapter 5 explains all this in the “Just Tell Me
How to Open a File!” section.
A Don’t know what those little icons along the top and side are supposed to do? Let the mouse pointer rest over them, and a box will
appear, announcing their occupations.
A If you’re still a little murky on the concepts of files, folders, directories, or drives, flip to Chapter 11 for an explanation of the My Computer Program.
Putting two programs on-screen
After spending all your money for Windows XP and a computer powerful enough to cart it around, you’re not going to be content with only
one program on your screen. You want to fill the screen with programs,
all running in their own little windows.
How do you put a second program on the screen? Well, if you’ve opened
WordPad by clicking its icon in the Start button’s Accessories area (that
area’s listed under the Programs area), you’re probably already itching
to load Pinball, Windows’ electronic pinball game. Simply click the Start
button and start moving through the menus, as I describe in the “Starting your favorite program with the Start button” section, earlier in this
_________________________________ Chapter 4: Starting Windows XP
Here goes: Click the Start button, click All Programs, click Games, and
click Pinball. Pinball rushes to the screen.
A This section is intentionally short. When working in Windows XP,
you almost always have two or more programs on the screen at the
same time. There’s nothing really special about it, so there’s no
need to belabor the point here.
A If you want to move multiple windows around on the screen, move
yourself to Chapter 6.
A If you’ve started up Pinball, you’re probably wondering where the
WordPad window disappeared to. It’s now hidden behind the Pinball window. To get it back, check out the information on retrieving
lost windows in Chapter 7. (Or, if you see a button called WordPad
along the bottom of your screen, click it to put WordPad back in
A The special part comes when you move information between the
two programs, which is explained in Chapter 8. (Moving information between windows is known as cutting and pasting in Windows
A To switch between windows, just click them. When you click a window, it immediately becomes the active window—the window
where all the activity takes place. For more information on switching between windows, switch to Chapter 6.
Printing Your Work
Eventually, you’ll want to transfer a copy of your finely honed work to
the printed page so that you can pass it around. Printing something
from any Windows XP program (or application, or applet, whatever you
want to call it) takes only two clicks. Click the word File from along the
program’s top, and then, when the menu drops down, click Print.
Yet another menu appears, this time asking how you’d like your work to
be printed. If you have more than one printer, for example, it’s time to
choose which one. Do you want all the pages printed, or just some?
How many copies? Answer the questions and click the Print button. (Or,
if you want everything printed in a single copy to the same printer as
always, just click the Print button and ignore the questions.)
_________________________________ Chapter 4: Starting Windows XP
What you see on your screen is whisked to your printer.
A If nothing comes out of the printer after a few minutes, try putting
paper in your printer and making sure that it’s turned on. If it still
doesn’t work, cautiously tiptoe to Chapter 15.
A When you print something in Windows XP, you’re actually activating yet another program, which sits around and feeds stuff to your
printer. You may see the program as a little printer icon in the bottom-right corner of your screen.
A Many programs, such as WordPad, have little pictures of a printer
along their tops. Clicking that printer icon is a quick way of telling
the program to shuffle your work to the printer.
Saving Your Work
Anytime you create something in a Windows XP program, be it a picture
of a spoon or a letter to The New York Times begging for a decent comics page, you’ll want to save it to disk.
Saving your work means placing a copy of it onto a disk, either the mysterious hard disk inside your computer, a floppy disk, or a CD.
Luckily, Windows XP makes it easy for you to save your work. Click File
from the menu bar along the top of your program. When the secret pulldown menu appears, click Save. Your mouse pointer turns into an hourglass, asking you to hold your horses while Windows XP shuffles your
work from the program to your chosen disk for safekeeping.
A If you’re saving your work for the first time, you see a familiar-looking box: It’s the same box you see when opening a file. See how the
letters in the File Name box are highlighted? The computer is
always paying attention to the highlighted areas, so anything you
type appears in that box. Type in a name for the file and press
A If Windows XP throws a box in your face saying something like The
above filename is invalid, you haven’t adhered to the ridiculously strict filename guidelines spelled out in Chapter 11.
_________________________________ Chapter 4: Starting Windows XP
A Just as files can be loaded from different folders and disk drives,
they can be saved to them as well. You can locate different folders,
drives, and other storage places by clicking various parts of the
Save box. (In fact, the most common storage locations appear as
icons along the box’s left edge.) All this stuff is explained in the
“Just Tell Me How to Open a File!” section of Chapter 5.
Logging Off of Windows XP
Ah! The most pleasant thing you’ll do with Windows XP all day could
very well be to stop using it. And you do that the same way you started:
by using the Start button, that friendly little helper that popped up the
first time you started Windows XP. There, along the bottom of the Start
menu, are two options: Log Off and Turn Off Computer.
Other Windows XP programs come and go, but the Start button is
always on your screen somewhere. (And if it’s hiding, hold down Ctrl
and press Esc to bring it back from behind the trees.)
Which should you choose? Here’s the scoop:
Log Off: Choose this option when you’re done working with Windows
XP for the time being. Windows then asks if you want to Switch User or
Log Off, as shown in Figure 4-6. Which option do you choose?
Figure 4-6:
normal circumstances,
choose Log
Off to save
your work
and let
else use the
If you’re really through with the computer, choose Log Off. Windows
saves your work and your settings, and returns to the Welcome screen
for the next user.
_________________________________ Chapter 4: Starting Windows XP
If somebody else just wants to borrow the computer for a few minutes,
choose Switch User. The Welcome screen appears, but Windows keeps
your open programs waiting in the background. When you switch back,
everything’s just as you left it.
Turn Off Computer: Choose this when nobody else will be using the
computer until the next morning. Windows XP saves everything and
tells you when it’s okay to turn off your computer.
A Be sure to shut down Windows XP through its official Shut Down
program before turning off your computer. Otherwise, Windows XP
can’t properly prepare your computer for the event, leading to
future troubles.
A When you tell Windows XP that you want to quit, it searches
through all your open windows to see whether you’ve saved all
your work. If it finds any work you’ve forgotten to save, it tosses a
box your way, letting you click the OK button to save it. Whew!
A You don’t have to shut down Windows XP. In fact, some people
leave their computers on all the time. Just be sure to turn off your
monitor; those things like to cool down when they’re not being
Chapter 5
Field Guide to Buttons, Bars,
Boxes, Folders, and Files
In This Chapter
B Looking at a typical window
B Getting into bars
B Changing borders
B Getting to know the button family
B Disregarding the dopey Control-menu button
B Exploring dialog box stuff: Text boxes, drop-down list boxes, list boxes, and
other gibberish
B Finding out how to open a file
B Changing your folder viewing options
B Knowing when to click and when to double-click
B Knowing when to use the left mouse button and when to use the right mouse
s children, just about all of us played with elevator buttons until
our parents told us to knock it off. An elevator gives such an awesome feeling of power: Push a little button, watch the mammoth doors
slide shut, and feel the responsive push as the spaceship floor begins to
surge upward. . . . What fun!
Part of an elevator’s attraction still comes from its simplicity. To stop at
the third floor, you merely press the button marked 3. No problems
Windows XP takes the elevator button concept to an extreme, unfortunately, and it loses something in the process. First, some of the Windows XP buttons don’t even look like buttons. Most of the Windows XP
buttons have ambiguous little pictures on them rather than clearly
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
marked labels. And the worst part is the Windows XP terminology: The
phrase “push the button” becomes “click the scroll bar above or below
the scroll box on the vertical scroll bars.” Yuck!
When braving your way through Windows XP, don’t bother learning all
these dorky terms. Instead, treat this chapter as a field guide, something you can grab when you stumble across a confusing new button or
box that you’ve never encountered before. Just page through until you
find its picture. Read the description to find out whether that particular
creature is deadly or just mildly poisonous. Then read to find out where
you’re supposed to poke it with the mouse pointer.
You’ll get used to the critter after you’ve clicked it a few times. Just
don’t bother remembering the scientific name vertical scroll bar, and
you’ll be fine.
A Typical Window
Nobody wants a field guide without pictures, so Figure 5-1 shows a typical window with its most important parts labeled (all 11 of them, unfortunately).
Close button
Control menu
Figure 5-1:
Here’s how
the everprecise
address the
parts of a
Title bar
Maximize button
Minimize button
Scroll arrow
Scroll box
Vertical scroll bar
Window corner
Just as boxers grimace differently depending on where they’ve been
punched, windows behave differently depending on where they’ve been
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
clicked. The following sections describe the correct places to click and,
if that doesn’t work, the best places to punch.
A Windows XP is full of little weird-shaped buttons, borders, and
boxes. You don’t have to remember their Latin or Greek etymologies. The important part is just finding out what part you’re supposed to click. Then you can start worrying about whether you’re
supposed to single-click or double-click. (And that little dilemma is
explained near the end of this chapter.)
A Not sure whether you should single-click or double-click? This
trick always works: Click cautiously once. If that doesn’t do the
trick — the click doesn’t prod your program into action, for
instance — then double-click by clicking twice in rapid succession.
A After you click a few windows a few times, you realize how easy it
really is to boss them around. The hard part is finding out everything for the first time, just like when you stalled the car while
learning how to use the stick shift.
Windows XP is filled with bars; perhaps that’s why some of its programs
seem a bit groggy and hung over. Bars are thick stripes along the edges
of a window. You find several different types of bars in Windows XP.
Moving windows with the title bar
The title bar is that topmost strip in any window (see Figure 5-2). It lists
the name of the program, as well as the name of any open file. For example, the title bar in Figure 5-2 comes from the Windows XP Notepad. It
contains an untitled file because you haven’t had a chance to save the
file yet. (For example, the file may be full of notes you’ve jotted down
from an energetic phone conversation with Ed McMahon.)
Figure 5-2:
A title bar
lists the
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
Windows XP often chooses the name New Text Document for untitled
Notepad files; you choose a more descriptive name for that file when
you save it for the first time. That new filename then replaces the admittedly vague New Text Document in the title bar.
A In addition to displaying the name of your work, the title bar
serves as a handle for moving a window around on-screen. Point at
the title bar, hold down the mouse button, and move the mouse
around. An outline of the window moves as you move the mouse.
When you’ve placed the outline in a convenient spot for working,
let go of the mouse button. The window leaps to that new spot and
sets up camp.
A When you’re working on a window, its title bar is highlighted, meaning that it’s a different color from the title bar of any other open
window. By glancing at all the title bars on-screen, you can quickly
tell which window is currently being used.
To enlarge a window so that it completely fills the screen, double-click
its title bar. The window expands to full size, making it easier to read
and covering up everything else on the desktop. Maximized windows
can’t be moved, however; double-click their title bars once again to
return them to window size. Then they can be moved once again.
Bossing around windows with the
menu bar
Windows XP has menus everywhere. But if menus appeared all at once,
everybody would think about deep-fried appetizers rather than computer commands. So Windows XP hides its menus in something called a
menu bar (see Figure 5-3).
Figure 5-3:
XP hides
choices in a
menu bar.
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
Lying beneath the title bar, the menu bar keeps those little menus hidden behind little words. To reveal secret options associated with those
words, click one of those words.
For example, to see the entrees under Edit, click your mouse button on
Edit. A secret menu tumbles down from a trap door, as shown in Figure
5-4, presenting all sorts of edit-related options.
Figure 5-4:
Click any
word in a
menu bar to
reveal its
Keep the following points in mind when using menus:
A When you click a word in a menu bar, a menu comes tumbling
down. The menu contains options related to that particular key
A Just as restaurants sometimes run out of specials, a window sometimes isn’t capable of offering all its menu items. Any unavailable
options are grayed out, as the Undo, Cut, Copy, Paste, and Delete
options are in Figure 5-4.
A If you accidentally click the wrong word, causing the wrong menu
to jump down, just sigh complacently. (S-i-i-i-i-igh.) Then click the
word you really wanted. The first menu disappears, and the new
one appears below the new word.
A If you want out of a program’s Menu Land completely, click the
mouse pointer back down on your work in the window’s workspace
— usually the area where you’ve been typing stuff.
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
If you used earlier versions of Windows, you might miss the underlined
shortcut keys that appeared in menus. Windows XP doesn’t show them
automatically. If you miss them, I reveal how to turn them back on in
Chapter 18.
Moving inside your window with the
scroll bar
The scroll bar, which looks like an elevator shaft, is along the edge of a
window (see Figure 5-5). Inside the shaft, a little freight elevator (the
scroll box) travels up and down as you page through your work. In fact,
by glancing at the little elevator, you can tell whether you’re near the
top, the middle, or the bottom of a document.
Figure 5-5:
Scroll bars
enable you
to page
that’s in a
For example, if you’re looking at stuff near the top of a document, the
elevator box is near the top of its little shaft. If you’re working on the
bottom portion of your work, the elevator box dangles near the bottom.
You can watch the little box travel up or down as you press the PgUp or
PgDn key. (Yes, it’s easy to get distracted in Windows XP.)
Here’s where the little box in the scroll bar comes into play: By clicking
in various places on that scroll bar, you can quickly move around in a
document without pressing the PgUp or PgDn key.
A Instead of pressing the PgUp key, click in the elevator shaft above
the little elevator (the scroll box). The box jumps up the shaft a little bit, and the document moves up one page, too. Click below the
scroll box, and your view moves down, just as with the PgDn key.
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
A To move your view up line by line, click the boxed-in arrow(the
scroll arrow) at the top of the scroll bar. If you hold down the
mouse button while the mouse pointer is over that arrow, more
and more of your document appears, line by line, as it moves you
closer to its top. (Holding down the mouse button while the
pointer is on the bottom arrow moves you closer to the bottom,
line by line.)
A Scroll bars that run along the bottom of a window can move your
view from side to side rather than up and down. They’re handy for
viewing spreadsheets that extend off the right side of your screen.
A If the scroll bars don’t have a little scroll box inside them, then
you’re already seeing everything on the screen. There’s no little
elevator to play with. Sniff. Sniff.
A Want to move around in a hurry? Then put the mouse pointer on
the little elevator box, hold down the mouse button, and drag the
little elevator box up or down inside the shaft. For example, if you
drag the box up toward the top of its shaft and release it, you can
view the top of the document. Dragging it and releasing it down
low takes you near the end.
A Windows XP adds another dimension to some scroll bars: the little
elevator’s size. If the elevator is swollen up so big that it’s practically filling the scroll bar, the window is currently displaying practically all the information the file has to offer. But if the elevator is a
tiny box in a huge scroll bar, you’re only viewing a tiny amount of
the information contained in the file. Don’t be surprised to see the
scroll box change size when you add or remove information from a
A Clicking or double-clicking the little elevator box itself doesn’t do
anything, but that doesn’t stop most people from trying it anyway.
A If you don’t have a mouse, you can’t play on the elevator. To view
the top of your document, hold down Ctrl and press Home. To see
the bottom, hold down Ctrl and press End. Or press the PgUp or
PgDn key to move one page at a time.
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
Undoing what you’ve just done
Windows XP offers a zillion different ways for
you to do the same thing. Here are four ways to
access the Undo option, which unspills the milk
you’ve just spilled:
A Hold down the Ctrl key and press the Z key.
The last mistake you made is reversed, sparing you from further shame.
A Hold down the Alt key and press the Backspace key. Nobody but you and the computer
know of your now-rectified error.
A Click Edit and then click Undo from the menu
that falls down. The last command you made
is undone, saving you from any damage.
A Press and release the Alt key, press the letter E (from Edit), and then press the letter U
(from Undo). Your last bungle is unbungled,
reversing any grievous penalties.
Don’t bother learning all four methods. For
example, if you can remember the Ctrl+Z key
combination, you can forget about the menu
method or the Alt key method. Best yet, just
write Ctrl+Z on the cover of the book. (The publisher’s marketing people wouldn’t let me put it
Switching windows with the taskbar
Windows XP converts your computer monitor’s screen into a desktop.
But because your newly computerized desktop is probably only 15
inches wide, all your programs and windows cover each other up like
memos tossed onto a spike.
To keep track of the action, Windows XP introduces the taskbar. It usually clings to the bottom of your screen and simply lists what windows
are currently open. If you’ve found the Start button, you’ve found the
taskbar — the Start button lives on the taskbar’s left or top end.
A Whenever you open a window, Windows XP tosses that window’s
name onto a button on the taskbar. If you open a lot of windows,
the taskbar automatically shrinks all its buttons so they’ll fit.
A To switch from one window to another, just click the desired window’s name from its button on the taskbar. Wham! That window
shoots to the top of the pile.
A Are all those open windows looking too crowded? Click a blank
part of the taskbar with your right mouse button and choose the
Minimize All Windows option. All your currently open windows
turn into buttons on the taskbar. Or, click the little desktop icon
near the Start button. Your desktop is instantly cleared.
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
A You can find loads more information about the taskbar — including what to do if it vanishes — in Chapter 10.
A border is that thin edge enclosing a window. Compared with a bar, it’s
really tiny.
A You drag borders from side to side to change a window’s size. I discuss how to do that in Chapter 6.
A You can’t use a mouse to change a window’s size if the window
doesn’t have a border. A few unruly borders keep the window
locked at its current size, no matter how much you fiddle.
A Except for dragging them, you won’t be using borders much.
The Button Family
Three basic species of buttons flourish throughout the Windows XP
environment: command buttons, option buttons, and minimize/maximize buttons. All three species are closely related, and yet they look
and act quite differently.
Sending commands with command
Command buttons may be the simplest to figure out — Microsoft
labeled them! Command buttons are most commonly found in dialog
boxes, which are little pop-up forms that Windows XP makes you fill out
before it will work for you.
For example, when you ask Windows XP to open a file, it sends out a
form in a dialog box. You have to fill out the form, telling Windows XP
what file you’re after, where it’s located, and other equally cumbersome
Table 5-1 identifies some of the more common command buttons that
you encounter in Windows XP.
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
Table 5-1
Command Button
Common Windows XP Command Buttons
Found in nearly
every pop-up dialog
A click on this button says, “I’m
done filling out the form, and I’m
ready to move on.” Windows XP
then reads what you’ve typed into
the form and processes your
request. (Pressing the Enter key
does the same thing as clicking the
OK button.)
Found in nearly
every pop-up dialog
If you’ve somehow loused things
up when filling out a form, click the
Cancel button. The pop-up box disappears, and everything returns to
normal. Whew! (The Esc key does
the same thing.)
Found when you
must answer a
string of questions
as you fill out a form
Boy, would this have come in
handy in elementary school! By
clicking the Back button, Windows
returns you to the previous window
so that you can change your
answer. Click the Next button to
move to the next window’s question; click Finish in the final window when you’re confident that
you’ve correctly filled out the form.
Found less often in
pop-up dialog boxes
If you encounter a button with
ellipsis dots ( . . . ) after the word,
brace yourself: Clicking that button
brings yet another box to the
screen. From there, you must
choose even more settings,
options, or toppings.
Found sprinkled
nearly everywhere
Windows XP adopted much of the
Internet Web world, where buttons
no longer look like buttons. Just
about anything can be a button.
The clues? When your mouse
pointer turns into a little hand, it’s
hovering over a button. (Little pictures that waver on the screen are
telltale signs, too.)
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
A By clicking a command button, you’re telling Windows XP to carry
out the command that’s written on the button. (Luckily, no command buttons are labeled Explode.)
A See how the OK button in Table 5-1 has a slightly darker border
than the others? That darker border means that the button is highlighted. Anything in Windows XP that’s highlighted takes effect as
soon as you press the Enter key; you don’t have to select it.
A Instead of scooting your mouse to the Cancel button when you’ve
goofed in a dialog box, just press your Esc key. It does the same
If you’ve clicked the wrong command button but haven’t yet lifted your
finger from the mouse button, stop! There’s still hope. Command buttons
take effect only after you’ve lifted your finger from the mouse button.
Keep your finger pressed on the button and scoot the mouse pointer
away from the button. When the pointer no longer rests on the button,
gently lift your finger. Whew! Try that trick on any elevator.
Did you stumble across a box that contains a confusing command button or two? Click the question mark in the box’s upper-right corner. (If
there is a question mark, it will look like the one in the margin.) Then,
when you click the confusing command button, a helpful comment
appears to explain that button’s function in life. Also, try merely resting
your mouse pointer over the button. Sometimes, Windows takes pity
and sends a helpful caption to explain matters.
Choosing between option buttons
Sometimes, Windows XP gets ornery and forces you to select just a single option. For example, you can elect to eat your Brussels sprouts or
not eat your Brussels sprouts. You can’t select both, so Windows XP
doesn’t let you select both of the options.
Windows XP handles this situation with an option button. When you
select one option, the little dot hops over to it. If you select the other
option, the little dot hops over to it instead. You find option buttons in
many dialog boxes. Figure 5-6 shows an example.
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
Figure 5-6:
When you
select an
option, the
dot hops to
A Although Windows XP tempts you with several choices in an
option box, it lets you select only one of them. It moves the dot
(and little dotted border line) back and forth between the options
as your decision wavers. Click the OK button when you’ve reached
a decision. The dotted option then takes effect.
A If you can select more than one option, Windows XP won’t present
you with option buttons. Instead, it offers the more liberal check
boxes, which are described in the “Check boxes” section later in
this chapter.
A Some folks will quickly notice that option buttons are always
round. Command buttons, described earlier, are rectangular.
Some old-time computer engineers refer to option buttons as radio buttons, after those push buttons on car radios that switch from station to
station, one station at a time.
Changing a window’s size with
Minimize and Maximize buttons
All the little windows in Windows XP often cover each other up like
pages of the morning newspaper on the breakfast island. To restore
order, you can separate the windows by using their Minimize/Maximize
These buttons enable you to enlarge a particular window you want to
play with, or shrink all the others so they’re out of the way. Here’s the
The Minimize button is one of three buttons in the upper-right corner of
almost every window. It looks like that little button in the margin next to
this paragraph.
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
A click on the Minimize button makes its window disappear, although
the program lives on. In fact, its little button still lives on the taskbar
along the bottom of your screen. (Click the window’s taskbar button,
described in Chapter 10, to return the window to its normal size.)
A Minimizing a window doesn’t destroy its contents; it just transforms the window into a little button on the bar that runs along the
bottom of the screen.
A To make the button turn back into an on-screen window, click the
button on the taskbar along the bottom of your screen. The program reverts to a window in the same size and location as before
you shrank it.
A Closing a window and minimizing a window are two different
things. Closing a window purges the program from the computer’s
memory. To reopen it, you need to load it from your hard drive
again. Turning a window into a taskbar button, by contrast, keeps
it handy, loaded into memory, and ready to be used at an instant’s
The Maximize button is in the upper-right corner of every window. It
looks like the button in the margin.
A click on the Maximize button makes the window swell up something
fierce, taking up as much space on-screen as possible.
A If you’re frustrated with all those windows that are overlapping
each other, click your current window’s Maximize button. The window muscles its way to the top, filling the screen like a real program.
A Immediately after you maximize a window, its little Maximize button turns into a Restore button (described momentarily). The
restore button lets you shrink the window back down when you’re
through giving it the whole playing field.
You don’t have to click the Maximize button to maximize a window. Just
double-click its title bar, the thick strip along the window’s top bearing
its name. That double-click does the same thing as clicking the Maximize button, and the title bar is much easier to aim for.
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
In the upper-right corner of every maximized window is the Restore
button, which looks like the button in the margin. After a window is
maximized, clicking this button returns the window to the size it was
before you maximized it.
A Restore buttons appear only in windows that fill the entire screen
(which is no great loss because you need a Restore button only
when the window is maximized).
A To close a window, click the little X in its top-right corner (shown
in the margin).
The Useless Control-Menu Button
Just as all houses have circuit breakers, all windows have Control-menu
buttons, and the buttons look different on each program. However, the
buttons always perch in the top-left corner of a window. (Sharp-eyed
readers will notice that the Control-menu button is actually a miniature
icon representing the program.)
If you click the Control-menu button, a secret hidden menu appears, but
it’s pretty useless. It just provides methods to manipulate windows
using your keyboard in case your mouse should fail. (It contains commands to Move, Minimize, Maximize, Close and a few others.) So ignore
it, unless your mouse freezes.
Filling Out Bothersome Forms in
Dialog Boxes
Sooner or later, you have to sit down and tell Windows XP something
personal — the name of a file to open, for example, or the name of a file
to print. To handle this personal chatter, Windows XP sends out a dialog box.
A dialog box is merely another little window. But instead of containing a
program, it contains a little form or checklist for you to fill out. These
forms can have bunches of different parts, which are discussed in the
following sections. Don’t bother trying to remember the names of the
parts, however. It’s more important to figure out how they work.
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
Typing into text boxes
A text box works like a fill-in-the-blanks test in history class. You can
type anything you want into a text box — words, numbers, passwords,
or epithets. For example, Figure 5-7 shows a dialog box that pops up
when you want to search for some words or characters in WordPad.
Figure 5-7:
This dialog
box from
contains a
text box.
When you type words or characters into this box and press the Enter
key, WordPad searches for them. If it finds them, WordPad shows them
to you on the page. If it doesn’t find them, WordPad sends out a robotic
dialog box saying it’s finished searching.
A Two clues let you know whether a text box is active — that is,
ready for you to start typing stuff into it: The box’s current information is highlighted, or a cursor is blinking inside it. In either
case, just start typing the new stuff. (The older, highlighted information disappears as the new stuff replaces it.)
A If the text box isn’t highlighted or there isn’t a blinking cursor
inside it, it’s not ready for you to start typing. To announce your
presence, click inside it. Then start typing. Or press Tab until the
box becomes highlighted or contains a cursor.
A If you click inside a text box that already contains words, delete
the information with the Delete or Backspace key before you start
typing in new information. If the old text is already highlighted, just
start typing: Your incoming text will automatically delete the old
words. (Tip: If the old information isn’t highlighted, double-click it;
then, the incoming text automatically replaces the old text.)
Choosing options from list boxes
Some boxes don’t let you type stuff into them. They already contain
information. Boxes containing lists of information are called, appropri-
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
ately enough, list boxes. For example, WordPad brings up a list box if
you’re inspired enough to want to change its font — the way the letters
look (see Figure 5-8).
Figure 5-8:
You can
select a font
from the list
box to
change the
way letters
look in
A See how the Comic Sans MS font is highlighted? It’s the currently
selected font. Press Enter (or click the OK command button), and
WordPad begins using that font when you start typing.
A See the scroll bar along the side of the list box? It works just as it
does anywhere else: Click the little scroll arrows (or press the up
or down arrow) to move the list up or down so you can see any
names that don’t fit in the box.
A Many list boxes have a text box above them. When you click a
name in the list box, that name hops into the text box. Sure, you
could type the name into the text box yourself, but it wouldn’t be
nearly as much fun.
A When confronted with zillions of names in a list box, type the first
letter of the name you’re after. Windows XP immediately hops
down the list to the first name beginning with that letter.
Drop-down list boxes
List boxes are convenient, but they take up a great deal of room. So,
Windows XP sometimes hides list boxes, just as it hides pull-down
menus. When you click in the right place, the list box appears, ready for
your perusal.
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
When one just isn’t enough
Some list boxes, like those in Windows Explorer,
let you select a bunch of items simultaneously.
Here’s how:
A To select more than one item, hold down the
Ctrl key and click each item you want. Each
item stays highlighted.
A To select a bunch of adjacent items from a
list box, click the first item you want. Then
hold down Shift and click the last item you
want. Windows XP immediately highlights
the first item, last item, and every item in
between. Pretty sneaky, huh?
A Finally, when grabbing bunches of icons, try
using the “rubber band” trick: Point at an
area of the screen next to one icon, and,
while holding down the mouse button, move
the mouse until you’ve drawn a lasso around
all the icons. After you’ve highlighted the
icons you want, let go of the mouse button,
and they remain highlighted. Fun!
So, where’s the right place? It’s that downward-pointing arrow button,
just like the one shown next to the box beside the Font option in Figure
5-9. (The mouse pointer is pointing to it.)
Figure 5-9:
Click the
arrow next
to the Font
box to make
a dropdown list
box display
Figure 5-10 shows the drop-down list box, after being clicked by the
A Unlike regular list boxes, drop-down list boxes don’t have a text
box above them. (That thing that looks like a text box just shows
the currently selected item from the list; you can’t type anything in
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
Figure 5-10:
A list box
drops down
to display all
the fonts
that are
A To scoot around quickly in a long drop-down list box, press the
first letter of the item you’re after. The first item beginning with
that letter is instantly highlighted. You can press the up- or downarrow key to see the words and phrases nearby.
A Another way to scoot around quickly in a drop-down list box is to
click the scroll bar to its right. (Scroll bars are discussed earlier in
this chapter, if you need a refresher.)
A You can choose only one item from the list of a drop-down list box.
A The program in Figure 5-10 is called Character Map, and it’s a
handy way for adding characters that don’t appear on your keyboard: 1/2, ®, ©, and the rest. To play with Character Map, click the
Start button and click the All Programs area. Click System Tools
from the Accessories area, and click Character Map.
Check boxes
Sometimes you can choose from a whopping number of options in a dialog box. A check box is next to each option, and if you want that option,
you click in the box. If you don’t want it, you leave the box blank. For
example, with the check boxes in the dialog box shown in Figure 5-11,
you pick and choose options in FreeCell.
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
Figure 5-11:
A check
appears in
each check
box that you
A By clicking in a check box, you change its setting. Clicking in an
empty square turns on that option. If the square already has a
check mark in it, a click turns off that option, removing the check
A You can click next to as many check boxes as you want. With
option buttons — those things that look the same but are round —
you can select only one option from the pack.
Sliding controls
Rich Microsoft programmers, impressed by track lights and sliding light
switches in their luxurious new homes, added sliding controls to Windows XP as well. These virtual light switches are easy to use and don’t
wear out nearly as quickly as the real ones do. To slide a control in Windows XP — to adjust the volume level, for example — just drag and
release the sliding lever, like the one shown in Figure 5-12.
Figure 5-12:
To slide a
lever, point
at it, hold
down the
button, and
move your
Point at the lever with the mouse and, while holding down the mouse
button, move the mouse in the direction you want the sliding lever to
move. As you move the mouse, the lever moves, too. When you’ve
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
moved the lever to a comfortable spot, let go of the mouse button, and
Windows XP leaves the lever at its new position. That’s it.
A Some levers slide to the left and right; others move up and down.
None of them move diagonally.
A To change the volume in Windows XP, click the little speaker near
the clock in the desktop’s bottom-right corner. A sliding volume
control appears, ready to be dragged up or down. If the little
speaker near the clock is missing, click the Start button and open
the Control Panel. Choose the Sounds, Speech, and Audio Devices
option, and select Adjust the System Volume. Finally, click to put a
check mark in the box next to the words Place Volume Icon in the
A Mouse died and you’re frantic to turn down the volume? Press Tab
until a little box appears over the sliding lever. Then press your
arrow keys in the direction you want the lever to slide. If your keyboard comes with built-in volume control buttons, try those, too
(although Windows XP often ignores them until you install their
own special drivers; check the discs that came with your PC or
Just Tell Me How to Open a File!
Enough with the labels and terms. Forget the buttons and bars. How do
you load a file into a program? This section gives you the scoop. You follow these steps every time you load a file into a program. (Chapter 4
contains more general information about loading a program, opening a
file, saving the file, and closing the program.)
Opening a file is a file-related activity, so start by finding the word File in
the window’s menu bar (see Figure 5-13).
Then simply do the following:
1. Click File to knock down that word’s hidden little menu.
Figure 5-14 shows the File pull-down menu.
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
Figure 5-13:
To open a
file, you first
choose the
word File in
menu bar.
Figure 5-14:
When you
click File,
the File pulldown menu
2. Click Open to bring up the Open dialog box.
You can predict that Open will call up a dialog box because of the
trailing . . . things beside Open on-screen. (Those . . . things are
called an ellipsis, or three dots, depending on the tightness of your
English teacher’s hair bun.)
Figure 5-15 shows the Open dialog box that leaps to the front of the
screen. A similar dialog box appears when you mess with the File pulldown menu in many programs.
A If you find your filename listed in the first list box (in this case, the
one listing the Beer Cheese file), you’re in luck. Double-click the
file’s name, and it automatically jumps into the program. Or click
the file’s name once and click the Open button.
A If you don’t find the file’s name, it’s probably in a different folder.
Windows XP often lists places to look along the window’s left side,
as shown in Figure 5-15. Click History to see the names of recently
opened files. Click Desktop if the file is located on your desktop.
My Documents lets you peek into the My Documents area, a convenient storage space. Head for My Computer to scour the entire
computer from the top down, or click My Network Places to scour
other computers, should you have a network.
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
Figure 5-15:
This Open
dialog box
when you
open a file
in a
A Click the little box along the top that is labeled Look In, and Windows XP displays a bunch of other folders to rummage through.
Each time you click a different folder, that folder’s contents appear
in the first list box.
A Still can’t find the correct folder? Perhaps that file is on a different
drive. Click one of the other drive icons listed in the Look In box to
search in a different drive. Drive icons are those little gray box
things; folder icons, well, look like folders.
A Could the file be named something strange? Click the Files of Type
drop-down list box to select a different file type. To see all the files
in a folder, select the All Files (*.*) option. Then all the files in that
folder show up.
A Don’t know what those little icons along the top and sides are supposed to do? Rest your mouse pointer over the one that has you
stumped. After a second or so, the increasingly polite Windows XP
brings a box of explanatory information to the screen. For example, rest the mouse pointer over the folder with the explosion in its
corner, and Windows XP tells you that clicking that icon creates a
new folder.
A This stuff is incredibly mind numbing, of course, if you’ve never
been exposed to drives, folders, wild cards, or other equally painful computer terms. For a more rigorous explanation of this scary
file-management stuff, troop to Chapter 11.
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
A If the file is still lost, make Windows find it. Click the Start menu’s
Search button and choose the option that describes what you’re
searching for. (The All File Types option is always a good bet.)
Type in the name of your file and choose My Computer in the Look
In box. (Chapter 7 offers more information about Search because
that chapter is dedicated to helping you find lost things in Windows.)
Hey! When Do I Click, and When Do
I Double-Click?
That’s certainly a legitimate question, but Microsoft only coughs up a
vague answer. Microsoft says that you should click when you’re selecting something in Windows XP and you should double-click when you’re
choosing something. And even that’s not for certain. Huh?
Well, you’re selecting something when you’re highlighting it. For example, you may select a check box, an option button, or a filename. You
click any of the three to select it, and then you look at it to make sure
that it looks okay. If you’re satisfied with your selection, you click the
OK button to complete the job.
To select something is to set it up for later use.
When you choose something, however, the response is more immediate.
Choosing a file immediately loads it into your program. Microsoft’s
“choose” lingo says, “I’m choosing this file, and I want it now, buster.”
You choose something you want to have carried out immediately.
A All right, this explanation is still vague. So always start off by trying a single-click. If clicking once doesn’t do the job, try a doubleclick. It’s usually much safer than double-clicking first and asking
questions later.
A And even this isn’t always true. See, Windows XP can be set up so
it chooses files when you perform a single-click or a double-click.
The software enables you to select a file or program by simply resting your pointer over it and then clicking to prod it into action.
That’s the way the Internet’s World Wide Web works, so Windows
XP lets you set it up that way, too.
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
A If you accidentally double-click rather than single-click, it usually
doesn’t matter. You can usually just close a runaway program with
a few clicks. But if something terrible happens, hold down the Ctrl
key and press the letter Z. You can usually undo any damage.
A Prefer to always single-click instead of double-click? Then choose
Folder Options from the Control Panel’s Appearance and Themes
area, and choose the single-click option: Single-Click to Open an
Item (Point to Select). Prefer the traditional double-click way?
Then go to the same place and choose the other option: DoubleClick to Open an Item (Single-Click to Select).
A If Windows XP keeps mistaking your purposeful double-click as
two disjointed single-clicks, head for the section in Chapter 14 on
tinkering with the Control Panel. Adjusting Windows XP so that it
recognizes a double-click when you make one is pretty easy.
When Do I Use the Left Mouse
Button, and When Do I Use the
Right One?
This one’s easy. Always right-click unless you’re positive that a singleclick will do the trick.
See, when you right-click on an item, Windows XP presents a helpful
menu listing all the things you can do with that particular item: Open,
Explore, Search, Share, Send to someplace, Cut, Copy, Create Shortcut,
Delete, Rename, examine its Properties, or Offer Breakfast Cereal.
Seeing those choices is much handier than when you single-click an
item, and Windows assumes you know what you’re doing.
For instance, hold down your right mouse button while dragging an
item across the desktop. When you release the button, Windows XP
brings up a menu, asking you to choose what you want to do with that
_______ Chapter 5: Field Guide to Buttons, Bars, Boxes, Folders, and Files
item. If you drag the item while holding down your left mouse button,
Windows XP doesn’t ask; it does whatever it wants.
A The right mouse button is designed more for beginning users or
people with bad memories like me. When you’re sure you know
what you’re doing in Windows — if anybody ever does — feel free
to left-click instead.
A Confused about something on the screen? Try clicking it with your
right mouse button, just for kicks. The result may be unexpectedly
Chapter 6
Moving Windows Around
In This Chapter
B Moving a window to the top of the pile
B Switching from window to window
B Moving a window from here to there
B Making windows bigger or smaller
h, the power of Windows XP. Using separate windows, you can put
a spreadsheet, a drawing program, an Internet Web page, and a
word processor on-screen at the same time.
You can copy a hot-looking graphic from your drawing program and
toss it into your memo. You can stick a chunk of your spreadsheet into
your memo, too. In the background, the Web can display a constantly
running news update. And why not? All four windows can be on-screen
at the same time.
You have only one problem: With so many windows on-screen at the
same time, you can’t see anything but a confusing jumble of programs.
This chapter shows how to move those darn windows around onscreen so that you can see at least one of them.
Moving a Window to the Top of the
Take a good look at the mixture of windows on-screen. Sometimes you
can recognize a tiny portion of the window you’re after. If so, you’re in
luck. Move the mouse pointer until it hovers over that tiny portion of
the window and click the mouse button. Shazam! Windows XP immediately brings the clicked-on window to the front of the screen.
______________________________ Chapter 6: Moving Windows Around
That newly enlarged window probably covers up strategic parts of
other windows. But at least you’ll be able to get some work finished,
one window at a time.
A Windows XP places a lot of windows on-screen simultaneously. But
unless you have two heads, you’ll probably use just one window at
a time, leaving the remaining programs to wait patiently in the
background. The window that’s on top, ready to be used, is called
the active window.
A As soon as you click any part of a window, it becomes the
activewindow. All your subsequent keystrokes and mouse movements will affect that window. (The active window’s title bar is a
brighter color than all the others.)
A Some programs can run in the background, even if they’re not in
the currently active window. Internet Explorer can download a file
in the background, for example, and Media Player can play a CD,
unconcerned with whether they’re the currently active window.
Although many windows may be on-screen, you can enter information
into only one of them at a time: the active window. To make a window
active, click any part of it. It rises to the top, ready to do your bidding.
(The Internet and a computer’s TV Card can stick information into background windows, but that’s not you doing it.)
Another way to move to a window is by clicking its name displayed in
the Windows XP taskbar — that bar that runs along the bottom of your
screen. I describe the taskbar in Chapter 10.
Moving a Window from Here to
Sometimes you want to move a window to a different place on-screen
(known in Windows XP parlance as the desktop). Maybe part of the window hangs off the edge of the desktop, and you want it centered. Or
maybe you want to put two windows on-screen side by side so that you
can compare their contents.
______________________________ Chapter 6: Moving Windows Around
In any of those cases, you can move a window by grabbing its title bar,
that thick bar along its top. Put the mouse pointer over the window’s
title bar and hold down the mouse button. Now use the title bar as the
window’s handle. When you move the mouse around, you tug the window along with it.
When you’ve moved the window to where you want it to stay, release
the mouse button to release the window. The window stays put and on
top of the pile.
A The process of holding down the mouse button while moving the
mouse is called dragging. When you let go of the mouse button,
you’re dropping what you’ve dragged.
A Sometimes part of a window hangs off the screen’s visible edge,
making it difficult — if not impossible — to work on it. To move it
back onto the center of the screen, grab the window’s title bar and
hold down the mouse button. When you drag the title bar back
toward the center of the screen, you can see the whole window
once again.
A When positioning two windows next to each other on-screen, you
usually need to change their sizes as well as their locations. The
very next section tells how to change a window’s size. (I also
explain how to make Windows line up everything on the screen
automatically so you don’t have to spend time fiddling around.)
A To position windows next to each other quickly and easily, use the
Tile or Cascade commands: Right-click on a blank part of the taskbar that runs along the bottom of your desktop. (If the taskbar is
full, you can right-click on the little digital clock.) Choose Tile to
tile the open windows evenly across the screen, or Cascade to deal
them out like cards. I explain this technique more fully in Chapter
7, because it’s a handy way to find covered-up windows.
Making a Window Bigger or Smaller
Sometimes, moving the windows around isn’t enough. They still cover
each other up. Luckily, you don’t need any special hardware to make
them bigger or smaller. See that thin little border running around the
edge of the window? Use the mouse to yank on a window’s corner border, and you can change its size.
______________________________ Chapter 6: Moving Windows Around
First, point at the corner with the mouse arrow. When it’s positioned
over the corner, the arrow turns into a two-headed arrow. Now hold
down the mouse button and drag the corner in or out to make the window smaller or bigger. The window expands or contracts as you tug on
it with the mouse so you can see what you’re doing.
When you’re done yanking and the window looks about the right size,
let go of the mouse button. As the yoga master says, the window
assumes the new position.
Here’s the procedure, step by step:
1. Point the mouse pointer at the edge of the corner.
It turns into a two-headed arrow, as shown in Figure 6-1.
Figure 6-1:
The arrow
grows a
head, as
shown in
the bottomright
2. Hold down the mouse button and move the two-headed arrow in
or out to make the window bigger or smaller.
Figure 6-2 shows how the window becomes smaller as the mouse
drags its corner inward.
Figure 6-2:
As you
move the
mouse, the
changes to
reflect its
new shape.
______________________________ Chapter 6: Moving Windows Around
3. Release the mouse button.
The window shapes itself to fit into the border you’ve just created
(see Figure 6-3).
Figure 6-3:
Let go of the
button, and
the window
stays at its
new size.
A This procedure may seem vaguely familiar, because it is. You’re
just dragging and dropping the window’s corner to a new size. That
drag-and-drop concept works throughout Windows XP. For example, you can drag and drop a title bar to move an entire window to a
new location on-screen.
A You can grab a window’s side border and move it in or out to make
the window fatter or skinnier. You can grab the top or bottom of a
window and move it up or down to make the window taller or
shorter. But grabbing for a corner is always easiest because then
you can make a window fatter, skinnier, taller, or shorter, all with
one quick flick of the wrist.
Making a Window Fill the Whole
Sooner or later, you get tired of all this New Age, multiwindow mumbo
jumbo. Why can’t you just put one huge window on-screen? Well, you
To make any window grow as big as it can get, double-click its title bar,
that topmost bar along the top of the window. The window leaps up to
fill the screen, covering up all the other windows.
______________________________ Chapter 6: Moving Windows Around
To bring the pumped-up window back to its former size, double-click its
title bar once again. The window quickly shrinks, and you can see
everything that it was covering up.
A When a window fills the entire screen, it loses its borders. That
means that you can no longer change its size by tugging on its title
bar or dragging its borders. Those borders just aren’t there anymore.
A If you’re morally opposed to double-clicking a window’s title bar to
expand it, you can expand it another way. Click the window’s Maximize button, the middle-most of the three little boxes in its topright corner. (It’s shown in the margin.) The window hastily fills the
entire screen. At the same time, the Maximize button turns into a
Restore button; click the Restore button when you want the window to return to its previous size. (Refer to Chapter 5 for more
information on the Maximize, Minimize, and Restore buttons.)
Chapter 7
I Can’t Find It!
In This Chapter
B Finding lost windows
B Finding lost files
B Finding downloaded files
B Finding misplaced snippets of information
B Finding lost things on the Internet
ooner or later, Windows XP gives you that head-scratching feeling.
“Golly,” you say, as you frantically tug on your mouse cord, “that
stuff was right there a second ago. Where did it go?”
When Windows XP starts playing hide-and-seek with your information,
this chapter tells you where to search and how to make it stop playing
foolish games. Then, when you find your Solitaire window, you can get
back to work.
Finding Lost Windows on the
Forget about that huge, 1940s roll-top mahogany desk in the resale shop
window. The Windows XP peewee desktop isn’t any bigger than the size
of your monitor.
In a way, Windows XP works more like a spike memo holder than an
actual desktop. Every time you open a new window, you’re tossing
another piece of information onto the spike. The window on top is relatively easy to see, but what’s lying directly underneath it?
If you can see a window’s ragged edge protruding from any part of the
pile, click it. The window magically rushes to the top of the pile. But
________________________________________Chapter 7: I Can’t Find It!
what if you can’t see any part of the window at all? How do you know
that it’s even on the desktop?
The following two procedures help extricate windows when they’re lost
from sight.
Plucking a lost window from the Task
Windows’ built-in Task Manager keeps a master list of everything that’s
happening on your screen (even the invisible stuff), making it a prime
detective for locating hidden windows.
The Task Manager hides until you call it up by pressing the Magic Key
Sequence: Simultaneously press the Ctrl, Alt, and Delete keys. (Most
people use two hands for this.) Then the Task Manager appears, as
shown in Figure 7-1.
Figure 7-1:
Ctrl, Alt, and
brings up
the Task
which lists
all open
when you
click the
Applications tab.
Click the Applications tab, shown in Figure 7-1, and the Task Manager
lists all the currently running programs. Your missing window is somewhere on the list. When you spot your runaway window, click its name,
and click the Switch To button along the Task Manager’s bottom.
________________________________________Chapter 7: I Can’t Find It!
Your wayward window whisks itself to the forefront.
A In previous versions, pressing Ctrl, Alt, and Delete simultaneously
brought up a wimpy version of Task Manager. Windows XP’s more
manly version handles bunches more tasks, including some so
complicated that they’re only discussed in more complicated
A Sometimes you see your missing program listed on the taskbar,
and you click its name to dredge it from the depths. But even
though the taskbar brings the missing program to the top, you still
can’t find it on your desktop. The program may be hanging off the
edge of your desktop. In the next section, I explain how to make
Windows reposition all your open windows so they’re easy to find.
Tiling and cascading windows (The
“deal all the windows in front of me”
When you’re facing a pile of windows that looks like a pile of dropped
playing cards, it’s time to turn Windows XP into a personal card dealer.
It will gather up all your haphazardly tossed windows and deal them
out neatly on the desktop in front of you. That’s often an easy way to
locate a window buried deep within your pile.
To turn Windows into a card dealer, right-click in the bottom-right corner of your screen. A quick right-click near the clock, for example,
brings up the menu shown in Figure 7-2.
Figure 7-2:
near the
clock in the
corner of
your screen
to bring up
the Tile or
________________________________________Chapter 7: I Can’t Find It!
Click the Cascade Windows option, and the taskbar gathers all your
open windows and deals them out in front of you, just like in a game of
blackjack. (Blackjack fans won’t need to glance at Figure 7-3.) Each window’s title bar is neatly exposed, ready to be risen from the pile with a
quick click of the mouse.
Figure 7-3:
piles all the
across the
screen. It’s
a favorite
command of
Or, choose Tile Windows Horizontally or Tile Windows Vertically from
the Task Manager’s Windows menu. Windows XPpositions all the windows so that they fit on the screen, as shown in Figure 7-4. They’re usually tiny, but hey, at least you can see most of them.
A If the missing window doesn’t appear in the stack of neatly dealt
windows, perhaps it’s not open on the screen. The Cascade Windows command gathers and deals only the open windows; it
leaves the minimized windows resting as buttons along the taskbar
on the desktop’s bottom. The solution? Retrieve the missing window using the Task Manager before cascading the windows across
the screen.
A The Tile Windows Vertically command arranges the windows vertically, like socks hanging from a clothesline. Tile Windows Horizontally arranges the windows horizontally, like a stack of folded
sweatshirts. The difference is the most pronounced when you’re
tiling only a few windows, however.
________________________________________Chapter 7: I Can’t Find It!
Figure 7-4:
organize the
like tiles on
the shower
floor. You
can see
them all, but
often too
small to be
of much
A The high-and-mighty Task Manager, described in the preceding
section, also tiles and cascades windows, but with a twist. When it
shows you the list of currently open windows, as shown back in
Figure 7-1, hold down Ctrl and click the windows you want the
command to affect. Then, when you choose Tile or Cascade from
the Task Manager’s own Windows menu, those commands affect
only your selected windows. That lets you position only two
important windows side by side when your desktop’s crowded
with open windows.
A If you have only two open windows, the Tile commands arrange
them side by side, making it easy for you to compare their contents. The Tile Windows Vertically command places them side by
side vertically, which makes them useless for comparing text: You
can see only the first few words of each sentence. Choose the Tile
Windows Horizontally command if you want to see complete sentences.
________________________________________Chapter 7: I Can’t Find It!
Finding Lost Files, Folders, Music,
Photos, Videos, People, or
Windows XP has gotten much better at finding things. And it should;
after all, it’s the one who’s hiding everything. When one of your files,
folders, or just about anything else disappears into the depths of your
computer, make Windows XP do the work in getting the darn thing
In almost all cases, the Windows XP Search Companion retrieves your
lost goods. To rev it up, click the brilliant green Start button — that
button in the screen’s bottom-left corner — and click Search from the
menu, as shown in Figure 7-5. (I cover the Start button with more detail
in Chapter 10.)
Figure 7-5:
Click the
Start button
and click
Search in
the window
that pops
________________________________________Chapter 7: I Can’t Find It!
A When you open the Search Companion for the first time, Windows
XP asks whether you’d like to search with or without an “animated
character.” Cartoon lovers should choose the character option: a
little doggy, a gal in a spaceship, a surfing alien, or Merlin the Wizard. The joyful little character subsequently watches your moves,
blinking, barking, or twitching when you click. (It doesn’t do anything more helpful than that.)
A When you tire of the barks, blinks, and twitches, turn off the animated character by choosing the Change Preferences option.
When that menu appears, choose Without an Animated Screen
Character to purge the little goofball. (Or choose another character from the same page.)
A To do more constructive things than play with your Windows cartoons, check out the next sections.
Finding any lost files or folders
This is it. By following these steps, you can locate any file that you’ve
lost somewhere inside your computer. (You can even find that file somebody sent you through America Online, Mom!)
For example, suppose that your file called HYDRATOR INSPECTION disappeared over the weekend. To make matters worse, you’re not even
sure you spelled the words Hydrator or inspection correctly when saving
the file. You don’t even remember what program you used to save your
file. Word? WordPad? Notepad? Who knows? All you know is that the
hydrator was dirty — so the word dirty appears somewhere in the missing file.
The easiest way to find missing files — even those misplaced files that
are just “somewhere inside the computer” — is to open the Search
Companion from the Start button’s menu. Click the Start button, click
Search, and the Search Companion appears, as shown in Figure 7-6.
Because you’re not sure what type of file you’re looking for, click the
words All File Types, and a new window appears, as shown in Figure 7-7.
If you know part of the file’s name, enter it in the first box. For instance,
you don’t know how to spell hydrator, but you remember how to spell
inspection. So enter the word inspection in the first box. (Or leave it
blank if you don’t know the file’s name.)
________________________________________Chapter 7: I Can’t Find It!
Figure 7-6:
finds files,
folders, and
other items
lost inside
Figure 7-7:
Enter part of
the file’s
name — if
you know it
— or just
enter a
word or
appearing in
missing file.
In the second box, enter a word that appears in the file. In this case,
enter the word dirty. The menu will look like the one in Figure 7-7.
Next, you need to tell the computer where to look. Because you don’t
know where the missing file’s hiding, click the downward arrow in the
box marked Look In, and choose My Computer. That tells the Search
Companion to search your entire computer.
Messed up on any of your choices? Just click the Back button at the bottom of the menu. That takes you back one step to the previous choices,
letting you fix your mistake. Or, keep pressing Back until you arrive at
the original menu, where you can start over.
________________________________________Chapter 7: I Can’t Find It!
When you’re satisfied you’re made your choices correctly, click the
Search button. As the little doggy wags its tail, the Search Companion
searches according to your command: It finds and displays any file or
folder with a name that contains inspection, and that includes the word
dirty somewhere inside. Figure 7-8 shows the results.
Figure 7-8:
The Search
the entire
any file containing the
word you’ve
A The retrieved file or folder appears on the screen’s right side, as
shown in Figure 7-8. Double-click the file or folder to open it and
begin working. (To translate the computerese information shown
beneath the In Folder area — the part that supposedly shows
where the file is located — head for Chapter 11.)
A Do you remember the time and date you created a missing file or
folder? Click the little black arrow next to the words When Was It
Modified?, as shown back in Figure 7-7. A new menu appears, letting you narrow down the search to the following times: the past
week, the past month, within the last year, don’t remember, or on a
specific day.
________________________________________Chapter 7: I Can’t Find It!
A The Search Companion question “When Was It Modified” really
means “When Was It Last Saved.” That could mean the date you
dumped it into your computer, the date you last called it up in a
program and changed it somehow, or the date you last changed its
A For tips on speeding up your searches, check out the sidebar,
“Finding files faster.”
Finding files faster
The more information you give the Search Companion, the faster it finds your files. Although
telling it to search the entire computer for a single file containing a single word is very efficient,
it’s also excruciatingly slow. The computer must
read all of its files from beginning to end. To
speed things up, try following some of these tips
when possible:
A Try to type in at least part of the missing file
or folder’s name. That keeps the Search
Companion from searching through every
A Remember a folder you stored the file in? Tell
the computer to search there. Search Companion will search inside that folder and
inside any folders stored inside that folder.
Try searching in My Documents before
searching My Computer. Many programs
automatically save your information in that
A Remember when you last saved, created, or
edited that file or folder? If you remember
that you created it within the past week, for
instance, the search becomes faster still.
A CD-ROM discs take a long time to search,
and when you tell Search Companion to
search My Computer, it also searches any
CD you’ve inserted in your drive. Remove
CDs before clicking My Computer for
A Search for words least likely to turn up in
other files. For example, the words dirty and
hydrator are more unique than like, an, or
the. That means they’re much more likely to
bring up the file you’re searching for.
A When a search turns up too many files, narrow down your search. Be more precise
about when the missing file was created or
downloaded, for example, or add a larger
portion of its name.
A If you have a large hard drive with lots of
space, choose Change Preferences from the
Search Companion’s main menu, and then
select With Indexing Service. Your computer
then makes an index of your computer’s files,
speeding up searches dramatically. (Unfortunately, the index can consume quite a bit of
Finding lost pictures, music, or video
When you don’t remember much about a file — but gosh darn it, you
want to find it anyway — the preceding section shows how to route it
out of your computer’s innards. But sometimes you know a little bit
________________________________________Chapter 7: I Can’t Find It!
more about your missing file. You can’t find that digital picture you
transferred yesterday from the camera, for instance, or that MP3 song
you pulled off a CD last week. Perhaps you’re missing a short video you
downloaded from the Internet.
The Search Companion can easily extract these types of missing files
from your computer’s digital jowls. Click the lime-green Start button
and click Search. When the menu appears, choose the option marked
Pictures, Music, or Video.
Yet another menu appears, offering three search options: 1) Pictures
and Photos, 2) Music and Sound, or 3) Video. Click in the box next to
what you’re searching for, and type any part of the file’s name in the
second box.
Click Search, and the Search Companion finds all the files meeting your
A Unfortunately, unless you remember at least a portion of your file’s
name (which is very difficult to do with digital photos), the overeager Search Companion will find all of your pictures, music, or
videos. To increase your odds of a match, click Use More
Advanced Options. When that menu appears, add more clues:
where your file is located inside your computer, when it was saved,
or its approximate size.
A Check out the “Finding files fast” sidebar for more tips on quicker
Finding lost documents
Lost a key Word or Excel document? Search Companion’s ready to help
out here, too. Because you know it was a Word or Excel document, this
search is fairly easy. Click the lime-green Start button, click Search, and
click Documents (Word, Excel, etc.).
When the box appears, type in the missing document’s name. Click the
round button next to the time the file was last changed or saved.
Click Search, and the Search Companion ferrets out your file.
________________________________________Chapter 7: I Can’t Find It!
Note: Quick-witted readers will wonder how this search differs from the
Find Any File search described earlier in this chapter. Well, Search Companion can tell which program created your files. So it limits its search
to Word or Excel files, speeding up the search.
Finding computers or people
Like a teenager who’s watched too many sci-fi flicks, Windows XP lumps
computers and people in the same category. Neither is all that exciting,
unfortunately, but here goes.
Finding computers
The computer search is for people working only on networks, mysteriously bundled bunches of computers, covered in Chapter 9. Don’t know
if you’re on a network? Click the Start button, click Search, and choose
the Computers or People option. Finally, choose the A Computer on the
Network option to begin.
Normally, Windows XP wants you to search for a computer by name.
But what if you don’t know the computer’s name? Here’s a trick: Just
click the Search button. A list of computers connected to your own
computer appears. (If just one computer appears, don’t get excited. It’s
probably just your own.)
Finding people
The people search isn’t nearly as exciting as it sounds, even for singles.
It only searches for people you’ve already entered in your Outlook
Express address book. Ho hum. There’s a little trick, however, but even
that’s pretty boring: When the Find People box appears, click the downward-pointing arrow next to the words Address Book. That lets you
choose between several Internet services that list people’s e-mail
addresses. None of the services is very complete, and most are loaded
with fake names.
Searching the Internet
This one’s kind of dumb, too. When you choose the Search Companion’s Search the Internet option, a little box pops up for you to type in
________________________________________Chapter 7: I Can’t Find It!
your question. Then it races over to Internet Explorer, your Web
browser (covered in Chapter 12), and uses that program to find your
To save time, load Internet Explorer and click the little Search button
along the top of its menu. That brings up the Search Companion, too.
Because both programs involve Internet Explorer, they’re covered in
Chapter 12.
When you type in your question, Internet Explorer automatically uses
Microsoft’s own search program, MSN Search, to find answers. For better results, use Google at Feel free to check out Surfwax (, too. Dozens of different search programs,
called search engines, are available, and everybody has a favorite. To
change to your own favorite search engine, choose Change Preferences
from the Search program’s main menu, and then select Change Internet
Search Behavior from the following menu to see the available search
Chapter 8
That “Cut and Paste” Stuff
(Moving Around Words, Pictures,
and Sounds)
In This Chapter
B Understanding cutting, copying, and pasting
B Highlighting what you need
B Cutting, copying, deleting, and pasting what you’ve highlighted
B Making the best use of the Clipboard
B Putting scraps on the desktop
ntil Windows came along, PCs had a terrible time sharing anything. Their programs were rigid, egotistical things, with no
sense of community. Information created by one program couldn’t
always be shared with another program. Older versions of programs
passed down this selfish system to newer versions, enforcing the segregation with proprietary file formats and compatibility tests.
To counter this bad trip, Windows programmers created a communal
workplace where all the programs could groove together peacefully. In
the harmonious tribal village of Windows, programs share their information openly in order to make a more beautiful environment for all.
In the Windows co-op, all the windows can beam their vibes to each
other freely, without fear of rejection. Work created by one Windows
program is accepted totally and lovingly by any other Windows program. Windows programs treat each other equally, even if one program
is wearing some pretty freaky threads or, in some gatherings, no threads
at all.
Chapter 8: That “Cut and Paste” Stuff (Moving Around Words, Pictures, and
This chapter shows you how easily you can move those good vibes
from one window to another.
Examining the Cut and Paste
Concept (And Copy, Too)
Windows XP took a tip from the kindergartners and made cut and paste
an integral part of all its programs. Information can be electronically cut
or copied from one window and then pasted into another window with
little fuss and even less mess.
Just about any part of a window is up for grabs, and the process takes
three steps: highlight, cut or copy, and paste. For instance, you might
have an exceptionally well-written paragraph in your word processor,
or a spreadsheet chart that tracks the value of your Indian-head pennies.
First, highlight the desired information. Next, either copy or cut the
information from its window. Finally, pastethe information into a different window. In fact, after the information has been cut or copied, it lives
inside Windows’ built-in Clipboard, where it can be pasted into as many
windows as you’d like.
The beauty of Windows XP is that with all those windows on-screen at
the same time, you can easily grab bits and pieces from any of them and
paste all the parts into a new window.
A Windows programs are designed to work together, so taking information from one window and putting it into another window is
easy. Sticking a map onto your party fliers, for example, is really
A Cutting and pasting works well for the big stuff, like sticking big
charts into memos. But don’t overlook it for the small stuff, too.
For example, copying someone’s name and address from your
Address Book program is quicker than typing it by hand at the top
of your letter. Or to avoid typographical errors, you can copy an
answer from the Windows XP Calculator and paste it into another
Chapter 8: That “Cut and Paste” Stuff (Moving Around Words, Pictures, and
A When somebody e-mails you a Web address, copy and paste it into
Internet Explorer. It’s much easier than typing it in by hand, and it
is less frustrating because you’ll know you didn’t make any mistakes. It’s easy to copy information from the Internet, too.
A When you cut or copy information, it lives in a special Windows
area called the Clipboard, ready to be pasted into other windows.
The Clipboard holds only one chunk of information at a time,
though. When you cut or copy other information, that information
replaces the original information, and it’s now ready to be pasted
into other windows.
Highlighting the Important Stuff
Before you can grab information from a window, you have to tell Windows XP exactly what parts you want to grab. The easiest way to tell it
is to highlight the information with a mouse.
You can highlight a single letter, an entire novel, or anything in between.
You can highlight pictures of water lilies. You can even highlight files
and folders. You can highlight sounds so that you can paste belches
into other files.
In most cases, highlighting involves one swift trick with the mouse: Put
the mouse arrow or cursor at the beginning of the information you want
and hold down the mouse button. Then move the mouse to the end of
the information and release the button. That’s it! All the stuff lying
between where you clicked and released is highlighted. The information
usually turns a different color so that you can see what you’ve grabbed.
An example of highlighted text is shown in Figure 8-1.
For delicate work with small text, use the arrow keys to put the cursor
at the beginning of the stuff you want to grab. Then hold down Shift and
press the arrow keys until the cursor is at the end of what you want to
grab. You see the stuff on-screen become highlighted as you move the
arrow keys. This trick works with almost every Windows XP program.
(If you’re after text, hold down Ctrl, too, and the text is highlighted
word by word.)
Chapter 8: That “Cut and Paste” Stuff (Moving Around Words, Pictures, and
Figure 8-1:
text turns a
color for
easy visibility.
Some programs have a few shortcuts for highlighting parts of their
A To highlight a single word, point at it with the mouse and doubleclick. The word turns black, meaning that it’s highlighted. (In most
word processors, you can hold down the button on its second
click, and then, by moving the mouse around, you can quickly
highlight additional text word by word.)
A To highlight a single line of text, click next to it in the left margin.
Keep holding down the mouse button and move the mouse up or
down to highlight additional text line by line.
A To highlight a paragraph, double-click next to it in the left margin.
Keep holding down the mouse button on the second click and
move the mouse to highlight additional text paragraph by paragraph.
A To highlight an entire document, try clicking three times in rapid
succession. If that doesn’t work, hold down Ctrl and click anywhere in the left margin. If that doesn’t work, hold down Ctrl and
press A. So much for consistency in Windows programs.
A To highlight a portion of text in just about any Windows XP program, click at the text’s beginning, hold down Shift, and click at the
end of the desired text. Everything between those two points
becomes highlighted.
Chapter 8: That “Cut and Paste” Stuff (Moving Around Words, Pictures, and
A To highlight part of a picture or drawing while in Paint, Windows’
graphics program, click the little tool button with the dotted lines
in a square. (The button is called the Select tool, as Windows XP
informs you if you rest your mouse pointer over the tool for a second.) After clicking the Select tool, hold down the mouse button
and slide the mouse over the desired part of the picture.
After you’ve highlighted text, you must either cut it or copy it immediately. If you do anything else, like absentmindedly click the mouse
someplace else in your document, all your highlighted text reverts to
normal, just like Cinderella after midnight.
Highlighted something? To cut or copy it immediately, right-click on it.
When the menu pops up, choose Cut or Copy, depending on your
Be careful after you highlight a bunch of text. If you press a key — the
spacebar, for example — Windows XP almost always replaces your
highlighted text with the character that you type — in this case, a
space. To reverse that calamity and bring your highlighted text back to
life, hold down Ctrl and press Z. (That’s the universal “Undo” command,
which works in many programs.)
Cutting, Copying, or Deleting What
You Highlighted
After you highlight some information (which I describe in the preceding
section, in case you just entered the classroom), you’re ready to start
playing with it. You can cut it, copy it, or just plain delete it. All three
options differ drastically.
This clever tip bears repeating. After highlighting something, right-click
on it. When the menu pops up, choose Cut or Copy, depending on your
Cutting the information
Cutting the highlighted information wipes it off the screen, but it’s not
really gone: Instead, Windows stores the extracted information in a special Windows XP storage tank called the Clipboard.
Chapter 8: That “Cut and Paste” Stuff (Moving Around Words, Pictures, and
To cut highlighted stuff, right-click on your highlighted text and choose
Cut from the pop-up menu, as shown in Figure 8-2. Whoosh! The highlighted text disappears from the window, scoots through the underground tubes of Windows XP, and waits on the Clipboard for further
Figure 8-2:
on information you’ve
and choose
Cut to move
the information to
where you
can paste it
into other
A One way to tell whether your Cut command actually worked is to
paste the information back into your document. If it appears, you
know that the command worked, and you can cut it out again right
away. If it doesn’t appear, you know that something has gone
dreadfully wrong. (For the Paste command, discussed a little later,
hold down Ctrl and press V.)
A Microsoft’s lawyers kicked butt in an old Apple lawsuit, so Windows uses the same cut keys as the Macintosh computer. You can
hold down Ctrl and press the letter X to cut. (Get it? That’s an X, as
in you’re crossing, or X-ing, something out.)
Copying the information
Compared with cutting, copying information is quite anticlimactic.
When you cut something, the information disappears from the screen.
But when you copy information to the Clipboard, the highlighted information just sits there in the window. In fact, it looks as if nothing has
happened. Feel free to repeat the Copy command a few times before giving up and just hoping it worked. (It works.)
Chapter 8: That “Cut and Paste” Stuff (Moving Around Words, Pictures, and
To copy highlighted information, right-click on it and choose Copy. Or
hold down Ctrl and press C (C for Copy ). Although nothing seems to
happen, that information really does head for the Clipboard.
A Feel free to cut and paste entire files back and forth in My Computer. When you cut a file, however, the icon is just gray until you
paste it. (Making the file disappear would be too scary.) Changed
your mind in mid-cut? Press Esc to cancel the cut and turn the icon
back to normal.
A To copy a picture of your entire Windows XP desktop (the wholescreen) to the Clipboard, press the Print Screen key, which is sometimes labeled PrtScrn or something similar. A snapshot of your
screen heads for the Clipboard, ready to be pasted someplace else.
Computer nerds call this snapshot a screen shot. All the pictures of
windows in this book are screen shots. (And, no, the Print Screen
key doesn’t send anything to your printer.)
A To copy an image of your currently active window (just one window — nothing surrounding it), hold down Alt while you press
Print Screen. The window’s picture appears on the Clipboard.
Deleting the information
Deleting the highlighted information just wipes it out. Zap! It simply disappears. To delete highlighted information, just press the Delete or
Backspace key.
Unfortunately cutting and deleting look identical on-screen. In fact, the
first few times you try to cut something, you feel panicky, thinking that
you may have accidentally deleted it instead. (This feeling never really
goes away.)
A If you’ve accidentally deleted the wrong thing, panic. Then hold
down Ctrl and press the letter Z. Your deletion is graciously
undone. Any deleted information pops back up on-screen. Whew!
A Holding down Alt and pressing Backspace also undoes your last
mistake (unless you’ve just said something dumb at a party, in that
case, use Ctrl+Z).
Chapter 8: That “Cut and Paste” Stuff (Moving Around Words, Pictures, and
Finding out more about cutting,
copying, and deleting
Want to know more about cutting, copying, and deleting? Read on (you
really should read this stuff).
A Windows XP often puts toolbars across the tops of its programs.
Figure 8-3 shows the toolbar buttons that stand for cutting, copying, and pasting things.
Figure 8-3:
these Cut
copies, or
pastes highlighted Copy
A If you prefer to use menus, click the word Edit on any program’s
menu bar. The Cut, Copy, and Paste commands tumble down.
A When you’re using the Print Screen key trick to copy a window or
the entire screen to the Clipboard (see the preceding section), one
important component is left out: The mouse arrow is not included
in the picture, even if it was in plain sight when you took the picture. (Are you asking yourself how all the little arrows got in this
book’s pictures? Well, I drew some of them in by hand!)
Pasting Information into Another
After you’ve cut or copied information to the special Windows XP Clipboard storage tank, it’s ready for travel. You can paste that information
into just about any other window.
Chapter 8: That “Cut and Paste” Stuff (Moving Around Words, Pictures, and
Pasting is relatively straightforward compared with highlighting, copying, or cutting: Open the destination window, and move the mouse to
the spot where you want the stuff to appear. Then right-click the mouse
and choose Paste from the pop-up menu. Presto! Anything that’s sitting
on the Clipboard immediately leaps into that window.
Or, if you want to paste a file onto the desktop, right-click on the desktop and choose Paste. The copied file appears where you’ve rightclicked.
A Another way to paste stuff is to hold down Ctrl and press V. That
combination does the same thing as Shift+Insert. (It also is the
command those funny-looking Macintosh computers use to paste
A You can also choose the Paste command from a window’s menu
bar. Choose the word Edit and then choose the word Paste. But
don’t choose the words Paste Special. That command is for the
complicated Object Linking and Embedding stuff used only by Windows gurus with weird hats.
A Some programs have toolbars along their tops. Clicking the Paste
button, shown in Figure 8-3, pastes the Clipboard’s current contents into your document.
A The Paste command inserts a copy of the information that’s sitting
on the Clipboard. The information stays on the Clipboard, so you
can keep pasting it into other windows if you want. In fact, the Clipboard’s contents stay the same until a new Cut or Copy command
replaces them with new information.
Leaving Scraps on the Desktop
The Clipboard is a handy way to copy information from one place to
another, but it has a major limitation: Every time you copy something
new to the Clipboard, it replaces what was copied there before. What if
you want to copy a bunch of things from a document?
If you are cutting and pasting over a real desktop, you can leave little
scraps lying everywhere, ready for later use. The same scraps concept
Chapter 8: That “Cut and Paste” Stuff (Moving Around Words, Pictures, and
works with Windows XP: You can move information from window to
window, using the desktop as a temporary storage area for your scraps
of information.
For example, suppose that you have some paragraphs in a WordPad or
Word document that you want to copy to some other places. Highlight
the first paragraph, drag it out of the WordPad window, and drop it onto
the desktop. Poof! A small Scrap icon appears on your desktop, just like
the one in the margin. See another interesting paragraph? Drag it onto
the desktop as well: Another Scrap icon appears.
Eventually, you’ll have copies of your report’s best paragraphs sitting in
little scraps on your desktop. To move any of the scraps into another
document, just drag them into that other document’s window and let
Any remaining, unused scraps can be dumped into the Recycle Bin or
simply left on the desktop, adding a nice, comfortable layer of clutter.
To make a scrap, highlight the information you want to move, usually
by running the mouse pointer over it while holding down the mouse
button. Then point at the highlighted information and, while holding
down the mouse button, point at the desktop. Let go of the mouse button, and a scrap containing that information appears on the desktop.
Note: Not all Windows XP applications support scraps. In fact, WordPad
is probably the only program in the Windows XP box that makes good
use of scraps. Other programs, such as Microsoft Office, let you use
scraps, though, so you haven’t wasted your time reading about them.
Chapter 9
Sharing It All on the Network
In This Chapter
B Creating and changing user accounts
B Finding other computers on the network
B Locating files and folders on other computers
B Giving permission to others to look at your files
B Adding and using network printers
B Buying a network’s parts
B Installing a network’s hardware
B Setting up a network
hankfully, you only need to bother with this chapter under four
A More than one person will be using your computer, and you’d like
to assign a user account to everybody so that they can keep their
work separate.
A You want to change somebody’s user account.
A Your computer is connected to other computers on a network, and
you need to moves files between them.
A You want to set up your own network.
If you don’t care about networks or only a few people work on your
computer, ignore most of this chapter, thank goodness. Just refer to the
first section on user accounts. That explains how to create new user
accounts, change their little pictures and passwords, and delete or
restrict unruly accounts to keep the wild ones in line.
___________________________ Chapter 9: Sharing It All on the Network
If you’re on a network or want to set one up, stick around for this chapter’s second half. That explains how to grab information from other
computers, and let other people grab information from your computer.
You also find out how to share a printer or Internet connection among
several computers.
Finally, if you’re working on a larger, more confusing network at work,
you find a few tips on how to muddle your way through if the network
administrator still hasn’t returned from the deli down the street.
Fiddling with User Accounts
Everyone who uses Windows XP needs a user account. A user account
is like a cocktail party name tag that helps Windows recognize who’s sitting at the keyboard. (Chapter 4 explains user accounts in more detail.)
Windows XP dishes out three types of user accounts: Administrator,
Limited, and Guest.
Who cares? Well, each type of account gets to do different functions on
the computer. If the computer were an apartment building, the administrator would be the manager, the limited accounts would be the tenants, and guests would only get to drop by and use the bathroom in the
In computer lingo that means the administrator controls the entire
computer, deciding who gets to use it and what they can do on it. Limited accounts can use most of the computer, but they can’t make any
big changes to it. And guests, well, they can use the computer, but
because the computer doesn’t recognize them by name, their actions
are tightly restricted.
A On a computer running Windows XP Home, the owner usually
holds the administrator account. He or she then sets up accounts
for other household members, changing their accounts when
needed, fixing lost passwords, and if desired, peeking into other
users’ files. Here’s the important part: Only administrators can
install software and change the computer’s hardware.
A In a family, the parents usually hold administrator accounts, the
kids usually have limited accounts, and the babysitter logs in using
the guest account.
___________________________ Chapter 9: Sharing It All on the Network
A On computers running Windows XP Professional, the administrator holds the same privileges and more. But because Windows XP
Professional offers many more security features and settings, its
administrator often holds a full-time job in an office setting.
A To see what version of Windows XP you’re using, Home or Professional, click the lime-green Start button, right-click on My Computer, and choose Properties from the pop-up menu. On the first
page — the one beneath the General tab — your version is listed
beneath the word System.
A Administrators should create limited accounts for people who use
the computer on a regular basis. Windows XP then keeps track of
the way each limited account member prefers his or her computer
to be set up. After a limited account user logs on, Windows XP displays that person’s favorite desktop and background, and remembers his or her favorite Internet Explorer Web sites. Everything
looks just the way that user set it up.
A Administrators should create a single guest account for people the
computer doesn’t need to recognize. Guests can’t do much more
than use the computer as a terminal, much like one in a library.
Guests can use the programs, for example, but they can’t change
any settings, much less install programs or burn CDs. However,
guests can still log on to the Internet or read their e-mail by typing
in their e-mail address and password.
A More than one person can hold an administrator account on a
computer. In fact, all the users can hold one, if the computer’s
owner prefers that. That lets anybody install software and change
important computer settings. (It also lets everybody peek into
each other’s files.)
A When you install Windows XP, the software automatically grants
administrator status to every account you create. After the installation is complete, be sure to change these accounts to limited or
guest status unless you trust those people to handle your computer wisely.
Changing a user account’s picture
Okay, now the important stuff: changing the dorky picture Windows
automatically assigns to your user account. When you first create a
___________________________ Chapter 9: Sharing It All on the Network
user account, Windows XP dips into its image bag and randomly
assigns to accounts pictures of butterflies, fish, soccer balls, or even
more boring images. However, customizing your picture is fairly easy.
(It’s even easier if you have a digital camera.)
After you log on, click the Start button and choose Control Panel. Click
the User Accounts icon and select Change My Picture. (Administrators
have to click Change an Account first and then choose the account that
needs a new picture.) A new window appears, as shown in Figure 9-1.
If any of the currently shown pictures appeal to you, click a picture and
click the Change Picture button. Done! To assign a picture that’s not
shown, click the Browse for More Pictures button. A new window
appears, this time showing the contents of your My Pictures folder.
(This folder is where your digital camera stores your pictures.) Click a
desired picture from the folder, choose Open, and click Change Picture.
That’s it!
As shown in Figure 9-2, a picture of my face now replaces the old rubber
ducky picture.
Figure 9-1:
Choose the
Panel’s User
icon and
Change My
Picture to
assign a
picture to
your user
A Okay, how did I get the picture of my face? Well, I used my digital
camera. What do you do if you don’t have a digital camera? You
can grab a picture off the Internet. In fact, I grabbed the picture of
my face off the Internet at my Web site,
(I explain how to copy a picture off the Internet in Chapter 12.)
___________________________ Chapter 9: Sharing It All on the Network
Figure 9-2:
Use the
area to
assign your
own picture
to your
A Don’t worry about choosing a picture that’s too big or too small.
Windows XP automatically shrinks or expands the image to fit the
postage-stamp-sized space.
A All users can change their pictures — administrators and limited
accounts. And pictures are about the only thing that guests are
allowed to change.
Switching quickly between users
Windows XP enables an entire family or small office to share a single
computer. Because everybody has a user account, Windows keeps
track of everybody’s settings. In fact, the same computer acts like five
different computers for a family of five.
Best yet, the computer keeps track of everybody’s programs while different people use the computer. Mom can be playing chess, and then let
Jerry log on to check his e-mail. When Mom logs back on 20 minutes
later, her chess game is right where she left it: deciding between the en
passant pawn move or sacrificing the queen’s bishop.
___________________________ Chapter 9: Sharing It All on the Network
Do you want the Microsoft .NET Passport?
In its ever-expanding push toward computer
domination, Microsoft launched an evil concept
called the .NET Passport. (Soon after installation, Windows XP urgently asks you to sign up
for one.) In theory, the Passport sounds great:
Give Microsoft a user name and password, and
you have a Passport. When you visit any Passport-aware Internet sites, you type in your same
Passport name and password. You no longer
have to remember different user names and
passwords for every place that you visit or shop
on the Internet.
Think about it, though. No entity should govern
your Internet use — except you. The Microsoft
Passport contains your Internet identity. With
Passport, Microsoft creates a consumer database that’s just too powerful. Microsoft can collect information from any Passport-enabled site
you visit, so Microsoft knows the stocks you
track in, the Web pages you
view in, and where you travel
through When you move from
one Passport-enabled site to another, that information could be shared, too.
In fact, when you move from one Passportenabled site to another, you don’t even need to
log on again. With the Passport, your personal
data travels with you: name, address, and, if you
purchased anything, your credit card number.
Microsoft says its .NET Passport enables software, Internet services, and computer gadgetry
to work together and share information, making
the Internet easier for everyone to use.
In concept, Passport sounds great. When computers are working well, they do great things.
But everybody knows how terrible computers
can be if something goes wrong. Passport, I’m
afraid, offers too much opportunity for things to
go wrong. Yes, I occasionally use a Passport
account when there’s no alternative. But I avoid
Passport-enabled sites whenever possible.
Switching users is fast and easy. While holding down the Windows key
(it’s usually between your keyboard’s Ctrl and Alt keys), press the letter
L. Wham! The Welcome screen pops up, letting another person use the
computer for a while.
After you finish using the computer, hold down the Windows key and
press the letter L. Wham! The Welcome screen pops up again, letting a
different user log on.
A If you don’t like the Windows key, use the mouse to switch users:
Click the Start button and click Log Off from the bottom of the
menu. After the new window appears, click Switch User. The Welcome screen appears.
A Microsoft touts this feature as Fast User Switching, or FUS in the
A If Fast User Switching doesn’t work on your computer, the administrator may have turned it off, a feat described in the next section.
___________________________ Chapter 9: Sharing It All on the Network
A Choosing Log Off rather than using Fast User Switching is often
better, especially for computers without a lot of memory. Programs automatically shut down after users log off the computer,
and the computer runs faster for the next user. If you use Fast User
Switching, the computer must juggle unsaved settings and open
programs, leading to more overhead.
Creating, deleting, or changing a user
Only administrators may create or delete user accounts. Sorry. If you
don’t see your name on the Welcome screen, you must log on as a
guest. (And some computers don’t even offer a guest account. That’s up
to the administrator, too.)
If you’re an administrator (and if you’re not, don’t bother reading any
further), feel free to create a limited user account for everybody who’s
going to use your computer. That gives them just enough control over
the computer to keep them from bugging you all the time, yet it keeps
them from accidentally deleting any important files.
To create, change, or delete a user account, click the Start button,
choose the Control Panel, and select User Accounts. A window pops up,
as shown in Figure 9-3, that’s seen only by administrators. Here’s a rundown on the different tasks available.
Change an Account: The most encompassing of the options, this lets
you change an account’s name, picture, password, or type. (You can
upgrade a user’s account to administrator if you’re tired of handling the
computer by yourself, for instance.) Click here to delete an account, as
Create a New Account: Click here to create accounts for other computer users. You choose a name and whether the user is to have an
administrator or limited account.
___________________________ Chapter 9: Sharing It All on the Network
Figure 9-3:
Only administrators
can choose
the Control
Panel’s User
icon to
create, or
delete user
Change the Way Users Log On and Off: This one’s a little more complicated, because it brings up two options, described here:
A Use the Welcome Screen: Normally, people log on by clicking their
names on the Welcome screen. Removing the check mark in this
box turns off the Welcome screen. Instead, people must type their
name and password into little boxes in order to log on. Why? This
method is more secure — without the Welcome screen, nobody
can tell which people have accounts on the computer. Turning off
the Welcome screen also turns off Fast User Switching, described
A Use Fast User Switching: Windows XP usually lets users switch
back and forth quickly and easily. When they switch back on, their
open programs are just the way they left them. (See the previous
section ‘Switching quickly between users” for more information.)
Removing the check mark in this box turns off the Fast User
Switching for all users. Instead, they must log off, saving their work
in the process, before another user may log on.
___________________________ Chapter 9: Sharing It All on the Network
A password, please
There’s not much point to having a user account
if you don’t have a password. Without one, anybody can click your account on the Welcome
screen. Windows will think that person is you
and will let him or her delete or snoop through
your files.
Administrators, especially, should have passwords, or anybody can log on as an administrator, peek into every user’s files, or completely
sabotage the computer.
To create or change a password, open User
Accounts from the Start menu’s Control Panel
and choose Create a Password. Make up an
easy-to-remember password to type into the
first box and then retype the same word into the
box below it. (That eliminates the chance of
In the third box, type in a clue that helps you
remember your forgotten password. Make sure
the clue only works for you, though. Don’t
choose “My hair color,” for instance. Instead,
choose “My cat’s favorite food” or “The actor on
my favorite TV show.” And don’t be afraid to
change the password every once in a while, too.
You can find more about passwords at the
beginning of Chapter 4.
Finally, create a Password Reset Disk. That way,
if you forget your password, and your hint’s not
helping you remember it, you can insert your
Password Reset Disk as a key. Windows XP will
let you in, and all will be joyous. (But if you lose
the Password Reset Disk, you have to beg for
mercy from the administrator. And be sure to
change your password so nobody can use your
lost Password Reset Disk to break in.).
Skip the Rest of This Unless You
Have or Want a Network
A network is just two or more computers that have been connected so
that they can share information. But computer networks have more
subtleties than nervous high schoolers on their first date.
For example, how do you tell if a computer is on a network? Who’s
allowed on the network? Which computers are on the network? Are all
parts of Computer A available to Computer B? Should networked computers be allowed to kiss without passwords?
All these technical decisions need to be made beforehand, usually by
the network administrator — somebody who often looks as harried as
the high school principal at the prom.
Computers aren’t the only elements that you can network. You can put
printers, modems, CD-ROM drives, USB ports, CompactFlash card readers, and nearly anything else on a network, as well. No need to buy
bunches of stuff for each computer; they can all share.
___________________________ Chapter 9: Sharing It All on the Network
Windows XP divvies up its attention quite well. It lets all the networked
computers share a single Internet connection, for instance, and everybody can be online at the same time. Everyone can share a single
printer, too. If two people try to print something simultaneously, Windows holds onto the incoming files until the printer is free and ready to
deal with them.
Don’t know if you’re on a network? Click the Start button and choose
My Network Places. A window appears, showing any computers connected to your own.
Can I get in trouble for looking into
the wrong computer?
Sometimes people tell you where to find files and things on your network. They write it on a cheat sheet taped to your computer. If
nobody’s dropped you a hint, feel free to grab a torch and go spelunking
on your own with My Network Places, described in the next section.
If you’re worried about getting into trouble, the rule is simple: Windows
XP rarely lets you peek into networked areas where you’re not supposed to be. In fact, Windows XP is so security conscious that it may
keep you from seeing things that you should be able to see. (That’s
when you call on the administrator.)
For instance, if you tried to peek inside a forbidden computer named
Clementine, an “access denied” message would appear, as shown in Figure 9-4. No harm done.
Figure 9-4:
If you try to
enter a
area on the
XP politely
___________________________ Chapter 9: Sharing It All on the Network
A If you’re supposed to be able to read a folder on someone else’s
computer and you can’t, just casually tell the administrator, “Pardon me, bloke, but I don’t seem to have permission to access
folder X on computer Y. Could you check into that? There’s a good
A If you do accidentally find yourself in a folder where you obviously
don’t belong — for example, the folder of employee evaluations on
your supervisor’s computer — that should also be brought to the
administrator’s attention.
How do I access other networked
The best and fastest way to knock on the doors of other networked
computers is to head for the Start button and click My Network Places.
A window pops open, such as the one in Figure 9-5, and you might see
some folders living on other computers.
Figure 9-5:
Click My
Places from
the Start
button to
see folders
on other
that you can
___________________________ Chapter 9: Sharing It All on the Network
Icons for networked folders — folders living on computers connected
to yours — look slightly different than icons for your own computer’s
folders. A sheet of paper sticks out of the top and a little wire runs
beneath them. Networked folders work the same, though: Double-click
them to see what’s inside, just like any other folder.
There’s a catch, however: You’re only able to poke inside another computer’s folder if somebody has decided to share it. (Other sections in
this chapter show how to share your own folders.)
Sometimes an entire hard disk is shared; for example, other people
have permission to come into that computer and stroll around that particular hard disk, pinching peaches and thumping melons. Other times,
the sharing involves merely a folder or two. Windows XP, for instance,
always makes its Shared Music and Shared Pictures folders available on
the network so that everybody can peek at the same photo album and
share the same CDs.
A Networks being what they are, it’s hard to predict what you’ll see
in your own My Network Places. Just about everybody’s network is
set up differently. But there’s absolutely no rule against looking
around. If you’re just curious, start spelunking by clicking folders.
A To see any currently networked printers, open My Network Places
from the Start menu and click Printers and Faxes in the Other
Places section along the left side. Icons for networked printers
look just like those for regular printers, but with that telltale cable
running beneath.
A The My Network Places window uses the networked folder icon for
just about anything inside. Figure 9-5, for instance, shows a networked floppy drive and a networked Sony Memory Stick; both use
a networked folder icon.
Sharing your own computer’s stuff
with the network
To share a file or folder with your fellow computer users, move the file
into your Shared Documents folder, which lives in your My Computer
window. (You must move or copy a file into the Shared Documents
folder; shortcuts don’t always work.)
___________________________ Chapter 9: Sharing It All on the Network
After you place your file or folder into your Shared Documents folder, it
appears in the Shared Documents folder of everybody else using your
As a special perk, administrators can share folders without having to
move them into the Shared Documents folder. The trick is to follow
these steps:
1. Right-click on a folder you’d like to share and choose Sharing
and Security from the pop-up menu.
Open My Computer and right-click on the folder you’d like to
share. When the menu appears, select Sharing and Security. A window appears, showing the Properties for that folder. It opens to the
Sharing tab, as shown in Figure 9-6.
Figure 9-6:
on a folder
and choose
Sharing and
Security to
share the
folder on
the network.
2. Click the box marked Share This Folder on the Network.
A check mark in that box lets everybody peek at, grab, steal,
change, or delete any of the files in that folder. To let visitors look
inside the files but not change them, remove the check mark from
the box marked Allow Network Users to Change My Files.
___________________________ Chapter 9: Sharing It All on the Network
3. Click OK.
Now that particular folder and all its contents are available for
everybody on the network to share.
A Sharing many folders is not a good idea because it gives network
visitors too much control over your computer. Even if you trust
people, they might accidentally mess something up. To be safest,
only share files by placing them in the Shared Document folder.
A Inside Shared Documents live two more folders, Shared Music and
Shared Pictures. Those two folders are also available to any user.
So, if you want to share documents with any user of your computer, store them in the Shared Documents folder. When you make
MP3s from your CDs, store them in the Shared Music folder, too, so
that everybody can enjoy them.
Sharing a printer on the network
Many households or offices have several computers but only one
printer. That creates quite a problem: Who has to keep the printer on
his desk? The second problem, how everybody can access the same
printer, is solved easily: by putting the printer on a network.
If no printer is directly plugged into your computer, you can easily find
out what networked printers are available. Click the Start button,
choose the Control Panel, and select Printers and Other Hardware.
Choose View Installed Printers or Fax Printers. (Or click the Printers
and Faxes icon, depending on your setup.)
Windows XP shows you the printers connected to your computer, as
shown in Figure 9-7.
To share a printer with the network, follow these steps.
1. Click the Start button, choose Control Panel, select Printers and
Other Hardware, and choose Printers and Faxes.
Depending on your setup, you might skip Printers and Other Hardware, because the Printers and Faxes icon will already be showing.
___________________________ Chapter 9: Sharing It All on the Network
Figure 9-7:
The Control
Printers and
shows one
from this
2. If you see an icon for your computer’s printer, right-click on the
icon and choose Sharing.
No icon for your printer? Move ahead to Step 4.
3. Click the Share This Printer button, and if desired, type in a
name for your printer. Click OK.
Any name will do — the make and model works fine. If you’re running other versions of Windows on your network, click the Additional Drivers button. Click in the boxes next to the versions used
by the other computers and click OK. Click OK to close the window, and you’re through.
4. If there’s no icon for your computer’s printer, click Add Printer.
Fill out the questions Windows XP asks about your printer. If your
printer came with an installation disk, use that. Windows XP recognizes many modern printers as soon as you plug them into the USB
port. If the printer plugs into a printer port (also called the LPT
port), you might have to tell Windows the printer’s make and
Finally, tell Windows XP to use that printer as the default printer if
you want Windows XP to use that printer all the time. (This option
comes in handy for people who have more than one printer.)
___________________________ Chapter 9: Sharing It All on the Network
The new printer’s icon now appears in your Printers and Faxes
window; you’ll also find its name listed in your software programs
as an option for printing. Now go back to Step 3 to share the
printer with the network.
That’s it. Your computer can send information to any of the printers listed in the window.
If you don’t see any printers listed in the Printers and Faxes window, yet
you know that one is attached to the network, click the Add Printer
icon. This time, though, tell it you’re installing a network printer. Windows XP browses for any connected network printers and displays
their names.
How Do I Create My Own Computer
If you’re trying to set up a lot of computers — more than five or ten —
you need a more advanced book: Networks are very scary stuff. But if
you’re just trying to set up a handful of computers in your home or
home office, this information may be all you need.
So without further blabbing, here’s a no-fat, step-by-step list of how to
set up your own small and inexpensive network to work with Windows
XP. The following sections show how to buy the three parts of a network — cables, cards, and a hub for connecting the cables. It explains
how to install the parts and, finally, how to make Windows XP create a
network out of your handiwork.
Buying a network’s parts
Today, the fastest networks use 10BaseT cable. Some of today’s modern
homes come prewired with 10BaseT network jacks in the wall, and people quickly find out what’s so weird about 10BaseT cable: It looks like
plain old phone cable. To tell the difference, examine the ends of phone
cable and 10BaseT cable. The 10BaseT cable has a larger connector on
it. (The connector won’t fit into a phone, even if you try to force it.)
The 10BaseT cable is known by a wide variety of names, including
100BaseT, Ethernet RJ-45, TPE (Twisted Pair Ethernet), and 10BT. But
___________________________ Chapter 9: Sharing It All on the Network
when looking for it at the store, just say you want the network cable
that “looks like telephone cord instead of cable-TV cord.”
Next, you need network cards, one for each computer on the network.
(Many new computers come with a network card preinstalled, so look
in the back of the computer for the giveaway: something that looks like
a huge phone jack.)
When you choose a card, keep these factors in mind:
A The card must be an Ethernet card with a 10BaseT connector.
A The card must fit into one of your computer’s unused slots.
A The card’s box should say that it’s Plug and Play and supports Windows XP. If the box doesn’t list Windows XP, then Windows 2000 is
your next best bet.
Finally, you need a goody called a hub, where you plug in all the cables.
Every computer needs to snake its cable to a single hub, as shown in
Figure 9-8.
Without the hub, shown in Figure 9-9, the network won’t work right.
(More complex networks can often link hubs, but I’m deliberately leaving the complicated stuff out of this book.)
Here’s the shopping list. Drop this onto the copy machine at the office
and take it to the computer store.
A One 10BaseT-supporting Ethernet “Plug and Play” card for each
computer on the network. (The 100 Mbps or Fast Ethernet cards
are ten times as fast, but cost more money.) Make sure the cards
are Windows XP or Windows 2000 compatible.
A One hub that has enough ports for each computer — plus some
extra ports for a few computers that you may want to add at a later
A For every computer, buy one 10BaseT cable that’s long enough to
reach from the computer to the hub.
___________________________ Chapter 9: Sharing It All on the Network
Sue‘s Computer
Lemur‘s Computer
Jeff‘s Computer
Figure 9-8:
looks like
wire and
to a central
Betty‘s Computer
Del‘s Computer
Abe‘s Computer
Installing the network’s parts
Here’s how to install your new network card. Windows XP should automatically recognize the card and embrace it gleefully.
1. Find your original Windows XP compact disc — you may need it.
2. Turn off and unplug all the computers on your soon-to-be network.
Turn them all off; unplug them as well.
3. Turn off all the computers’ peripherals — printers, monitors,
modems, and so on.
___________________________ Chapter 9: Sharing It All on the Network
Figure 9-9:
users need
to plug the
cable from
each of
into a
central hub.
10BaseT(TPE) connectors
4. Insert the network cards into their appropriate slots.
Remove the computer’s case and push the card into the proper
type of slot. Make double sure that you’re inserting the proper
type of card into the proper type of slot — for example, inserting a
PCI card into a PCI slot.
If a card doesn’t seem to fit into a slot, don’t force it. Different
types of cards fit into different types of slots, and you may be trying to push the wrong type of card into the wrong type of slot.
5. Replace the computers’ cases and connect the network cables to
the cards.
6. Connect the cables between the network cards and the hub.
Figure 9-9 shows an example of how the cables connect. You may
need to route cables under carpets or around doorways. (Some
hubs have power cords that need to be plugged into a wall outlet
as well.)
___________________________ Chapter 9: Sharing It All on the Network
7. Turn on the computers and their peripherals.
Turn on the computers and their monitors, printers, modems, and
whatever else happens to be connected to them.
A If all goes well, Windows XP wakes up, notices its newly installed
network card, and begins installing its appropriate software automatically. Hurrah! Or, if the network card came with an installation
disk or CD, double-click the disk’s Setup file to install the card.
A If all doesn’t go well, click Windows XP’s Start button, choose Control Panel, and double-click the Add Hardware icon. (You may
need to click Switch to Classic View to see the icon.) Click the Next
button to make Windows try to autodetect the new network card.
Letting the Network Setup Wizard
Set Up Your Network
Whoopee! After you’ve installed the cards and cables, the Windows Network Setup Wizard takes over the rest of the arduous tasks. Be sure to
run the wizard on your most powerful computer and make that computer the one that connects to the Internet.
Now, turn on all your computers, printers, and external modems and
then connect your computer to the Internet. Ready? Here’s how to summon the wizard to complete the network finalities:
1. Start the Network Setup Wizard and click the Next button.
Click the Start button, choose My Network Places, and choose Set
Up a Home or Small Office Network from the Network Tasks area
along the left. The Network Setup Wizard rises to the screen, as
shown in Figure 9-10, ready for you to click Next.
2. Read the screen and click Next.
The Network Setup Wizard brings your network to life, examining
everything connected to it and placing appropriate network icons
on your computer. That’s why turning everything on is important,
as the wizard requests. After you click Next, the wizard looks for
your Internet connection.
___________________________ Chapter 9: Sharing It All on the Network
Figure 9-10:
leads you
through the
3. Tell the wizard about your Internet connection and click Next.
Specifically, the wizard needs to know whether your computer connects directly to the Internet, or if it will connect to the Internet
through a different computer on the network. Because you’re running this wizard on the computer that connects to the Internet,
choose the first option.
4. Choose your Internet connection from the list, if asked, and click
5. Type a name and description for your computer and click Next.
6. If the settings look correct, click Next
Windows XP lists the settings that it will use and asks for your
okay. If you click Next, Windows XP checks out the Internet connection and lets other networked computers share it. It automatically installs a protective firewall, described in Chapter 12. And it
starts setting up the network. (Give it a few minutes.)
7. If your network includes Windows 98 or Windows 95 computers,
create a Home Networking Setup disk and click Next.
If any of your networked computers use those older versions of
Windows, create the Network Setup disk by clicking the Create
Disk button. (You need a floppy.)
___________________________ Chapter 9: Sharing It All on the Network
Ignore this step if you’re networking all Windows XP computers.
You can insert your Windows XP CD into those computers, choose
Perform Additional Tasks, and select Set Up Home or Small Office
8. Click Finish.
That should do the trick.
A The wizard does a reasonably good job of casting its spells on your
computers. If the computers are all connected correctly and
restarted, chances are they’ll wake up in bondage with each other.
If they don’t, try restarting them all again.
A Your newly networked Windows XP computers should list currently shared folders in their My Network Places areas. Unless
you’ve shared additional files on your own, you’ll probably see a
single folder called Shared Documents that contains My Music and
My Pictures.
A To run the wizard on Windows 95 or 98 computers that aren’t running Windows XP, insert your Network Setup disk into the computer you want to network. Open My Computer, double-click your
floppy drive, and double-click the file named, netsetup. The computer asks a few questions, tweaks itself, and reboots. (Just run the
Network Wizard on networked Windows Me computers, if Windows XP didn’t already set them up.)
A All of your networked computers should now be able to share any
shared files, your modem connection, and any printers.
A If everything doesn’t proceed as merrily as described here, don’t
worry. Networking will work. However, you need to make some
more advanced tweaks that I can’t describe here or the book
would cost too much. Pick up a copy of Brian Livingston’s Windows
XP Secrets published by Hungry Minds, Inc. (It’s around 1,200
Part III
Using Windows XP
In this part…
id you know that
A Rubber bands last longer when refrigerated?
A A human’s eyelashes generally fall off after 5 months?
A Windows XP comes with a bunch of free programs that aren’t
even mentioned on the outside of the box?
This part takes a look at all the stuff you’re getting for nothing.
Well, for the price on your sales receipt, anyway. It also shows
how to get to those darn programs by using the Start button, the
desktop, and that little bar along the screen’s bottom called the
Finally, it shows how to do the exciting stuff: Surf the Web, download music and videos, and turn your PC into something fun for a
Chapter 10
Your Desktop, Start Button, and
Taskbar (And Free Programs)
In This Chapter
B Using the desktop and making shortcuts
B Deleting files, folders, programs, and icons
B Retrieving deleted items from the Recycle Bin
B Using the taskbar and controlling Print Manager
B Starting programs, adding programs, and removing programs from the Start but-
B Making Windows load programs automatically
n the old days of computing, pale technoweenies typed disgustingly
long strings of code words into computers to make the computers
do something — anything.
With Windows XP, computers reach the age of modern convenience. To
start a program, simply click a button. There’s a slight complication,
however: The buttons no longer look like buttons. In fact, some of the
buttons are hidden, revealed only by the push of yet another button (if
you’re lucky enough to stumble upon the right place to push).
To make matters worse, some of the buttons fall off and land on your
desktop. (Don’t worry; they’re supposed to do that.) This chapter covers the three main Windows XP buttonmongers: the desktop, the taskbar, and that mother of all buttons — the Start button. Plus, it explains
which of the Windows freebie programs are worth the click it takes to
load them.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
Rolling Objects along the Windows
XP Desktop
Usually, nobody thinks of mounting a desktop sideways. Keeping the
pencils from rolling off a normal desk is hard enough.
But in Windows XP, your computer monitor’s screen is known as the
Windows desktop, and it’s the area where all your work takes place. You
can create files and folders right on your new electronic desktop and
arrange them all across the screen.
For example, do you need to write a letter asking the neighbor to return
the circular saw she borrowed? The following steps show how to put
the desktop’s functions to immediate use.
Point at just about any Windows XP item and click your right mouse
button to see a menu listing the things you’re allowed to do with that
1. Right-click on an uncovered area of your desktop.
A menu pops up, as shown in Figure 10-1.
Figure 10-1:
Clicking an
empty area
of your
with your
right mouse
brings up a
list of
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
2. Point at the word New and click WordPad Document from the
menu that appears.
Because you’re creating something new — a new letter — you
should point at the word New. Windows XP lists the new things
you can create on the desktop. Choose WordPad Document, as
shown in Figure 10-2. Poof! A little WordPad icon appears on the
desktop, bearing the vivid name New WordPad Document.
Figure 10-2:
Point at the
word New
and choose
from the
As your computer fills up with programs, your menu choices
change, too. In fact, if you install Microsoft Office or Microsoft
Word, WordPad is kicked off the menu completely. If you don’t see
WordPad on the menu, try this alternative approach: Click the
Start button and choose Run. When the Run box appears, type
WordPad into the Open box and then press Enter. WordPad opens
automatically, ready for action. Now run ahead to Step 5.
3. Type a name for your letter and press Enter.
When an icon for a new WordPad document appears on the desktop, the first step is to give it a name of up to 255 characters —
something like Polite Circular Saw Request. As soon as you start
typing, your new title replaces the old name of New WordPad Document, as shown in Figure 10-3.
Figure 10-3:
Start typing
to create
the icon’s
new name.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
Press Enter when you’re through typing the name, and WordPad
saves the new name. (Occasionally, Windows XP frets about your
choice of name; if so, try a different name or skip ahead to Chapter
11 to see why Windows is so finicky about names.)
4. Double-click your newly created WordPad icon to open it.
Double-clicking the new icon calls up WordPad, the word processor, so you can write the letter requesting the return of your circular saw.
5. Write your letter.
Remember, word processors automatically wrap your sentences to
the next line for you; don’t hit the Enter key when you’re nearing
the right side of the page.
6. Click Save from the WordPad File menu to save the letter.
If you created the file by right-clicking on the desktop, you’ve
already named the file, and Windows will save it without further
ado. If you opened WordPad through the Start menu’s Run command, Windows now asks you to choose a name for the file.
7. Head back to the WordPad File menu and choose Print to send
the letter to the printer.
8. Close the file by clicking the X in its upper-right corner. To
delete it, drag the file to the Recycle Bin.
After you finish writing and printing the letter, you can either save
it or throw it away. You can simply leave your new WordPad letter
icon on your desk. When your desktop gets too cluttered, feel free
to move the icon to a new folder, a process covered in excruciating
detail in Chapter 11.
If you want to delete the letter, drag the icon to your Recycle Bin,
which I describe in the nearby section “Using the Recycle Bin.”
A Windows XP is designed for you to work right on top of the desktop. From the desktop, you can create new things like files, folders,
sounds, and graphics — just about anything. After working with
your new file or folder, you can store it or delete it.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
A Are you confused about what something is supposed to do? Rightclick on it or simply rest the pointer over the confusing spot. Windows XP often tosses up a menu that lists just about everything
you can do with that particular object. This trick works on many
icons found on your desktop or throughout your programs.
A Sometimes Windows XP does something nasty, and everything on
your desktop disappears, leaving it completely empty. What gives?
To fix the problem, right-click on your desktop and choose Arrange
Icons By from the pop-up menu. Then choose Show Desktop Icons
from the next menu to make everything reappear with no harm
Arranging icons on the desktop
Windows XP offers many — too many, in fact — ways to organize your
desktop’s icons. If your desktop’s icons start to look like an unorganized
pile, right-click on a blank area of your desktop. Then choose Arrange
Icons By from the menu that appears. Windows arranges the icons
along the left edge of the screen, depending on your option. Here’s a
A Name: Arrange icons in alphabetical order by the icon’s name.
A Size: Arrange icons according to the file’s size. (Shortcut files stay
near the top because they’re small.)
A Type: Line up icons by the file’s type: All WordPad files are
grouped together, for instance, as are all shortcuts to Paint files.
A Modified: Arrange icons in the order that the shortcut was created
or modified.
A Auto Arrange: Automatically arrange any new icons in columns
along the screen’s left side.
A Align to Grid: My favorite. Aligns all icons to an invisible grid on
the screen to keep them nice and tidy.
A Show Desktop Icons: Make sure you keep this option on. If you
click here, Windows hides all the icons on your desktop. If you can
remember in your frustration, click this option again to toggle your
icons back on.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
A Lock Web Items on Desktop: Chapter 14 shows how to place a
Web page onto your desktop as a background. Click here to “lock”
that Web page in place.
Using the Recycle Bin
The Recycle Bin, that little oval wastebasket icon on your desktop
(shown here in the margin), is supposed to work like a real recycle bin.
It’s something you can fish the Sunday paper out of if somebody
pitched the comics section before you had a chance to read it.
If you want to get rid of something in Windows XP — a file or folder, for
example — simply drag it to the Recycle Bin. Point at the file or folder’s
icon with the mouse and, while holding down the left mouse button,
point at the Recycle Bin. Let go of the mouse button, and your detritus
disappears. Windows XP stuffs it into the Recycle Bin.
But if you want to bypass that cute metaphor, you can delete stuff
another way: Right-click on your unwanted file or folder’s icon and
choose Delete from the menu that pops up. Windows XP asks cautiously if you’re sure that you want to delete the icon. If you click the
Yes button, Windows XP dumps the icon into the Recycle Bin, just as if
you’d dragged it there. Whoosh! (If you’re not sure, click No, and Windows leaves the file in place.)
So if you like to drag and drop, feel free to drag your garbage to the
Recycle Bin and let go. If you prefer the menus, click with your right
mouse button and choose Delete. Or, if you like alternative lifestyles,
click the unwanted icon with your left mouse button and press your
keyboard’s Delete key. All three methods toss the file into the Recycle
Bin, where you can salvage it later or, eventually, purge it for good.
A Want to retrieve something you’ve deleted? Double-click the Recycle Bin icon, and a window appears, listing deleted items. See the
name of your accidentally deleted icon? Right-click on the icon and
choose Restore to send it back to the folder from which it was
deleted. Or drag the icon to the desktop or any other folder: Point
at the icon’s name and, while holding down the left mouse button,
point at its desired location. Let go of the mouse button, and the
Recycle Bin coughs up the deleted item, good as new.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
A Sometimes, the Recycle Bin can get pretty full. If you’re searching
fruitlessly for a file you’ve recently deleted, tell the Recycle Bin to
sort the filenames in the order in which they were deleted. Click
View, point at Arrange Icons, and choose Date Deleted from the
menu that pops out. The Recycle Bin now lists the most recently
deleted files at the bottom.
A The Recycle Bin icon changes from an empty wastepaper basket to
a full one as soon as it’s holding a deleted file. You may have to
squint a little to notice the pieces of paper sticking out of the trashcan’s top.
A The Recycle Bin waits until your deleted files consume 10 percent
of your computer's hard drive before it begins purging your oldest
deleted files to make room for new ones. If you’re running out of
hard disk space, shrink the bin’s size. Right-click on the Recycle
Bin and choose Properties from its menu. If you want the Recycle
Bin to hang on to more deleted files, increase the percentage. If
you’re a sure-fingered clicker who seldom makes mistakes,
decrease the percentage.
Making a shortcut
Some people like to organize their desktops, putting a pencil sharpener
on one corner and a box of Kleenex on the other corner. Other people
like their Kleenex box in the top desk drawer. Microsoft knew that one
desktop design could never please everybody, so Windows XP lets people customize their desktops to suit individual tastes and needs.
For example, you may find yourself frequently copying files to or from a
floppy disk in drive A. Usually, to perform that operation, you click the
Start button, click My Computer, and drag your files to the floppy drive
icon living in there. But there’s a quicker way, and it’s called a Windows
XP shortcut. A shortcut is simply a push button — an icon — that stands
for something else.
For example, here’s how to put a shortcut for drive A on your desktop:
1. Click the Start button and then click My Computer.
The My Computer folder opens up, showing the icons for your disk
drives as well as oft-used folders. (My Computer gets more coverage in Chapter 11.)
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
2. With your right mouse button, drag the drive A icon to the desktop.
Point at the drive A icon and, while holding down your right mouse
button, point at the desktop, as shown in Figure 10-4. Let go of
your mouse button. (Check out Chapter 6 if you’re not sure how to
shrink the My Computer window to make the desktop visible.)
3. Choose Create Shortcut(s) Here from the menu.
Windows XP puts an icon for drive A on your desktop, but it looks
a little different from the drive A icon you dragged. Because it’s
only a shortcut — not the original icon — it has a little arrow in its
corner, as shown in the margin.
Figure 10-4:
the drive A
icon to the
with the
right mouse
creates a
That’s it. Now you won’t need to root through any folders to access
your floppy drive. The shortcut on your desktop works just as well as
the real floppy drive icon. To copy or move files to your A drive, just
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
drag them to the newly created shortcut. To see the contents of your
floppy disk, double-click the shortcut.
A Feel free to create desktop shortcuts for your most commonly
accessed programs, files, or disk drives. If you’re on a network, create shortcuts for networked computers, or just folders on networked computers. Shortcuts are a quick way to make Windows
XP easier to use.
A Here’s a quick trick: Right-click on a disk drive — even your floppy
drive — and choose Create Shortcut. Windows will offer to place
the shortcut on your desktop. (This trick only works for disk
drives, though.)
A You can even put a shortcut for your printer onto your desktop. To
print a file, drag and drop its icon onto the printer’s shortcut.
A If your newly dragged icon doesn’t have an arrow in its bottom corner, don’t let go of the mouse! You might not be making a shortcut.
Instead, you’ve probably dragged the real program to your desktop, and other programs may not be able to find it. Press the Esc
button with your free hand, and Windows stops what you were
doing. (You probably mistakenly held down the left mouse button
instead of the correct button — the right button.)
A Have you grown tired of a particular shortcut? Feel free to delete it.
Deleting a shortcut has no effect on the original file, folder, or program that it represents.
A You can make as many shortcuts as you’d like. You can even make
several shortcuts for the same thing. For example, you can put a
shortcut for drive A in all your folders.
A Windows XP shortcuts aren’t very good at keeping track of moving
files. If you create a shortcut to a file or program and then move
that file or program to a different folder, the shortcut won’t be able
to find that file or program anymore. Windows will panic and try
searching for it, but may not be able to find it. Shortcuts, by contrast, can be moved anywhere without problems.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
Keeping your icons straight
Don't be confused by a program's icon on your
desktop and a program's button on the taskbar
along the bottom of your screen. They're two different things. The button at the bottom of the
screen stands for a program that has already
been loaded into the computer's memory. It's
already running, ready for immediate action. The
icon on your desktop or in Windows XP Explorer
stands for a program that is sitting on the computer's hard disk waiting to be loaded.
If you mistakenly click the icon in Windows
Explorer or on the desktop rather than the button
on the taskbar at the bottom of the screen, you
load a second copy of that program. Two versions of the program are loaded: one running as
a window, and the other running as a taskbar
button waiting to be turned back into a window.
Running two versions of a program can cause
confusion — especially if you start entering stuff
into both versions of the same program. You
won't know which window has the right version! Check out “The Way-Cool Taskbar,” later
in this chapter, for more taskbar information.
Uh, what’s the difference between a
shortcut and the actual program?
An icon for a file, folder, or program looks pretty much like a shortcut,
except the shortcut has a little arrow wedged in its lower reaches. And
double-clicking a shortcut and double-clicking an icon do pretty much
the same thing: start a program or load a file or folder.
But a shortcut is only a servant of sorts. When you double-click the
shortcut, it runs over to the program, file, or folder that the shortcut
represents and kick-starts that program, file, or folder into action.
You could do the same thing yourself by rummaging through your computer’s folders, finding the program, file, or folder you’re after, and personally double-clicking its icon to bring it to life. But it’s often more
convenient to create a shortcut so that you don’t have to rummage so
A If you delete a shortcut — the icon with the little arrow — you’re
not doing any real harm. You’re just firing the servant that fetched
things for you, probably creating more work for yourself in the process.
A If you accidentally delete a shortcut, you can pull it out of the
Recycle Bin, just like anything else that’s deleted in Windows XP.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
Shutting down Windows XP
Although the big argument used to be about saturated and unsaturated
fats, today’s generation has found a new source of disagreement:
Should a computer be left on all the time or turned off at the end of the
day? Both camps have decent arguments, and there’s no real answer
(except that you should always turn off your monitor when you won’t
be using it for a half hour or so).
However, if you decide to turn off your computer, don’t just head for the
off switch. First, tell Windows XP about your plans. To do that, click the
Start button, choose the Turn Off Computer command, and ponder the
choices Windows XP places on-screen, as shown in Figure 10-5:
Figure 10-5:
Click Stand
By to temporarily put
computer to
sleep, click
Turn Off to
turn off your
or click
Restart to
XP shut
down and
come back
to life.
Stand By: Save your work before choosing this option; Windows XP
doesn’t save your work automatically. Instead, it lets your computer
doze for a bit to save power, but the computer wakes up at the touch of
a button.
Turn Off: Clicking here tells Windows XP to put away all your programs
and to make sure that you’ve saved all your important files. Then it
turns off your computer and most of the newer monitors. Poof! Use this
option when you’re done computing for the day. (If your monitor
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
doesn’t turn off automatically, you’ll have to push its power button
Restart: Here, Windows saves your work and prepares your computer
to be shut off. However, it then restarts your computer. Use this option
when installing new software, changing settings, or trying to stop Windows XP from doing something awfully weird.
Hibernate: Only offered on some computers, this option works much
like Shut Down. It saves your work and turns off your computer. However, when turned on again, your computer presents your desktop just
as you left it: Open programs and windows appear in the same place.
Putting your computer into hibernation mode is not as safe as shutting
it down. (Don’t see the Hibernate feature? Hold down Shift, and it will
replace the Standby button.)
A The Hibernate command takes all of your currently open information and writes it to the hard drive in one big chunk. Then, to recreate your desktop, it reads that big chunk and places it back on
your desktop.
A Don’t ever turn off your computer unless you’ve chosen the Turn
Off command from the Start button. Windows XP needs to prepare
itself for the shutdown, or it may accidentally eat some of your
important information — as well as the information of anybody
else using the computer at the time.
A Remember, if you’re done with the computer but other people
might want to use it, just click Log Off from the Start menu: Windows XP saves your work and brings up the Welcome screen,
allowing other people to log on and play video games.
The Way-Cool Taskbar
This section introduces one of the handiest tricks in Windows XP, so
pull your chair in a little closer. Whenever you run more than one window on the desktop, there’s a big problem: Programs and windows tend
to cover each other up, making them difficult to locate.
Windows XP’s solution is the taskbar — a special program that keeps
track of all your open programs. Shown in Figure 10-6, the taskbar normally lives along the bottom of your screen, although you can move it
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
to any edge you want. (Hint: Just drag the taskbar to any of the screen’s
four edges. If it doesn’t move, right-click on the taskbar and click Lock
the Taskbar to remove the check mark by its name.)
Figure 10-6:
The handy
taskbar lists
and lets you
bring them
to the
forefront by
their names.
See how the button for Calculator looks “pushed in” in Figure 10-6?
That’s because Calculator is the currently active window on the desktop. One or more of your taskbar’s buttons always look pushed in
unless you close or minimize all the windows on your desktop.
From the taskbar, you can perform powerful magic on your open windows, as described in the following list:
A To play with a window you see listed on the taskbar, click its name.
The window rises to the surface and rests atop any other open
windows, ready for action.
A To close a window listed on the taskbar, right-click on its name and
choose Close from the menu that pops up. The program quits, just
as if you’d chosen its Exit command from within its own window.
(The departing program gives you a chance to save any work
before it quits and disappears from the screen.)
A Don’t see the taskbar? If the taskbar’s top edge peeks up along the
screen’s bottom, grab the visible part with your mouse and drag it
toward the center of the screen until the entire taskbar is visible.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
What’s the MSN Messenger Service?
With its MSN Messenger Service, Microsoft has
created a combination doorbell/peephole for the
Internet. When a friend logs onto the Internet,
your bell rings automatically, and a window pops
up, ready for you to bug your friend with a message.
Then, when you get tired of your friends bugging
you, you search for a way to turn off the darn
thing. (Right-click on the little “people” icon in
the bottom-right corner of your screen near the
clock, and choose Exit.)
To keep this icon always hidden, check out this
chapter’s section on customizing the taskbar.
You want to click the Customize button, click
MSN Messenger Service, and choose Always
Shrinking windows to the taskbar and
retrieving them
Windows spawn windows. You start with one window to write a letter
to Mother. You open another window to check her address, for example, and then yet another window to see whether you’ve forgotten any
recent birthdays. Before you know it, four more windows are crowded
across the desktop.
To combat the clutter, Windows XP provides a simple means of window
control: You can transform a window from a screen-cluttering square
into a tiny button on the bar — the taskbar — that sits along the bottom
of the screen.
See the three buttons lurking in just about every window’s top-right corner? Click the Minimize button — the button with the little line in it.
Whoosh! The window disappears, represented by its little button on the
bar running along the bottom of your screen. Click that button, and
your window hops back onto the screen, ready for action.
A To make a minimized program on the taskbar revert into a regular,
on-screen window, just click its name on the taskbar. Pretty simple,
A To shrink an open window so that it’s out of the way, click the leftmost of the three buttons in the window’s top-right corner. The
window minimizes itself into a button and lines itself up on the bar
along the bottom of the screen.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
A Each taskbar button shows the name of the program it represents.
A When you minimize a window, you neither destroy its contents nor
close it. You merely change its shape. It is still loaded into memory,
waiting for you to play with it again.
A To put the window back where it was, click its button on the taskbar. It hops back up to the same place it was before.
A Whenever you load a program by using the Start button or
Explorer, that program’s name automatically appears on the taskbar. If one of your open windows ever gets lost on your desktop,
click its name on the taskbar. The window immediately jumps to
the forefront.
Clicking the taskbar’s sensitive areas
Like a crafty card player, the taskbar comes with a few tips and tricks.
For one thing, it has the Start button. With a click on the Start button,
you can launch programs, change settings, find programs, get help, and
order takeout food. (Well, forget the food, but you can do all the things
mentioned in the Start button section later in this chapter.)
The Start button is only one of the taskbar’s tricks; some others are
listed in Figure 10-7.
Click here to reveal the hidden icons
Click here to adjust the volume
Figure 10-7:
Clicking or
Click here to see what's heading for the printer
Rest your mouse pointer over
these areas
the clock to see the date
of the
taskbar Click here before unplugging
performs USB-using gizmos like digital
these tasks. cameras, MP3 players, speakers,
and other toys
Hold the mouse pointer over the clock, and Windows XP shows the current day and date. Or if you want to change the time or date, a doubleclick on the clock summons the Windows XP time/date change program.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
Sometimes the taskbar hides things. Click the little double arrows near
the clock (refer to Figure 10-7), and a few more icons might slide out.
(Check out the “Customizing the taskbar” section for tips and tricks
affecting these icons.)
Click the little speaker to adjust the sound card’s volume via a sliding
control, as shown in Figure 10-8. Or double-click the little speaker to
bring up a mixing panel. Mixers let you adjust separate volume levels
for your microphone, line inputs, CD and DVD players, and other features. (No speaker icon? Choose Control Panel from the Start menu,
open the Sounds and Audio Devices icon, and click in the box marked
Place Volume Icon in the Taskbar.)
Figure 10-8:
Clicking the
speaker lets
you adjust
the sound
A Other icons often appear next to the clock, depending on what
Windows XP is up to. If you’re printing, for example, a little printer
icon appears there. Laptops often show a battery power-level
gauge. As with all the other icons down there, if you double-click
the printer or battery gauge, Windows XP brings up information
about the printer’s or battery’s status.
A After joining the Internet and activating Windows XP, you can let
somebody else play mechanic. Click the icon shown in the margin
when it appears next to the clock. Windows XP automatically bellies up to a special Microsoft Web site, analyzes itself, and installs
any updated software that may help it run better.
A Want to minimize all your desktop’s open windows in a hurry?
Right-click on a blank part of the taskbar and choose the Minimize
All Windows option from the pop-up menu. All the programs keep
running, but they’re now minimized to icons along the taskbar. To
bring them back to the screen, just click their names from the taskbar.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
A For an even faster way to minimize all your desktop’s open windows, click a little icon down by the Start button. As you can see in
Figure 10-6 and in the margin, it’s a square with blue-tipped corners, a white rectangle in the center, and a little pencil thing resting
on top of it all.
A To organize your open windows, right-click on a blank part of the
taskbar and choose one of the tile commands. Windows XP scoops
up all your open windows and lays them back down in neat,
orderly squares. (I cover tiling in more detail in Chapter 7.)
Customizing the taskbar
Windows XP brings a whirlwind of new options for the lowly taskbar,
letting you play with it in more ways than a strand of spaghetti and a
fork. Right-click on a blank part of the taskbar, and a menu appears, as
shown in Figure 10-9.
Figure 10-9:
on an empty
part of the
taskbar and
Choose the Properties option, and a new window pops up, as shown in
Figure 10-10.
Here’s what those options mean, and my recommendation for them.
(You might need to click the Lock the Taskbar check box to remove its
check mark before some of these options will work.)
Lock the Taskbar: Click in this box, and Windows XP “locks” the taskbar in place. You can’t drag it to one edge of the window, drag it up to
make it bigger, nor drag it down beneath the edge of the screen. Rath-
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
Figure 10-10:
Click the
Taskbar tab
to see all
the options
available for
bone recommendation: Check this box, but only after you’re sure the
taskbar is set up the way you like.
Auto-Hide the Taskbar: Some people think the taskbar gets in the way.
So, they drag it down below the bottom of the screen. (Try it.) Clicking
in this box makes the taskbar automatically hide itself below the
screen’s bottom. Point the mouse at the screen’s bottom, and the taskbar rises automatically from its grave. Rathbone recommendation:
Keep the Taskbar on Top of Other Windows: This option keeps the
taskbar always visible, covering up any windows that may be low on the
screen. Rathbone recommendation: Check.
Group Similar Taskbar Buttons: When you open lots of windows and
programs, the taskbar gets crowded. Windows accommodates the
crowd by shrinking the buttons. Unfortunately, that means you can’t
read the button’s names. This option groups similar windows under one
button. When things get crowded, Windows groups all your Internet
Explorer windows under one Internet Explorer button on the taskbar,
for instance, as shown in Figure 10-11.
Show Quick Launch: Sharp-eyed readers might have noticed tiny icons
in some of this book’s figures that live next to the taskbar’s Start button.
What gives? That’s the Quick Launch toolbar, and you turn it on by
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
Figure 10-11:
Buttons to
save space
on your
taskbar by
clicking in this box. Try it — the Quick Launch toolbar places itty-bitty
icons for Internet Explorer and Media Player next to the Start button for
easy access. Just drag program icons to the Quick Launch bar to add
them to it. (Drag the icons off to remove them.) Don’t like Quick
Launch? Then remove it by removing the check mark from this box.
Show the Clock: You want to know when it’s time to leave work, don’t
you? Rathbone recommendation: Check.
Hide Inactive Icons: A new one for Windows XP, this option lets you
hide those little icons — like the volume control, printer button, RealPlayer, the desktop cleanup program, and other doodies — that begin
hanging out by your clock. Click the Customize button to choose which
icons should show up, which should hide, and which should appear
only when they’re being used. Rathbone recommendation:Click the
Customize button and choose Restore Defaults to hide everything
except the sound volume. Choose Always Show for that one.
Feel free to experiment with the taskbar, changing its size and position
until it looks right for you. It won’t break. After you set it up just the way
you want, click the Lock the Taskbar box described earlier in this list.
Controlling the Printer
Many of the Windows XP features work in the background. You know
that they’re there only when something is wrong and weird messages
start flying around. The Windows XP print program is one of those programs.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
Oh, no! The taskbar looks really weird now!
Your taskbar won’t always resemble the familiar
entity shown in Figure 10-9 or 10-11. Microsoft
lets you customize the taskbar even further,
often beyond the point of recognition. To experience this weirdness — or to turn it off, if it’s happened to you — right-click on a blank area of
the taskbar and click the Toolbars option. A
menu pops up, offering several options, each
described in the following list:
A Address: Choose this option, and your taskbar contains a place for quickly typing in
Web sites. It’s big and bulky, though, so it’s
rarely used.
A Links: This option fills the taskbar with links
to Internet Web pages. (They’re the same
ones listed in the Links area of Internet
Explorer’s Favorites menu. Ho hum.)
A Desktop: A weird one, this option places the
icons from your desktop onto your taskbar.
A Quick Launch: I like this one. It keeps little
icons for these frequently used programs
next to your Start button: Internet Explorer,
Outlook Express, Media Player, and the
“shrink everything from the desktop” icon. To
add your other favorite programs, just drag
and drop them onto the Quick Launch toolbar.
A New Toolbar: This option lets you place any
folder’s contents onto your taskbar.
Most people don’t choose any of these options
except Quick Launch, so feel free to do the same
unless you like to fiddle with your computer’s
Also, you can drag any of these toolbars off the
taskbar and onto the desktop. In fact, it’s quite
distracting if you accidentally drag the Quick
Launch toolbar off the taskbar. To replace Quick
Launch, right-click on the taskbar, choose Toolbars, and choose Quick Launch. Another
replacement Quick Launch appears on the taskbar, in the right place. Close the Quick Launch
window that you accidentally dragged onto the
desktop, and all is well. (To keep mistakes like
these from happening, choose the Lock the
Taskbar option described in the “Customizing
the taskbar” section.)
When you choose the Print command in a program, you may see the little Windows XP printer icon appear at the bottom-right corner of your
screen. (Depending on how your computer’s set up, you might have to
click the little arrows by the clock to see the printer icon.)
Your printer can print only one thing at a time. If you try to print a second memo before the first one is finished, Windows XP jumps in to help.
It intercepts all the requests and lines them up in order, just like a harried diner cook.
To check up on what is being sent to the printer, double-click the taskbar’s little printer icon, and you see the print program in all its glory:
The program lists each of your documents as they wait for their turn at
the printer.
A When the printer is through printing one file, it automatically
moves to the second file in the lineup.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
A Changing the order of the files as they’re about to be printed is
easy. If you have three jobs waiting and you need the third one in a
hurry, just drag and drop it so that it’s behind the first job. Poof!
Windows will print that one next. (The printing order is called a
queue, pronounced “Q.”)
A To cancel a print job, right-click on the filename you don’t like and
then choose Cancel Printing from the menu that pops up.
A If the boss walks by the printer while you’re printing your party
flier, choose Document from the menu and select Pause Printing
from the menu that drops down. The printer stops. After the boss
is out of sight, click Pause Printing again to continue.
A If you’re on a network (shudder), you may not be able to change
the order in which files are being printed. You may not even be
able to pause a file.
A If your printer is not hooked up, Windows XP will probably try to
send your file to the printer anyway. When it doesn’t get a
response, it sends you a message that your printer isn’t ready. Plug
the printer in, turn it on, and try again. Or hit Chapter 14 for more
printer troubleshooting tips.
The Start Button’s Reason to Live
The Start button lives on your taskbar, and it’s always ready for action.
By using the Start button, you can start programs, adjust the Windows
XP settings, find help for sticky situations, or, thankfully, shut down
Windows XP and get away from the computer for a while.
The little Start button is so eager to please, in fact, that it starts shooting out menus full of options as soon as you click it. Just click the button once, and the first layer of menus pops out, neatly labeled in Figure
A The Start menu changes as you add programs to your computer.
That change means that the Start menu on your friend’s computer
probably offers slightly different programs than the Start menu on
your own computer.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
A Save your files in your My Documents folder. Save your photos in
your My Pictures folder. And save your music in your My Music
folder. You can easily access each folder from the Start menu. And
each folder is specially designed for its contents. The My Pictures
folder automatically shows little thumbnails of all your photos, for
instance. By keeping your files organized, you’ll have a better
chance of finding them again.
A See the little arrow by the words All Programs near the bottom left
of the Start menu? Click the arrow, and another menu squirts out,
listing more programs stored inside your computer.
A Windows graciously places your most frequently used programs
along the left side of the Start menu. The Start menu in earlier versions of Windows displayed icons for the last ten documents you
Starting a program from the Start
This one’s easy. Click the Start button, and the Start menu pops out of
the button’s head. If you see an icon for your desired program or file,
click it, and Windows loads the program or file.
If your program isn’t listed, though, click the words All Programs. Yet
another menu pops up, this one listing the names of programs or folders full of programs.
If you see your program listed there, click the name. Wham! Windows
XP kicks that program to the screen. If you don’t see your program
listed, try pointing at the tiny folders listed on the menu. New menus fly
out of those folders, listing even more programs.
When you finally spot your program’s name, just click it. In fact, you
don’t have to click until you see the program’s name: The Start button
opens and closes all the menus automatically, depending on where the
mouse arrow is pointing at the time.
A Still don’t see your program listed by name? Then head for Chapter 7 and find the section on finding lost files and folders. You can
tell Windows XP to find your program for you.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
Adjust settings here
Displays computers connected to your own computer
Displays computer's disk drives
Click to access files by category
Current user's name
Browse the Web with
Internet Explorer
Check e-mail with
Outlook Express
Frequently used
programs and
files appear here
Click here to see
this menu
Clicking a Quick Launch program icon loads that program
Figure 10-12:
Click the
Start button
to see a list
of options.
Log off and let others use the computer, or turn it off
Runs programs by name (rarely used)
Click to search for files, programs, and other items
Provides help
A There’s another way to load a program that’s not listed — if you
know where the program’s living on your hard drive. Choose Run
from the Start button menu, type the program’s name, and press
Enter. If Windows XP finds the program, it runs it. If it can’t find the
program, though, click the Browse button. Yet another dialog box
appears, and this time it lists programs by name. Pick your way
through the dialog box until you see your program; then doubleclick its name and click the OK button to load it.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
A If you don’t know how to pick your way through this particular dialog box, head to the section of Chapter 5 on opening a file. (This
particular dialog box rears its head every time you load or save a
file or open a program.)
Adding a program’s icon to the Start
The Windows XP Start button works great — until you’re hankering for
something that’s not listed on its menu. How do you add a favorite program’s icon to the Start menu? Windows XP makes it easier than ever.
When you install a program, as described in Chapter 14, the program
almost always adds itself to the Start menu automatically. Then it
announces its presence to you and to all the other users of the computer, as shown in Figure 10-13.
Figure 10-13:
Most newly
add themselves to
the Start
menu’s All
area and
To see the newly installed program, click the words All Programs
(located right above the Start button on the Start menu), and a huge
menu of additional programs appears. See how the words Button Studio
are highlighted in Figure 10-14? That’s the newly installed program, so
Windows XP highlights it and usually places it in alphabetical order on
the menu.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
Figure 10-14:
Click the
words All
Programs to
see the
program —
Studio, in
this case —
and in
alphabetical order on
the menu.
A There’s another way to add a program to the Start menu. Windows
XP adds icons for your five most-frequently used programs to the
Start menu’s left column. If you come across an icon or shortcut
for a program that you’d like to appear there, right-click on the
icon. Choose Pin to Start Menu from the menu that appears, and
Windows places that icon in the left column of your Start menu.
A To get rid of unwanted icons from the Start menu’s left column,
right-click on the icons and choose Remove from This List; they
disappear. Remember, though, the icons on the Start menu are just
shortcuts. Removing the icon from the list doesn’t remove the program from your computer.
A Here’s a dirty little secret: The Start menu isn’t really anything special. It’s simply one of many folders on your hard drive. In fact,
your entire desktop is just a folder, too. Chapter 11 shows how to
explore the folders living on your hard drive, so don’t be surprised
when you discover folders named Desktop and Start Menu on your
C drive.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
Making Windows start programs
Many people sit down at a computer, turn it on, and go through the
same mechanical process of loading their oft-used programs. Believe it
or not, Windows XP can automate this computerized task.
The solution is the StartUp folder, found lurking in the Start button’s All
Programs area. When Windows XP wakes up, it peeks inside that StartUp folder. If it finds a shortcut lurking inside, it grabs that shortcut’s
program and tosses it onto the screen.
Here’s how to determine which programs wake up along with Windows
XP and which ones get to sleep in a little:
1. Right-click on the Start button and choose the Open option.
The My Computer program comes to the screen, displaying a Programs folder.
2. Double-click the folder named Programs.
You see shortcuts and folders for most of the programs currently
listed in your Start button’s All Programs area.
3. Double-click the folder named StartUp to open it onto your
4. Using your right mouse button, drag and drop any programs or
files you want to start automatically into the StartUp window.
If Windows asks, tell it to turn those programs or files into shortcuts. Then, whenever you start Windows XP from scratch, those
programs or files load up right along with it.
A The items in the StartUp area load themselves only when you log
onto Windows after logging off. If you’ve clicked the Switch Users
button instead of the Log Off button, Windows considers you still
at work. It launches the StartUp items only after you’ve logged off
and Windows has saved your settings.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
A Do you find yourself using the StartUp area a lot? Make a shortcut
that points straight toward it and leave the shortcut on your desktop. Drag and drop a program into the StartUp shortcut, and that
program’s shortcut will appear in the StartUp area, ready to load
itself whenever your computer starts up.
The Start Menu’s Free Programs
Windows XP, the fanciest version of Windows yet, comes with oodles of
free programs. This makes customers happy and makes the Justice
Department members flap their long black robes.
Free software is usually as nice as a free lunch. The Windows problem
lies with its menu. Sure, some of its freebie programs control important
parts of your computer. But more than 50 additional programs merely
buff and polish the details. This extraordinarily long section explains
which freebie programs are worthwhile and which ones you can safely
The Start menu’s first-tier programs
These items appear on the Start menu whenever you click the Start button. You’ll be using them over and over again, so if you’re bored already,
just read this part.
Internet Explorer: Click this button when you’re ready to explore the
Internet. (I cover Web browsing, e-mail, and other Internet activities in
Chapter 12.)
Outlook Express: This brings up Microsoft’s built-in e-mail program. (I
also cover it in Chapter 12.)
My Documents: Always store your documents in this folder so you’ll
know where to find them later.
My Pictures: Keep your digital pictures in this folder. Each picture’s
icon is a tiny thumbnail image of its picture.
My Music: Store your digital music in here so Media Player can find it
more easily.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
My Computer: Open this to see every storage area inside your computer, including your floppy drive, hard disks, CD-ROM drives, digital
cameras, and folders shared with other users.
My Network Places: Is your computer connected to other computers
on a network? Click here to see the other computers or folders you’re
allowed to access.
Control Panel: Click here to adjust your computer’s oodles of confusing settings, all described in Chapter 14.
Help and Support: Befuddled? Click here for an answer. (Chapter 17
explains the confusing Windows Help system.)
Search: Missing a file? Click here to find it. (Chapter 7 explains the Windows Search system.)
Run: Rarely used, this launches a program if you type in its name and
Log Off: Click here either to let somebody else use the computer
quickly, or to save your work and let the computer stand idle for others
to use it.
Turn Off Computer: Click this button to restart the computer, turn it off
completely, or let it Standby — the computer saves everybody’s work
and “goes to sleep” to save power. (Push the computer’s On/Off switch
to bring it back to life.)
The Start menu’s All Programs area
The Start menu lists quite a few options, but it hides a huge batch of
freebie programs in the All Programs area. Open the Start menu, click
All Programs near the menu’s bottom, and you’ll find these freebies on
the menu.
Windows Catalog: Microsoft never has enough of your money. After
you’ve bought Windows, a click here takes to you an Internet page with
many more Microsoft products to peruse.
Windows Update: Microsoft is never happy with Windows. So when it
finds a way to make it better — or to keep evil people from breaking
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
into it — it automatically sends a software patch to fix it. Click here to
grab the fix or set up Windows to grab the fixes automatically.
Activate Windows: Oh, the horror! When you buy a copy of Windows
XP, Microsoft gives you 30 days to activate it. When you click this icon,
Windows XP combines its built-in serial number with a “snapshot” of
your computer’s hardware. Then it dials Microsoft and registers your
software with your computer.
From the moment the software's registered, your copy of Windows XP
will work only on the computer it's installed on; it won’t work on any
other computer. And if you don’t activate Windows XP within 30 days, it
stops working. Welcome to Windows!
By far, the bulk of the Windows XP freebie programs are dumped under
the generic menu label Accessories. Here are programs that make Windows XP easier to see and hear; they let your computer talk to other
computers and the Internet, and they entertain you during slow days.
Finally, they let you fiddle with Windows’ innards during even slower
This section tackles the programs found on the Accessories menu,
accessed through the Start button’s All Programs button.
Accessibility Wizard creates a customized, easy-to-read version of Windows. It lets you choose your ideal size for fonts, menus, icons, and window borders, making them easier to click. The wizard enables sounds
to accompany certain on-screen actions if you’re having difficulty seeing the screen.
Magnifier enlarges the mouse pointer’s current location, making small
buttons and boxes easier to spot.
Narrator reads your on-screen menus, albeit not very audibly.
The On-Screen Keyboard draws a keyboard right onto the desktop.
Point and click at the letters with the mouse, and you’ll never have to
type. (Works well for people with broken keyboards.)
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
Utility Manager helps people with low vision quickly set up computers
by using several of the Accessibility options at once.
Much of this stuff applies to the tech-heads, so don’t spend too much
time here.
HyperTerminal is a throwback to the old days of telecomputing. Ignore
this relic that lets two computers talk over the phone lines.
Network Connections provides techie information about how fast your
networked computers send information back and forth. It also lets you
connect to networks or other computers across the phone lines or by
using a single cable. (It replaces the older Direct Cable Connection
Network Setup Wizard shows how to link two or more computers to
share information or even a single modem or printer. It’s covered in
Chapter 9.
New Connection Wizard walks you through connecting your computer
with your Internet service provider (ISP) so you can Web surf like the
best of them. It’s covered in Chapter 12.
Remote Desktop Connection works like a mini-network, but it lets you
run programs on another computer.
Windows XP provides the controls for a complete entertainment center,
including your computer’s CD player, DVD player, and TV card. Pick up
a modem and a bag of microwave popcorn, and a modern young couple’s plans are set for the evening. Here’s the rundown on the Windows
XP stereo cabinet of entertainment goodies.
Sound Recorder merely records up to 60 seconds of sound. Yawn. Most
of the time, it’s meant to record short messages for embedding into
documents or attaching to e-mail. Chances are, you’ll never use it.
Volume Control brings up a mixing panel that controls all your sound
sources. A CD Player shows up here, as well as general sound (WAV),
music (MIDI), or peripherals, such as TV cards or video capture cards
(Line-in). Unless you’re recording sounds, don’t bother with it. Instead,
control the volume by clicking the little speaker in the corner of your
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
taskbar. (No little speaker? Then put it there with the Control Panel, as
described in Chapter 14.) When the volume control pops up, just slide it
up or down to change your volume.
Windows Media Player is hip, it’s happening, and it’s huge. It can fill
your entire screen with ’60s-era pulsating lights while playing your
favorite tunes from your CDs or MP3 files. Unfortunately, Media Player
can’t make MP3 files from your CDs, instead opting for Microsoft’s competing WMA format. It grabs sound and video from the Internet, plays
your CDs, and categorizes your sound and video, from CDs to movie
trailers to radio station presets to favorite playlists. It’s all covered in
Chapter 13.
Nothing new here if you’ve been using Windows Me. Here you find FreeCell, Hearts, Minesweeper, two solitaire games, and some classics like
backgammon and checkers for playing over the Internet. Be sure to
check out Pinball, though, if you can tear yourself away from the venerable FreeCell.
System Tools
Windows XP comes with several technical programs designed to make
the nerd feel at home. Here’s a description of what they do so you know
which ones to avoid.
Activate Windows does just what is described earlier in this section.
You must activate your version of Windows within 30 days, or it stops
working. And after it’s activated, that copy won’t work on any other
Character Map lets you add weird foreign characters, such as à, £, or
even ß, into your document. Clicking here brings up a list of foreign
characters and symbols, all in your current font. Double-click the character you’re after and then click the spot in your document where you’d
like that character to appear. Choose Paste from the document’s Edit
menu, and the new character appears.
Disk Cleanup helps out when you’re running out of storage space on
your computer. Like the backseat of a car, Windows accumulates junk:
files temporarily grabbed from the Internet, deleted files from the Recycle Bin, and other space-wasters. Disk Cleanup automatically gathers
these programs and lets you delete them.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
Disk Defragmenter organizes your hard drive so it runs faster. See,
when a computer reads and writes files to and from a hard drive, it’s
working like a liquor store stock clerk after a Labor Day weekend. It has
to reorganize the store, moving all the misplaced beer cans out of the
wine aisles. The same disorganization happens with computer files.
When the computer moves files around, it tends to break the files into
chunks and spread them across your hard drive. The computer can still
find all the pieces, but relocating them takes more time. Disk Defragmenter reorganizes the hard drive, making sure that all the files’ pieces
are next to each other for quick and easy grabbing.
Files and Settings Transfer Wizard helps out when you finally upgrade
to a new computer. It examines your program’s settings on your old
computer and lets you choose which files you’d like to transfer. The
wizard can grab information from older versions of Windows, as well.
(The program works fastest and easiest with network cards, second
best with a cable-to-cable transfer, third-best by copying information to
a CD, and agonizingly slowly with a floppy disk.)
Scheduled Tasks lets Windows XP run programs when you’re not
around to supervise, whether you’re sleeping at night or away from the
home computer during the day. The program plans the schedule of
your computer’s routine, telling it which programs to run, when, and for
how long.
System Information a fix-it tool for the mechanics, compiles vast technical charts about your computer’s innards. Chances are, you won’t be
messing with it.
System Restore is probably the most important item here, so the
nearby “System Restore restores your faith in Windows” sidebar covers it in detail.
Address Book
Address Book is used by Outlook Express to send and receive your email. If you ever move up to its more powerful parent program, Outlook,
you can move over all your address information by using the Export
command from the File menu.
Calculator is, well, a calculator. It looks simple enough, and it really is —
unless you mistakenly set it for Scientific mode and see some nightmar-
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
System Restore restores your faith in
When your computer’s running well — and you
wish it would always work that well — open
System Restore and click next to the Create a
Restore Point option. Windows examines itself
and takes a snapshot of its settings. Then, if
something awful happens a few days later, you
have an out: Head back to the System Restore
area and choose Restore My Computer to an
Earlier Time. Choose a restore point you saved
back when everything was just ducky, and, after
Windows restores your pre-disaster settings,
your computer will perform swimmingly.
There are a few problems with System Restore,
as with anything. When System Restore brings
back your earlier, faithful Windows setup, it will
most likely leave out any of the programs you’ve
installed since then. You have to reinstall them.
Because Windows automatically creates a
restore point every day, don’t choose a spot further back in time than necessary.
System Restore won’t touch any files you’ve
stored in the My Documents folder. It swears it
won’t touch any of your other data files, either.
But to be on the safe side, keep your most
favored data in the My Documents folder.
If you use System Restore, use it often. Use it
both before and after installing any new program, for instance, or when making any major
tweaks to your system settings. That way, System Restore can bring up a reasonably current
version of your work.
If you goof and restore something that made
your computer function worse than ever, undo
the restoration. Call up System Restore and
choose Undo My Last Restoration. In fact, don’t
be afraid to try several restore points when
something goes wrong. You can always undo
them and try a different one.
Finally, System Restore consumes 12 percent of
your hard drive space. To shrink or enlarge that
chunk, right-click on My Computer from the
Start button, choose Properties, and use the
sliding control on the System Restore tab.
ish logarithmic stuff. To bring the calculator back to normal, choose
Standard from the View menu.
For an extra measure of handiness, choose Copy from the File menu.
Then click in the window where you want the answer to appear and
choose Paste from that window’s File menu. That’s much easier than
retyping a number like 2.449489742783. Hint: If the mouse action is too
slow, press your keyboard’s Num Lock key and punch in numbers with
the numeric keypad.
Command Prompt
This remnant lets old-time computer users boss their computers
around by typing a command into an ugly text window. Don’t bother.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
Windows comes with two word processors, WordPad and Notepad.
WordPad is for the letters you’re sprucing up for other people to see.
Notepad is for stuff you’re going to keep for yourself. It’s for typing
quick stuff and saving it on the fly.
Unfortunately, Notepad tosses you into instant confusion: All the sentences head right off the edge of the window. To turn those single-line,
runaway sentences into normal paragraphs, choose Word Wrap from
the Edit menu. (After you change this option the first time, strangely
enough, Windows XP remembers your preference and uses it each time
you use Notepad in the future.)
Notepad doesn’t print exactly what you see on-screen. Instead, it prints
according to the margins you set in Page Setup from the File menu. This
quirk can lead to unpredictable results.
Paint creates rudimentary pictures and graphics to stick into other programs. It comes with more than an electronic paintbrush: It has a can of
spray paint for that airbrushed look, several pencils of different widths,
a paint roller for gobbing on a bunch of paint, and an eraser for when
things get out of hand.
With such limited capabilities, Paint’s better for quick touch-ups than
ground-zero creations. Use the View menu’s Zoom command and the
Airbrush tool to remove spinach caught on somebody’s teeth in a digital photo, for instance.
You can copy drawings and pictures from Paint and paste them into just
about any other Windows XP program. Paint enables you to add text
and numbers to graphics, so you can add street names to maps copied
from the Internet, put labels inside drawings, or add the vintage year to
your wine labels.
Paint will open and save files in BMP, JPG, GIF, and TIF formats.
Program Compatibility Wizard
If a program seems reluctant to run on Windows XP, the Program Compatibility Wizard does a little coaxing. Fire up the wizard and select the
problematic program. The wizard then tricks the program into thinking
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
it’s running on an older version of Windows — a version that it’s more
familiar with.
Some people like to place a Web page on their desktops as a background. The Synchronize option sets up a timetable for how often Windows should automatically update that Web page — once a day,
(To add a Web page as a background, right-click on your desktop,
choose Properties, click the Desktop tab, and choose Customize Desktop. Then click the Web tab and click the New button to add as many
Web pages as you want.)
Tour Windows XP
New Windows users might benefit from taking the Windows XP tour — a
multimedia extravaganza showing how to use the basic Windows features.
Windows Explorer
Windows Explorer provides views of files stored on your computer and
lets you copy them from one place to another. I cover this in Chapter
Windows Movie Maker
For years, Windows could only edit words. Eventually, it could edit
sounds. Now, Windows XP jumps into the millennium with a program to
edit movies from video cameras. It lets you arrange your clips any way
you want and add soundtracks or voiceovers. It’s cool, it’s catchy, it’s
too complicated to cover in this book, and it requires a special camcorder and a special video camera card. (Check out Windows Movie
Maker For Dummies, written by Keith Underdahl and published by Hungry Minds, Inc.)
Although its icon is fancy, WordPad isn’t quite as fancy as some of the
more expensive word processors on the market. You can’t create tables
or multiple columns, like the ones in newspapers or newsletters, nor
can you double-space your reports. Ferget the spell checker, too.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
But WordPad’s great for quick letters, simple reports, and other basic
stuff. You can change the fonts around to get reasonably fancy, too.
That’s because WordPad can handle Windows TrueType fonts — that
font technology that shapes how characters appear on-screen. You can
create an elegant document by using some fancy TrueType fonts and
mail it on a disk to somebody else. That person can view your letter in
WordPad, and it looks the same as when you created it.
If you’ve just ditched your typewriter for Windows, remember this: On
an electric typewriter, you have to press the Return key at the end of
each line or else you start typing off the edge of the paper. Computers
avoid that. They automatically drop down a line and continue the sentence. (Hip computer nerds call this phenomenon word wrap.)
The StartUp folder lists programs that start automatically when Windows XP loads itself for a day’s work. It’s covered earlier in this chapter,
in the section called “Making Windows start programs automatically.”
Internet Explorer
Yep, clicking here loads Internet Explorer. But the Start menu’s big blue
“e” marked Internet loads Internet Explorer, too, and it’s easier to aim
for. Internet Explorer is covered in Chapter 12.
MSN Explorer
Don’t have access to the Internet yet? Clicking here brings up
Microsoft’s own clone of America Online. It collects a monthly fee, connects you to the Internet, and lets you send e-mail. Some love its all-inone interface. Others say it’s nothing new. If you’re curious, sign up for
a free trial and check it out.
Outlook Express
This icon appears near the Start menu, as well as here. Chapter 12
explains how to set it up.
Remote Assistance
This new option supposedly lets techies log onto your computer and fix
it — without coming to your home or office. Don’t use it unless you
completely trust the other person.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
Windows Media Player
Microsoft puts this one in here twice. The Entertainment section holds
the description, because that’s the first place Microsoft lists it on the
menu. See Chapter 13 for more information.
Windows Messenger
Because this icon appears on your taskbar, as well, it’s covered in the
“What’s the MSN Messenger Service?” sidebar, earlier in this chapter.
(It lets you send quickie messages to other people signed up for the service.)
My Version of Windows XP Doesn’t
Have the Right Freebie Programs!
Depending on the buttons you punched when you installed Windows
XP, the program installed different varieties of its freebie programs onto
your hard drive. Many people won’t see all the Start menu programs
mentioned in this chapter, for instance. If you feel left out and want
some of these freebie programs mentioned earlier, follow these steps:
1. Double-click the Control Panel’s Add or Remove Programs icon.
You can load the Control Panel by clicking its Start menu icon.
2. Click the Add/Remove Windows Components icon.
It’s the third icon in the left column. The Windows Components
Wizard appears, showing the various freebie programs included
with Windows XP, as well as the amount of space they need to
elbow onto your computer’s hard drive.
3. Click in the little box by the programs or accessories you want to
Some boxes already have check marks. That means that program
or accessory is already installed. Others have gray check marks in
the box. That means that some programs in that particular category aren’t installed.
_____ Chapter 10: Your Desktop, Start Button, and Taskbar (And Programs)
If your Accessories and Utilities area is grayed out, for example, not
all of your Accessories are installed. Click Accessories and Utilities
and click the Details button.
Windows XP lists the items available in that category so that you
can select the ones you want. Again, click the accessory you want
and click the Details button again, if it’s available.
Keep selecting items and click Details until you find the program
you want to add. Find it? Then click in its empty box to add it.
(You remove Windows XP accessories the same way, but this time
remove the check mark from the box next to their names.)
Click OK until you return to the Windows Components Wizard’s
opening window.
4. Click the Next button.
Windows XP looks over your check marks to see which, if any, programs should be installed or removed.
5. Click OK and insert your Windows XP CD if asked.
If you’ve chosen to install anything, Windows XP sometimes copies
the necessary files from your CD onto your hard drive. Other
times, it copies them from your hard drive.
A black check mark means that you’ve already selected all the
available programs in that program category. A gray check mark
means you’ve grabbed only some of them. Empty check boxes
mean that you aren’t using any of those programs.
Chapter 11
That Scary My Computer Program
In This Chapter
B Finding out why the My Computer program seems so scary
B Looking at folders
B Loading a program or file
B Deleting and undeleting files, folders, and icons
B Copying and moving files, folders, and icons
B Copying to a disk
B Getting information about files, folders, and icons
B Finding files that aren’t shown
B Working with files, folders, and icons on a network
B Formatting new floppy disks
he My Computer program is where people wake up from the easyto-use computing dream, clutching a pillow in horror. These people
bought a computer to simplify their work — to banish that awful filing
cabinet with squeaky drawers.
But click the little My Computer icon from the Start menu, and that filing cabinet reappears. Folders, bunches of them, appear. And where did
that file go? Unless you understand the basics behind the My Computer
program, you might not be able to find your information very easily.
This chapter explains how to use the My Computer program, and, along
the way, it dishes out a big enough dose of Windows file management
for you to get your work done. Here, you find out the wacky Windows
way to create folders, put files inside, and move everything around with
a mere mouse.
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
Why Is the My Computer Program
So Frightening?
Windows needs a place to store your programs and files. So, it borrowed the file cabinet metaphor, translated it into light and airy Windows icons, and called it the My Computer program. My Computer
shows the files and storage areas inside your computer, allowing you to
copy or move them, rename them, or delete them.
Everybody organizes his or her computer differently. Some people
don’t organize their computers at all. To see how your computer has
been organizing your files, click the Start menu and click My Computer
(the icon shown in the margin). Your My Computer window probably
looks a little different from the one shown in Figure 11-1.
Figure 11-1:
The My
displays the
files and
areas inside
you to copy,
move, or
delete them.
The My Computer program is a big panel of buttons — sort of an extension of your desktop. Here’s a brief rundown on what those big icons
along My Computer’s right side mean. You’ll find more detailed explanations throughout this chapter.
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
Files Stored on This Computer: Windows XP lets many people use the
same computer, and everybody’s files stay private. However, sometimes everybody wants to share information — letters from relatives,
for instance. That’s where the Shared Documents folder (shown in the
margin) comes in.
The Shared Documents folder contains files and folders accessible to
everybody that uses the computer. To share things with other users of
your computer, call up My Computer and store the information inside
My Computer’s Shared Documents folder. (Double-clicking any folder
shows its contents.)
Two additional folders live inside the Shared Documents folder: Shared
Music and Shared Pictures. Everybody using the computer may also
access music and pictures stored in here.
If you don’t want other users to share your information, keep it out of
the Shared Documents folder. Instead, store the information in your My
Documents folder, accessible from the Start menu. (See the Other
Places area listed along My Computer’s left side, as shown in Figure 111? You can also open your My Documents folder from there by clicking
its name.)
Notice two other folders in Figure 11-1, one belonging to Guest and the
other to Tina? You see those folders because you’re viewing the My
Computer area of an administrator’s account. As explained in Chapter
9, the administrator can peek inside the files of any other user. So, Figure 11-1 shows the My Documents folders of two other users, Tina and
the Guest account. Those folders are called Tina’s Documents and
Guest’s Documents, respectively.
Hard Disk Drives: This one’s not too difficult. It lists the hard drives
installed on your computer. Double-clicking a folder here shows what’s
inside, but you rarely find much useful information. In fact, Windows
often simply tells you to back off and look for programs on your Start
menu, instead. Unlike files and folders, hard drives can’t be moved to
different areas.
Devices with Removable Storage: This area shows stuff you take in and
out of your computer: floppy drives, CD-ROM drives, Iomega Jaz drives,
and even MP3 players, if they’re Windows XP compatible, like the
HipZip’s PocketZip player shown in Figure 11-1. (I cover MP3 players in
Chapter 13.)
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
How come I have two Music and Pictures
Don’t be confused by this bit of confusion. When
any users log onto the computer, no matter what
type of account they own, they’ll find a My Documents folder that contains a My Music and a
My Pictures folder. They also find a Shared Documents folder that contains a Shared Music and
a Shared Pictures folder. What’s the difference?
Well, the difference can be embarrassing if you
don’t understand it.
Although everybody has his or her own separate
My Documents folder, the Shared Documents
folder is the same folder for every computer
user. If Jeffrey has some great music he wants
to share with everybody, he doesn’t keep it in his
My Music folder. Instead, he stores it in the
Shared Documents folder’s Shared Music folder.
That way he — and everybody else on that computer — can hear the tunes.
As described in Chapter 9, Windows XP lets several people share a single computer. When people log onto the computer, Windows XP acts as
if they’re all using a different computer — each
user sees his or her own separate My Documents file, which contains only his or her own
To remember this distinction more easily, any
folder that has the word My in front of its title is
a personal, private folder. Any folder with the
word Shared in front of its title can be used by
anybody on the computer.
However, each user also sees a Shared Documents folder inside the My Computer area.
And any folder with a little hand beneath its icon
can be used by anybody on a computer’s network, as described in Chapter 9. Whew!
Scanners and Cameras: Digital cameras and scanners often appear
down here, depending on their make and model.
Unlike files and folders, Hard Disk Drives, Devices with Removable Storage, and Scanners and Cameras can’t be moved to different areas.
They’re stuck where they live in the My Computer area. To make them
more accessible, you can place shortcuts to them on your desktop or
any other convenient spot, as explained in Chapter 10.
My Computer also includes several boxes along its left side. They serve
mainly as shortcuts — pointers — that take you to other areas on your
computer. The boxes change according to what you’re viewing in My
Computer. These choices appear when you first open My Computer,
and here’s what they mean.
System Tasks: Both items listed here, View System Information and Add
or Remove Programs, deal with your computer’s innards. They’re shortcuts to icons on Windows XP’s Control Panel, so I cover them both in
Chapter 14.
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
Other Places: Three of these items, My Network Places, My Documents,
and Control Panel, are simply shortcuts to items that appear on your
computer’s Start menu. I cover My Network Places in Chapter 9, My
Documents appears later in this chapter, and the Control Panel’s covered in Chapter 14.
I dunno why there’s a shortcut to the Shared Documents folder here,
because the Shared Documents folder already appears a few inches to
the right, as you can see in Figure 11-1.
Details: Finally, something interesting. Click almost any icon in My Computer, and the Details window automatically displays information about
that object: the date a file was created, for instance, or how much space
it consumes.
Getting the Lowdown on Folders
This stuff is really boring, but if you don’t read it, you’ll be just as lost as
your files.
A folder is a storage area on a disk, just like a real folder in a file cabinet.
Windows XP divides your computer’s hard drives into many folders to
separate your many projects. You can work with a spreadsheet, for
example, without having all the word-processing files get in the way. Or
you can keep all your music in your My Music folder, and your pictures
in your My Pictures folder.
Any type of disk can have folders, but hard drives need folders the most
because they need a way to organize their thousands of files. By dividing a hard drive into little folder compartments, you can more easily see
where everything sits.
Windows’ My Computer program lets you probe into different folders
and peek at the files you’ve stuffed inside each one. It’s a pretty good
organizational scheme, actually. Socks never fall behind a folder and
jam the drawer.
Folders used to be called directories and subdirectories. But some people
were getting used to that, so the industry switched to the term folders.
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
A In a way, learning how to deal with files and folders is like learning
how to play the piano: Neither is intuitively obvious, and you hit
some bad notes with both. Don’t be frustrated if you don’t seem to
be getting the hang of it. Liberace would have hated file management at first, too.
A You can place folders inside other folders to add deeper levels of
organization, like adding drawer partitions to sort your socks by
color. Each sock color partition is a smaller, more-organized folder
of the larger sock-drawer folder.
A Of course, you can ignore folders and keep all your files right on
the Windows XP desktop. That’s like tossing everything into the
backseat of the car and pawing around to find your tissue box a
month later. Stuff that you’ve organized is a lot easier to find.
A If you’re eager to create a folder or two (and it’s pretty easy), page
ahead to this chapter’s “Creating a Folder” section.
A Windows creates several folders when it installs itself on your
computer. It created a folder to hold its internal engine parts and a
folder to hold your programs. Windows creates a My Documents
folder for you to store your work. And it creates a My Pictures
folder and a My Music folder inside your My Documents folder to
keep your pictures and music separate from your other stuff.
A Just as manila folders come from trees, computer folders use a tree
metaphor, shown in Figure 11-2, as they branch out from one main
folder to several smaller folders.
Peering into Your Drives and Folders
Knowing all this folder stuff can impress the people at the computer
store. But what counts is knowing how to use the My Computer program to get to a file you want. Never fear. Just read on.
Seeing the files on a disk drive
Like everything else in Windows XP, disk drives are represented by buttons, or icons as shown to the left.
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
Figure 11-2:
structure of
inside your
computer is
with main
out to
What’s all this path stuff?
Sometimes, Windows XP can’t find a file, even if
it’s sitting right there on the hard drive. You have
to tell Windows where the file lives. And to do
that, you need to know that file’s path.
A path is like the file’s address. When heading
for your house, a letter moves to your country,
state, city, street, and finally, hopefully, your
apartment or house number. A computer path
does the same thing. It starts with the letter of
the disk drive and ends with the name of the file.
In between, the path lists all the folders the computer must travel through to reach the file.
For example, look at the My Music folder in Figure 11-2. For Windows XP to find a file stored
there, it starts from the computer’s C: hard drive,
travels through the Documents and Settings
folder, and then goes through the Tina folder.
From there, it goes into the Tina folder’s My Documents folder. And only then does it reach the
My Music folder.
Take a deep breath. Exhale. Now, in a path, a
disk drive letter is referred to as C:\. The disk
drive letter and colon make up the first part of
the path. All the other folders are inside the big
C: folder, so they’re listed after the C: part. Windows separates these nested folders with something called a backslash, or \ . The name of the
actual file — for example, Rivers of Babylon —
comes last.
Music\Rivers of Babylon is what you
get when you put it all together, and that’s the
official path of the Rivers of Babylon file in Tina’s
My Music folder.
This stuff can be tricky, so here it is again: The
letter for the drive comes first, followed by a
colon and a backslash. Then come the names of
all the folders, separated by backslashes. Last
comes the name of the file (with no backslash
after it).
When you click folders, Windows XP puts
together the path for you. Thankfully. But whenever you click the Browse button when looking
for a file, you’re navigating through folders and
showing Windows the path to the file.
When it’s first loaded, Windows’ My Computer program shows those
icons. See the icon labeled 3 1/2 Floppy (A:)?The icon is a picture of a
floppy disk and its disk drive. You see a compact disc floating above
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
drive D: to show that it’s a compact disc drive. The hard drive, in the
middle, doesn’t have anything hovering over it except a nagging suspicion that it will fail horribly at the worst moment.
My Computer also shows information stored in other areas, like MP3
players or digital cameras, as shown in these icons to the left.
Clicking these icons isn’t as straightforward as clicking a disk drive icon
because cameras and music players can be set up in many different
ways. However, clicking these icons usually lets you access their contents and move files back and forth.
A If you’re kinda sketchy on those disk drive things, you probably
skipped Chapter 2. Trot back there for a refresher.
A Double-click a drive icon in My Computer, and the My Computer
window displays the drive’s contents. For example, put a disk in
drive A and double-click My Computer’s drive A icon. After a few
gears whirl, My Computer shows what files and folders live on the
disk in drive A.
A Hold down the Ctrl key while double-clicking a drive icon, and a
second My Computer window appears, to show the drive’s contents. (You might have to rearrange one window’s size to see them
both.) So what? Well, a second window comes in handy when you
want to move or copy files from one folder or drive to another, as
discussed in the “Copying or Moving a File, Folder, or Icon” section
of this chapter.
A If you click an icon for a CD or floppy drive when no disk is in the
drive, Windows XP stops you gently, suggesting that you insert a
disk before proceeding further.
A Spot an icon called My Network Places? That’s a little doorway for
peering into other computers linked to your computer — if there
are any. You find more network stuff near the end of this chapter
and in Chapter 9.
Seeing what’s inside folders
Because folders are really little storage compartments, Windows XP
uses a picture of a little folder to stand for each separate place for storing files.
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
To see what’s inside a folder, either in My Computer or on your computer’s desktop, just double-click that folder’s picture. A new window
pops up, showing that folder’s contents. Spot a folder inside that
folder? Double-click it to see what’s inside. Keep clicking until you find
what you want or reach a dead end.
If you mistakenly open the wrong folder, all is not lost. Just back your
way out as if you’re browsing the Web. Click the lime-green Back arrow
at the window’s top-left corner. (It’s the same arrow that appears in the
margin.) That closes the wrong folder and shows you the folder you just
left. If you keep clicking the Back arrow, you end up right where you
A As you keep climbing farther out on a branch and more folders
appear, you’re moving toward further levels of organization. If you
climb back inward, you reach files and folders that have less in
A Yeah, this stuff is really confusing, but keep one thing in mind:
Don’t be afraid to double-click, or even single-click, a folder just to
see what happens. Clicking folders just changes your viewpoint;
nothing dreadful happens, and no tax receipts fall onto the floor.
You’re just opening and closing file cabinet drawers, harmlessly
peeking into folders along the way.
A To climb farther out on the branches of folders, keep double-clicking new folders as they appear.
A How do you know which folders contain something and which are
empty? You can’t. Sorry. Just click a folder and look inside. (Or you
can use the Windows Explorer program, described in the “What’s
That Windows Explorer Thing?” section near this chapter’s end.)
A Sometimes, a folder contains too many files or folders to fit in the
window. To see more files, click that window’s scroll bars. What’s a
scroll bar? Time to whip out your field guide, Chapter 5.
While mining deep into folders with My Computer, and not finding what
you want, here’s a quick way to return to any of the folders you’ve
plowed through: See the little downward-pointing black arrow next to
the green Back arrow in the window’s top-left corner? Click there, and a
list drops down to reveal the names of all the folders you’ve plowed
through to reach your current folder. Click any of the listed folders, and
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
Windows XP immediately opens that folder. (Click the History option,
by the way, to make Windows display all the Internet sites you’ve visited in the past few weeks.)
Using a Microsoft IntelliMouse, the kind with the little wheel embedded
in the mouse’s neck? Point at a long list of files and folders in My Computer and spin the little wheel; the list moves up or down as you spin
the wheel, letting you see some files and folders that were off-screen.
Can’t find a file or folder? Instead of rummaging through folders, check
out the Search command that I describe in Chapter 7. It’s the fastest
way to find files and folders that were “there just a moment ago.”
Loading a Program or File
A file is a collection of information on a disk. Files come in two basic
types: program files and data files.
Program files contain instructions that tell the computer to do something: balance the national budget or dial up the Internet and display
pictures of exotic monkeys.
Data files contain information created with a program, as opposed to
computer instructions. If you write a letter to the grocer complaining
about his soggy apricots, the letter is a data file.
To open either kind of file in Windows XP, double-click its name. Doubleclicking a program file’s name brings the program to life on the screen.
Double-clicking a data file tells Windows XP to load the file and the program that created it. Then Windows simultaneously brings both the file
and the program to the screen.
A Depending on how your computer is configured, sometimes a single-click does the trick: Point at the file or program to highlight it
and then click it to bring it to life. (If that doesn’t bring the file or
program to life, try a double-click.)
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
A Windows XP sticks little icons next to filenames so that you know
whether they’re program or data files. In fact, even folders get their
own icons so that you won’t confuse them with files. Chapter 20, at
the tail end of the book, provides a handy reference for figuring out
which icon is which.
A Because of some bizarre New School of Computing mandate, any
data file that Windows recognizes is called a document. A document doesn’t have to contain words; it can have pictures of worms
or sounds of hungry animals.
Don’t bother reading this hidden technical
Sometimes, programs store information in a data
file. They may need to store information about
the way the computer is set up, for example. To
keep people from thinking that those files are
trash and deleting them, Windows hides those
You can view the names of these hidden files
and folders, however, if you want to play voyeur.
Open My Computer and choose Folder Options
from the Tools menu. Select the View tab from
along the menu’s top and click the Show Hidden
Files and Folders button under the Hidden Files
and Folders option.
Click the OK button, and the formerly hidden files
appear alongside the other filenames. Be sure
not to delete them, however: The programs that
created them will gag, possibly damaging other
files. In fact, please click the View tab’s Restore
Defaults button to hide that stuff again and
return the settings to normal.
Deleting and Undeleting Files,
Folders, and Icons
Sooner or later, you’ll want to delete a file that’s not important anymore—yesterday’s lottery picks, for example, or something you’ve
stumbled across that’s too embarrassing to save any longer. But suddenly you realize that you’ve made a mistake and deleted the wrong file!
Not to worry, the Windows XP Recycle Bin can probably resurrect that
deleted file. The next two sections show how to delete a file and
retrieve files you’ve deleted.
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
Getting rid of a file or folder
To delete a file or folder, right-click on its name. Then choose Delete
from the pop-up menu. This surprisingly simple trick works for files,
folders, shortcuts, and just about anything else in Windows.
The Delete option deletes entire folders, as well as any files or folders
stuffed inside them. Make sure that you’ve selected the right folder
before you choose Delete.
A After you choose Delete, Windows tosses a box in your face, asking
whether you’re sure. If you are, click the Yes button.
A Be extra sure that you know what you’re doing when deleting any
file that has pictures of little gears in its icon. These files are sometimes sensitive hidden files, and the computer wants you to leave
them alone. (Other than that, they’re not particularly exciting,
despite the action-oriented gears.)
A As soon as you find out how to delete files, you’ll want to read the
very next section, “How to undelete a file.”
Deleting a shortcut from the desktop or any other place just deletes a
button that loads a file or program. You can always put the button back
on or even create a new one. The program itself is undamaged and still
lives inside your computer. Deleting an icon that doesn’t have the little
shortcut arrow removes that file or program from the hard disk and
puts it into the Recycle Bin, where it disappears after a few weeks.
How to undelete a file
Sooner or later, your finger will slip, and you’ll delete the wrong file. A
slip of the finger, the wrong nudge of a mouse, or, if you’re in southern
California, a small earthquake at the wrong time can make a file disappear.
Scream! After the tremors subside, double-click the Recycle Bin, and
the Recycle Bin window drops down from the heavens, as shown in Figure 11-3.
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
Figure 11-3:
The Recycle
drops from
the heavens
to save the
To restore a file or folder to its former place among the living, right-click
on its name in the Recycle Bin and choose Restore from the menu. The
file or folder reappears in the place where you deleted it.
You can also drag deleted goodies out of the Recycle Bin window: Use
the mouse to point at the name of the file you want to retrieve and,
while holding down the mouse button, point at the desktop. Then let go
of the mouse button. Windows XP moves the once-deleted file out of the
Recycle Bin and places the newly revived file onto your desktop. Feel
free to drag the file anywhere you want.
The Recycle Bin chokes under a few circumstances, however, so be
A First, you can only restore deleted items within a few weeks of
deleting them. If you wait too long, the Recycle Bin eventually
sends your files to the trash heap. It can’t keep saving your deleted
files forever, or your computer would run out of storage space. So,
the Recycle Bin waits until its stash of deleted files consumes
about 10 percent of your computer’s storage space. Translation?
That means you probably have a few weeks to retrieve things
before the Recycle Bin sends them down the pipes forever.
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
A Second, the Recycle Bin only restores files deleted from your hard
drive. Sure, that’s 99 percent of your files. But that doesn’t help
when you accidentally delete an important file from a floppy disk, a
genuine picture of a UFO on your digital camera, your favorite song
from an MP3 player, or a file from the network. The Recycle Bin
doesn’t save files deleted from those areas. When they’re deleted,
they’re gone for good.
A If you delete something from somebody else’s computer while
using the network, it can never be retrieved. The Recycle Bin only
holds items deleted from your own computer, not somebody else’s
computer. And, for some awful reason, the Recycle Bin on the
other person’s computer won’t save the item, either.
A After you restore your file, it’s as good as new. Feel free to store it
in any other folder for safekeeping.
A The Recycle Bin normally holds about 10 percent of your hard
drive’s space. For example, if your hard drive is 20GB, the Recycle
Bin holds onto 2GB of deleted files. After it reaches that limit, it
starts deleting the files you deleted the longest time ago to make
room for the incoming deleted files. To increase or decrease that
percentage, right-click on your desktop’s Recycle Bin icon, choose
Properties, and adjust the amount on the window that appears.
Copying or Moving a File, Folder, or
To copy or move files to different folders on your hard drive, it’s sometimes easiest to use your mouse to drag them there. For example,
here’s how to move a file to a different folder on your desktop. In this
case, I’m moving the Traveler file from the Home folder to the Morocco
1. Move the mouse pointer until it hovers over the file you want to
move, and then press and hold down the right mouse button.
As you see in Figure 11-4, I’ve opened the House folder by doubleclicking it. Inside is the Traveler file, the one I want to move.
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
2. While holding down the right mouse button, use the mouse to
point at the folder to which you’d like to move the file.
The trick is to hold down the right mouse button the whole time.
When you move the mouse, its arrow drags the file along with it.
For example, Figure 11-4 shows how the desktop looks when I drag
the Traveler file from the House folder to my Morocco folder.
Figure 11-4:
The Traveler
file is being
dragged to
folder on
the left side
of the
window in
order to
move the
file there.
3. Release the mouse button and choose Copy, Move, or Create
Shortcut from the pop-up menu.
When the mouse arrow hovers over the place to which you want to
move the file, take your finger off the mouse button and choose
Copy, Move, or Create Shortcut from the menu that appears.
Moving a file or folder by dragging it is pretty easy, actually. The hard
part comes when you try to put the file and its destination on-screen at
the same time, especially when one folder is buried deep within your
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
That’s why Windows offers a few other ways to copy or move files —
you don’t have to drag and drop icons if you don’t want to. Although
none of these methods is the best for all situations, they all work well at
different times.
And what if I don’t hold down the right mouse
button while dragging and dropping?
My Computer does something awfully dumb to
confuse people: When you drag a file from one
folder to another on the same drive, you move
the file. When you drag a file from one folder to
another on a different drive, you copy that file.
I swear I didn’t make up these rules. And the
process gets more complicated: You can click
the file and hold down the Shift key to reverse
the rules. That’s why it’s much easier to simply
hold down the right mouse button whenever you
drag and drop anything.
A Cut and paste: Right-click on a file or folder and choose Cut or
Copy, depending on whether you want to move or copy it. (I cover
cutting and pasting extensively in Chapter 8.) Then right-click on
your destination folder and choose Paste. It’s simple, it always
works, and you needn’t place the item and its destination onscreen simultaneously. However, moving from one folder to
another often takes a few keystrokes.
A Copy/Move to Folder commands: This method only works on
items within folders. Click the file and click Edit from the menu
along the folder’s top. Choose Copy This File or Move This File,
and a new window appears, listing all your computer’s folders and
their locations. Click through the window’s folders until you find
the destination folder, and Windows carries out the Copy or Move
command. This method works well, but only if you know your destination folder’s exact location within your computer’s pile of folders.
A Windows Explorer: Described later in this chapter, Windows
Explorer presents a My Computer window, but with all your folders
lined up along the window’s left side. That makes it easier to see
both the object and its destination on the same screen. Using Windows Explorer is often the easiest method, but you need to figure
out the program, which I describe toward this chapter’s end. (For a
peek at Windows Explorer, open My Computer and click Folders on
the toolbar along the top.)
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
Always drag icons while holding down the right mouse button. Windows XP is then gracious enough to give you a menu of options when
you position the icon, and you can choose to move, copy, or create a
shortcut. If you hold down the left mouse button, Windows XP sometimes doesn’t know whether to copy or move.
A To copy or move files to a floppy disk, digital camera, or MP3
player in the My Computer window, hold down the right mouse
button while dragging those files to that item’s icon.
A Don’t ever move these folders: My Documents, My Pictures, My
Music, Shared Documents, Shared Pictures, or Shared Music. Keep
them where they are so they’re easy to find.
A After you run a program’s installation program to put the program
on your hard drive, don’t ever move the program’s folder or files
around. An installation program often wedges a program into Windows pretty handily; if you move the program, it may not work
anymore, and you’ll have to reinstall it. Feel free to move the program’s shortcut, though, if it has one.
Selecting More Than One File or
Windows XP lets you grab an armful of files and folders at one swipe;
you don’t always have to piddle around, dragging one item at a time.
To pluck several files and folders, hold down the Ctrl key when you
click the names or icons. Each name or icon stays highlighted when you
click the next one.
To gather several files or folders sitting next to each other in a list, click
the first one. Then hold down the Shift key as you click the last one.
Those two items are highlighted, along with every file and folder sitting
between them.
Windows XP lets you lasso files and folders as well. Point slightly above
the first file or folder you want; then, while holding down the mouse
button, point at the last file or folder. The mouse creates an invisible
lasso to surround your files. Let go of the mouse button, and the invisible lasso, er, disappears, leaving all the surrounded files highlighted.
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
A You can drag these armfuls of files in the same way that you drag a
single file.
A You can also simultaneously cut or copy and paste these armfuls
into new locations using any of the methods described in the
“Copying or Moving a File, Folder, or Icon” section.
A You can delete these armfuls of goods, too.
A You can’t rename everything at once, though. To rename them, you
have to go back to piddling around with one item at a time.
A To quickly select all the files in a folder, choose Select All from the
folder’s Edit menu. (Or press Ctrl+A.) Here’s another nifty trick: To
grab all but a few files, press Ctrl+A and, while still holding down
Ctrl, click the ones you don’t want.
Renaming a File, Folder, or Icon
Sick of a file or folder’s name? Then change it. Just right-click on the
offending icon and choose Rename from the menu that pops up.
The old filename gets highlighted and then disappears when you start
typing the file or folder’s new name. Press Enter or click the desktop
when you’re through, and you’re off.
Or you can click the file or folder’s name to select it, wait a second, and
click the file’s name again. Windows XP highlights the old name, ready
to replace it with your incoming text. (Some people click the name and
press F2; Windows automatically lets you rename the file.)
A If you rename a file, only its name changes. The contents are still
the same, it’s still the same size, and it’s still in the same place.
A You can’t rename groups of files. The files spit in your face if you
even try.
A Renaming some folders confuses Windows, however, especially if
those folders contain programs. And please don’t rename these
folders: My Documents, My Pictures, or My Music.
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
Some icons, like the one for the Recycle Bin, won’t let you rename them.
How do you know which icons don’t let you meddle with their names?
Right-click on the icon you want to rename. If you don’t see the word
Rename on the menu, you won’t be able to rename the file. Handy button, that right mouse button.
Using Legal Folder Names and
Windows is pretty picky about what you can and can’t name a file or
folder. If you stick to plain old letters and numbers, you’re fine. But
don’t try to stick any of the following characters in there:
: / \ * | < >
? “
If you use any of those characters, Windows XP bounces an error message to the screen, and you have to try again.
These names are illegal:
1/2 of my Homework
He’s no “Gentleman”
These names are legal:
Half of my Term Paper
Two is Bigger than One
A #@$%) Scoundrel
A As long as you remember the characters that you can and can’t
use for naming files, you’ll probably be okay.
A Using a digital camera, scanner, or MP3 player? Don’t use any of
those forbidden characters in the file’s name, or Windows will
freak out when you try to import the file into the My Pictures
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
A Like their predecessors, Windows XP programs brand files with
their own three-letter extensions so that Windows XP knows which
program created what file. Normally, Windows XP hides the extensions so that they’re not confusing. But if you happen to spot filenames like SAVVY.DOC, README.TXT, and SPONGE.BMP across the
hard disk, you’ll know that the extensions have been added by the
Windows XP programs WordPad, Notepad, and Paint, respectively.
Windows XP normally keeps the extensions hidden from view, so
you just look at the file’s icon for heritage clues.
If you really want to see a filename’s extension, choose Folder Options
from the folder’s Tools menu (or the Control Panel) and then click the
View tab. Finally, click the little box next to the line that says Hide File
Extensions for Known File Types; that removes the check mark. Then
click the Apply button, and the files reveal their extensions. (Click the
box again or click the Restore Defaults button to hide the extensions.)
You may see a filename with a weird tilde thing in it, such as
WIGWAM~1.TXT. That’s the special way that Windows XP deals with long
filenames. Most older programs expect files to have only eight characters; when there’s a conflict, Windows XP whittles down a long filename
so that those older programs can use those files. When the program’s
finished, the shorter, weird filename is the file’s new name.
Copying a Complete Floppy Disk
To copy files from one disk to another, drag ’em over there, as
described a few pages back. To copy an entire floppy disk, however, use
the Copy Disk command.
What’s the difference? When you’re copying files, you’re dragging specific filenames. But when you’re copying a disk, the Copy Disk command duplicates the disk exactly: It even copies the empty parts!
(That’s why the process takes longer than just dragging the files over.)
The Copy Disk command has two main limitations:
A It can only copy floppy disks that are the same size or capacity.
Just as you can’t pour a full can of beer into a shot glass, you can’t
copy one disk’s information onto another disk unless the disks
hold the same amount of data.
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
A It only copies removable disks — floppies, Zip drives, Syquest, and
things with even more esoteric names.
Here’s how to make a copy of a floppy disk or other removable disk:
1. Put your floppy disk in your disk drive.
2. Double-click the My Computer icon.
3. Right-click on your floppy disk’s icon.
4. Choose Copy Disk from the pop-up menu.
A box appears, letting you confirm which disk and disk drive you
want to use for your copy.
5. Click the Start button to begin making the copy and follow the
helpful directions.
A All this capacity and size stuff about disks and drives is slowly
digested in Chapter 2.
A The Copy Disk command can be handy for making backup copies
of your favorite programs.
A The Copy Disk command completely overwrites the disk that it’s
copying information to. Don’t use a disk containing anything particularly important.
A In fact, you should always use the Copy Disk command when making backup copies of programs. Sometimes, programs hide secret
files on their floppies; by making a complete copy of the disk with
the Copy Disk command, you can be sure that the entire disk gets
copied, hidden files and all.
Creating a Folder
To store new information in a file cabinet, you grab a manila folder,
scrawl a name across the top, and start stuffing it with information.
To store new information in Windows XP — a new batch of letters to the
hospital billing department, for example — you create a new folder,
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
think up a name for the new folder, and start moving or copying files
into it.
Here’s how to create a new folder in your My Documents area, the home
for lots of your user-created junk:
1. Choose My Documents from the Start menu.
2. Right-click inside your My Documents window and choose New.
Right-clicking inside your My Documents window causes a menu
to shoot out the side. Choose New.
3. Select Folder from the menu that appears.
When a menu squirts out from the word New, choose Folder, as
shown in Figure 11-5. Poof! A new folder appears on the desktop,
waiting for you to type in a new name.
Figure 11-5:
where you
want a new
folder to
New, and
Folder from
the menu.
4. Type in a new name for the folder.
A newly created folder has a highlighted name; when you start typing, Windows XP automatically erases the old name and fills in
your new name. Done? Either press Enter or click somewhere away
from the name you’ve just typed.
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
If you mess up and want to try again, right-click on the folder,
choose Rename, and start over.
A To move files into a new folder, drag them there. Or follow the
directions in the “Copying or Moving a File, Folder, or Icon” section, earlier in this chapter.
A When copying or moving lots of files, select them all at the same
time before dragging them. You can chew on this stuff in the
“Selecting More Than One File or Folder” section, earlier in this
A Just as with naming files, you can use only certain characters when
naming folders. (Stick with plain old letters and numbers, and
you’ll be fine.)
A Shrewd observers noticed that in Figure 11-5 Windows offers to
create many more things than just a folder when you click the New
button. You follow this same process to create a new Shortcut,
WordPad Document, Text Document, or several other things.
Seeing More Information about Files
and Folders
Whenever you create a file or folder, Windows XP scrawls a bunch of
secret hidden information on it: its size, the date you created it, and
even more trivial stuff. Sometimes it even lets you add your own secret
information: lyrics and reviews for your music files and folders, thumbnail pictures to your art folders, and other pertinent information.
To see what Windows XP is calling a file or folder behind your back,
right-click on the item and choose Properties from the pop-up menu.
Choosing Properties on a Pearl Jam song, for instance, brings up
bunches of details, as shown in Figure 11-6.
Windows shows that the file contains a Windows Media Audio (WMA)
version of Pearl Jam’s song, “Animal.” The song is less than 1.5MB in
size, and it opens with Windows Media Player. (If you want a different
MP3 player to play the song, you can change the application by clicking
the Change button.)
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
Figure 11-6:
To see more
about a file’s
on its name
or icon and
from the
Click the Summary tab and choose Advanced for the real fun. As shown
in Figure 11-7, Windows displays the Artist, Album Title, Year, Track
Number, Genre, Duration, and more technical information about how it
was encoded. (I cover this stuff more in Chapter 13.)
Windows lets you see more information about files as they sit in a
folder, too. Choose Details from a folder’s View menu, as shown in Figure 11-8. Instead of just displaying icons, Windows displays detailed
information about your files.
A To change views, click the itty-bitty downward-pointing arrow next
to the right-most button on the toolbar, which lives atop most folders. (The button is shown in the margin.) A drop-down menu
appears, listing options for arranging icons: Thumbnails, Tiles,
Icons, List, and Details. Try them all to see what they do. (Clicking
those options merely changes the way the folder displays its contents — it doesn’t do any permanent damage.)
A Is the menu not living on top of your folder’s window? Put it there
by choosing Standard Buttons from the View menu’s Toolbars
option. That little bar of buttons now appears atop your window
like a mantel over a fireplace.
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
Figure 11-7:
To see even
more details
about a file
or folder’s
click the
tab of the
dialog box.
Figure 11-8:
Details from
a folder’s
View menu
to make the
about its
A If you can’t remember what those little toolbar buttons do, rest
your mouse pointer over a button and pretend it’s lost. Windows
XP displays a helpful box summing up the button’s mission and,
occasionally, places a further explanation along the bottom of the
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
A Although some of the additional file information is handy, it can
consume a lot of space, limiting the number of files you can see in
the window. Displaying only the filename is often a better idea.
Then, if you want to see more information about a file or folder, try
the following tip.
At first, Windows XP displays filenames sorted alphabetically by name
in its My Computer windows. But by right-clicking on a folder and
choosing the different sorting methods in the Arrange Icons menu, you
display the files in a different order. Windows puts the biggest ones at
the top of the list, for example, when you choose Sort by Size. Or you
can choose Sort by Type to keep files created by the same application
next to each other. Or you can choose Sort by Date to keep the most
recent files at the top of the list. Windows offers different sorting
options for your music and picture folders.
When the excitement of sorting wears off, try clicking the little buttons
at the top of each column — Size, for instance. That sorts the contents
appropriately — the largest files at the top, for instance.
What’s That Windows Explorer
Although Windows almost always displays your files and folders in its
My Computer program window, another program can help you examine
your files and folders. My Computer only shows the contents of a single
folder at a time. Windows Explorer, on the other hand, lets you see all
your folders at the same time, as shown in Figure 11-9. Best yet,
Explorer is easy to load and get rid of.
To load Windows Explorer from My Computer, click the Folders button
on the toolbar at the top. A list of folders tacks itself onto My Computer’s left side, turning it into Windows Explorer. If you read the beginning of this chapter, where it talks about your folders being organized
into a “tree,” you’ll recognize Windows Explorer’s method of displaying
See how some folders have tiny plus signs next to them? That means
more folders hide inside those folders. Click the plus sign, and the
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
Figure 11-9:
Click the
button from
along a
toolbar to
add the
view of your
folder opens up, displaying the folders that live inside it. By clicking the
plus signs, you can worm your way deeper inside folders.
What’s the point? Well, Windows Explorer lets you view one folder’s
contents on the right side of the window, and all of your folder’s names
on the left. That makes it easier to move or copy items from one folder
to another folder.
To copy a letter from your desktop to your Business Letters folder, for
instance, open Windows Explorer and click Desktop on the left to display its contents on the window’s right. Right-click on the letter’s icon
and choose Copy, as described in this chapter’s section about copying
or moving files.
Find the Business Letters folder among the folders on the window’s left
side, right-click on that folder, and choose Paste. Windows copies the
letter to your Business Letters folder.
A Some people prefer Windows Explorer’s “view it all” method of
displaying your computer’s contents. Others prefer My Computer.
There’s no right or wrong way. Try them both and see which you
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
A You can create folders and documents while using the Windows
Explorer view, just as you do in My Computer, explained earlier in
this chapter. In fact, almost all of the commands and tricks work
the same. Windows Explorer works just like My Computer, but with
that extra line of folders along its left side.
A To get rid of the Windows Explorer view — to stop all those folders
from showing along the left side — click the Folders button again
from the toolbar along the top.
How Do I Make the Network Work?
Windows XP can connect to bunches of other computers through a
home network, and, luckily, that makes it pretty easy to grab files from
other people’s computers. At least it’s pretty easy if somebody else has
already set up the network. But after the network’s running, you’ll be
running right alongside it. There isn’t much new to learn.
See the My Network Places icon on your computer’s Start menu (and
shown in the margin)? That icon is the key to all the computers currently connected to your computer.
Double-click that icon, and a window appears, as shown in Figure 11-10.
Your windows naturally differ because you have different computers.
(And the computers probably have different names, too.) Figure 11-10,
for instance, shows all the disk drives on other computers that connect
to this one through a network.
Double-click the folder of the computer that you want to peek inside,
and a new window appears, showing the contents of the folder on that
computer — even though it might be in another room, in another office,
or on another continent.
To see all the computers currently linked to your computer, click View
Workgroup Computers from the Network Tasks menu along the window’s left side, as shown in Figure 11-11. Windows XP shows you the
names of all the currently available computers.
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
Figure 11-10:
Doubleclick the
My Network
Places icon
to see
places you
can access
on the
Figure 11-11:
Click View
to see all
to your
through a
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
A When viewing another computer’s files, everything works just like
it was on your own computer. Feel free to point and click inside the
other computer’s folders. To copy files back and forth, just drag
and drop them to and from your computer’s window to the other
computer’s window. (Sometimes a computer requires a password,
however, so you’ll have to ask the computer’s owner for permission.)
A Don’t feel guilty when probing the network. You can only access
computers that your network administrator has given you access
to. You’re not really getting away with anything.
A When you use a network to delete something from another networked computer — or somebody uses the network to delete a file
from your computer — it’s gone. It doesn’t go into the Recycle Bin.
Be careful, especially because the network administrator can often
tell who deleted the file.
A Windows XP comes with a special Home Networking process to
connect your computers with cables. In fact, after you connect
them, the computers can share a single modem. Chapter 9 carries
much more information about networking.
Making My Computer and Windows
Explorer List Missing Files
Sometimes, Windows XP snoozes and doesn’t keep track of what’s
really on a disk. Oh, it does pretty well with the hard drive, and it works
pretty well if you’re just running Windows programs. But it can’t tell
when you stick in a new floppy disk, and it sometimes gets confused
with networks or when you copy files from one place to another.
If you ever think that the Windows Explorer or My Computer window is
holding out on you, tell it to refresh, or take a second look at the files it’s
displaying. You can click View from the menu bar and choose Refresh
from the pull-down menu, but a quicker way is to press the F5 key. (It’s a
function key along the top or left side of the keyboard.) Either way, the
program takes a second look at what it’s supposed to be showing and
updates its lists, if necessary.
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
Who cares about this stuff, anyway?
Windows XP gives each file four special
switches called attributes. The computer looks
at the way those switches are set before it fiddles with a file. (A check mark means the switch
is turned on.) To view a file’s attributes, rightclick on the file and choose Properties.
A Read Only: Choosing this attribute allows
the file to be read, but not deleted or
changed in any way.
A Hidden: Setting this attribute makes the file
A For Fast Searching: Normally set to on, this
setting tells Windows to let its Indexing Service take note of the file and its contents for
faster searching.
A Compress Contents to Save Disk Space:
Only available on computers with special,
NTFS drives, this setting lets Windows XP
squish the file to save space. That makes the
file load more slowly, though.
invisible during normal operations.
By clicking the Advance button, Windows XP
presents more switches:
A File Is Ready for Archiving: Some
programs look at this one to see if they’ve
backed up that file or not. When backed up,
this attribute changes to reflect its new sta-
The Properties box makes it easy — perhaps too
easy — to change these attributes. In most
cases, you should leave them alone. I just mention them here so that you’ll know what computer nerds mean when they tell cranky people,
“Boy, somebody must have set your attribute
wrong when you got out of bed this morning.”
Press the F5 key whenever you stick in a different floppy disk and want
to see what files are stored on it. Windows XP then updates the screen
to show the new floppy’s files, not the files from the first disk.
Formatting a Disk
Some new floppy disks don’t work straight out of the box; your computer burps out an error message if you even try to use them fresh.
Floppy disks must be formatted, and unless you paid extra for a box of
preformatted floppy disks, you must format them yourself.
Some disks on digital cameras and MP3 players must be formatted, as
well. Either way, the procedure is pretty much the same:
1. Place the new disk into your drive.
2. In either Windows Explorer or the My Computer window, rightclick on the drive’s icon and choose Format from the menu.
_______________________ Chapter 11: That Scary My Computer Program
3. Choose the disk’s size under Capacity and click Start.
Almost all floppy disks are 1.44MB these days, so choose that
option if you’re not sure.
Digital cameras and MP3 players use different-sized disks. Luckily,
their correct size usually shows up automatically in the Capacity
When you click Start, your disk drive whirs for several minutes,
before announcing it’s finished.
4. Click the Close button when Windows XP is through.
Then remove the disk and return to Step 1 if you need to format
another disk.
A Formatting a disk deletes all the information on it forever. It won’t
be waiting in the Recycle Bin for retrieval. And don’t even try to
format a hard drive.
A Don’t get your hopes up: The Quick Format option won’t speed
things up unless your disk has already been formatted once
Chapter 12
Cruising the Web, Sending EMail, and Using Newsgroups
In This Chapter
B Understanding the Internet and World Wide Web
B Understanding differences between the Internet and online services
B Knowing how to access the World Wide Web
B Using the Microsoft Internet Explorer Web browser
B Navigating the World Wide Web
B Upgrading with downloaded plug-ins
B Sending and receiving e-mail with Outlook Express
B Using newsgroups with Outlook Express
he family photo album is disappearing. A friend of mine visited with
his family the other day. He brought his new digital camera and
took pictures of the vacation.
Each evening, he used the telephone and his laptop to send the camera’s pictures to his Web site, and then he tweaked his Web site’s settings to create a daily pictorial journal of the day’s events. You won’t
find a black photo album in his closet; he’s sharing his life with anyone
who cares to look.
Other Web sites go to even greater extremes. A cab driver in New York
has a digital camera hooked up to a cellular phone; every few minutes,
the camera takes a picture of the bustling streets and automatically
sends the photo to the cabby’s Web site.
You needn’t be as elaborate with your own Web site. In fact, you don’t
need to have a Web site at all. This chapter shows how to peek at all the
other sites out there, though, should you get the urge.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
What’s the Difference between the
Internet, the World Wide Web, and
a Web Browser?
The Internet is a rapidly growing collection of computers linked around
the globe through wires and satellites. Millions of people of all ages use
these connections to swap information with other computers.
The World Wide Web (known as “The Web,” to be cool) runs on the
Internet to let computers display Web sites — interactive software that
often resembles magazine pages with pretty pictures.
A Web browser lets you flip through a Web site’s different pages, just like
you flip through the pages of a magazine. Better yet, the Web browser
lets you jump from Web site to Web site. You can read newspapers at
one site and order books or take-out food at another site.
Internet Explorer, the free browser that comes with Windows XP, makes
the Web look like a kiosk in a hotel or airport lobby. Internet Explorer
fills your screen with buttons and pictures. But instead of touching the
pictures and buttons, like you do at the airport or hotel lobby, you use
the mouse to point and click on-screen buttons and links. By doing so,
you can view museums, cameras, pizza menus, guitar shops, city maps,
and more. (You can also find the right rental car.)
A Just as a television channel surfer flips from channel to channel,
sampling the wares, a Web surfer moves from page to page, sampling the vast and esoteric piles of information.
A Just about anybody can set up a Web site, but doing so usually
involves some programming skills using a language called HTML
(HyperText Markup Language). Surfing the pages is much easier
than building the wave. That’s why most people remain Web surfers.
A Because setting up a customized Web site is fairly easy for programmers, thousands of just plain wacky sites exist. If you’re flabbergasted by flying saucers, for example, head for to read the Flying Saucer Review. Another fel-
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
low’s well-documented site tests the durability of the pink and
white Marshmallow Bunnies sold in drug stores. Head to and watch the Laser
Exposure Test!
Who Can Use the Internet and
World Wide Web?
Gosh, everybody who doesn’t use the Internet is forced to hear everybody else talk about it at parties and on TV commercials, and read
about it in magazines, newspapers, and billboards.
Here are a few of the Internet’s most enthusiastic subscribers:
A Universities, corporations, government entities, and millions of
plain ol’ normal folk use the Internet every day. Many users simply
send messages back and forth — called electronic mail or e-mail.
Other users swap programs, pictures, or sounds — anything that
can be stored as data inside of a computer.
A The United States government loves the Internet. The FBI posts
pictures of its ten most wanted criminals ( for public viewing, for example, and the Internal Revenue Service
( lets Internet users
make free copies of tax forms 24 hours a day.
A Universities love the network, too. Departments can file grant
forms more quickly than ever. Worried about the goo coagulating
in the center of your bromeliads? The Internet’s famed botanical
site ( enables researchers to move quickly from
24 Canoe Plants of Ancient Hawaii to the Zoosporic Fungi database.
A Many computer companies support their products on the Internet.
Visitors to the Web site can leave messages to technicians in hopes
that the technicians can figure out why their latest computer doodads aren’t working. After posting messages back and forth, callers can often download a software cure or patch to fix the
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
A Artists, spotting a new way to show their work, quickly jumped
aboard the Web. Some sites display photos of their watercolors,
like the ones shown in Figure 12-1, hoping to snag potential buyers.
Figure 12-1:
World Wide
Web sites
let you shop
for nearly
— even
A Curious about Volkswagen’s latest line of cars? Head for the Volkswagen Web site ( and start flipping through the
pages of the Volkswagen “point and clickable” brochures. (See Figure 12-2.)
What’s an ISP, and Do I Need One?
Signals for television channels come wafting through the air to your TV
set for free. Unless you’re paying for cable or satellite TV, you can watch
Dawson’s Creek simply by turning on the TV.
The Internet ain’t free, though. You need to pay for Internet signals, just
like you pay for gas and electricity. For the privilege of surfing the Web,
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
Figure 12-2:
The Web
site for Volkswagen
“point and
for users to
view online
close-ups of
its cars.
you must do business with an Internet service provider, known by the
hip computing crowd as an ISP. You pay the ISP for a password and
phone number to dial. When your computer modem dials the number
and connects to your ISP’s network, you type your password and grab
your surfboard: You’ve entered the Web.
A Some ISPs charge for each minute you’re connected; others charge
a flat fee for unlimited service. The going rate seems to be stabilizing at around $20 a month for unlimited service. Make sure that
you find out your rate before hopping aboard, or you may be surprised at the end of the month.
A Some ISPs used to let you access the Internet for free, but they
went out of business when the bottom fell out of the Internet market in late 2000.
A If you’re computer-inclined, some ISPs provide hard disk space on
their computers so that you can create your own Web pages for
other Internet members to visit. Show the world pictures of your
kids and cats, share your favorite recipes, talk about your favorite
car waxes, or swap tips on constructing fishing flies.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
A ISPs let you connect to the Internet in a variety of ways. The slowest ISPs connect through the phone lines with a modem. Faster still
are special DSL lines that some phone companies provide. Some
ISPs send their signals through satellites. Some of the fastest connections come from your cable TV company. With the speedy ISPs,
your location often determines your options.
What Do I Need to Access the World
Wide Web?
A first-timer needs four things to connect to the Web: a computer, Internet browser software, a modem, and an ISP. You already have the computer, and Windows XP comes with an Internet browser called Internet
Explorer. And, chances are, your computer already has a modem inside.
(If it doesn’t, you’ll know when you try to set up your ISP, as described
in the very next section.)
You can find an ISP listed in your local Yellow Pages under Computers —
Online Services & Internet or Telecommunications. Or ask your local
computer dealer for names and numbers. If you’re desperate, choose
MSN Explorer from the Start button’s More Programs area. That lets
you sign up for an account run by Microsoft.
A Blatant Endorsement Department: If you use the Internet a lot,
please check with your cable provider to see if it offers cable
modem service. No more thumb-twiddling: Pictures, graphics, and
animation simply pop onto the screen. I love my Cox Cable service,
except when it goes down every month or so.
A Because techies created the Internet, it’s often cumbersome for
new users to enter and navigate it. Sometimes, your computer can
slip into the Internet just as easily as a crooked politician can.
Other times, your computer makes you fill out many forms and
enter a lot of numbers before you can access the Internet. Don’t be
afraid to ask a friend for help the first time you connect to your ISP.
A Don’t be afraid to bug your ISP for help, too. The best ISPs come
with technical support lines. A member of the support staff can
talk you through the installation process.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
A After you’re finally signed up and aboard the Web, though, life rolls
along much more easily. The Web is enormous, so it contains
speedy indexes known as search engines that ferret out your favorite goodies. Type in a subject, and the search engine spits out
bunches of applicable places to visit.
A Because Windows XP can run so many programs in the background without being slowed down, forgetting to disconnect your
Internet connection is an easy thing to do. If you’re being charged
by the hour, keep a watchful eye on your Internet browser and
make sure that you log off when you no longer need to access the
Setting Up Your Internet Account
with the Internet Connection Wizard
After you have a computer, a modem, and Windows XP’s Internet
browser, you need one last thing — an Internet service provider (ISP).
And setting up your ISP’s account is one of the most terrifying tasks in
Windows. (Except for setting up an e-mail account, but that comes
To help you out, Microsoft created the Internet Connection Wizard.
After a bit of interrogation, the wizard helps you and your computer
connect to your Internet service provider (ISP) so you can Web surf like
the best of them.
If your computer connects to the Internet through a network, don’t use
this wizard. Use the Network Setup Wizard, instead. (Chapter 9 gives
you the rundown.)
To transfer your existing Internet account settings from another computer, use the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard. It copies the settings
onto a floppy; insert the floppy into your new Windows XP computer,
and the wizard automatically installs them.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
Here’s what you need to get started:
A Find an Internet service provider. This company provides a connection to the Internet. Ask a friend, coworker, or teenager for a
recommendation. Don’t know which ISP to choose? The Internet
Connection Wizard can find one for you that’s in your own area.
A Get your user name, password, and phone number from your
current Internet service provider. Don’t have an ISP? If the wizard finds you a service provider, it dishes out those three items, so
grab a pencil and paper.
A Find a modem. Most new computers come with a modem lodged
in their innards. To see if one’s inside of yours, look for telephone
jacks on the back of your computer, near where all the other
cables protrude. Make sure a phone cable connects between your
computer modem’s telephone jack (the jack says Line, not Phone )
and a phone jack in your wall.
Whenever you encounter difficulties in getting your Internet connection
“just right,” head here and run through the steps in this section. The
wizard displays your current settings and allows you to change them.
Modem plugged in? Now you’re ready to start the New Connection Wizard by following these steps.
1. Click the Start button, click More Programs, choose Accessories,
select Communications, and load the New Connection Wizard.
Or, just choose Internet Explorer from the Start menu. If you
haven’t set up an Internet account yet, your PC won’t be able to
connect, so Windows brings up Mr. Wizard automatically.
On the first screen, the wizard explains that it helps you connect to
the Internet or a private network, or set up a home network.
2. Click Next.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
3. Choose Connect to the Internet and click Next.
Choosing this first option tells Mr. Wizard that yes, you do want to
connect to the Internet. (If you want to connect to the Internet
through your network, choose Set Up a Home or Small Office Network, and the wizard passes you off to the Network Setup Wizard,
4. Choose the second of the three options, as shown in Figure 12-3,
and click Next.
Figure 12-3:
The New
helps you
computer to
the Internet.
Here’s what the three options mean:
AChoose from a List of Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
Choose this option if you don’t already have an Internet
account and you want to select one from a list provided by
Microsoft. If you choose this option, the wizard dials a number to locate Internet service providers in your area and displays their rates and options. The wizard only finds
providers with special Microsoft contracts, so it leaves out
many providers in your area. (The telephone book is a much
better way to find an ISP.)
If you choose a provider with this option, the wizard finishes
the rest of the setup work by itself.
ASet Up My Connection Manually.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
Chances are, you’ll end up choosing this option. This lets you
set up an Internet account from a previous computer or one
at work. It also lets you share a modem on a network. After
selecting this, click Next to continue along these steps. You
introduce your computer to your existing Internet account
by filling out forms and punching buttons.
AUse the CD I Got from an ISP.
Many national ISPs offer free CDs for signing up to their service. You would choose this option if you had a CD from
America Online, for instance. Choosing this option stops the
wizard and lets the ISP’s CD take over.
5. Tell Windows XP how you connect to the Internet and then click
The Wizard provides three options:
AConnect Using a Dial-up Modem.
If your modem plugs into the phone line, choose this option
and move to Step 6.
AConnect Using a Broadband Connection That Requires a
User Name and Password.
Broadband connections are the speedy ones provided by
cable or DSL modems. Most require a user name and password for access. The connection might seem to be always on,
but it’s actually logging you on very quickly.
If you choose this option, you type in a name for your ISP,
your user name, and a password to finish the connection.
AConnect Using a Broadband Connection That Is Always On.
People on a network usually choose this option; the wizard
takes over from there.
6. Type a name for your Internet provider and click Next.
Simply type My Provider or the name of your provider.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
7. Enter the phone number for your Internet service provider and
click Next; then enter your User Name and Password.
Your provider should have given you these three things. Call your
provider if these three magical tidbits of information aren’t in your
possession. You need them to proceed.
8. Click the Finish button.
You’re done. Windows XP automatically leaps into action and uses
your settings to call your Internet provider.
If everything goes correctly, a pop-up message appears with your dialup modem’s connection speed. You’re logged on to the Internet.
Microsoft tosses its own Web page, The Microsoft Network, onto the
Internet Explorer screen, and you’re ready to browse. Need a place to
go for a quick test? Log on to and see what
If a cable modem service is available in your area, go for it. Web pages
load a zillion times faster. Plus, they come to your house and set everything up for you. (Plus, you won’t need to pay for a second phone line
while Web surfing.)
Some versions of Windows may not have the New Connection Wizard
on the Start menu. To find it, click the Start menu, right-click on the
Internet Explorer icon, choose Internet Properties, click the Connections tab, and click the Setup button.
If you have a cable modem or a network, or you spend a lot of time on
the Internet, be sure to activate the Windows XP firewall, described
later in this chapter.
What is a Web Browser?
Your Web browser is your Internet surfboard — your transportation to
the computers strewn along the Web. Internet Explorer 6 comes free
with Windows XP, so many people use it out of convenience. Other people use other companies’ browsers, like Netscape Communicator or
Opera. People with too much time on their hands switch back and forth
between several types of Web browsers.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
All browsers work basically the same way. Every Web page comes with
a specific address, just like houses do. When you type that address into
the browser, the browser takes you there like a veteran cabby — unless
you make a typo when you’re typing in the address.
To avoid typing laborious addresses (those www things), Web browsers
allow you to flip through Web pages in a lazy way. Web browsers read
hypertext, or Web links. Web page owners embed addresses of other
Web pages into their own Web pages. For example, the Web Museum
Network in Paris ( lets you visit museums from Australia to Singapore by simply clicking the museums’
Today’s Web browsers come with little add-on bits of software for spicing things up. They can handle animated cartoons, voices, sounds,
music, scrolling marquees, and other flashy goodies. If you kind of
squint — and your computer’s powerful enough — it looks like your
computer’s turning more and more into a TV.
A If your browser takes you to a boring Web page, there’s a quick
way to go back to the previous page. Click the big Back button in
the top-left corner of Internet Explorer. The dutiful Web browser
immediately scurries back to the previous location. (Clicking that
big Back button when you’re in a folder takes you to the last folder
you visited, too.)
A Almost all Web sites come with hyperlinks — highlighted words or
buttons that are linked to certain addresses of other computers on
the Web. Click the button or highlighted word (usually underlined
or a different color), and your Web browser takes you to the Web
page with that address. That way you don’t have to type in that
weird www stuff.
A Many people use their Web sites to display links to certain hobby
areas, such as growing vegetables, weaving, or making cigars.
A Web site addresses look pretty strange. They usually start with the
letters www and end with something even weirder looking, like Now you know what all of those strangelooking words in parentheses mean throughout this chapter. Other
addresses skip the www and use http:// instead. Yes, it’s confusing.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
A Sometimes, clicking a Web address doesn’t take you to the page.
For example, if a friend e-mails you an address, you may need to
type it in by hand. But here’s how to avoid any misspellings: Highlight the Web address by holding down your mouse button and
sliding the pointer over the address. Then hold down the Ctrl key
and press C. (That copies the address.) Now, click in your
browser’s address box and, while holding down the Ctrl key, press
V. By doing so, you paste the address in the address box. Press
Enter, and your browser should whisk you off to that new site.
How Do I Navigate the Web with
Internet Explorer?
After you’ve chosen and set up your Internet service provider — either
by choosing The Microsoft Network (MSN), America Online (AOL),
AT&T WorldNet, Prodigy, or somebody else — you’re ready to cruise
the Internet.
Although Windows XP makes it easier than ever to hook up with an
Internet provider, tweaking the settings can be a drag. First, try using
the New Connection Wizard by following the step-by-step process that I
outline earlier in this chapter. That cures most of the basic problems.
If you’re still having trouble getting your computer set up for the Internet or you need more customized settings, a book like The Internet For
Dummies, 7th Edition by John R. Levine, Carol Baroudi, and Margaret
Levine Young, (published by Hungry Minds, Inc.) may help.
When Internet Explorer comes to the screen for the first time, as shown
in Figure 12-4, it shows The Microsoft Network Web page. The next few
sections show how to explore the Web to find other goodies.
What’s a home page?
Just as your television set always shows a channel when you turn it on,
your Web browser automatically displays a certain portion of the Internet.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
Figure 12-4:
Click the
words —
— in
Explorer to
head to
other Web
sites. (Your
turns into a
hand when
it hovers
over a
The first Web page you see when a Web browser comes to life is called
your home page. Your browser’s home page is simply the Web page that
always appears when the browser is first loaded. It’s always the same
Web site (although you can change it to be any page you like, as
described in the next tip.)
A home page of a Web site, however, is a little different. It’s like the
cover of a magazine that lists the contents. Whenever you jump to a
new Web site, you usually jump to the home page of that site.
After you load your own home page, you can move around the Internet,
searching for topics by looking in indexes or simply pointing and clicking from topic to topic.
A Most Web browsers come with their own home page already configured. After you install Internet Explorer and first log on to the
Web, for example, you’re whisked away to the Microsoft Network
home page (refer to Figure 12-4). A competing company’s browser,
Netscape Navigator, takes you to the Netscape home page.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
A You can turn any Web site into your home page — the first site that
you see when you load your browser. Call up your favorite page in
Internet Explorer and choose Internet Options from the Tools
menu. Click the General tab (that page usually opens automatically) and click the Use Current button. (It’s the top-left button.)
Click OK to save your efforts and return to browsing.
A To return to your home page quickly while you’re connected to the
Internet, click the Home button along the top of Internet Explorer.
How do I move from Web page to Web
Internet Explorer lets you move from page to page in three different
A By pointing and clicking a button or link that automatically whisks
you away to another page
A By typing a complicated string of code words into the Address box
of the Web browser and pressing Enter
A By clicking the navigation buttons along a browser’s menu
The first way is the easiest. Look for links — highlighted words or pictures on a page — and click them. See all the underlined words in Figure
12-4? Clicking Your home: time to move or improve? takes you to the
Web page where Microsoft’s HomeAdvisor section describes remodeling strategies. All the other underlined words on this site are also links;
clicking any of them takes you to different pages dealing with that link’s
particular subject.
The second way is the most difficult. If a friend gives you a napkin with
a cool Web page’s address written on it, there’s nothing to click. You
need to type the Web site’s address into your browser’s address box
yourself. That’s fairly easy, as long as you don’t misspell anything. See
the Web site address for Microsoft’s page along the top of Figure 12-4? I
typed into the address box. When I pressed Enter, Internet Explorer scooted me to the Microsoft Network Web page. To head
for the Volkswagen Web site, type in and press Enter. By
pointing and clicking your way to that site’s page with pictures of cars,
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
you see the site in Figure 12-2. (You don’t need to type in the http://
part, thank goodness.)
Finally, you can maneuver through the Internet by clicking various
parts of Internet Explorer itself. Clicking the Favorites button along the
top reveals a folder where you can stash buttons leading to your favorite Web sites. Click History from the top-most menu to return to any
page that you visited in the past few weeks.
Feel free to explore the Internet by simply clicking the buttons. You
really can’t get into any trouble; if you get stuck, you can always click
the Home button along the top to move back into familiar territory.
A The easiest way to start surfing the Internet is to be a button
pusher, so remember this bit o’ wisdom: Watch how your mouse
pointer changes shape as you move it over a Web page. If the
pointer changes into a little hand, you’re hovering over a button
that aches to be pressed.
A Web page manufacturers get mighty creative these days, and without the little “hand” pointer, it’s often hard to tell where to point
and click. Some buttons look like sturdy elevator buttons; others
look more like fuzzy dice or vegetables. But when you click a button, the browser takes you to the page relating to that button.
Clicking the fuzzy dice may bring up a betting-odds sheet for local
casinos, for example.
A Pointed and clicked yourself into a dead end? Click the Back button along the top-left corner to head for the last Web page you visited. If you click the Back button enough times, you wind up back
at the home page, where you began.
A Copying text from the Internet is easy. Slide your mouse pointer
over the text while holding down the mouse button, just as if you
were in a word processing program. After Internet Explorer highlights the text, right-click on the text and choose Copy from the
How can I revisit my favorite places?
Sooner or later, you’ll stumble across a Web page that’s indescribably
delicious. To make sure that you can find it again later, add it to your
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
favorite pages folder by choosing Add to Favorites from the Favorites
Don’t choose the Make Available Offline option. (It tells Windows to
automatically download the page’s contents once a day, or whenever
you press a button.) You probably won’t want to change the name,
either. Click the Create In button if you want to create a new folder in
the Favorites folder for this Web page. (You can always organize your
favorites later.) Then click OK to save your efforts.
Whenever you want to return to that page, click the Favorites menu
along the top of the screen again, and then click the name of the link
you want to revisit.
Librarian-types like to click the Organize Favorites option when the
Favorites menu drops down. By doing so, they can create new folders
for storing similar links and move related links from folder to folder.
What’s an index or search engine?
Just as it is nearly impossible to find a book in a library without a card
catalog, it is nearly impossible to find a Web site on the Internet without
a good index. Luckily, several exist.
Unfortunately, none exist in Windows XP. Clicking the Search button at
the top of the Internet Explorer window brings up Windows’ built-in
Search function, but that program often stumbles when searching on
the Internet. Instead, try this:
1. Click in the Internet Explorer’s address bar, type, and press Enter.
Google, one of the best Internet searching engines, appears.
2. Type in a few key words describing your interest (cornbread
recipes, for instance) and click the Google Search button.
In less than a second, Google found 24,200 references to cornbread
recipes, as shown in Figure 12-5.
Click any of the sites that Google lists to check out those recipes. Click
the Back button to return to Google’s search and click a different recipe.
Or, right-click on the link and choose Open in New Window. A new copy
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
Figure 12-5:
In less than
a second,
found 24,200
of Internet Explorer appears, displaying that link, while the other copy
keeps displaying your other Google search locations. (That keeps you
from losing your place on the search page.)
A If Google finds Web sites in foreign languages, it often translates
them into your own language for you. Or, if you speak a different
language, click the Google in Your Language button near the page’s
bottom. Google uses almost 40 different languages for its menus.
A Sometimes Google brings up a Web site that’s been updated and no
longer lists what you’re searching for. If that happens, click the
Cached button instead of the site’s name. That brings up a snapshot of the Web site as it looked when it contained what you’re
searching for.
A Click the I’m Feeling Lucky button, and Google displays the site
most likely to contain what you’re after. This option works well
when searching for common information.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
A Although Google is very handy, it’s just one way of finding information. The Internet’s loaded with other search engines. In fact, Google contains links to several of them at the bottom of its menu. Try
clicking AltaVista, Excite, HotBot, Lycos, or Yahoo! to search on
those sites.
A For many years, computer users have talked to each other on a
section of the Internet called Usenet. Divided into thousands of discussion areas, Usenet lets people type in questions about nearly
every subject, exchanging information, holding discussions, or
simply yelling at each other. It’s a fantastic source of computer
information from real people, without a corporate filter. To search
Usenet, click Google Groups (Deja), listed near the bottom of Google’s page.
A Searches usually come up with hundreds, or even thousands, of
hits relating to your subject. If you come up with too many, try
again, but be more specific.
But How Do I Do This?
Don’t feel bad. The Internet’s been around for a while, but this whole
Web thing is relatively new and quickly becoming overburdened. It’s
not supposed to work smoothly yet, and it’s not easy to figure out overnight. Here are some of the most common problems and some possible
The person holding the Administrator account — usually the computer’s owner — is the only one who can do many of the changes you
read about in this chapter. If a mean message pops up, waving its figure
and mumbling about “Administrator restrictions,” you’re locked out.
Better find the computer’s owner to proceed.
I can’t get it to install!
Installing Internet Explorer isn’t all that difficult; the hard part is telling
Internet Explorer how to connect to your Internet service provider —
the company that’s providing the phone connection to the Internet.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
Check out the New Connection Wizard, described earlier in this chapter. It displays your current settings and allows you to change them, if
Because ISPs all use slightly different ways to connect, your best bet is
to call their tech support number and ask for help. (Be sure to call your
Internet service provider, not Microsoft.)
Yeah, connecting to your ISP is a pain, but remember — you only have
to connect to the thing once. After Internet Explorer has locked arms
with your ISP, you can simply click a button to make it dial up the connection and start surfing.
How do I install the firewall?
Just about everybody’s picked up the phone, only to find some
recorded voice pushing the latest product. These telemarketers run
programs that simply call phone numbers, one after the other, until
they find somebody who answers. Computer hackers do the same
thing. They run programs that automatically try to break into every
computer that’s currently connected to the Internet.
If you have a cable modem or other ISP that’s constantly connected to
the Internet, you’re especially vulnerable. See, the Internet assigns your
computer a special number whenever it connects. Whenever your
modem dials the Internet and connects, your number changes. But if
you’re constantly connected to the Internet with a cable modem or
other 24-hour connection, your number never changes. That makes it
easier for hackers to find your computer and, if it’s vulnerable, to
spread its number around to other hackers.
That’s where a firewall comes in. Firewall software sits between your
computer and the Internet, acting as a door. It lets you decide what software can access your computer, and when. Windows XP comes with a
built-in firewall. To install it, follow these steps:
1. Open the Start menu, right-click on My Network Places, and
choose Properties.
The Internet is a huge network — it’s designed for computers to
talk to each other. That’s why it’s important to make sure that only
the friendly computers do the talking.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
2. Right-click on the connection you want to protect, and choose
If you’re using a dial-up account, for instance, right-click on that
icon. If you’re using a network in your home or office, right-click on
the Local Area Connection. Either way, choose Properties.
3. Click the Advanced tab and activate the firewall.
Click the box to activate the Windows XP firewall.
If you’re running a network and using the Internet Connection
Sharing to let all the networked computers share the modem, the
firewall should only be activated on the host computer — the computer that’s actually connected to the Internet. It doesn’t need to
be activated on the client computers — the computers that share
the host computer’s modem.
I keep getting busy signals!
This problem means that your Internet service provider is probably
offering a great deal — unlimited access to the Internet for one low
price. Unfortunately, a bargain means that many people are going to be
calling at the same time as you, leading to busy signals.
What’s the answer? Reassess your priorities. Are you looking to save
money or find a reliable connection to the Internet? You may be able to
find a better deal with a different provider.
The Web page says it needs [insert
name of weird plug-in thing here]!
Computer programmers abandoned their boring old TV sets and turned
to their exciting new computers for entertainment. Now, they’re trying
to turn their computers back into TV sets. They’re using fancy programming techniques called Java, Shockwave, RealPlayer, QuickTime, and
other goodies to add animation and other gizmos to the Internet.
Programmers are also adding little software tidbits called plug-ins that
increase your computer’s capability to display flashy advertisements
along the top of your screen.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
What’s the problem? New versions of these plug-ins follow the seasons.
If your computer says it needs a plug-in or its latest version, click the
button on the Web page that takes you to its download area.
Close down all your software (except for the Web browser), download
the software, and install it. The next time you open your Web browser,
the advertisements will never have looked better.
If you try to view an Internet video and Windows’ Media Player wimps
out, the video may need software called RealPlayer. Head for and download RealPlayer Basic. That’s the freebie version that lets you view the videos (and sometimes hear radio broadcasts, too.)
How do I copy a picture from the
As you browse through Web pages and your mouse pointer rests over a
photo or other large image, an annoying box of icons appears, as shown
in Figure 12-6.
Figure 12-6:
A little bar
pops up
when your
rests over
you to save,
print, or email the
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
Those little boxes, new to Internet Explorer 6, let you grab the image.
Clicking the little disk icon saves the image to your My Pictures folder.
Click the Printer to print the image. The little letter e-mails the image
through your e-mail program. And clicking the little folder opens your
My Pictures folder for browsing.
If you spot a picture on the Internet that you want to use for your “Welcome Screen” picture on your user account, save it to your My Pictures
folder. Then use the Control Panel (see Chapter 14) to change your picture to that new picture.
Little boxes keep popping up on the
Web pages!
Microsoft’s popular Office XP program adds a new touch called smart
tags. Smart tags add purple dotted lines beneath some words on a Web
page. Hold your mouse pointer over the word with the dotted underline, and a little box appears with an i inside. Click the little downward
pointing arrow next to the i, and a larger box appears, full of links relating to that word.
The creator of the Web page didn’t add these links. However, Office XP
tells Internet Explorer to recognize some words and add its own links.
Smart tags can be annoying. If you’re reading a page on Greek mythology, the browser will list stock options for every mention of the Oracle.
To turn off smart tags, choose Internet Options from Internet Explorer’s
Tools menu, click the Advanced tab, and remove the checkmark from
the Enable Smart Tags line.
Managing E-mail with Outlook
Internet Explorer merely flips through the Web pages stuffed onto the
Internet, letting you jump from page to page. Outlook Express, on the
other hand, uses the Internet as a post office, letting you send letters
and files to anybody with an Internet account. Better yet, the recipients
of your e-mails don’t have to use Outlook Express to view and respond
to them: Almost any e-mail program can talk to almost any other one.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
Outlook Express is designed to work with an industry-standard Internet
service provider that pipes the Internet signal from your computer to
the Internet without an online service getting in the way. That’s why
Outlook Express 6.0, the version included with Windows XP, doesn’t
work with online services like America Online (AOL). Those online services come with built-in e-mail programs that process mail differently
than Outlook Express does. So if you’re using America Online, don’t
bother reading this section. You won’t be using Outlook Express 6.0.
The rest of this section guides you through setting up Outlook Express,
writing a letter, sending it, and reading the responses.
Setting up Outlook Express 6.0 to send
and receive e-mail
In order to set up your e-mail address, also known as an account, you
need several things from your Internet service provider: your user
name, the ISP’s phone number, and your password. These are the same
items you need to set up your Internet account, as described in the
Internet Connection Wizard section earlier in this chapter.
Also, many people have more than one e-mail address — an account
from Yahoo! or Hotmail, for instance. Plus, many ISPs offer several email addresses per account. That lets each person in the family have
his or her own separate e-mail account. These same steps add additional e-mail addresses to Outlook Express, as well.
1. Set up your Internet account and open Outlook Express.
You need to set up your Internet account first, as described earlier
in this chapter, or your e-mail won’t have any way to connect to
the Internet.
To call up Outlook Express for the first time, open the Start menu
and click the Outlook Express icon: an envelope surrounded by
twirling blue arrows. Outlook Express pops onto the screen, as
shown in Figure 12-7, ready to be set up to send and receive your email.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
Sometimes you won’t see the screen in Figure 12-7. You might
already have an e-mail account set up, for instance, or you’re adding an additional e-mail account. In that case, open Outlook
Express and choose Accounts from the Tools menu. Click the Add
button and choose Mail. You’ll see the window shown in Figure 127, ready to add an additional e-mail account.
Figure 12-7:
Type your
own name
into the
Name box.
2. Type in your name and click Next.
This name will appear in the From line of all your e-mail, so most
people simply type in their own name, as shown in Figure 12-7.
Names like StarMan can come back to haunt you.
3. Type in your e-mail address and click Next.
This is your user name, the @ sign, and your ISP, all information
that your ISP must provide you. For instance, my user name is q-a,
and my ISP’s name is home. So, I type into the Email Address box.
If you’re adding another account to Outlook Express, type in the
user name for that second account. (You need to either sign up for
another e-mail account on your ISP’s Web page, or ask your ISP for
the user name and password for a second account.)
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
4. Choose your server type, and the names for your incoming and
outgoing mail servers.
Here, you need to know what type of e-mail account the service
uses. It’s a weird word like POP3, IMAP, or HTTP. Many ISPs mail
you a piece of paper with these handy settings and instructions.
But if you want to chance it, try these settings, which usually work.
Select POP3 in the top box, and type the word mail in the Incoming
Mail and Outgoing Mail boxes.
5. Type in your Account Name and Password, and click Next.
Your account name is the name on your ISP account — the name
you use when setting up your Internet account. Even if you’re setting up an additional e-mail account, you’ll still type in the same
name you use to access the Internet.
Type in the same password you use to access the Internet, too. If
you want to log on automatically without entering your password
each time, check the Remember Password box. Check the Secure
Password Authentication box only if your Internet provider asks
you to.
6. Click Finish.
That’s it. You should be able to send and receive e-mail on Outlook
America Online users can’t use Outlook Express on their own computers to send e-mail. However, they can still accept e-mail from somebody
using Outlook Express or any other e-mail program.
If your copy of Outlook Express doesn’t look like the version in this
chapter, it’s probably configured a little differently. Try this trick:
Choose Layout from the View menu and make sure that you’ve selected
Folder Bar, Folder List, Status Bar, and Toolbar. Click the Apply button
after you select each one so you can see what that option does to the
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
Getting ready to send e-mail
The Outlook Express screen consists of three main parts: Folders,
where you store your e-mail; Contacts, which displays address book
entries; and the work screen, where you choose whether you’ll be looking at e-mail or newsgroups. (I talk about newsgroups later in this chapter.)
To send e-mail to a friend or enemy, you need three things:
A A properly configured Outlook Express
The section before this one describes how to set up Outlook
Express to work with e-mail accounts.
A Your friend or enemy’s e-mail address
You need to find out your friend’s e-mail address by simply asking
him or her. There’s no way to guess. It consists of a user name
(which isn’t always his or her real name), followed by the @ sign,
followed by the name of the Internet service provider, be it America Online, Juno, or any of the thousands of other ISPs. The e-mail
address of somebody with the user name of Jeff9435 who subscribes to America Online would be
A Your message
Here’s where the fun part starts: typing your letter. After you type
in the e-mail address and the letter, you’re ready to send your message along its merry way.
You can find e-mail addresses on business cards, Web sites, and even
return addresses: Whenever anybody sends you some e-mail, you can
see his or her e-mail address for responding.
If you misspell part of the e-mail address, your message will bounce
back to your own mailbox, with a confusing undeliverable message
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
Composing a letter
Ready to send your first letter? After you’ve set up Outlook Express
with your e-mail account, follow these steps to compose your letter and
drop it in the electronic mailbox, sending it through virtual space to
your friend’s electronic mailbox.
1. Open Outlook Express and click the Create Mail icon from the
program’s menu.
If don’t see a Create Mail icon along the top (it looks like the one in
the margin), click the File menu, select New, and choose Mail Message.
A New Message window appears, as shown in Figure 12-8.
Figure 12-8:
Type an email
address in
the To box,
type a
subject, and
type your
message in
the big box
2. Type your friend’s e-mail address into the To box.
Type whatever the person’s e-mail happens to be. Or, if you’ve emailed that person previously, click the word To next to the
address box. A window appears, listing the names of people you’ve
previously e-mailed.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
3. Fill in the Subject box.
This one’s optional, but it helps your friend know what your e-mail
is about so that he or she can choose to respond right away or file
it in the “I’ll respond when I get around to it” box.
4. Type your message in the large box at the bottom of the window.
Type whatever you want, and for as long as you want. There’s very
little limit on the size of a text file.
5. Click the Send button in the box’s top-left corner.
Whoosh! Outlook Express dials your modem, if it needs to, and
whisks your message through the Internet pipelines to your
friend’s mailbox. Depending on the speed of the Internet connection, mail arrives anywhere within 15 seconds to five days, with a
few minutes being the average.
No Send button? Then click File and choose Send Message.
A Some people like those big buttons along the top of Outlook
Express, like you see in Figure 12-8. If yours are missing and you
want ’em back, right-click on a blank part of the Outlook Express
menu — an inch to the right of the word Help will do the trick.
Choose Toolbar, and the buttons appear. To get rid of ’em, rightclick in the same place, but choose Toolbar again to toggle them
A Not too good of a speler? Then before you send the message, click
the spell check button from the icons along the top. Or choose
Spelling from the Tools menu. Or press your F7 key. Or grab a dictionary off the shelf. (Pressing F7 is quicker.) If it doesn’t work,
read the following warning.
Microsoft pulled a dirty trick on the spell checker. Outlook Express
borrows the spell checker that comes with Microsoft Word,
Microsoft Excel, or Microsoft PowerPoint. If you don’t have any of
those programs, the spell checker won’t work. (That’s why the
Spelling button is grayed out in Figure 12-8.)
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
A Want to attach a file to your message? After completing Step 4,
click the paper clip icon. (Or choose File Attachment from the
Insert menu.) Windows XP brings up a box straight out of My Computer. Navigate through the folders to reach the file that you want
to send and then double-click its name. When you click the Send
button in Step 5 (in the preceding step list), Outlook Express sends
your message — and the attached file — to your friend. (Many ISPs
balk at sending files larger than about 4MB, though, which includes
most MP3 files.)
Reading a received letter
If you keep Outlook Express running 24 hours a day, you’ll know when a
new letter drops into your mailbox. Most computers make a breezy little sound to notify you of its arrival. You’ll also spot a tiny Outlook
Express icon sitting in the bottom-right corner of your desktop, right
next to the digital clock. Plus, if more than one person uses your PC, the
Welcome screen will display how many e-mails each person has
To check for any new mail if Outlook Express isn’t always running, load
the program from the Start menu. When it loads, click the Send/Recv
button or click the Tools menu, choose Send and Receive, and then
choose Send and Receive All. That sends any outgoing mail you have
sitting around and grabs any incoming mail to place in your mailbox.
Follow these steps to read the letters in your mailbox and either
respond or file them away into one of Outlook Express’ convenient folders.
1. Open Outlook Express and look at your Inbox.
Depending on how Outlook Express is set up, you can do this in
several different ways. If you see an opening screen announcing
that you have Unread Mail in your Inbox, click the words Unread
Mail. If you see folders along the left side of Outlook Express, click
the word Inbox. Either way, Outlook Express will show you the
messages in your Inbox, and they’ll look something like Figure 12-9:
All the subjects, called headers, will be listed, one by one.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
Figure 12-9:
Click the
Inbox in
Express to
unveil your
2. Click any message’s subject to read it.
The message’s contents will then show in the bottom portion of
the screen, as shown in Figure 12-10, ready for you to read. Or, to
see the entire message in its own window, double-click the subject.
From here, Outlook Express leaves you with many options, each
described in the following list.
A You can do nothing. The message stays in your Inbox folder until
you delete it.
A You can respond to the message. Click the Reply icon along the
top of Outlook Express (or choose Reply to Sender from the Message menu), and a new box appears, ready for you to type in a message. The box is just like the one that appears when you first
compose a message, but there’s a big difference: This box is preaddressed with the recipient’s name and the subject.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
Figure 12-10:
Click a
subject line
to read that
A You can file the message. Right-click on the message and choose
either Copy to Folder or Move to Folder; then select the desired
folder from the pop-up menu. Or, put folders on the left side of the
screen so you can drag and drop the message’s header to the
desired folder: Click the word Inbox, and, when the folders drop
down, click the little push pin to keep the folders in place.
A You can print the message. Click the Print icon along the menu’s
top, and Outlook Express shoots your message to the printer to
make a paper copy.
A Outlook Express can be confusing when you drag and drop a message: As you drag the message over to the folders, the little envelope icon turns into a circle with a diagonal line through it. Don’t
fret. That menacing circle disappears when the mouse rests over a
folder that’s ready to accept a message.
A Outlook Express can handle more-complicated tasks, but these
basic steps enable you to send e-mail to and receive e-mail from
your friends and congressional leaders.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
A If you ever receive a message with an attachment that ends in the
letters EXE or VBS, please delete the message immediately without
opening it — even if the message comes from a trusted friend.
Those attachments are the easiest way for evil people to send
virus and worm programs into computers. After these programs
get into your system, they replicate, sending copies of themselves
to everybody you know — all your friends — without you knowing
what’s going on. For complete peace of mind, buy an antivirus program and keep it updated faithfully.
What does the News area do?
Thousands of people with similar interests yak it up on the Internet
through something called newsgroups. Newsgroups work sort of like
mail that everybody gets to read.
A newsgroup is also like a public bulletin board. One person posts a
message or file, and then everybody can read it and post their own
replies, which spawns more replies.
To keep newsgroups on track, they are divided by subject — usually
more than 30,000 of them — and Outlook Express can display all the
subjects on your screen and let you join in the conversations.
Signing up for a newsgroup account is much easier than setting up an email account. Choose Accounts from the Tools menu, and click the
News tab. Click the Add button and choose News from the pop-out
menu. Finally, type in your name and e-mail address and type the word
news when it asks for your News (NNTP) server. Finally, answer Yes
when Office Express asks if you’d like to download newsgroups for your
news account.
When you first subscribe to the newsgroups, Outlook Express searches
for names of all the newsgroups carried by your Internet service provider and displays them on the screen. Collecting the names and
descriptions of thousands of newsgroups takes some time, as shown in
Figure 12-11, so play FreeCell for a while. Luckily, Outlook only searches
for the newsgroups once and then it remembers them all.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
Figure 12-11:
must track
down all of
the newsgroups’
names and
descriptions so that
you can
look at
Finding and reading a newsgroup
With many thousands of newsgroups, how can you find the right one?
Well, start by making Outlook Express find it for you. For example,
here’s how to find and subscribe to a newsgroup with discussions on
1. Make Outlook Express gather a list of newsgroup names and
then choose Read News.
Discussed in the preceding section, the searching for newsgroup
names must only be conducted once. (Thank goodness, because it
can take a l-o-n-g time.) When you choose Read News, a box
appears, showing all the available groups. (Well, the first ten or so,
starting in alphabetical order.)
2. Type recipe in the Display Newsgroups Which Contain box.
That’s the word recipe — nothing else. As soon as you begin to
type, Outlook Express begins weeding out newsgroups that don’t
contain the letters of the word recipe. Eventually, only the newsgroups that deal with recipes remain on your screen.
3. Look through the findings for something interesting.
In this case, a dozen or so newsgroups deal with recipes. Click the
scroll bar to the right of the Newsgroup box to view all of the findings.
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
4. Subscribe to the newsgroup you want.
Click a newsgroup name that looks interesting and then click the
Subscribe button to the right. A little icon appears beside the
name to let you know that you’ve subscribed. Subscribe to as
many or as few newsgroups as you want.
5. After subscribing to your chosen newsgroups, click the OK button.
Your newly chosen newsgroups now appear at the very bottom of
the folders on the left side of the Outlook Express window. (No
folders? Click the News button and click the little push pin to lock
the folders in place.)
6. Click one of your recently subscribed names.
A list of postings in that particular newsgroup appears on the right
side of the screen, as shown in Figure 12-12.
Figure 12-12:
After subscribing to
click one of
the names
to see the
___ Chapter 12: Cruising the Web, Sending E-Mail, and Using Newsgroups
7. Finally, click one of the postings to see what that person has written about the topic.
In Figure 12-12, for example, you click Pork Ribs, and Outlook
Express brings up the message in a window, just as if it were an email. (The “Re:” in front of a message means that message is a
response to somebody’s message about vital gluten.)
That’s it; you’ve subscribed to the wacky world of newsgroups, where
you can find people chatting about nearly every subject imaginable —
and some unimaginable ones as well.
A To respond to a newsgroup post, treat it as if it were e-mail. Click
the Reply Group button at the top of the window, type your
response, and click the Send button.
A Newsgroups are public information, as opposed to e-mail, which is
private. Don’t say anything on a newsgroup that might hurt your
chances for public office. (And don’t write anything that you
wouldn’t want your parents, spouse, boss, or next-door neighbor
to read.)
A Some of the information on newsgroups deals with very adult-oriented content. Make sure that you know what newsgroups your
kids are reading.
A Newsgroups can be a valuable source of computer help. If your
monitor isn’t working correctly, look for a newsgroup dealing with
monitor issues. You may even find a newsgroup dealing with your
specific brand of monitor. Post your question, and see if anybody
has had a similar problem and, best yet, found a solution.
A Many people who hang out on newsgroups view themselves as oldtimers who resent any encroachment on their territory. Before
posting, spend some time lurking on a newsgroup to get a taste of
its particular flavor and decorum. Read the current posts for a few
days to catch the group’s flavor before adding your own spice.
Chapter 13
Sound! Movies! Media Player!
In This Chapter
B Figuring out Media Player
B Finding music, radio, and movie trailers on the Internet
B Finding and cataloging the music on your computer
B Playing CDs and DVDs
B Playing MP3s, WMAs, and video
B Creating WMAs
B Making Media Player create MP3s and play DVDs
B Moving music to and from MP3 players
B Creating CDs
B Adding skins to Media Player
B Using the My Pictures and My Music folders
B Fixing sound and video problems
or years, computers could only cut loose with a rude beep, which
they issued to harass confused users who pressed the wrong key.
The Windows XP Media Player 8 changes all that, handling fancy videos, Internet radio stations, CDs, DVDs, MP3s, and more. But only if you
press the right keys.
In fact, the program does so much that figuring out exactly what it’s
supposed to be doing (and when) is overwhelming. This chapter shows
how to do it all, and because there’s so much to cover, I’ll stop blabbing
and start explaining.
Understanding Media Player
Media Player’s performance depends entirely upon how much money
you paid for your computer — or how much money your computer has
absorbed since you first plopped it on your desk.
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
That’s because Media Player is nothing more than a big, fancy package
of buttons. Before you can use those buttons to do anything, you need
to connect your computer to features, such as speakers, sound cards,
CD burners, CD/DVD drives, the Internet, and MP3 players. Pressing the
right buttons calls these right things into action and tells the computer
what do to with them.
Figure 13-1, which explains some of the zillions of Media Player buttons,
shows Media Player while it first loads. (If you get lost amid all those
buttons, just rest your mouse pointer over any button, and Windows XP
gives you a hint.)
A You need a sound card and speakers or headphones before you
can hear anything. Luckily, most new computers come with preinstalled sound cards; many come with speakers, as well. Another
bonus: If your computer doesn’t have a sound card, they’re cheap
and fairly easy to install.
A A CD-ROM drive is essential for playing CDs or creating WMA (Windows Media Audio) files. You need a Read/Write CD drive, too, so
that you can burn CDs of your favorite music. Many new computers come with those included, as well.
A You need an Internet connection to listen to Internet radio or
search the Web for videos or other media content. Faster is better.
In fact, most Internet videos look pretty tiny or grainy if you’re
using a dial-up connection.
A Windows XP’s Media Player uses WMA compatibility to decide
whether it will transfer files to a portable MP3 player. If your portable player can’t handle WMA files, Media Player probably won’t
transfer any files to it. But if the player handles WMA files along
with MP3 files, Media Player can usually transfer both WMA and
MP3 files to your player.
A Microsoft released previous versions of Media Player as upgrades
that any Windows users could download and install. But Windows
Media Player 8 only comes with Windows XP ➪ it can’t be downloaded and installed on other versions of Windows.
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
Open files or add to library
Toggle Shuffle mode
Change video size or add skins
Toggle Equalizer settings
Play media
Show current playing playlist
Change options
Find help with Media Player
Next Mute
Switch to chosen skin
Brings up Web site with Media Player tutorial
Use skin to change program's look
Figure 13-1:
Rest your
mouse over
any button,
XP explains
its purpose.
Copy MP3 or WMA to portable MP3 player
Hear Internet radio stations
See all media stored on computer
Copy songs from CD into WMA format
View items available on Internet
View currently playing item
Elapsed time
Slide scroll bar
up or down to see
different part of page
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
Using Media Guide to Find Videos,
Music, and Movie Trailers on the
Media Player not only plays tunes and videos from your own computer,
but it snatches them from the Internet, as well. In fact, if you’re online
when Media Player’s loaded, the program opens to the Media Guide
section: an Internet-stocked smorgasbord called
The site, shown in Figure 13-1, offers videos, music, and radio, all by
clicking various on-screen items. Most of the items along the left menu
are obvious — Music, Radio, Movies, Business, News, and Sports. Here
are a few of the not-so-obvious ones:
A Web Search: Click in this box, remove the words Web Search, and
type your own interest. Windows merely brings up Internet
Explorer with a list of applicable sites. Nothing really media-related
A Home: The home page for WindowsMedia, it offers a variety of
media goodies: movie trailers, weird animated shorts from France,
radio stations, songs, and other bits of fun.
A Entertainment: The same videos and animations you find elsewhere, but with a comedic theme.
A Lifestyles: Head here during holidays for “theme” videos. Also
contains videos with car commercials, travel information, cooking,
and other lifestyle stuff.
A Webcams: Thousands of people place little video cameras in
places around the world and hook them up to their computers.
The results show up here, with views of Times Square, osprey
nests, surfers, golfers, giraffes, college students, and many others.
Here’s how to start farming the Internet for media goodies — videos, in
particular, from the Media Guide section:
1. Open Media Player and click the Media Guide button along the
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
Media Player usually looms large on your Start menu. If Media
Player is hiding, click All Programs and choose it from that menu.
(Chapter 10 shows how to use the Start Menu’s All Programs button, and it explains all the goodies hidden inside there.)
2. Tell Windows to dial the Internet, if you’re not already connected.
When connected, Media Player shows the
page, shown in Figure 13-1. (Actually, you’re just viewing a Web
page, the same page you would see if you went to with Internet Explorer.)
3. Click an item that interests you.
The menu items along the left are explained in the preceding bulleted list. Clicking any menu subject — Music, Radio, Movies,
Entertainment, Lifestyles, Business, News, Sports, or Webcams —
brings up a Web page displaying items relating to that subject.
4. Click the icon that starts your desired media.
For instance, if you’re interested in watching the Agave Worm
video displayed along the top of Figure 13-1, click the Agave Worm
picture. Media Player loads the video (which can take some time
on slower modems) and plays it on-screen.
Many videos have numbers beneath them, such as 56K | 100K |
300K. Those numbers stand for your modem’s connection speed. If
you’re using a 56K modem, for instance, click the 56K link. The picture quality won’t be as good as the higher speeds, but at least it
will work. Save the 100K and 300K links for people with DSL, cable,
or T1 connections.
A Good news: Even though the video may only update the screen
once or twice each second with dial-up modems, the sound usually
comes through relatively well.
A You have no Back button on Media Player’s menu, making navigation difficult. That means you must remember the keyboard shortcuts for moving back and forward between pages. Hold down Alt
and press the left-arrow key to go back a page; hold Alt and press
the right-arrow key to go forward.
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
A Little icons beneath each picture tell you what format the media
comes in. The little filmstrip icon, for instance, stands for video.
The little speaker means the format is a song or radio station. And
two little interlocking windows means clicking there brings up
Internet Explorer to feature a different Web site.
A If Media Player’s Media Guide area looks and feels cumbersome
inside Media Player’s restrictive borders, blow it off. Just open
Internet Explorer and head for You can
do the same things there as you can with Media Player.
A Be sure to check out the Coming Attractions section for Movie
Trailers. Also, click Videos/Downloads under Music to see videos
by dozens of artists.
A Sometimes Media Player takes you to sites where you must register by typing in your name and e-mail address and making up a
password. Feel free to type in a fake e-mail address so the sites
won’t send you junk mail.
Making movies play better
Movies don’t always play back smoothly. If the
computer and its modem aren’t fast enough and
expensive enough to keep up the fast pace, the
movie looks jerky. The problem is that Media
Player skips part of the movie to keep up with
the soundtrack. Here are a few tips for smoother
sailing when watching movies:
A Be sure to use the fastest modem available
in your area. Faster computers also process
videos faster. Don’t be tempted to choose
faster download speeds than your modem
can handle.
A Movies play back at their fastest when they
are either full-screen (not contained in a
window at all) or in a small window. Hold
down Alt and press Enter to toggle a video
from full-screen to window mode.
A Right-click on a video while it plays to see
different size options. Choose Fit to Window
to make the video expand and contract as
you change the window’s size. The percentage signs describe the size of the video. And
choose Full Screen to watch the video without Media Player’s borders. (Jiggle the
mouse, and the controls reappear for volume, pause, and other settings.)
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
Finding and Playing Internet Radio
Sure, anybody can turn on a $10 radio and flip through the stations. But
Windows XP turns your $1,500 PC into a radio that pulls in stations from
around the world. These stations arrive through the broadcast waves of
the future — the Internet. But Internet radio is so much fun that it gets
its own button on Media Player’s left-hand side.
The following steps show how to track down your favorite types of
music through the Internet’s radio stations, and assign buttons to them
so that they’re ready for quick listening.
1. Connect to the Internet, open Media Player, and click the Radio
Tuner button.
The Radio Tuner window appears, listing featured radio stations as
well as allowing you to find your own.
2. Click the Find By menu.
The Find By menu, located beneath the words Station Finder,
enables you to choose how you want to search, whether by format,
band, language, location, key word, or other feature. When you
click the words Find By, a menu drops down, listing the categories,
as shown in Figure 13-2.
3. Choose a category for searching.
In this case, choose Format. No matter what you choose, a second
box appears that lets you fine-tune your search.
4. Fine-tune your search by choosing an additional category in the
second box.
Choose Jazz & Blues to tell Station Finder to dig up all the jazz and
blues stations currently broadcast on the Internet, as shown in Figure 13-3.
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
Figure 13-2:
Click the
arrow by
the words
Find By to
search for
Figure 13-3:
for any type
of radio
station and
plays the
one you
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
5. Choose a station within your modem speed and click the Play
Be sure to click a station broadcasting within the limits of your
modem. If you’re using a 28K modem, for instance, don’t try to
tune in a station broadcasting at 56K. (The modem speeds are
listed in the Speed column.)
Windows Media Player rises to the occasion, ready to play your
selected station.
A Sometimes selecting a station calls up Internet Explorer, which
takes you to that station’s Web page; there, you must press a few
more buttons before actually hearing the tunes. You need to
choose the broadcast rate all over again, for instance; or, if the site
broadcasts several stations, you need to select your preferred station again.
A Stations broadcasting at higher speeds always sound better than
the ones at lower speeds.
A To expand your cultural horizons, try choosing stations from different countries, or choose formats you’ve never tried before.
After all, you can hear that same old rock station on your home
radio. Taste the Internet for a while.
A To see what you’re listening to, click the Now Playing button. In
many cases, you see a song list, describing the artist, song and
album title, and length.
A Found a great station? Add the station to your Presets list so that
you can find it again easily. Click the downward pointing arrow in
the Presets box and choose My Presets. The list is empty, at first.
Now, click the name of your cool new station and click the little
left-pointing arrows (< < <) to copy that station’s name onto your
Presets list. That lets you access the radio from your Media
Library, as I describe in the next section.
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
Finding Media on Your Computer
and Putting It into the Media
After a while, your computer will be filled with music, videos, and radio
station call letters. Media Player helps out by cataloging all your computer’s media and listing it in a huge card catalog called the Media
Library. Whether one of your computer’s files just beeps or does a song
and dance, Media Player can find it, categorize it, and let you play it
quickly and easily. Best yet, Media Player does it all automatically.
To make Media Player scour your hard drive for songs, sounds, and videos, click Media Player’s Tools menu and choose Search for Media Files.
After the box appears, leave it searching for All Drives and click Search.
(Be sure to remove any CDs from your drives first.) Media Player examines your entire computer, gathering any media files it encounters and
placing their locations in the Media Library for easy access.
To see the results, click the Media Library button, and Media Player displays all your media files, organized by Audio, Video, Playlists, and
Radio Tuner Presets.
Here’s a breakdown of the categories:
A Audio: Media Player breaks down your audio into four categories.
Click All Audio to see everything audible: Internet radio stations,
CDs, MIDI files, MP3s, and WMAs. Clicking Album groups all your
MP3 and WMA files by album. Clicking Artist organizes the songs
by a particular artist rather than album. Finally, clicking Genre
shows music files separated into categories, such as rock, jazz, or
A Video: Only two categories fall into video. Choose All Clips to see
all the movies stored on your hard drive; clicking Author organizes
videos by their creators.
A Playlists: To tailor your own personalized daily music background,
create a playlist, which I describe in the next section. A playlist
contains the names and locations of your chosen media, and plays
it all back in order — your own Greatest Hits list.
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
A Radio Tuner Presets: If you’ve created any Presets from Internet
radio stations, as I describe in the preceding section, they appear
here for quick access.
If you access the Internet a lot to hear or watch stuff, tell Windows
Media Player to add the locations of those items to your Media Library,
too. Click Tools from the top menu and select Options. Click the Player
tab and put a check mark next to Add Items to Media Library When
Played under Player Settings.
Creating Playlists
Just about everybody has bought a Greatest Hits album. Media Player
lets you create your own, even if you just listen to bagpipe players.
You’re not limited to selecting music. Media Player lets you add anything to your playlist.
Create your own party soundtrack by mixing radio station streams with
MP3 files, favorite videos, and links to Internet movie trailers. To set up
and start using a playlist, follow these steps:
1. Load Media Player and click the Media Library button.
The Media Library button is one of the buttons along Media
Player’s left-hand side. A list of categories appears, looking uncomfortably like the Windows Explorer program. (Actually, it works the
same way.)
2. Click the New Playlist button along Media Player’s top.
A box appears, asking you to name your new creation.
3. In the New Playlist box, type a name for your playlist and click
the OK button.
Type in a name — Tunes for Toddlers, for example.
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
4. Right-click on files or radio station links, choose Add to Playlist,
and select your playlist.
Begin browsing through your files, including audio, video, and
radio files. To see all possible music files, click All Audio. After you
spot something cool, right-click on it and choose Add to Playlist
from the pop-up menu.
5. To play a playlist, click the Media Library button’s My Playlists
menu and choose your playlist.
Your playlist, the one you named in Step 3, contains all your
recently selected music and videos. Media Player begins playing it
Playlists help tame Media Player’s button-pushing requirements.
Instead of wading through bunches of buttons when trying to hear a
tune, choose a different playlist for instant punching during different
moods or times of day.
Playing CDs
Just about every CD-ROM drive installed during the past five years
plays music CDs as well as reads computer data. A computer with a
sound card, speakers, and a CD-ROM drive lets you type to the tunes
while you work.
This section shows how to play CDs in your computer. It also explains
how Media Player automatically uses the Internet to identify your CD,
list the CD’s song titles, and even grab a picture of the CD’s cover art.
1. Connect to the Internet.
If you’re not connected when you insert a new CD, Media Player
will still play it, but Media Player won’t be able to identify it.
2. Insert a music CD into your CD-ROM drive tray.
Push the tray back in, if required, or push its tray retract button.
Media Player jumps to the forefront, switches to its Now Playing
window, and starts playing the tunes.
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
Keep an eye on the Media Player playlist that currently identifies
your CD as Unknown Artist playing Track 1. After a few moments,
the names of your CD’s songs appear on the playlist on the right,
as shown in Figure 13-4.
Figure 13-4:
to the
Player recognizes this
CD automatically and
lists the
song titles
in the
While the CD plays, marvel at the swirling visualizations that
twitch in time to the tunes.
3. Control the album’s playback by pushing buttons.
The control buttons in Media Player’s CD player mimic just about
every other type of CD player: Play/Pause, Stop, Previous, Next,
and Mute. Slide the little bar next to the little speaker icon to
change the volume. (Refer to Figure 13-1 for how these buttons
work. Or just rest your mouse pointer over the buttons to see what
they do.)
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
A Media Player automatically recognizes the bestsellers and a surprising amount of obscure stuff. Sometimes, however, you need to
enter the names yourself: Right-click on a track, choose Edit, and
type in the name. After Media Player has identified your CD’s title
and song names, it remembers them. It doesn’t need to connect to
the Internet and download them again.
A Visualizations are those swirling thingies that twitch to the music’s
beat after you insert a CD. Beneath the swirlies, two little arrows
let you choose different types of visualizations. Choose Download
Visualizations from the Tools menu to find more. Or right-click on a
swirly thing to choose from a menu of swirlies.
A Right-click on the swirling visualization and choose Album Art
from the pop-up menu. Media Player replaces the swirlies with the
CD’s art, if it can find it on the Internet.
A Play your CDs — or anything else — in random order by choosing
Shuffle from the Play menu or clicking the tiny Shuffle button
shown in Figure 13-1.
A Want to play a CD over and over to see if you get tired of it? Start
playing it and choose Repeat from the Play menu. The CD keeps
playing until you click the Stop button.
A Feel free to tweak the sound to suit your ears. Choose the SRS
WOW effects by clicking the little buttons or by choosing from the
View menu’s Now Playing Tools area. The WOW effect adds a 3-D
quality, and TruBass artificially cranks up the bass. For less gimmickry control, choose the Graphic Equalizer. Sculpt the sound
yourself or choose from pre-selects including Jazz, Acoustic, Rock,
Rap, and more.
Playing DVDs
Microsoft raves about how Media Player plays DVDs. But that’s a lie.
Windows XP can’t play DVDs right out of the box. See, even though
you’ve bought a Windows XP computer, a DVD drive, and a DVD, you
need something else: special software called a decoder. This bit of software, called a codec because itconverts one format to another, enables
your computer to translate numbers on a disc into videos of galloping
horses on the screen.
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
Unfortunately, Windows XP doesn’t come with a DVD codec, so you
must pick up one somewhere else. Where? Well, most computers with
DVD drives come with DVD playing software — a little box with its own
little controls. That software installs its own DVD codec in Windows,
and Media Player simply borrows that. But if you don’t have DVD playing software, there’s nothing to borrow, and Media Player ignores your
A If you choose Windows Media Player instead of your third-party
DVD player to watch DVDs, the controls are pretty much the same
as they are for playing CDs (described in the preceding section).
A You probably need to update your DVD software so that it will
work under Windows XP. Otherwise your DVD software won’t work
under Media Player, either. Head for the Web site of your DVD
player’s manufacturer and look for a Windows XP patch or
upgrade. If you’re lucky, the manufacturer won’t charge you for the
upgrade. Some companies, however, make you buy a new version.
A DVD stands for Digital Video Disc, Digital Versatile Disc, and Dick
Van Dyke.
Playing MP3s and WMAs
Windows XP plays MP3 files, the standard for storing music on computers and the Internet. Windows XP also handles Microsoft’s competing
format, WMA files.(You can create MP3s if you buy Microsoft’s add-on
software described in the sidebar on the next page.) To listen to an
MP3 file — whether you downloaded it from the Internet or created it
using another program — follow these steps:
1. Open Media Player.
If you don’t see its icon on your Start menu or taskbar, click the
Start button, choose All Programs, and choose Windows Media
Player from that menu.
2. Choose Open from the File menu.
The Open box appears, ready for you to root through your folders
for the appropriate file.
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
3. Locate your MP3 or WMA file.
Open the folder that holds your file.
Having trouble finding your MP3 file? Then choose Search from the
Start menu; choose Pictures, Music, or Video; and click in the
Music and Sound box. After you click the Search button, all your
MP3 and WMA files appear in the Search window.
4. Double-click the file that you want to hear.
Media Player immediately begins playing the song.
A If you’ve told Media Player to catalog all your media files, as I
explain in this chapter’s “Finding Media on Your Computer and
Putting It into the Media Library” section, click Media Player’s
Media Library button. Media Player lists your MP3s in the Audio
section, sorted by Album, Artist, and Genre.
A Media Player lets you create playlists of your favorite tunes, as I
describe in the “Creating Playlists” section, earlier in this chapter.
That lets you make a list of what files you’d like to play, and in what
A Although Windows Media Player does a decent job of playing MP3
files, the program’s just too big and bulky. For a more versatile and
slim player, check out Winamp at .
A Blatant plug: For everything you want to know about MP3, check
out my book, MP3 For Dummies, 2nd Edition, published by Hungry
Minds, Inc. Or, if you see a friend’s copy, grab it.
Creating WMAs or MP3s
Media Player lets you copy songs from your CDs onto your computer,
but only in the WMA format. That’s too bad because MP3 is much more
popular and is supported by every portable MP3 player. Microsoft
hopes WMA will catch on because of Microsoft’s marketing muscle.
Plus, WMA files are half the size of MP3 files.
Before you copy files, you must tell Media Player where to store them
and what format to use. Choose Options from Media Player’s Tools
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
What are MP3, WMA, and Mp3PRO?
MP3 ripped open the music industry in a way
never seen before. MP3 technology stores
music onto a computer as a file that’s compressed to about one-tenth of its original size.
Yet, the sound stays almost as good as the original CD.
As the public caught on to the implications of
MP3, folks began creating MP3 files from their
favorite CDs, storing the music onto their computers or portable MP3 players, such as the Rio
or Nomad. Many people trade MP3s over the
Internet using programs such as BearShare or
Newsgroups. The music fans love it. The music
industry hates it, saying it results in copyright
violations that hurt music sales.
Sensing an opening in the market, Microsoft
created its own music compression formula
called Windows Media Audio (WMA), which has
beat MP3 in a key area. See, MP3 files must be
encoded at 128 Kbps for good sound. But WMA
can be compressed at 64 Kbps. That makes
WMA twice as small, yet it still sounds as good
as MP3.
Some people prefer MP3s because of the sound
and wide acceptability. Others prefer WMAs
because their smaller size makes it easier to
stuff more tunes onto a portable player ➪ if the
portable player accepts the WMA format.
If you don’t click the correct button, however,
WMA inserts a special license into the files,
making them more difficult to copy: You can’t
always take WMAs created on one computer
and play them on another.
The Windows XP Media Player plays both WMA
and MP3 files, yet it only creates WMA files from
CDs. By itself, Media Player can’t create MP3s.
There’s more: The folks who created the MP3
format recently created the newer Mp3PRO format. By tweaking the MP3’s sound, they’ve
shrunk the song in half and made it sound as
good or better than a standard MP3. Unfortunately, Mp3PRO songs require special Mp3PRO
players in order to hear the higher quality. When
played through standard MP3 players, Mp3PRO
songs sound only half as good as their standard
MP3 versions.
MP3 player manufacturers must pay extra to use
the Mp3PRO format, however, so only time will
tell how well it will be accepted. Feel free to
keep an eye on it at
menu and click the Copy Music tab. (Read the sidebar elsewhere in this
chapter, “What are MP3, WMA, and Mp3PRO?” to figure out the format
you need.)
To save space, I recommend storing your music in your computer’s
Shared Music folder so that every computer user can hear it: Click the
Change button, click My Computer, click Shared Documents, and
choose Shared Music. Click OK to save your changes.
Make sure no check mark is in the Protect Content box. Then, you’re
ready to copy the songs from a CD onto your computer, where you can
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
listen to them, catalog them, or copy them directly to MP3 players and
Pocket PCs.
1. Log onto the Internet.
Although not essential, an Internet connection automatically fills
in the CD’s song titles while Media Player creates your MP3s and
WMAs. Using the Internet is a great timesaver and helps avoid
embarrassing misspellings.
2. Load Media Player.
3. Insert your audio CD into your computer and click the Stop Play
Media Player will probably begin playing the songs, but it copies
faster if the CD doesn’t play.
4. Click the Copy from CD button.
After you click the Copy from CD button, Media Player shows all
the CD’s song titles, which are all selected.
5. Remove the check marks from any titles that you don’t want to
6. Click the Copy Music button.
This Copy Music button is the red button near the top, next to the
Get Names button. Media Player begins copying the selected
song(s) from the CD to your hard drive in your chosen format, as
shown in Figure 13-5.
That’s it. Media Player automatically records all the songs onto
your hard drive.
A To listen to your newly copied files, click the Media Library button
and find your CD listed under the Album section. Click the CD’s
name, and all the copied songs appear on Media Player’s righthand side.
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
A If you save your music files to your My Music folder, only you can
hear them on the computer. Save them to the Shared Music folder
so that anyone who uses your computer can access them.
Figure 13-5:
WMA files,
but not MP3
A Just like Windows XP doesn’t include a codec to play DVD files, it
doesn’t include a codec for creating MP3 files. The solution? You
need third-party MP3 software that includes an MP3 encoder. If
Media Player feels that the encoder meets the specifications of
Microsoft, it borrows that program’s encoder in order to copy
MP3s. (Choose Options from the Tools menu and click the Copy
Music tab to choose your file format, WMA or MP3.)
Storing Files in Your My Music and
Shared Music Folders
When Media Player copies your CD onto your hard drive in WMA format, it stores the songs in your My Music or Shared Music folders, visi-
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
Making Media Player create MP3s and play
Bending to pressure, Microsoft made a lastminute deal with three companies to provide
software for Windows Media Player to create
MP3s and play DVDs. The catch? The complete
package costs between $20 and $30, with separate components (the DVD decoder on its own,
for instance) costing less.
on packs from each company's Web site
through links inside Windows Media Player.
The three companies, CyberLink, InterVideo, and
RAVISENT, each offer an MP3 Creation Pack for
Windows XP and a DVD Decoder Pack for Windows XP. After October 25, 2001, Windows XP
users may order and download these new add-
To create an MP3 after installing the add-on,
choose Options from Media Player's Tools
menu, click the Copy Music tab, and select MP3
from the File Format area.
If you've upgraded to Windows XP from an earlier version of Windows, and your old DVD or
MP3 creation software no longer works, using
the links to get the add-ons might be your best
How do I turn off that awful licensing feature?
Everybody but the record industry agrees that
the Microsoft licensing feature is awful. Luckily,
you have a way to turn it off.
1. Choose Options from Media Player’s
Tools menu.
2. Click the Copy Music tab.
3. Remove any check mark from the box
marked Protect Content.
If no check mark is there, Media Player doesn’t
embed any license or copy protection in your
copied files. Disabling the licensing feature lets
you copy your files to any of your computers and
portable music devices.
ble in My Computer. But here’s the cool part — Media Player sometimes
grabs a copy of the CD’s cover art and sticks that on the CD’s My Computer folder, as shown in Figure 13-6. You need to know a few tricks,
though, so read on.
1. Media Player must be able to download the art, so you need to
be connected to the Internet when you copy the files.
2. To make sure the art shows, open My Computer and right-click
on the folder containing the songs.
3. Choose Properties, click the Customize tab, and from the first
box, select Music Album (Best for Tracks from One Album). Click
OK to return to your folder view.
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
Figure 13-6:
Your My
Music and
display a
CD’s cover
4. Choose View from the folder’s menu and select Thumbnails from
the drop-down menu.
5. If the art doesn’t appear on the folder, right-click on the folder
again, but this time choose Refresh Thumbnail.
My Computer stores CDs by artist, with all the artist’s CDs stored in
separate folders inside that folder. The Artist folder should show small
images of the cover art. If it doesn’t, follow the same steps for showing
the cover art, except choose the option marked Music Artist (Best for
Works by One Artist) instead of the Music Album option.
Playing Videos
Windows XP comes with a home video editor that creates small videos
for sending along with e-mail. Media Player plays these videos, as well
as videos that you may have downloaded from the Internet, including
the popular MPG and AVI formats.
(Windows XP doesn’t play QuickTime videos, though. For those, you
need to download Apple Computer’s QuickTime player at
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
Playing a video file works the same way as playing a WMA file:
1. Open Media Player.
2. Choose Open from the File menu.
3. Locate your video file.
Open the folder that contains your video file.
4. Double-click the video file to begin playing it.
To make the video fill the screen, hold down Alt and press Enter.
(Or choose Full Mode from the View menu.) Beware: Some videos
look better full screen than others. Press Alt+Enter to return to
normal size.
Moving Music or Video to an MP3
Player or Pocket PC
Start the easy way: Turn off Media Player’s WMA licensing features
when you copy files from a CD. That way your WMA files will play back
on nearly every MP3 player on the market.
Media Player can copy files straight from your Media Library into your
MP3 player or Pocket PC. However, it only works that way with some of
the newer devices, such as Iomega’s HipZip, Creative’s Nomad II, the
Rio 600 and 800, and others.
Here’s how to copy music or video to your MP3 player or Pocket PC:
1. Connect your device to your computer.
Some devices connect through a serial cable; others use a USB or
parallel port. Some connect a FlashCard reader to your PC.
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
2. Turn on the device.
A window usually pops up, asking how Windows should handle
your device. Specifically, Windows asks whether it should play the
music files on the device, or open the device’s contents in a folder
so that you can view it. Click Cancel because you don’t need either
option to copy files using Media Player.
3. Click the Copy to CD or Device button.
Media Player connects with your device. (Press F5 if it has trouble
finding your device.) As shown in Figure 13-7, for example, Media
Player shows the PocketZip’s current contents on the left and your
Media Player’s songs on the right.
4. Decide what to copy to your player.
See the little arrow in Figure 13-7? Click the arrow, and a long list
drops down. That’s the Music to Copy list, and you can select
music by artist, CD title, and Genre. Or choose All Audio from the
list to see all your available songs.
The songs that you choose appear in the window below. They’re
all checked, and Media Player keeps a size total so that you know
what songs will and won’t fit. To uncheck them all, click the little
check box next to the word Title. Then you can choose songs separately by clicking in their boxes.
To erase songs on your current player, right-click on their titles
and choose Delete from Playlist.
Selected songs that will fit on the player? Time for Step 5.
5. Click the red Copy Music button near Media Player’s upper-right
Media Player dutifully copies the selected songs into your portable
A If you see the message An Error Occurred, it probably means
you’re trying to pack too big of a file onto your player, and there’s
not enough room. Choose a smaller file and see if that fits in the
remaining space.
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
Figure 13-7:
On the left
choose the
songs that
you want to
copy to your
player on
the right
A The quickest way to move files to a player is to buy a CompactFlash card reader and connect it to your computer. Then copy the
WMA or MP3 files to the card reader using My Computer. Transfer
sessions take seconds instead of minutes.
A Media Player also copies videos into Pocket PCs, if you have one of
those little goodies. Beware, though: Copying videos can take a
long time. In fact, unless your music player or Pocket PC connects
to your computer with a USB port, the transfer could take 20 minutes or more.
A When copying tunes to your portable player or Pocket PC, save
space by encoding your WMA files at 64 Kbps. Your files consume
half the size of MP3 files and still sound good enough for the
streets. To change the rate, choose Options from the Tools menu.
Click the Copy Music tab and slide the quality setting bar to the 64
Kbps setting.
A WMA handles low encoding rates much better than MP3. That’s
why a 64 Kbps WMA file sounds much better than an MP3 file at 64
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
A For the latest info on Pocket PCs, head to
Burning Your Own CDs
Windows XP lets you burn your music onto writeable CDs in two very
different ways.
First, it can dump files onto a CD for sheer storage. For instance, you
can copy more than 150 MP3 or WMA files onto a single CD. Just open
My Computer, right-click on the files, choose Send To, and select your
CD drive. Next, open your writeable CD drive in My Computer and
choose Write These Files to CD. (In fact, this trick works for any files
that you want to copy to a CD, not just music files.)
Second, Windows XP lets you create standard music CDs ➪ CDs containing a dozen or so songs that play back in your home or car CD
player. By mixing songs from various albums, you can create your own
Greatest Hits CD containing your favorite songs.
To store a dozen or so songs on a CD for playing on your home or car’s
CD player, follow these instructions. (Actually, they’re very much like
copying songs to a portable MP3 player, as described in the preceding
1. Insert your blank CD into your writeable CD drive.
When the helpful little message pops up, click Take No Action.
Media Player handles the details.
2. Open Media Player and click Copy to CD or Device.
(This button is one of the buttons along the left side of Media
Player.) Media Player shows a window split in two. One side displays the files you’d like to copy to the CD; the other side shows
the CD. (Both sides are empty because you haven’t selected any
files, and you’re copying to a blank CD.)
3. Click Media Player’s Media Library button.
Click an album containing songs that you want to copy to the CD;
its songs appear on Media Player’s right side.
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
4. Right-click on the desired song and choose Copy to Audio CD.
Each time you click a song and choose Copy to Audio CD, Media
Player immediately shows you the window you see in Step 2, with
your currently chosen file on the Music to Copy list. Media Player
keeps track of each song’s length, listing the total at the list’s bottom.
Why does Media Player care? Because CDs hold only 74 or 80 minutes of music. If you try to stuff too many songs onto the CD, Media
Player displays the message Will not fit next to some songs’
To remove songs that won’t fit, click the check marked box next to
their names.
After you line up the right amount of songs, move to Step 5.
5. Click Copy Music.
Copy Music is the little red button near the upper-right corner.
Now it’s time to move away from your computer for a while. Windows must convert the files into the proper CD format, and that
takes about ten minutes. Then, Windows needs a half hour or so to
copy the music onto the CD — and Microsoft warns you not to fiddle with your computer while creating a CD because Media Player
could “stop functioning.”
A Media Player copies to both CD-R and CD-RW discs. Many stereos
choke on CD-RW discs, so you’re best off with the CD-R discs. I buy
’em in stacks of 50 through
A When storing songs onto your hard drive, Media Player compresses them into WMA format, losing some quality in the process.
To let Media Player work with the best-quality recordings when
creating CDs, use the highest quality level possible when ripping
songs onto your hard drive. (Set the quality level by choosing
Options from the Tools menu, clicking the Copy Music tab, and
sliding the tab to Best Quality.)
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
Adding Skins to Media Player
Today’s generation wants to play with its toys. So, Microsoft added a
whimsical feature to Media Player. The program normally rests on your
desktop like a big wet towel, covering everything in its path.
Through skin technology, users can change that ugly wet towel into
something much more hip. Skins are new interfaces for Media Player
that make it less imposing and more friendly.
Here’s how to put new clothes on Media Player:
1. Click the Skin Chooser button.
A list of skins appears on the left with the currently highlighted
skin displayed on the right.
2. Choose a skin from the list.
More than a dozen skins await the dressing room. Try one on by
clicking its name. The preview window shows the skin’s appearance, as shown in Figure 13-8.
Figure 13-8:
Click a skin
to see its
appearance in the
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
To see even more skins, click the More Skins button near the top of
the list. That whisks you off to the Microsoft Skins Gallery on the
Internet — a collection of user-submitted skins up for the taking.
3. Click the Apply Skin button.
Located near the top of the list, this button dresses Media Player
in your newly chosen skin and places it onto the desktop for evaluation, as shown in Figure 13-9.
Figure 13-9:
The newly
appears onscreen.
If you like your new selection, keep it. (And try to figure out the
new placement of all the buttons.) If it’s not quite up to snuff,
repeat Steps 1 through 3.
Choose the Miniplayer skin when listening to music and still working on the computer. A nice small player, it fits into the background
nicely. (Miniplayer won’t play videos, though.)
Fixing Media Player Muckups
The all-powerful computing world stumbles when trying to act like a
simple TV set. Changing a channel on a TV set involves pressing a button. Over the Internet world, users must deal with weird standards,
confusing terms (such as codec), and computers that shudder under
the weight of displaying high-powered Internet sound and graphics.
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
This section covers the problems you eventually encounter with Media
It just doesn’t work!
If Media Player is messing up, check out this list of cheap fixes before
grabbing your hair and pulling:
A Check the volume on Windows XP. Click the little speaker in the
bottom corner of the taskbar and slide the Volume lever upward.
(Make sure that the Mute All box isn’t checked, too.) No speaker
icon? Open the Start menu’s Control Panel; choose Sounds,
Speech, and Audio Devices; and click Adjust the System Volume.
Finally, click in the box marked Place Volume Icon in the Taskbar.
A Check the volume on your sound card. Some older sound cards
have a little rotary knob on the back, and you need to wiggle your
fingers through the octopus of cables in the back of the computer
to reach the knob. Other cards make you push certain keyboard
combinations to control the volume. You may have to pull out the
manual for this one. (Try double-clicking the little speaker icon by
your digital clock in the bottom corner to see all of your sound
card’s volume settings.)
A Run any Setup or Configuration programs that came with the
sound card. Sometimes these programs can shake loose a problem.
A Do you have the proper codecs for DVDs and MP3s? Windows
XP doesn’t include codecs for playing DVDs or creating MP3s. You
must install a third-party DVD player or MP3 encoder so that
Media Player can borrow those codecs.
A Are the Windows XP drivers installed correctly for your
particular sound card? Check out the drivers section in Chapter
A Did you plug speakers into the sound card? That sound has to
come from somewhere. . . . And is the speaker cord plugged firmly
into its jack on the sound card? While you’re at it, are those nice
desktop speakers plugged in and turned on?
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
Does it have to be so huge?
Old versions of Media Player simply played media. A thin strip of buttons, the program lived out its name by controlling the playback of CDs,
recordings, and occasional videos.
Now, Media Player automatically catalogs tiny details of your media collection and leaves the huge closets of information on the screen. Now,
Media Player either consumes the entire screen, or it’s an icon at the
bottom of your screen. There’s not much of an in-between. Try clicking
Skin Chooser and choosing the Classic skin for a look at days gone by.
Bizarre Multimedia Words
Here’s what some of those weird multimedia buzzwords are supposed
to mean. Use caution when murmuring them in crowded elevators.
A Analog: Naturally moving elements, such as waves, sounds, and
motion — things that computers turn into numbers for storage.
(See also Digital.)
A AVI: Short for Audio Video Interleaved, AVI is video-playing software for IBM-compatible PCs. (It competes with Macintosh’s
QuickTime movie player, which is winning the battle for the Internet.)
A CD quality: The term Windows XP uses for stereo, 16-bit sound
recorded at 44 kHz. The cream of the crop, the recording sounds as
good as a music CD, but it consumes a lot of hard disk space.
A Codec: A way to compress sound or video into a file and then
decompress it when playing it back, often in a different format.
MP3 and WMA use different codecs, for instance.
A Copyright: A legal term establishing ownership rights of a created
work. In the case of a song, a copyright can be established for the
tune’s composer, the lyrics, and the band’s performance of the
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
A Data buffer: A way to temporarily store information, leading to
smoother transfers. Sound or video playing over the Net often
requires a buffer. Increasing the buffer leads to better playback but
puts more strain on the computer’s power.
A Digital: Computerized things; collections of numbers to represent
pictures, sounds, text, or video. (See also Analog.)
A DSP (Digital Signal Processor): A bit of computer mechanics for
adding echoes, reverb, and other sound benders to a piece of
A Encoding: Compressing a file. When you create a WMA file, you’re
encoding a file.
A FM: Short for Frequency Modulation, FM is the technology that’s
used to create instrument sounds from most AdLib-compatible
sound cards.
A Lossy compression: Compressed files, such as MP3 and WMA,
which cut out some of the sound in order to save space.
A MIDI: Short for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, but most people try to forget that right away. Pronounced “MID-ee.”
A MP3: Short for MPEG 3, Layer 1. It’s a method of compressing
audio files into one-tenth of their normal size while still keeping
near CD-quality sound. MP3 stores about one minute of audio in
1MB of space.
A Playlist: A list of media files and their locations. Players read the
list to find the songs and the order in which they’re to be played.
A Public domain: Works that may be freely copied and distributed.
They enter the public domain after the copyright expires or the
copyright holder gives his or her material to the public domain.
A Radio quality: The term that Windows XP uses for mono, 8-bit
sound recorded at 22 kHz. Basically, it sounds as good as a clear
radio station.
_________________________ Chapter 13: Sound! Movies! Media Player!
A RealAudio: Another popular sound format for streaming music
over the Internet. Media Player does not support RealAudio, and
you must download a separate RealPlayer from
(Microsoft is hoping to wipe out RealAudio with WMA.)
A Sampling: How closely the computer pays attention to the sound.
The higher the sampling rate, the more attention the computer’s
paying. A higher sampling rate translates to a better sound — and
a much bigger file when saved to disk. Most cards sample at 11, 22,
or 44 kHz.
A Skins: Cosmetic enhancers for a program. Click Media Player’s
Skin Chooser button to give Media Player a whole new look.
A Sound module: A box-like contraption that creates sounds but
doesn’t have a keyboard: a drum machine, for example.
A Telephone quality: A term that Windows XP uses to describe
mono sounds recorded at 8-bit, 11 kHz. The recording sounds like
a telephone conversation.
A WAV: The format that Windows uses to store and play digitally
recorded sounds. Pronounced “wave.”
A Weighted keys: If a synthesizer’s keyboard feels like a keyboard on
a real piano, it probably has weighted keys — and up to $2,000
more on its price tag.
A Winamp: The most popular MP3 player by far, Winamp offers regular updates, easy customization, and great sound. Check it out at
A Windows CE: A miniature version of Windows that runs on Pocket
Part IV
In this part…
indows XP can do hundreds of tasks in dozens of ways.
This means that approximately one million things can fail
at any given time.
Some problems are easy to fix. For example, one misplaced click
on the desktop makes all your icons suddenly vanish. One more
click in the right place puts them all back.
Other problems are far more complex, requiring teams of computer surgeons to diagnose, remedy, and bill accordingly.
This part helps you separate the big problems from the little ones.
You’ll know whether you can fix it yourself with a few clicks and a
kick. If your situation’s worse, you’ll know when it’s time to call in
the surgeons.
Chapter 14
Customizing Windows XP
(Fiddling with the Control Panel)
In This Chapter
B Exploring the Control Panel
B Customizing the display
B Changing colors
B Changing video modes
B Changing desktop themes
B Understanding TrueType fonts
B Installing or removing programs
B Installing new computer parts
B Changing to a different printer
B Making Windows XP recognize your double-click
B Setting the computer’s time and date
fter releasing more than a dozen versions of Windows, the guys
and gals at Microsoft have realized that they can’t please everybody. Whenever Microsoft added a new feature to its latest release,
many Windows users began complaining that they preferred the old
And the new users? They’d complain that the new version didn’t let
them do something the way they wanted. No matter how many changes
Microsoft made to the software, Microsoft either upset its older users
or didn’t satisfy the new crop.
So, Microsoft is trying something new with Windows XP. People who
prefer the look and feel of old versions can choose the Classic settings:
Windows XP immediately behaves like Windows’ previous version. To
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
satisfy new users, well, Microsoft has added hundreds of different settings for people to set up Windows just the way they like it.
Unfortunately, that creates a new problem. Windows XP contains so
many different switches and customizable options that making it work
the way you want is harder than ever.
Hundreds of switches and options hide inside the 24 Control Panel
icons of Windows. This chapter shows which ones you need and which
ones you can avoid. And, if you accidentally flip the wrong switch, this
chapter shows how to make everything go back the way it was.
Beware, however: Because these settings affect the computer so drastically, many can only be changed by the computer’s owner — the person
holding the administrator account.
Finding the Right Control Panel
Just like a house’s circuit breaker box, the Windows Control Panel holds
the switches that control the program’s various settings. Flip open the
Control Panel from the Start menu, and you can while away an entire
workweek adjusting all the various Windows XP options.
But after the Control Panel window pops up, as shown in Figure 14-1,
sometimes its little icon switches aren’t all visible. Instead, Windows XP
groups the icons into categories, often making it difficult to find the
right switch.
To see all your Control Panel icons, click Switch to Classic View (upperleft corner of Figure 14-1). Voilà! All the Control Panel icons appear, as
shown in Figure 14-2. (If you need to make the window larger to see
them all, hit Chapter 6 for window-sizing tips.)
Every computer’s Control Panel may look slightly different because different people can afford different computer toys. For example, the keyboards on some Gateway computers enable you to control the volume
of your DVD player. Those Control Panels include an icon to change
that keyboard’s special settings. Some laptop owners use high-tech
infrared ports to beam information to other laptops. Those Control Pan-
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Figure 14-1:
Click any
category to
change the
settings for
that particular subject.
Figure 14-2:
View shows
all available
icons in the
Panel; click
Switch to
View to
return to the
prettier, categorized
els have a Wireless Link icon. In Table 14-1, I explain the icons you may
come across in your copy of Windows XP and why you might need to
use them.
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
I discuss the most important options in more glowing detail later in this
A Don’t worry about the Control Panel’s overwhelming display of
options; chances are that you’ll use very few of them.
A If the Control Panel’s icons don’t look like the ones in Figure 14-2,
choose Icons from the View menu. To see what the icons do,
choose Details from the View menu to see a list of tiny icons followed by descriptions of their purposes.
A For an easy way to see what each icon does, rest your mouse
pointer over a mysterious icon — without clicking. A reminder
appears, explaining the icon’s function.
A Some third-party programs add additional icons to the Control
Panel. Don’t be surprised to see icons for Real Player appear in the
Classic View, for instance.
A Many of the Control Panel’s dialog boxes can be reached without
calling up the Control Panel. Double-click the taskbar’s little clock
to summon the dialog box for the Date and Time icon, for example.
Or right-click on a blank part of your desktop and choose Properties to bring up the dialog box for the Display icon.
Table 14-1
The Icon
Deciphering the Control Panel
What It Does
When you Should Use It
With the Accessibility
options, Microsoft performs admirably in making
Windows XP accessible to
everybody. These options
help make the monitor
easier to read, add special
sonic signals, and make
the Customize Windows
program’s controls work
more easily for people with
physical limitations.
If you need any of these
options, you’ll know.
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Table 14-1
The Icon
Deciphering the Control Panel
Icons (Continued)
What It Does
When you Should Use It
Installed that new <insert
name of expensive computer gadget here>? Head
for this area to summon
the Add Hardware Wizard.
This wizard, a helpful
piece of advice-counselor
software, handles the
messy chores of introducing Windows XP to new
computer parts.
If Windows doesn’t
automatically notice
your newly installed
computer part, start this
wizard to introduce
them to each other.
Double-click Add or
Remove Programs to make
Windows XP install new
software or remove software you no longer want.
This icon also tells Windows XP to install any software it left out when it
installed itself.
Use this icon whenever
you want to install new
software or delete existing programs.
Clicking the Administrative Tools icon brings up
detailed computer usage
statistics that you’ll never
need to use. If you think
you do need it, you’re
beyond the realm of this
Use this icon if you’ve
taken classes in computer sciences or networking. Save this stuff
for the computer consultants or technicians.
Use the Date and Time
icon to change your computer’s date, time, and time
zone settings.
Use this icon to reset
the clock or when moving to a new time zone.
(That lets Windows XP
automatically adjust the
clock for daylight saving time.)
A haven for decorators,
the Display icon contains
bunches of pre-created
backgrounds, colors,
fonts, and screen savers to
spruce up Windows XP
with cool themes.
Best used as a fun timewaster to put off upcoming projects.
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Table 14-1
The Icon
Deciphering the Control Panel
Icons (Continued)
What It Does
When you Should Use It
Use the Folder Options
icon to change the way
Windows displays its folders on the screen and how
they behave.
Usually used once or
twice, and then ignored.
With this icon, choose
from the basic fonts Windows XP comes with, such
as Arial and Courier. If
you head back to the software store and buy more
fonts, install them by double-clicking this icon.
Most programs install
and maintain their fonts
automatically. Tip: Double-clicking a font’s
name usually shows
what its letters look like.
Windows XP usually spots
newly installed joysticks
and game pads and
installs them automatically. Double-click the
Game Controllers icon for
help with problems. Also,
here’s where you calibrate and test your joystick
if you’re losing.
Avid game players
tweak this for every new
When you’re ready to join
the Internet and surf the
World Wide Web, the
Internet Options icon is
waiting for you. Click this
icon to open a Pandora’s
box of buttons that let you
customize the way Windows XP talks through the
Internet. (Chapter 12
shows how to point and
click your way through the
Used rarely, except
when setting everything
up for the first time.
After your Internet
access is set up, everything’s pretty low-maintenance.
Use the Keyboard icon to
change how long the keyboard takes to repeat a letter when you hold down a
key. Yawn.
Used rarely. Adjust your
keyboard’s settings
once, if necessary, and
then forget it.
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Table 14-1
The Icon
Deciphering the Control Panel
Icons (Continued)
What It Does
When you Should Use It
Choose among options
found in the Mouse icon to
make your mouse scoot
faster across the screen,
change it from righthanded to left-handed,
fine-tune your doubleclick, choose between
brands, and change all
sorts of mouse-related
Used rarely. Dirty
mouseballs and rollers
— not software settings — cause most
mouse problems. But
check out this option for
The Network Connections
icon shows your network
connections — if you have
any — and helps you create them if they don’t yet
Used to either create
networks or change the
settings of existing
From the Phone and
Modem Options icon, add
your area code or change
it if you’re traveling with a
laptop. Click the Modem
tab to see your modem;
double-click the modem’s
name to change its controls.
Used frequently by laptoppers or people having trouble with their
modems. Ignored when
everything’s working
Windows XP is very
power-conscious on new
computers and laptops.
Use the Power Options
icon to automatically turn
off the monitor — or the
entire computer — when
you haven’t used it for a
while. Choose your Power
Schemes setting at the
top, and Windows sets the
rest of the schemes for
Used frequently by laptoppers. Other people
make Windows XP turn
off their monitors after
30 minutes of inactivity.
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Table 14-1
The Icon
Deciphering the Control Panel
Icons (Continued)
What It Does
When you Should Use It
Come here (to the Printers
and Faxes icon) to tell
Windows XP about your
new printer, adjust the settings of a printer or fax
modem, or choose which
printer (or fax modem) you
want Windows XP to use.
Use this option whenever you buy a new
printer or permanently
change settings on an
existing one. (Right-click
on a printer icon and
choose Properties to
change its settings.)
The Regional and Language Options icon
changes the way Windows
XP displays and sorts numbers, international currency, the date, and the
time according to your
country. (If you’ve simply
changed time zones, just
double-click the date/time
display on the bottom-right
corner of the taskbar, a
process described later in
this chapter.)
Used mostly by laptoppers with frequent-flier
Windows XP makes an
effort to handle those
often-troublesome scanners and digital cameras.
If Windows doesn’t automatically find your scanner
or digital camera, try
installing those devices
here with the Scanners
and Cameras icon.
Come here to get pictures from your digital
camera and scanner,
too, as well as check
their connections.
The Scheduled Tasks icon
keeps Windows XP running smoothly because it
automatically performs
maintenance at certain
Ignore it. Windows XP
automatically sets
things up to run at the
right times.
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Table 14-1
The Icon
Deciphering the Control Panel
Icons (Continued)
What It Does
When you Should Use It
Use the Sounds and Audio
Devices icon not only to
change the volume, but
also to make Windows XP
play different sounds for
different events. Click the
Sounds tab and try some
of the presets in the Sound
Scheme box. Sound card
owners drop by here to
tweak their gear settings,
adjust playback/record
volumes, fiddle with MIDI
instruments, and play with
other goodies, such as
video capture cards, as
well as their CD and DVD
Used mostly at homes or
small offices where the
boss doesn’t mind computers that make
exploding sounds when
they crash.
Yes, Windows XP can
speak to you — if you can
understand the little guy.
Use the Speech icon to
hear Windows read to you.
This text-to-speech
translator gives an
inkling of what a more
professional package
can do. It’s not very useful, even for blind people.
Like racecar mechanics,
computer gurus can fiddle
around in here for hours.
Don’t play with the System
icon unless a nearby computer guru can serve as
Safety Patrol. This is scary
This area’s usage
increases with the level
of the user’s experience.
Customize your Start button menu, alphabetize its
contents, and fiddle with
your taskbar by using the
Taskbar and Start Menu
icon. Windows XP offers
an incredible amount of
customization options
Most people head here
to either alphabetize
their Start menu or turn
off the personalized
menus that leave off
some options.
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Table 14-1
The Icon
Deciphering the Control Panel
Icons (Continued)
What It Does
When you Should Use It
Head for the User
Accounts icon to replace
Microsoft’s little Welcome
screen icon with your own
picture. Administrators
may add or delete
accounts here, too.
After you set this up, you
probably won’t change
it much.
Appearance and Themes
The first category of the Control Panel, Appearance and Themes, controls how Windows XP appears on the screen. Click here to find links to
three icons: Display, Folder Options, and Taskbar and Start Menu. Each
of these three icons uses different techniques to change how Windows
displays information on the screen.
When you open the Appearance and Themes category, you see several
tasks, such as Choose a Screen Saver. Clicking those tasks brings up a
shortcut to the correct place to make your change.
Changing the display’s background,
screen saver, and resolution
The part of the Control Panel that’s used most often is probably the Display icon. Unlike several other switches in the Control Panel, the Display icon doesn’t control anything too dangerous. Feel free to fiddle
around with all the settings. You can’t cause any major harm. If you do
want to play, however, be sure that you write down the settings you
change. Then you can always return your display to normal if something looks odd.
Changing Windows’ desktop background
Windows offers two ways to change the background — the picture that
covers your desktop or work area. The first comes with the Themes tab
of the Display Properties dialog box, seen when you first double-click
the Display icon, as shown in Figure 14-3.
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Figure 14-3:
Choose a
pre-configured theme
to change
looks, as
well as
sounds and
The Display Properties dialog box in Figure 14-3 shows a preview of
Windows XP’s currently chosen theme — a collection of related colors,
sounds, icons, and a background that gives Windows a personalized
look and feel. Using the Themes tab is a fast, one-click way to change
Windows’ look: Choose a theme, and Windows XP automatically slips
into new clothes.
To see more themes, click the downward-pointing arrow in the Theme
box and choose More Themes Online, which enables you to download
preconfigured themes from the Internet.
To skip the fancy themes and simply change Windows’ background,
however, click the Desktop tab and sample some of the listed backgrounds. Click any of the filenames listed for a preview of how your
selection would look as a background. Like it? Click Apply to stick the
new background to your desktop.
To see other options, click the Browse button and click a file from inside
your My Pictures folder to see the new background in the preview window (see Figure 14-4). Like it? Click OK to complete the process and
close the Display Properties dialog box.
Here are some tips for customizing your desktop:
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Figure 14-4:
from your
camera for
background, the
beneath all
and icons.
A Windows XP looks at an incoming image’s size and automatically
decides whether it should be tiled repeatedly across the screen,
centered in the middle, or stretched to fill the entire screen. To override Windows’ choice, set your own preference by selecting it from
the Position box.
A Background files are BMP or JPG files. Most digital camera images
are JPG files. Most background files that come with Windows are
BMP files.
A Click the Customize Desktop button and choose Web to make Windows XP use a Web site as a background. It’s fun for a while, but it
eventually gets in the way. If you accidentally click an item on the
Web page while aiming for a desktop icon, Internet Explorer
pushes itself into the forefront and displays your Web page.
A Did you happen to spot an eye-catching picture while Web surfing
with Internet Explorer? Right-click on that Web site’s picture and
choose the Set As Background option. Sneaky Microsoft copies
that picture to your desktop and leaves it on the screen as your
new background.
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Choosing a screen saver
In the dinosaur days of computing, computer monitors were permanently damaged when an oft-used program burned its image onto the
screen. The program’s faint outlines showed up even after the monitor
was turned off.
To prevent this burn-in, people installed a screen saver to jump in when
a computer hadn’t been used for a while. The screen saver would either
blank the screen or fill it with wavy lines to keep the program’s display
from etching itself into the screen.
Today’s monitors don’t really have this problem, but people use screen
savers anyway — mainly because they look cool.
A Windows comes with several screen savers built in. To set one up
or change from the default “Windows XP” screen saver, click the
Screen Saver tab along the top of the Display Properties dialog
box. Then click the downward-pointing arrow in the Screen Saver
box. Finally, select the screen saver you want.
A Immediately after choosing a screen saver, click the Preview button to see what the screen saver looks like. Wiggle the mouse or
press the spacebar to return to Windows XP.
A Fiddlers can click Settings for more options — changing colors or
animation speed, for instance.
A For extra security, select the On Resume, Display Welcome Screen
check box. When somebody wants to use the computer again, it
starts up at the Welcome screen, where all the accounts can
require a password for entry. (I cover this in the “User Accounts”
A Click the up or down arrows next to the Wait box to tell the screen
saver when to kick in. If you set the option to 5, for example, Windows XP waits until you haven’t touched the mouse or keyboard
for five minutes before letting the screen saver out of its cage.
A To save electricity and extend your monitor’s life, click the Power
button at the bottom of the Screen Saver tab. Here, you can tell
Windows XP to turn off your monitor when you haven’t used it for
a while. (I cover this topic in Table 14-1.)
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Changing Windows’ on-screen colors
Feeling blue? You can make Windows XP appear in any color you want
by clicking the Appearance tab in the Display Properties dialog box.
Although Windows XP comes with very few colors to choose from,
switch to Classic style for a variety of different Microsoft-designed color
Switching to new video modes
Just as Windows XP can print to hundreds of different brands of printers, it can accommodate zillions of different monitors, too. It can even
display different video modes on the same monitor.
For example, Windows XP can display different numbers of colors on
the screen, or it can shrink the size of everything, packing more information onto the screen. The number of colors and the size of the information on-screen comprise a video mode, or video resolution.
Some Windows XP programs only work in a specific video mode, and
those programs casually ask you to switch to that mode. Huh?
Here’s what’s happening: Monitors plug into a special place on the back
of the computer. That special place is an outlet on a video card — the
gizmo that translates your computer’s language into something you can
see on the monitor. That card handles all the video-mode switches. By
making the card switch between modes, you can send more or fewer
colors to your monitor or pack more or less information onto the
To make a video card switch to a different video mode, click the Settings tab, one of the five tabs along the top of the Control Panel’s Display Properties dialog box, as shown in Figure 14-5. (Can’t find the
Display Properties dialog box? Right-click on a blank part of your desktop and choose Properties from the menu that springs up.)
From the Settings tab, select the video mode that you want Windows XP
to display on-screen. Click the arrow next to the Color Quality box to
change the number of colors Windows XP currently displays; move the
slider under Screen Resolution to change the amount of detail Windows
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Figure 14-5:
Use the
Settings tab
to change
the amount
of information
onto your
can pack onto the screen. Windows XP gives you a chance to back out if
you choose a video mode your computer can’t handle, thank goodness.
A Monitors and cards can display Windows XP in different resolutions. The higher the resolution, the more information Windows XP
can pack onto the screen (and the smaller the windows become,
too). For more information about this monitor/card/resolution
stuff, troop over to Chapter 2 and read the section about computer
parts that I told you to ignore.
A To switch to a higher resolution, use your mouse to slide the little
bar in the Screen Resolution area. Then watch how the little preview screen changes. The more you slide the bar to the right, the
more information Windows XP can pack onto the screen. Unfortunately, the information also gets smaller. Click the Apply button
after you select a new resolution to see it in action.
A When Windows XP switches to the new resolution, it usually gives
you 15 seconds to click a button saying that you approve of the
change. If your card or monitor can’t handle the new resolution,
you won’t be able to see the button on-screen. Then, because you
didn’t click the button, Windows XP automatically changes back to
the original resolution. Whew!
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
A Depending on how you’re set up, Windows XP sometimes prefers
to restart your computer when changing the amount of colors or
resolution. To determine how Windows XP handles your video
changes, click the Advanced button on the bottom of the Settings
A Want to change the number of colors Windows XP can throw onto
the screen? Click the little arrow in the Color Quality box. After the
list drops down, select the number of colors you want.
A To look at pictures taken with a digital camera, you’ll probably
want Windows XP to display the highest number of colors as possible. Medium, or 16-bit mode, will display a total of 65,000 colors;
Highest, or 32-bit mode, slaps up to 16 million colors on the monitor.
A Windows XP works well with two or more monitors simultaneously
and can display different video resolutions on each monitor. You
need a separate PCI video card to power each monitor, however.
See the nearby “Two monitors . . . at the same time!” sidebar for
more information.
A If Windows XP acts goofy with your video card or monitor — or
you’ve recently installed new ones — Windows XP probably needs
to be formally introduced to your new equipment before it will talk
to it.
Two monitors . . . at the same time!
Plug a second video card into your computer,
plug in a second monitor, and Windows XP will
probably be able to spread its display across
both monitors — or even three, if you install yet
another card and monitor.
It sounds frivolous, but this new feature can be
kind of handy, actually. For instance, you can run
your Internet browser on one monitor while
keeping your desktop handy for other work. Or
you can spread your work out, making it easy to
cut and paste between bunches of open windows.
A few words of caution, however: This two-monitor stuff is relatively new, so not all programs
can handle it. Also, TV Viewer cards can only
display TV shows on the primary monitor —
your first monitor. The TV show simply disappears if you try dragging its window to the second monitor.
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Making Windows display folders
Some people store their folders in a fireproof MacMahon Bros. file cabinet and spread them across a finely polished mahogany desk for viewing. Others spread them across the floor and hope the papers don’t fall
out. To accommodate different working styles, Windows XP offers several ways of viewing your folders.
To fiddle with folder settings, choose Control Panel from the Start menu
and double-click the Folder Options icon from the Appearances and
Themes category. (You can also choose Folder Options from nearly any
folder’s Tools menu.) Here are the choices thrust upon you in the General tab, as shown in Figure 14-6.
Figure 14-6:
lets you
change how
you open
your folders,
how they
look inside,
whether you
click or
to open
The Tasks area offers two ways for a folder to display its contents. If
you like your folders to display that big blue bar along their left sides,
offering quick links to places, such as My Documents, select the Show
Common Tasks in Folders option button. To eliminate that bar and give
the folder’s icons more room, select the Use Windows Classic Folders
option button.
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
The Browse Folders area defines how a folder opens. If you open a
folder that’s currently inside another folder, should that new folder
open in its own new window? Or should its contents merely replace the
existing folder’s contents, leaving only one open folder on the screen?
Finally, the Click Items As Follows area establishes your mouse click
options. Indicate here whether you want to open files with a single click
or a double-click.
There is no right or wrong option for any of these. It comes down to
your personal style. If you’re afraid you’re missing something, try each
setting to see which one you prefer.
Fiddling with folder options isn’t particularly dangerous, but some
choices can make Windows XP behave mighty strange. If something terribly weird happens, here’s how to return to less-troublesome times.
Click the Restore Defaults button on the General tab of the Folder
Options dialog box, as shown in Figure 14-6. Your folders and desktop
now behave the way they did when Windows XP was first installed.
The View tab of the Folder Options dialog box offers 18 more advanced
settings. Unless you understand what the option does, don’t select it.
And if you select something and everything acts weird, click the
Restore Defaults button.
Finally, don’t play with the File Types tab of the Folder Options dialog
box until you’re more familiar with Windows. If you click the wrong setting, Windows won’t know how to open your files.
Don’t worry if some of these Windows XP options seem rather confusing or pointless. They are.
A Folder options are aimed at people who really like to fiddle with
their computers. Chances are that you can avoid using the folder
A If you’ve been comfortable with Windows 98 or Windows 95,
always choose the classic styles. If you’re comfortable with Windows XP, leave the default settings. Only choose the other settings
if you like to fiddle around with your computer and try new things.
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Adjusting your taskbar and Start
Clicking the Control Panel’s Taskbar and Start Menu icon brings up the
same dialog box that I discuss in Chapter 10: the Taskbar and Start
Menu Properties dialog box. In that chapter, I explain how to adjust the
settings of your taskbar — that long bar along the bottom of your
Feel free to adjust your Start menu here, as well, by clicking the dialog
box's Start Menu tab, shown in Figure 14-7. (Right-clicking on your
desktop's Start button and choosing Properties brings you to the same
page.) Here’s how to adjust your Start menu by selecting the options on
that page. (Most people don’t bother fiddling with them.)
Figure 14-7:
Change the
look and
feel of your
Start menu
and taskbar.
If you’re accustomed to earlier versions of Windows, select the Classic
Start Menu option button. To stick with the Windows XP look, leave the
Start Menu option button selected and click its Customize button to
begin tweaking.
Choosing Small Icons doesn’t shrink the size of the Start menu, but it
lets you pack more icons from recently used programs onto it. In fact, if
you choose Small Icons, increase the Number of Programs on Start
Menu option below it — small icons leave more room.
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Finally, choose whether you want Internet Explorer and Outlook
Express to appear on the Start menu.
Click the Advanced button for heavy-duty customizing. For instance, to
get rid of that annoying box that pops up whenever you install a new
program, remove the check mark by Highlight Newly Installed Programs.
The Start menu doesn’t have a Restore Defaults button. If you make any
changes, write down what you’ve done in case you want to go back to
the Windows XP “out of the box” look.
Viewing your computer’s fonts
Sure, you see the names of the fonts in your word-processing program.
But how can you tell what they will look like before choosing one? To
find out, open the Control Panel from the Start menu, click Switch to
Classic View, and double-click the Fonts icon.
The Fonts dialog box appears, letting you see the names of your
installed fonts. From there, you can install additional fonts, as well.
To be on the safe side, don’t delete any fonts that come with Windows
XP — only delete fonts that you install yourself. Windows programs
often borrow Windows XP fonts for menus. If you delete those fonts,
your menus mysteriously vanish. And for goodness sake, don’t delete
any fonts beginning with the letters MS. (Don’t delete the fonts that
have red lettering in their icons, either.)
Double-click any font icon to see what that particular font looks like.
For example, if you double-click the Impact font icon, Windows XP
brings up an eye chart displaying how that font would look on the
printed page, as shown in Figure 14-8. (Click the Print button to see
what it really looks like on the printed page.)
A Icons marked with the letters TT are TrueType fonts, so they’ll
always look the best.
A Note: You’ll probably never need to fiddle with the Fonts icon. Just
know that it’s there in case you ever want to view your fonts.
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Figure 14-8:
Doubleclick a font
icon to see
what it
looks like.
Network and Internet Connections
Clicking the Network Connections icon brings up the New Connection
Wizard, which helps you connect to the Internet. (I also discuss this
topic in Chapter 12, with all the other Internet stuff.) It also brings up
the Network Connections window, which lets you set up a small home
or office network, or connect to a network at your office. I cover this in
Chapter 9 with other network stuff.
If you’ve already run those wizards, clicking here just shows your network settings, as well as any dial-up connections you’ve made.
Add or Remove Programs
Windows XP makes it easier than ever to install programs and keep
itself up-to-date. Clicking the Add or Remove Programs icon opens the
Add or Remove Programs window, shown in Figure 14-9. From there,
you can add or remove third-party programs, as well as parts of Windows XP itself.
Removing programs
Clicking the Add or Remove Programs category icon opens the Change
or Remove Programs area of the Add or Remove Programs window, as
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Figure 14-9:
The Add or
tells you
how often
you’ve used
a program
so that you
know if it’s a
for removal.
shown in Figure 14-9. The window lists your currently installed programs, their size, the last time they were used, and how often they’re
Click the program you’re tired of and then click its Change/Remove button. Windows asks whether you’re sure; if you click Yes, it scrapes the
program from your computer’s innards. Be careful, though, because the
program’s gone for good unless you kept its installation disc around.
The program doesn’t go to the Recycle Bin.
Always use the Add or Remove Programs window to uninstall your
unwanted programs. Simply deleting their folders won’t do the trick. In
fact, doing so confuses your computer, and you might see strange error
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Installing a new program
When installing a new program, click the Add New Programs button
from the Add or Remove Programs window. The window changes to
offer two options:
A To add a new program, click the CD or Floppy button. Insert the
program’s CD or first floppy disk and click Next. Windows finds the
program’s installation program and installs it automatically. If
you’re installing a program you’ve downloaded from the Internet,
however, Windows will complain that it can’t find it. So, in that
case, click the Browse button and find your downloaded program’s
setup program for Windows to install.
A To keep Windows up-to-date, click the Windows Update button.
Windows connects to the Internet and tells you what your computer needs to keep Windows fresh. Follow the instructions and
download any items that Windows recommends as critical.
Programs that live on compact discs often install themselves automatically: Just put them in your disc drive and shut the door.
Adding or removing Windows
Here’s a secret. Windows XP rarely installs itself completely. Windows
XP often leaves off a program for sending and receiving faxes, for
instance, as well as special programs for laptop users. To see what Windows XP has left off your computer — or to remove some of the features that it has installed — click the Add/Remove Windows
Components button from the Add or Remove Programs window.
Windows brings up a window listing all its components. The components with check marks by their names are installed; no check mark
means they’re left out. If you see components with a gray area, that
means some programs in that category are left out; double-click the category to see what’s in and what’s out.
To add a program, place a mark (click) in its empty check box. To
remove one that you’ve installed, click in its check box — its check
mark disappears, as does the program, after you click the Apply button.
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Sounds, Speech, and Audio Devices
Looking for the volume control? It’s hidden in here, deep in the Control
Panel’s bowels. You can fix that, however, so hang on. This Control
Panel category hides two icons: Sounds and Audio Devices, and Speech.
(Yes, Windows can talk to you.) Here’s how those icons work.
Changing Windows’ volume and
playing with its sounds
Strangely enough, Windows XP doesn’t provide a quick and easy way to
change your computer’s volume. Well, it does, but it hides it. Here’s a
simple way to put the volume control on your desktop, where it’s
always visible. It just might be the best tip in this book.
Click the Control Panel’s Sounds and Audio Devices icon. When the
Sounds and Audio Devices Properties dialog box appears, as shown in
Figure 14-10, select the Place Volume Icon in the Taskbar check box.
Click Apply, and a tiny speaker appears near your clock. (Check out Figure 14-11.)
Figure 14-10:
Click the
Sounds and
icon to
change your
adjust its
setting, and
tweak your
To mute the sound when the phone rings, click the little speaker icon in
Figure 14-11 and click the Mute check box. Click the Mute check box
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Figure 14-11:
Click the
speaker and
slide the bar
up or down
to change
your computer’s
again when the long distance company’s salespeople hang up, and
you’re ready to hear your music again.
Be sure to click the Advanced button under the Speaker Settings area to
tell Windows what type of speakers you’re using. I don’t know if it
changes the sound quality much, but it feels good to know Windows
cares about your speakers that much.
After you click the Sounds tab, Windows lets you change the sounds it
makes during certain events. Windows lists the Program Events near
the bottom of the box and lists the possible sounds directly below them
in the Sounds box. To assign a sound, click the event first and then click
the sound you want to hear for that event. Click the Preview button (the
little black triangle next to the Browse button) to hear the sound.
Windows only lets you assign files stored in its WAV format. You can’t
use MP3 files, MIDI files, or any other cool sound formats.
Letting Windows talk to you
Click the Speech icon to hear Microsoft Sam. When enabled, Sam reads
the information on the screen (not very audibly, unfortunately). Click
the Preview Voice button for a kick, however.
Performance and Maintenance
This category contains four icons: Administrative Tools, Power
Options, Scheduled Tasks, and System. Chances are that you won’t be
playing with any of them. But here’s a look at what each one does.
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Multimedia setup problems
Multimedia gadgetry inevitably brings a multitude of setup problems. There are simply too
many file formats and program settings for an
easy ride. Although Windows XP does an excellent job of setting up your computer's hardware
automatically, the Control Panel's Sounds and
Audio Devices Properties dialog box lets
techno-fiddlers change some of the settings.
Because different computers use different
parts, the settings may vary, but here's a general
look at what they can do:
A Volume: Described earlier in this chapter,
click here to place the little volume control
icon next to your taskbar’s clock.
A Sounds: This area lets you assign different
sounds to different events. It’s more fun than
A Audio: This page controls your computer’s
sound hardware. You decide what device to
use to play sounds and what device should
record sounds. Unless you’re a musician,
you’ll leave all these settings alone.
A Voice: Want to sing along to some tunes?
Talk to other gamers? Here’s where you see
whether your sound card can play music and
record your voice at the same time. Be sure
to click the Test Hardware button before trying anything else.
A Hardware: Here, Windows XP lists all the
multimedia devices attached to your computer. By clicking a device and clicking the
Properties button, you can see information
about each gadget. You’ll rarely use this.
Sound and video mavens (especially MP3
fans) like to see what codes they have
Seeing information about your
Some people just like to drive their cars. Others like to look under the
hood. To peek under the hood of Windows XP, click the System icon. As
shown in Figure 14-12, it displays oodles of complete information, more
than you’ll ever want to know.
The System Properties dialog box lets you tweak bunches of settings.
The Hardware tab, for instance, brings up the Add Hardware Wizard.
The Device Manager on that page lets you see all of your computer’s
parts and whether they’re working properly. Click the Automatic
Updates tab to decide how Windows downloads updates to Windows
Most of this stuff is pretty complicated, however, so don’t mess with it
unless you’re sure of what you’re doing. This feature is covered by
more-advanced books.
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Figure 14-12:
Click the
System icon
to see information
about your
XP, and how
XP behaves.
Turning on or off visual effects
Windows XP tries to be calm, cool, and collected. Its windows and
menus slowly fade in and out, for instance, to make everything look
smooth. Sometimes, however, it just looks annoying. To choose
between calm and speedy, head for the System icon, click the Advanced
tab, and then click Settings under the Performance area.
Choose Adjust for Best Appearance to keep everything smooth. Or
choose Adjust for Best Performance to speed up your menus. Or
choose Custom and pick your own settings — if you (or anybody else)
can figure out what they mean. Don’t like the results? Click Let Windows
Choose What’s Best for My Computer to return to normal.
Freeing up space on your hard disk
Sooner or later, Windows XP will start sending messages complaining
about running out of room on your hard disk. Of course, you could
always install a larger hard drive. But there’s another solution that’s
less drastic: Use the Free Up Space on My Hard Disk task that pops up
when you choose the Control Panel’s Performance and Maintenance
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Or call up My Computer from the Start menu, right-click on your hard
drive, and choose Properties. Click the Disk Cleanup button, and Windows calculates how much garbage it can delete, as shown in Figure 1413.
Figure 14-13:
The Disk
Cleanup tool
files that
you no
longer need,
leaving you
space on
your hard
Make sure you select Downloaded Program Files (if any), Temporary
Internet Files, Recycle Bin, and Temporary Files. Click OK and then click
Yes when Windows asks whether you’re sure. Windows erases the files,
freeing space in the process.
Rearranging your hard disk to speed it
up (defragmenting)
When writing information to your hard disk, Windows isn’t the most
careful shelf stocker. Sometimes it breaks files apart, stuffing them into
nooks and crannies. Unfortunately, Windows then takes longer to
retrieve the files. To speed things up, use the Disk Defragmenter: Use
the Rearrange Items on My Hard Disk task that pops up when you
choose the Control Panel’s Performance and Maintenance category.
Or call up My Computer from the Start menu, right-click on your hard
drive, and choose Properties. Then click the Tools tab and click the
Defragment Now button. After the Disk Defragmenter window appears,
click the Analyze button. Windows inspects your computer’s hard drive
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
and reports back. If it says your hard drive needs defragmentation, click
the Defragment button. If your hard drive’s fine, close the window by
clicking the little X in its top-right corner.
Feel free to run the Disk Defragmenter every few weeks, especially if
your computer seems to be running slowly or you can hear your hard
drive making frantic rummaging noises.
Other Performance and Maintenance
The Administrative Tools icon is a no-no. Nothing is in there for people
who don’t like to fiddle with their computers. This icon is only for technicians.
Although mostly for laptops, Power Options also let you set a timer for
turning off your monitor, hard disks, and entire computer, if desired, to
save power. Choose your current setup from the Power Schemes area
and click the OK button. Head here to tell Windows XP how to react
after somebody presses the computer’s power switch.
Scheduled Tasks can be left alone. Windows XP lists when it performs
certain tasks automatically. They’re mostly maintenance jobs that don’t
need changing.
Printers and Other Hardware
If you add a new gadget to your computer, be it a mouse, joystick, keyboard, or something deep within its innards, use the Add Hardware
icon, listed as a tiny icon on the Printers and Other Hardware window’s
left side. Windows searches for the newly installed gadget, welcomes it
aboard, and makes sure it works correctly (if everything goes according
to plan, that is). The rest of the icons in this category mostly adjust
items you’ve already installed.
Adding new hardware
When you wolf down a sandwich for lunch, you know what you ate.
After all, you picked it out at the deli counter, chewed it, swallowed it,
and wiped the breadcrumbs away from the corner of your mouth.
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
But when you add a new part to your computer, the computer is often
turned off — Windows XP is asleep. And when you turn the computer
back on and Windows XP returns to life, it may not notice the surgical
Here’s the good news, however: If you simply tell Windows XP to look
for the new part, it will probably find it. In fact, Windows XP not only
spots the new part, but it introduces itself and starts a warm and
friendly working relationship using the right settings.
A Sometimes Windows XP detects a newly inserted part as soon as
you turn on your computer. It occasionally recruits a wizard to
help you set it up.
A Windows XP is pretty good about identifying various gadgets that
people have stuffed inside it, especially if your computer is Plug
and Play compatible and you’re installing a Plug and Play part. You
can find more information about Plug and Play in Chapter 3.
The Control Panel’s Add New Hardware icon handles the process of
introducing Windows XP to anything you’ve recently attached to your
1. Double-click the Control Panel’s Add New Hardware icon and
click the Next button.
The Windows XP Hardware Installation Wizard pops out of a hat,
ready to introduce Windows XP to whatever part you’ve stuffed
inside your computer.
2. Click the Next button.
Windows XP looks for any recognizable Plug and Play devices
installed in your computer.
Here’s where things start getting a little different. Did Windows XP find
anything new? If so, click the newly installed part’s name from the list,
click Finish, and follow the rest of the wizard’s instructions.
If the wizard didn’t find anything, though, click Add a New Hardware
Device from the Installed Hardware List and then click Next, telling Windows to search for additional devices. Follow the instructions to see
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
whether Windows finds the device. If it does, rejoice — and click the
device’s name for Windows to install it.
If Windows still can’t locate your newly installed part, however, you
need to contact the manufacturer of your new part and ask for a Windows XP driver.
Fiddling with printers and faxes
Most of the time, your printer works fine. Especially after you turn it on
and try printing again. In fact, most people will never need to read this
section. Even if you’re installing a USB printer — one that plugs into
your Universal Serial Bus port — you don’t need to mess around in
here. After you turn on your printer and plug it into your computer’s
USB port, Windows automatically recognizes it and sets up everything
Occasionally, however, you may need to tweak some printer settings,
install a new printer, or remove an old one. In any of those instances,
start by clicking the Control Panel’s Printers and Faxes icon from the
Printers and Other Hardware category.
If you’re installing a new printer, grab the Windows XP compact disc or
floppy disks that came in the box; you’ll probably need them during the
Unless instructed otherwise, always choose LPT1: as your printer port.
1. Click the Add Printer icon.
Magic! A Windows XP wizard appears, ready to set up your new
2. Click Next and follow the wizard’s instructions.
For example, click to tell Windows whether your printer is physically connected to your computer, or whether it’s shared with
other computers over a network.
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
3. Click Next and follow the wizard’s instructions.
The Add Printer Wizard box lists the names of printer manufacturers on the left; click the name of your printer’s manufacturer. The
right side of the box lists the printer models of that manufacturer.
4. Double-click your printer’s name when you see it listed. Windows XP asks you to stick the appropriate set-up disks into a
drive, and the drive makes some grinding noises.
After a moment, you see the new printer listed in the box.
5. Click the new printer’s icon and select the Set As Default Printer
option from the window’s File menu.
That’s it. If you’re like most people, your printer will work like a
If you have more than one printer attached to your computer, rightclick on the name of your most oft-used printer and select Set As
Default Printer from the menu. That choice tells Windows XP to print to
that particular printer, unless instructed otherwise.
A To remove a printer you no longer use, right-click on its name and
then choose Delete from the menu. That printer’s name no longer
appears as an option when you try to print from a Windows XP–
based program.
A To share a printer over a network, right-click on its icon and
choose Sharing. Select the Share This Printer option and click OK.
That printer shows up as an option for all the computers on your
A You can change printer options from within many programs.
Choose File in a program’s menu bar and then choose Print Setup
or choose Print. From there, you can often access the same box of
printer options as you find in the Control Panel. You can also find
ways to change elements, such as paper sizes, fonts, and types of
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
A Check out your printer’s installation guide. Some manufacturers
prefer that you use their own software and steer clear of the Add
Printer Wizard. Unless the printer’s manual says not to, install the
printer’s software before using the Add Printer Wizard. (When you
use the Add Printer Wizard, you may find that the new printer has
already been set up, so you needn’t proceed further.)
A Working with printers can be more complicated than trying to
retrieve a stray hamster from beneath the kitchen sink. Feel free to
use any of the Help buttons in the dialog boxes. Chances are that
the Help buttons offer some helpful advice, and many are actually
customized for your particular brand of printer. Too bad they can’t
catch hamsters.
Game controllers
Although Windows XP is based on a business-oriented operating system designed for networking, Microsoft has tried to design it for those
who are playing on the network as well.
Because today’s joysticks and game pads do much more than let you
wiggle a stick and push a button, the Game Controllers icon lets gamers
calibrate their fancy game controllers. If you own different controllers
for different games, visit here to choose which one to use for which
game. If you’re constantly losing, click the Troubleshooter button to
diagnose and repair any problems.
Scanners and cameras
Windows usually detects scanners and new-fangled digital cameras
when they’re first turned on and plugged into your computer. Other
times, scanners and cameras come with their own installation software
that places their icons here. Still other cameras need to be formally
introduced to Windows — just click the Scanners and Cameras icon and
then click the Add an Imaging Device option.
Windows brings up its Installation Wizard that works amazingly like the
Add Printers Wizard. Click the manufacturer name on the window’s left
side and choose the model on the right. Choose the correct COM port if
you know where you’ve plugged in the device; otherwise, choose Automatic Port Detection. If you’ve turned on your camera or scanner and
plugged in its cable correctly, Windows should recognize it and place an
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
icon for it in both your My Computer area and your Control Panel’s
Scanners and Camera area.
Unfortunately, the installation of cameras and scanners doesn’t always
work this easily. If yours isn’t automatically accepted, use the software
that came with your scanner or camera. It should still work — you just
won’t be able to use Windows XP’s built-in software.
To grab the pictures from your installed camera, turn it on and open
your My Pictures folder. Choose Get Pictures from Camera or Scanner.
Windows recognizes the pictures and displays tiny thumbnail pictures
of them across the screen.
To pick and choose among the keepers, hold down Ctrl while clicking
the good ones. In fact, because many cameras take such a l-o-o-o-n-g
time to download, that trick comes in handy for quick grabs. Save the
pictures in your My Pictures folder.
Making Windows XP recognize your
Clicking twice with a mouse button is called a double-click; most users
do a lot of double-clicking in Windows XP. But sometimes you can’t click
fast enough to satisfy Windows XP. It thinks that your double-clicks are
just two single clicks. If you have this problem, head for the Control
Panel’s Mouse icon that lives in the Printers and Other Hardware category.
Double-clicking the Mouse icon brings up the settings for your mouse,
as shown in Figure 14-14. Because different computers come with different brands of mice, the following instructions may not work for you, but
you can generally access the same types of options for any mouse. Try
pressing F1 for help if an option seems confusing.
To check the double-click speed, double-click the box with the little
folder. After Windows XP recognizes your double-click, the folder
opens. Double-click again, and the folder closes.
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Figure 14-14:
Slide the Speed slider bar left toward Slow until Windows XP successfully recognizes your double-click efforts. Click the OK button when
you’re through, and you’re back in business.
A Can’t double-click the Mouse icon quickly enough for Windows XP
to open the darn thing up? Just click once and poke the Enter key
with your finger. Or click once with the right button and choose
Open from the menu that shoots out of the Mouse icon’s head. Yep,
you can do the same thing in Windows XP a lot of different ways.
A If you’re left-handed, select the Switch Primary and Secondary Buttons check box (shown along the top of Figure 14-14) and click the
Apply button. Then you can hold the mouse in your left hand and
still click with your index finger.
A The mouse arrow doesn’t have to move at the same speed as the
mouse. To make the arrow zip across the screen with just a tiny
push, click the Pointer Options tab along the top. Then, in the
Pointer Speed box, slide the little box toward the side of the scroll
bar marked Fast. To slow down the mouse, allowing for more precise pointing, slide the box toward the Slow side.
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
A Some brands of mice come with fancier features and their own different settings pages. The Microsoft IntelliMouse, as I describe in
Chapter 2, lets you control on-screen action by spinning a wheel
embedded in the poor mouse’s neck. Laptop users with touch
pads and trackballs find their adjustment areas here, too.
A Mouse acting up something fierce? Pointer darting around obstinately like an excited dachshund on a walk? Maybe you need to
clean your mouse, a simple maintenance task I describe in Chapter
Phone and modem options
You’ll rarely use this phone and modem option unless you’re on a laptop and need to enter a different area code. If so, then click the Phone
and Modem Options icon, click the Dialing Rules, and click New to add
your new location.
If your modem seems to be acting odd, click the Modems tab and click
Troubleshoot to see if Windows can figure out what’s wrong.
User Accounts
Come here to change the accounts of people you’re letting log onto
your computer. You can add passwords, create new accounts, add cool
pictures to an account on the Welcome screen, and change the way
users access Windows. I cover it all in Chapter 9.
Date, Time, Language, and Regional
Designed mainly for laptop users who travel with their computers, this
area lets you change your computer’s date and time, and add support
for other languages. Chances are that you’ll fiddle with the icons in this
area once and forget it.
__ Chapter 14: Customizing Windows XP (Fiddling with the Control Panel)
Regional and language options
Taking the laptop to Italy? Head to this icon and choose Italy. Windows
automatically sets up Windows to use that country’s currency and date
formats. You’ll find plenty of countries listed.
Setting the computer’s date and time
Many computer users don’t bother to set the computer’s clock. They
just look at their wristwatches to see when it’s time to stop working.
But they’re missing out on an important computing feature: Computers
always stamp new files with the current date and time. If the computer
doesn’t know the correct date, it stamps files with the wrong date. Then
how can you find the files you created yesterday? Last week? (Also,
your e-mails will be sent using your computer’s date, possibly confusing their recipients.)
Also, Windows XP sometimes does some funny things to the computer’s internal clock, so you may want to reset the date and time if you
notice that the computer is living in the past (or prematurely jumping
to the future).
To set the computer’s time or date, choose the Date and Time icon. A
little calendar comes to the screen, where you can click the correct
date and time.
Moved to a new time zone? Click the Time Zone tab along the top of the
window and select the current time zone from the drop-down list.
Finally, to make Windows grab the time automatically, click the Internet
Time tab. On this tab, select the Automatically Synchronize with an
Internet Time Server check box.
A Windows XP has a Search program, which I describe in Chapter 7,
that can locate files by the time and date they were created, modified, or last accessed — but only if you keep your computer’s date
and time set correctly.
A For an even quicker way to change your computer’s time or date,
double-click the little clock that Windows XP puts on the taskbar
that lives along the edge of the screen. Windows XP brings up the
Date/Time dialog box, just as if you’d waded through the Control
Panel and double-clicked the Date and Time icon.
Chapter 15
The Case of the Broken Window
In This Chapter
B Restoring your computer to happier times
B Fixing a haggard mouse
B Fixing older programs that don’t run under Windows XP
B Understanding administrator accounts privileges
B Getting out of Menu Land, if you’re stuck
B Keeping Windows up-to-date
B Finding vanished desktop icons
B Installing a new driver for a new computer gizmo
B Installing other parts of Windows XP
B Clicking the wrong button and what to do
B Fixing a frozen computer
B Figuring out why your printer isn't working correctly
B Changing double-clicks to single-clicks and vice versa
ometimes, you just have a sense that something’s wrong. The computer makes quiet grumbling noises, or Windows XP starts running
more slowly than Congress. Other times, something’s obviously wrong.
Pressing any key triggers a beeping noise, menus keep shooting at you,
or Windows XP greets you with a cheery error message when you first
turn it on.
Many of the biggest-looking problems are solved by the smallest-looking solutions. This chapter may be able to point you to the right one.
________________________ Chapter 15: The Case of the Broken Window
Restoring Calm with System Restore
It’s happened to everybody: Windows works fine until something happens; then it’s all over. For instance, you delete a file and Windows
begins hitting you up with an ugly error message each time it loads.
Or you install a new program, which promptly disconnects your scanner, digital camera, modem, or all three.
Wouldn’t you love to go back in time to when Windows worked right?
Thank goodness Windows XP lets you turn back the clock with a few
clicks on a program called System Restore.
Every day, Windows stores a “picture” of your computer’s settings on
your hard disk. If your computer begins acting weird, load up System
Restore, click the last day your computer did work fine, and System
Restore goes back in time to reset your computer to its settings from
back when it worked correctly. Whew! Here’s how to head back to happier times:
1. Save any open files, close any loaded programs, and load System
Choose Start, click All Programs, and begin weaving your way
through the menus: Choose Accessories, select System Tools, and
click System Restore.
2. Click Restore My Computer to an Earlier Time and then choose
3. Click a calendar date when your computer worked well and then
choose Next.
Yesterday is your best bet. But if the symptoms have been going on
for longer, choose a day before your computer began having problems.
4. Make sure you’ve saved any open files and then click Next.
Your computer grumbles a bit and then restarts.
________________________ Chapter 15: The Case of the Broken Window
System Restore resets your computer to earlier settings when
everything worked fine; you won’t lose any work that you’ve
If your system is working fine, open System Restore; then, in Step
2, select the System Restore button marked Create a Restore Point.
That tells Windows to take a snapshot of its current condition so
that you can return to it if things go downhill.
System Restore is completely reversible. If your computer winds up in
even worse shape, load System Restore and choose a different date.
Before installing a program or any new computer toys, load System
Restore and create a restore point in case the installation is a disaster.
Name the restore point something descriptive, such as Before Installing
Kitty Dish Webcam. (That way you know which date to go back to if
things go awry.)
You can save many System Restore settings — each one is a snapshot of
your computer’s configuration.
If you restore your computer to a time before you installed some new
hardware or software, those items may not function properly. If they’re
not working correctly, reinstall them.
My Mouse Doesn’t Work Right
Sometimes, the mouse doesn’t work at all; other times, the mouse
pointer hops across the screen like a flea. Here are a few things to look
A If no mouse arrow is on the screen after you start Windows, make
sure that the mouse’s tail is plugged snugly into the computer’s
rump. Then exit and restart Windows XP.
A If the mouse arrow is on-screen but won’t move, Windows may be
mistaking your brand of mouse for a different brand. You can make
sure that Windows XP recognizes the correct type of mouse by following the steps on adding new hardware, as I describe in Chapter
________________________ Chapter 15: The Case of the Broken Window
A A mouse pointer can jump around on-screen if it’s dirty. First, turn
the mouse upside-down and clean off any visible dirt stuck to the
bottom. Then twist the little round cover until the mouse ball pops
out. Wipe off any crud and blow any dust out of the hole. Pull any
stray hairs, dust, and goo off the little rollers and stick the ball
back inside the mouse. If you wear wool sweaters (or have a cat
that sleeps on the mouse pad), you may have to clean the ball
every week or so.
A If the mouse was working fine and now the buttons seem to be
reversed, you’ve probably changed the right- or left-handed button
configuration setting in the Control Panel. Double-click the Control
Panel’s Mouse icon and make sure that the configuration is set up
to match your needs. (I cover this in Chapter 14, by the way.)
Making Older Programs Run under
Windows XP
Programmers write their programs for specific versions of Windows.
Then, when a new version appears, such as Windows XP, some programs feel threatened by their new environment and refuse to work.
If a game or some other program refuses to run under Windows XP,
there’s hope. Try running the program in Compatibility mode. This trick
fools programs into thinking that they’re running under their favorite
version of Windows, so everything works well.
If you have a problem with a program, right-click its icon and choose
Properties. When the Properties window appears, click the Compatibility tab. After checking the program’s box or installation disks to see its
required version, select that version from the Compatibility mode’s
drop-down menu, as shown in Figure 15-1.
For more information, as well as a list of compatible programs, select
the option Learn More about Program Compatibility (near the bottom
of Figure 15-1.)
________________________ Chapter 15: The Case of the Broken Window
Figure 15-1:
Compatibility mode
enables you
to select the
version of
required by
your incompatible
It Says I Need to Be an
You do need to be an administrator to perform most of the best stuff on
Windows XP. Windows XP is set up so that when different people log
onto the computer, they only see their own work. Windows XP saves
everybody’s individual settings, and it seems like everybody uses a different computer.
Somebody has to be in charge, however, of installing new software,
changing network settings, and adding new computer parts. That person is the administrator. Usually the owner has the Administrator
account, while other users have Limited accounts or guest accounts.
If you see a message that says you need to be an administrator to do
something on the computer, you need to find the computer’s owner and
ask for help. (If you bug the administrator often enough, he or she
might elevate your limited account to an administrator account.) I
cover all this stuff in Chapter 9.
________________________ Chapter 15: The Case of the Broken Window
I’m Stuck in Menu Land
If your keystrokes don’t appear in your work but instead make a bunch
of menus shoot out from the top of the window, you’re stuck in Menu
Land. Somehow, you’ve pressed and released Alt, an innocent-looking
key that’s easy to hit accidentally.
If you press and release Alt, Windows turns its attention away from your
work and toward the menus along the top of the window.
To get back to work, press and release Alt one more time. Alternatively,
press Esc, perhaps twice. One or the other is your ticket out of Menu
Keeping Windows Up-to-Date
Actually, you don’t need to worry about keeping Windows up-to-date.
Windows updates itself automatically with its Windows Update program — if you have an Internet connection. Every so often, you’ll see a
little message in the bottom of your screen, such as the one in Figure 152.
Figure 15-2:
Click this
message to
updates for
When the message appears, click it. A window appears explaining what
Windows wants to install to keep itself current. Tell it Yes, by all means.
The update installs on its own, but Windows may want to restart and
wake back up, fully up-to-date.
Soon after the administrator first begins using the computer, Windows
asks for permission to sign up for the automatic Windows Update program. Say “Yes, please.” Windows Update is the best way for Microsoft
to fix past mistakes to keep Windows running smoothly.
________________________ Chapter 15: The Case of the Broken Window
All My Desktop Icons Vanished
Windows XP does something awfully scary. Normally, when you place a
file or shortcut on your desktop, you can see it. But what if all the icons
suddenly vanish from your desktop? Well, in its eager desire to please
everybody, Windows XP offers an odd option to make your desktop
icons invisible.
If you click the desktop with your right mouse button, choose Arrange
Icons By, and select Show Desktop Icons, you turn off the normally
selected option that keeps your icons visible. The check mark next to
that option disappears and with it, all your desktop’s icons. Poof!
Sure, your desktop is now completely clean, but it’s awfully hard to
keep track of your icons if you can’t see them. To make them reappear,
right-click the desktop, choose Arrange Icons By and then select Show
Desktop Icons. That toggles the option back on, and your icons all reappear.
I’m Supposed to Install a New
When you buy a new toy for the computer, it usually comes with a piece
of software called a driver. A driver is a sort of translator that lets Windows know how to boss around the new toy. If you buy a new keyboard,
sound card, compact disc player, printer, mouse, monitor, or almost any
other computer toy, you usually need to install its driver in Windows.
Luckily, adding a driver is a fairly painless process, which I cover in
Chapter 9.
A Companies constantly update drivers, fixing problems or making
the drivers communicate better. If the computer device is misbehaving, a newer driver may calm it down. Call the manufacturer
and ask for the latest version. Or if you’ve entered the world of the
Internet, fire up your modem and head for the manufacturer’s Web
page so that you can grab a free copy.
________________________ Chapter 15: The Case of the Broken Window
A To find the company’s Web page, rev up Internet Explorer, head to
the Web site, and type the company’s name.
Chances are that Yahoo! can dig it up and let you head there with a
mouse click.
A Not all computer toys work with Windows XP. In fact, some games
don’t even work with some sound cards, and some software won’t
work with certain CD-ROM drives. Bring a list of your computer’s
parts to the store and check them with the requirements listed on
the side of a computer toy’s box before setting down the cash.
A To get a list of your computer’s parts, right-click on the Start button’s My Computer icon and choose Properties. Click the Hardware tab and the Device Manager button. Click Windows XP at the
top of the list, click the Print icon, and click OK. You might not be
able to make sense of the detailed computer information, but the
folks at the store can decipher the numbers.
A After you register Windows XP, the Windows Update program handles many chores for keeping Windows XP up-to-date. Windows
Update dials a special place on the Internet and downloads
updated information your computer might need.
His Version of Windows XP Has
More Programs Than Mine!
Windows XP installs itself differently on different types of computers.
As it copies itself over to a hard disk, it brings different files with it. If
installed on a laptop, for example, Windows XP brings along programs
that help a laptop transfer files and keep track of its battery life.
Computers with smaller hard drives will probably get the minimum files
Windows XP needs to run. In Chapter 10, I describe some of the programs and accessories Windows XP comes with. Head to Chapter 14 for
instructions on adding or removing programs by using the Start menu’s
Control Panel.
Windows XP comes with some pretty weird stuff, so don’t get carried
away and copy all of it over — especially stuff that you’re not even
going to use.
________________________ Chapter 15: The Case of the Broken Window
I Clicked the Wrong Button (But
Haven’t Lifted My Finger Yet)
Clicking the mouse takes two steps: a push and a release. If you click
the wrong button on-screen and haven’t lifted your finger yet, press the
Esc button with your other hand, and then slowly slide the mouse
pointer off the button on-screen. Finally, take your finger off the mouse.
The screen button pops back up, and Windows XP pretends nothing
happened. Thankfully.
My Computer Is Frozen Up Solid
Every once in a while, Windows just drops the ball and wanders off
somewhere to sit under a tree. You’re left looking at a computer that
just looks back. Panicked clicks don’t do anything. Pressing every key
on the keyboard doesn’t do anything — or worse yet, the computer
starts to beep at every key press.
When nothing on-screen moves except the mouse pointer, the computer is frozen up solid. Try the following approaches, in the following
order, to correct the problem:
A Approach 1: Press Esc twice.
This action usually doesn’t work, but give it a shot anyway.
A Approach 2: Press Ctrl, Alt, and Delete all at the same time.
If you’re lucky, Windows Task Manager appears with the message
that you discovered an “unresponsive application.” The Task Manager lists the names of currently running programs — including
the one that’s not responding. Click the name of the program that’s
causing the mess and then click the End Process button. You lose
any unsaved work in it, of course, but you should be used to that.
(If you somehow stumbled onto the Ctrl+Alt+Delete combination
by accident, press Esc at the unresponsive-application message to
return to Windows.)
________________________ Chapter 15: The Case of the Broken Window
If that still doesn’t do the trick, try clicking the Task Manager’s
Shut Down menu and choosing Restart. Your computer should
shut down and restart, hopefully returning in a better mood.
A Approach 3: If the preceding approaches don’t work, push the
computer’s reset button.
When the Turn Off Computer box appears, choose Restart.
A Approach 4: If not even the reset button works, turn the computer
off and choose Restart from the Turn Off Computer box.
The Printer Isn’t Working Right
If the printer’s not working right, start with the simplest solution first:
Make sure that it’s plugged into the wall and turned on. Surprisingly,
this step fixes about half the problems with printers. Next, make sure
that the printer cable is snugly nestled in the ports on both the printer
and the computer. Then check to make sure that it has enough paper —
and that the paper isn’t jammed in the mechanism.
Then try printing from different programs, such as WordPad and Notepad, to see whether the problem’s with the printer, Windows XP, or a
particular Windows program. Try printing the document by using different fonts. All these chores help pinpoint the culprit.
Can your printer be out of ink or toner? Sometimes these calamities can
stop a printer from working.
For a quick test of a printer, click the Start button, choose Control
Panel, and select Printers and Other Hardware. Click Printers and Faxes
to see the printers connected to your computer. Right-click on your
printer’s icon, choose Properties, and click the Print Test Page button. If
your printer sends you a nicely printed page, the problem is probably
with the software, not the printer.
While still at the Printers and Faxes window, press the F1 key to bring
up the Printing Help window. Try the printer’s troubleshooting program
— Fixing a Printing Problem — to figure out why the printer’s goofing
________________________ Chapter 15: The Case of the Broken Window
My Double-Clicks Are Now Single
In an effort to make things easier, Windows XP lets people choose
whether a single click or a double click should open a file or folder.
But if you’re not satisfied with the click method Windows XP uses,
here’s how to change it:
1. Open any folder — the Start menu’s My Documents folder will
2. Choose Folder Options from the Tools menu.
3. Choose your click preference in the Click Items as Follows section.
4. Click OK to save your preferences.
Don’t like to follow steps? Just click the Restore Defaults button in
Folder Options, and Windows brings back double-clicking.
Chapter 16
Figuring Out Those Annoying
Pop-Up Messages
In This Chapter
B Access is denied
B Click here to activate now
B Error connecting to . . .
B Found new hardware
B If you remove this file, you will no longer be able to run this program
B Missing shortcut
B New updates are ready to install
B Open With . . .
B Privacy alert — saving cookies
B Stay current with automatic updates
B When you send information to the Internet
B You have files waiting to be written to the CD
ost people don’t have any trouble understanding error messages. A car’s pleasant beeping tone means that you’ve left your
keys in the ignition. An electronic stuttering sound from the stereo
means that your compact disc has problems.
Things are different with Windows XP, however. The pop-up messages
in Windows XP could have been written by a Senate subcommittee, if
only they weren’t so brief. Are they error messages? Something to
rejoice? When Windows XP tosses a message your way, it’s usually just
a single sentence. Windows XP rarely describes what you did to cause
the event and, even worse, hardly ever tells you what to do about it.
Here are some of the phrases that you’ll find in the most common messages that Windows XP throws in your face. Look at the title of your
___________ Chapter 16: Figuring Out Those Annoying Pop-Up Messages
confusing error message — Access Is Denied, for instance — then
find that title listed alphabetically in this chapter.
In this chapter, I explain what Windows XP is trying to say, why it’s saying it, and just what the heck it expects you to do.
Access Is Denied
Figure 16-1:
You must
locate the
owner and
ask for permission to
open the
folder or
Meaning: You’re not allowed to see inside this folder.
Probable cause: The computer’s owner hasn’t given you permission.
Solutions: Find the administrator for your computer and ask him or her
for permission. If you’re trying to open a folder on a networked computer, amble over to the person working on that computer and ask him
or her to give you permission — if he or she has the authority.
Meaning: When turned on, Internet Explorer’s AutoComplete guesses
what you’re about to type and tries to fill it in for you.
Probable cause: Every Windows user is eventually asked to make this
Solutions: Click Yes if you think this feature is handy; click No if you
think it’s distracting. To turn AutoComplete off later, choose Internet
Explorer’s Tools menu, choose Internet Options, and click the
___________ Chapter 16: Figuring Out Those Annoying Pop-Up Messages
Figure 16-2:
Turn on
AutoComplete, and
automatically fills in
words while
you type
Advanced tab. Remove the check mark next to the line Use Inline AutoComplete and click OK.
Click Here to Activate Now
Figure 16-3:
If you don’t
click here to
will stop
Meaning: If you don’t activate Windows by clicking here, Windows will
stop working.
Probable cause: The Windows XP new copy-protection scheme
requires every user to activate his or her copy so that nobody else —
including you — can use that copy on another computer.
Solutions: Click the message and let Windows dial the Internet to activate itself. If you don’t have an Internet connection, dial the Activation
phone number and talk to the Microsoft people personally.
___________ Chapter 16: Figuring Out Those Annoying Pop-Up Messages
Connect To . . .
Figure 16-4:
If you don’t
have a
for this
you can’t
Meaning: Windows wants to know whether you have permission to
enter this area.
Probable cause: You're trying to enter a computer or folder connected
to your own computer through a network.
Solutions: Type your password, if you have one. If you don’t have one,
ask the computer’s owner or administrator for a password.
Select the Remember My Password check box, and you won’t have to
enter the password again. (However, choosing that option allows anybody to get into your computer.)
Error Connecting To . . .
Figure 16-5:
Windows is
to your
___________ Chapter 16: Figuring Out Those Annoying Pop-Up Messages
Meaning: Your computer can’t currently connect to your Internet service provider (ISP).
Probable cause: If you’ve connected fine in the past, then your ISP may
be turned off temporarily. If this is a constant message, your Internet
browser’s settings are probably configured incorrectly.
Solutions: Use the New Connection Wizard that I describe in Chapter 12
and check the phone number, user name, and password. If that doesn’t
work or proves too frustrating, wait a while. Play cards. Sniff flowers in
the garden. Paint a watercolor picture of your shoes. Sometimes, an ISP
goes down to preserve its users’ mental health.
File Name Warning
Figure 16-6:
if it
about a file
or folder’s
Meaning: A newly installed program created a new folder or file, but
Windows doesn’t approve of the chosen name.
Probable cause: Some programs that weren’t written for Windows XP
try to install themselves in the wrong place.
Solutions: Take the suggestion that Windows offers you. Windows suggests an alternative name and keeps track of the change, keeping you
safe from problems, as well.
Found New Hardware
Meaning: Windows recognizes a newly installed computer part and is
installing it automatically.
___________ Chapter 16: Figuring Out Those Annoying Pop-Up Messages
Figure 16-7:
a newly
gadget and
installs it
Probable cause: This message usually occurs after you plug devices
into your computer’s USB port.
Solutions: Relax. Windows knows what’s going on and will take charge.
Hiding Your Inactive Notification
Figure 16-8:
wants to
hide the
little icons
that line up
by your
Meaning: Windows wants to hide the little icons that line up by your
Probable cause: Windows likes to keep your desktop tidy. So instead of
lining up icons by your clock, it hides them.
Solutions: Click the little arrow by your clock to unveil the icons when
you need them. If you want the icons always visible, right-click on a
blank part of the taskbar, choose Properties, and click the Customize
button at the bottom of the window to decide which icons show and
which stay hidden.
___________ Chapter 16: Figuring Out Those Annoying Pop-Up Messages
If You Remove This File, You Will
No Longer Be Able to Run This
Figure 16-9:
Use the
Panel’s Add
or Remove
icon to
files; never
delete them
Meaning: You’re trying to delete a file needed by one or more programs.
Probable cause: You’re clearing off some hard disk space to make room
for incoming programs. You may have accidentally tried to delete something you shouldn’t have.
Solutions: Click the No button to abort deleting the file. In the future,
try to figure out what you’re deleting before sending it to the slaughterhouse. Only delete files if you’re sure you no longer need them. And
above all, remember the following:
Please use the Add or Remove Programs icon in the Control Panel if
you’re intentionally trying to remove a program. It’s the safest way to
remove a program. If your program came with its own uninstall program, feel free to use that, as well.
Missing Shortcut
Meaning: You clicked a shortcut, but Windows can no longer find the
program or file the shortcut leads to.
___________ Chapter 16: Figuring Out Those Annoying Pop-Up Messages
Figure 16-10:
can’t find
what the
shortcut is
supposed to
Probable cause: You've probably either moved or deleted the program
and made the shortcut obsolete.
Solutions: If you deleted the program, right-click on the shortcut and
choose Delete. If you still want the program, find the program using the
search techniques in Chapter 7 and then create a new shortcut for it.
New Programs Installed
Figure 16-11:
that you’ve
installed a
and highlights its
location on
the Start
Meaning: Windows is showing you the Start menu location of a newly
installed program.
___________ Chapter 16: Figuring Out Those Annoying Pop-Up Messages
Probable cause: Somebody has installed a program, and until you look
at the program’s new icon on the Start menu, Windows keeps displaying
this message.
Solutions: Either look at the program’s icon on the Start menu or disable the message feature: Right-click on the Start button, choose Properties, and click the Customize button. Click the Advanced tab and
remove the check mark from Highlight Newly Installed Programs.
New Updates Are Ready to Install
Figure 16-12:
Microsoft is
sending you
an update to
Windows or
to fix
Meaning: Microsoft is sending you an update to improve Windows or to
fix a problem.
Probable cause: Microsoft either wants to fix a problem with Windows
or add a new feature through Windows’ AutoUpdate feature. See “Stay
Current with Automatic Updates,” later in this chapter.
Solutions: Accept the update. You may need to save your work and let
Windows restart to incorporate its changes.
Open With . . .
Meaning: Windows doesn’t know which program created the file that
you double-clicked, so it displays a list of programs and asks you to
choose the right one.
Probable cause: Windows XP usually sticks secret hidden codes,
known as file extensions, onto the ends of filenames. When you doubleclick a Notepad text file, for instance, Windows XP spots the secret, hid-
___________ Chapter 16: Figuring Out Those Annoying Pop-Up Messages
Figure 16-13:
know what
should open
this file.
den file extension and uses Notepad to open the file. If Windows doesn’t
recognize the secret code letters, however, it complains with this error
Solutions: This problem’s a little rough, so you may have to experiment.
If you know what program created that file, choose it from the list of
programs. Then select the Always Use the Selected Program to Open
This Kind of File check box. Finally, click the OK button, and your problem should be solved. In the future, Windows will always know to open
files with this secret code using this program.
Don’t have the foggiest idea which program should open that file? Notepad’s always a good choice to start with. Choose Notepad, click the OK
button, and double-click your mystery file again. If your screen fills with
legible text, you’re saved! Close Notepad and double-click the mischievous file again. This time, however, select the Always Use This Program
to Open This File check box so that Windows XP knows that Notepad
should always open that type of file.
Notepad is a safe test, but files missing their file extensions often aren’t
meant to be opened. Be careful.
___________ Chapter 16: Figuring Out Those Annoying Pop-Up Messages
Privacy Alert — Saving Cookies
Figure 16-14:
Because of
your current
wants you
to know that
didn’t let a
site place a
cookie on
Meaning: The site you're currently visiting didn’t meet the privacy settings you created in Internet Explorer, so your browser didn’t let the
site place a cookie on your computer.
Probable cause: The cookie probably came from an advertising or marketing site. Unless you change the default settings, Internet Explorer
allows other, less-invasive cookies.
Solutions: Internet Explorer lets you set your own privacy level while
browsing. To see your settings, choose Internet Explorer’s Tools menu,
select Properties, and click the Privacy tab. If these messages become
bothersome or Internet Explorer refuses to open Web sites, move the
slider to Medium or Medium Low.
Meaning: This folder belongs to Windows, so you can’t mess with it.
Probable cause: You’re trying to rename the folder to something else.
(Windows displays a similar message if you try to rename a file while
it’s open.)
___________ Chapter 16: Figuring Out Those Annoying Pop-Up Messages
Figure 16-15:
You are
trying to
rename a
Solutions: Give up. Windows simply won’t let you rename that folder.
Safe to Remove Hardware
Figure 16-16:
You may
now unplug
probably a
USB device.
Meaning: Windows is now prepared for you to unplug your computer
Probable cause: You told Windows that you want to unplug your computer part.
Solutions: Feel free to unplug your computer part. Before unplugging a
USB part — digital camera, printer, memory card reader, or other goody
— you should right-click on its little icon by your clock and choose
Stay Current with Automatic
Meaning: Windows wants you to authorize it to download fixes from
the Internet.
___________ Chapter 16: Figuring Out Those Annoying Pop-Up Messages
Figure 16-17:
Click here to
keep itself
with the
latest fixes.
Probable cause: Windows has been recently installed.
Solutions: Click here and follow the instructions to let Windows update
itself. (For more information, see the earlier section “New Updates Are
Ready to Install.”)
There Are Unused Icons on Your
Figure 16-18:
offers to
icons from
Meaning: In its incessant desire to keep your desktop tidy, Windows
keeps track of how often you click the icons on your desktop. It tells
you if you haven’t clicked some for a while and asks if you want to get
rid of them.
Probable cause: Every 60 days, Windows automatically runs its Desktop Cleanup Wizard, which offers to remove the icons you haven’t
clicked. It moves them to a new desktop folder called Unused Desktop
Shortcuts. (You can always retrieve them from there, if desired.)
Solutions: Say No. If you want to keep your desktop tidy, do it yourself
so that you can keep track of things. To turn off the feature, right-click
on your desktop, choose Properties, and click the Desktop tab. Click
___________ Chapter 16: Figuring Out Those Annoying Pop-Up Messages
the Customize Desktop button and remove the check mark by the Run
Desktop Cleanup Wizard Every 60 Days option.
When You Send Information to the
Figure 16-19:
warns you
that nothing
is completely
even the
Meaning: Windows is warning you that it’s possible for people to read
information as it’s sent through the Internet.
Probable cause: Nothing is secure — not even the Internet. The
employees who work at your Internet service provider can read it, for
instance. Hackers, too, sometimes run programs to read messages as
they travel through the Internet. Even the folks at the FBI can and do
monitor e-mail traffic when they feel circumstances warrant it. (Mainly,
Microsoft adds this warning so the company is not held liable if somebody reads your e-mail.)
Solutions: Don’t worry about it too much. Post office employees, for
instance, can read your postcards if they want to. When I worked at a
drugstore, one bored gal at the photo counter always peeked into people’s photo envelopes. Nothing’s secure while it moves from one place
to another.
The point? If you want something to be really secure, send it using a
secure Web site: A Security Alert window with a padlock icon appears,
warning you that you’re about to view pages over a secure connection.
This means your information is encrypted as it travels the Internet, so
it’s safe for sending credit card information and other sensitive material.
___________ Chapter 16: Figuring Out Those Annoying Pop-Up Messages
You Have Files Waiting to Be
Written to the CD
Figure 16-20:
You told
Windows to
copy files to
a CD/R disc.
Meaning: Files are waiting to be copied to a CD in your computer’s CD
recording drive.
Probable cause: You told Windows to copy files to a CD recording
Solutions: Click here to see the files. Or if the balloon disappears too
quickly, open My Computer from the Start menu and double-click the
CD recording drive to see what Windows wants to copy there. (If you
don’t want to copy any files listed in this area, feel free to delete the list;
the list contains only shortcuts to the files, not the actual files.) To copy
the files, insert a writeable CD (not an ordinary CD) into your recording
drive and click Write These Files to CD.
Chapter 17
Help on the Windows XP Help
In This Chapter
B Finding helpful hints quickly
B Using the Windows XP Help program
B Finding help for a particular problem
B Moving around in the Help system
B Searching the entire Help system
B Using Web Help for Windows XP Help on the Internet
ometimes, if you raise your hand in just the right way, Windows XP
walks over and offers you some help.
Other times, Windows refuses to give you a straight answer. Instead, it
shuffles you to another location: a horrible computerized answering
machine sending you from one computerized dead-end to another.
This chapter offers some help on digging the most information from
Windows frequently unhelpful Help and Support system.
Get Me Some Help, and Fast!
Don’t bother plowing through this whole chapter if you don’t need to:
Here are the quickest ways to make Windows XP dish out helpful information when you’re stumped.
___________________ Chapter 17: Help on the Windows XP Help System
Press F1
When you’re confused in Windows XP, press the F1 key or choose Help
And Support from the Start button’s menu. The F1 key always stands for
“Help!” Most of the time, Windows XP checks to see what program
you’re using and fetches some helpful information about that particular
program or your current situation. Other times, pressing F1 brings up
Windows huge Help and Support Center, which gets its own section
later in this chapter.
Click the right mouse button on the
confusing part
Windows XP constantly flings confusing questions onto the screen,
expecting you to come up with an answer. If you know where to tackle
the program, however, you can often shake loose some helpful chunks
of information.
When a particular button, setting, box, or menu item has your creativity
stifled, click it with your right mouse button. A What’s This? box often
appears, as shown in Figure 17-1, letting you know that Windows XP can
offer help about that particular area. Click the What’s This? box, and
Windows XP tosses extra information onto the screen, as shown in Figure 17-2, explaining the confusing area you clicked.
Figure 17-1:
Click a
object with
the right
button to
get the hint
___________________ Chapter 17: Help on the Windows XP Help System
Figure 17-2:
Clicking the
This? button
brings more
your way.
When confused about something on-screen, make Windows XP explain
it: Click the confusing item with your right mouse button and click the
What’s This? box that pops up.
Choose Help from the main menu
If pressing F1 doesn’t get you anywhere, look for the word Help in the
menu along the top of the confusing program. Click Help, and a menu
drops down, usually listing two lines: Help Topics and About. Click Help
Topics to make the Windows XP Help program leap to the screen and
bring assistance to your dilemma. (Clicking About just brings a version
number to the screen, which can be dangerously irritating when you’re
looking for something a little more helpful.)
Sending in the Troubleshooters
Sometimes, the Windows XP Help and Support program scores big: It
tells you exactly how to solve your particular problem. Unfortunately,
however, the Help program occasionally says you need to load a different program to solve your problem.
___________________ Chapter 17: Help on the Windows XP Help System
To let Windows XP fix its own problems, follow these steps:
1. Choose Help And Support from the Start menu.
2. Choose Fixing a Problem from the Pick a Help Topic menu.
Fixing a Problem is listed at the very bottom, left corner of the
Help screen. As you can see in Figure 17-3, it unleashes a torrent of
information. Windows offers to help troubleshoot general problems, as well as more specific ones.
Figure 17-3:
The Troubleshooter
help to
solve a wide
variety of
3. Click the subject that troubles you.
Click E-mail and Messaging Problems, for example, if your e-mail
isn’t working correctly, and Windows unveils its Troubleshooter
“robots” designed for different problems. Choose the E-mail Troubleshooter if that’s your problem, although the troubleshooters for
the Internet Explorer and Modem are standing by if needed.
___________________ Chapter 17: Help on the Windows XP Help System
4. Answer the Troubleshooter’s questions.
As you answer the questions, shown in Figure 17-4, Windows narrows down your problem until it decides whether it can fix the
problem itself, or whether the situation requires outside intervention. (In which case, you need to beg assistance from the computer
store or manufacturer, the computer guru at work, or a 12-year-old
Figure 17-4:
By asking
the problem
suggests a
Search — letting Windows do the
When you need an answer in a hurry, let Windows find it for you. Type a
few words describing your problem into the Search box at the top of the
screen. Click the green arrow next to the box, and Windows lists all the
helpful information it can find about your problem. It’s quick, it’s easy,
and it’s often the best way to find that tidbit of information you need.
___________________ Chapter 17: Help on the Windows XP Help System
Consulting a Program’s Built-In
Computer Guru
Almost every Windows program has the word Help in its top menu.
Click Help, and the Windows XP built-in computer guru rushes to your
aid. For example, click Help in Paint, and you see the menu shown in
Figure 17-5.
Figure 17-5:
Click Help
when you
To pick the computer guru’s brain, click Help Topics, and Windows XP
pops up the box shown in Figure 17-6. This box is the table of contents
for all the help information Windows XP can offer on the Paint program.
Figure 17-6:
By clicking
the little
books next
to the
you can find
the help you
To see a list of subjects, start by clicking the little book next to the word
Paint. Confused about working with color? Then click the little book
icon next to that subject, and the book opens to display help on any
methods of using color. For example, if you want to know how to apply
___________________ Chapter 17: Help on the Windows XP Help System
color with a brush, click the words Paint with a brush. The Help program
then shows what additional help it can offer, as shown in Figure 17-7.
Figure 17-7:
Choose a
topic to see
help areas.
Confused about a term used in the Help window? If the term is underlined (like drag is in Figure 17-7), click it, and a new window pops up, as
shown in Figure 17-8, defining the term.
Figure 17-8:
Click any
terms to see
more information
about them.
___________________ Chapter 17: Help on the Windows XP Help System
The Windows XP Help system is sometimes a lot of work, forcing you to
wade through increasingly detailed menus to find specific information.
Still, using Help can be much faster than paging through the awkward
Windows XP manual. And it’s often much faster than tracking down a
pocket-protected neighbor.
A The quickest way to find help in any Windows XP program is to
press F1. Windows automatically jumps to the table of contents
page for the help information it has for the current program.
A Windows XP packs a lot of information into its Help boxes; some of
the words usually scroll off the bottom of the window. To see the
words, click the scroll bar (which I describe in Chapter 5) or press
A Sometimes you click the wrong topic, and Windows XP brings up
something really dumb. Click the Contents button at the top of the
window, and Windows XP scoots back to the contents page. From
there, click a different topic to move in a different direction.
A If you’re impressed with a particularly helpful page, send it to the
printer: Click the right mouse button and choose Print from the
menu that appears. Windows XP shoots that page to the printer so
that you can keep it handy until you lose it.
A To grab a Help message and stick it in your own work, highlight the
text with your mouse and choose Copy from the menu. Windows
then lets you paste the information into other programs. I dunno
why anybody would want to do this, but you can do it.
Finding Help for your exact problem
If you don’t see your problem listed in the particular table of contents
page that you access, you have another way or two to find help
(although it takes a little more time and effort). Click the Search tab at
the top of any Help window, as shown in Figure 17-9. Type a few words
describing your problem and click the List Topics button. Windows XP
actively ferrets out anything helpful about your topic.
If Windows matches what you type with an appropriate topic, click the
topic that looks the most pertinent and then click the Display button.
Windows jumps to the page of information that describes that particular subject the best.
___________________ Chapter 17: Help on the Windows XP Help System
Figure 17-9:
XP locates
any Help
dealing with
A quicker way to find help is to click the Index tab to see what subjects
Windows is willing to explain. The Index tab works just like a book’s
index — clicking it brings up an alphabetical list of subjects. If you see a
subject that even remotely resembles what you’re confused about, double-click it. Windows XP brings up that page of Help information.
From there, you can jump around by clicking underlined words and
phrases. Sooner or later, you stumble onto the right page of information.
Windows searches alphabetically and, unfortunately, isn’t very smart.
So, if you’re looking for help on margins, for example, don’t type adding
margins or changing margins. Instead, type margins so that Windows
jumps to the words beginning with M.
Using Windows Help and Support
Although most Windows programs include an individualized Help program, which you can access by clicking Help from their menus, Windows XP also includes an all-encompassing Help program. It helps with
general Windows questions, as well your computer in general. To start
___________________ Chapter 17: Help on the Windows XP Help System
using it, choose Help and Support Center from the Start menu. The program rises to the screen, as shown in Figure 17-10.
Figure 17-10:
Help and
offers assistance with
and your
The program offers help in several ways, each described below.
The Windows Help and Support Center works much like a Web site. To
move back one page, click the little green Back arrow in the upper left
corner. That arrow helps you out if you've backed into a corner. Just
click it to move on to a more helpful page.
The Help and Support Center offers assistance in these categories:
A Pick a Help Topic: Click these to see general information about a
topic. Clicking Customizing Your Computer, for example, displays a
list of things that you can change about your computer. Choose
Your Start Menu from the list, and the Help menu lists how to add
items to the Start menu, change the way they open when clicked,
or tweak the menu’s list of recently used files and documents.
___________________ Chapter 17: Help on the Windows XP Help System
A Ask for Assistance: Stumped? Here are two ways of bringing in
outside help. The Remote Assistance program lets you invite a savvier Windows XP user to connect to your computer through the
Internet. When the Geek connects to your computer, he sees your
desktop on his screen. He can walk you through problems, offer
tutorials, and behave as if he were standing over your shoulder. If
you're not into that kind of computer intimacy, try the other
options: Click the Support link to get help from Microsoft; Click
Windows XP Newsgroup-based help. Or, you can always connect to
help sites through the Internet.
A Pick a Task: Microsoft placed the most commonly used items
here. One click enables you to keep your computer up to date, find
Windows XP-compatible parts for your computer, restore your
computer back to a time when it worked well, and run diagnostic
tools to view information and test your computer.
A Did You Know?: Windows XP tosses little updated tips here. You
may just get lucky and spot one that’s useful.
For best results, start your quest for help by glancing at the Pick a Help
Topic area. If your troublesome spot is listed here, click it and begin
narrowing down the search for pertinent information.
If that doesn’t help, use the Search command at the page’s top. Type in
a key word or two describing your problem and click the green arrow
next to the Search box. Typing e-mail, for instance, as seen in Figure 1711, brings up 30 bits of information. Click any of the suggested topics to
see if they solve your problem.
As seen in Figure 17-11, the Search command groups its results in three
areas. Suggested Topics, the first and most valuable, lists troubleshooters, step-by-step tutorials, and general information. The Full-text Search
Matches area lists any area containing the words you searched for. The
last, Microsoft Knowledge Base, shows any results found in a Microsoftcreated database listing information about all its products. (Microsoft
Knowledge Base requires an Internet connection.)
___________________ Chapter 17: Help on the Windows XP Help System
Figure 17-11:
Typing email into the
Search box
and clicking
the green
and hints to
solve e-mail
I forgot that helpful tip!
Found a particularly helpful area? Save it for
future reference by clicking the Add to Favorites
button near the top of its page. Then, when you
click the Favorites button along the top of the
Help and Support Center window, that list’s
name will appear, ready to be displayed after
you click it.
If you forget to place that particularly helpful
page in your Favorites area, you still have a way
to find it. Click the History button next to it. It
immediately displays a list of pages you’ve visited. Hopefully, you’ll spot the one you’re looking
Part V
The Part of Tens
In this part…
verybody likes to read top tens in magazines—especially in
the grocery store checkout aisle when you’re stuck behind
someone who’s just pulled a rubber band off a thick stack of double coupons and the checker can’t find the right validation stamp.
Unlike the reading material at the grocery store, the chapters in
this part of the book should be more than timewasters. You find
lists of ways to make Windows XP more efficient—or at least not
as hostile. You find tips, tricks, and explanations of Windows XP
icons and what they do.
Some lists have more than ten items; others have fewer, but who’s
counting, besides the guy wading through all those double coupons?
Chapter 18
Ten Exciting New Windows XP
In This Chapter
B Decorating its folders
B Letting somebody fix your computer by calling it up
B Copying information to compact discs
B Transferring information easily to your new computer
B Setting up secure accounts for each user
B Keeping from crashing
B Stopping Internet hackers with a firewall
B Automatically setting the clock
B Requiring activation
B Making it work like your previous version of Windows
ust bought a new PC? Then you’re probably stuck with Windows XP.
It almost always comes preinstalled.
Current PC owners have a choice. After reading the Windows XP box in
computer stores, they can decide whether or not to upgrade.
To keep you from squinting at the fine print in the computer store, here
are the ten most interesting features Windows XP has to offer.
Way Cool Folders
For years, people entered information into their computer using one
primary method: They’d type it in. Today, people stuff information
inside their computer in bunches of ways: They download it from the
_________________ Chapter 18: Ten Exciting New Windows XP Features
Internet, import it from scanners, copy it from their music CDs, and
grab it off their digital cameras.
Windows XP has not only kept up by letting you import all this information, but it helps you keep track of where you’re putting it. When you
insert a CD and copy its songs onto your computer as MP3 or WMA
files, as I describe in Chapter 13, Windows not only types in the song
titles for you, but it automatically adds a picture of the CD’s cover to
the folder, as shown in Figure 18-1. They’re all in your My Music folder.
Unfortunately, this trick only works when you convert the CD while in
Windows. If you dump your MP3 files in from another computer, the art
won’t appear on the folder. Sniff.
Figure 18-1:
When you
copy a CD’s
songs to
computer as
MP3 or
WMA files,
XP automatically places
the CD’s
cover on the
Looking for pictures? Store them in your My Pictures folder. Every
folder stored in the My Pictures folder places (tiles) four pictures from
its contents across its front, making it easier to spot what’s inside. After
you open the folder, you find thumbnail images of every picture inside.
Or, choose Filmstrip from the folder’s View menu to see a filmstrip of all
your pictures, with the currently selected picture displayed above.
(Click a picture to see its properties, as shown in Figure 18-2.)
_________________ Chapter 18: Ten Exciting New Windows XP Features
Figure 18-2:
XP displays
your photos
in the folder,
making it
much easier
to locate
Remote Assistance
It’s late at night, and your computer is acting weird. What did you do
wrong? Luckily, your co-worker’s kid across town just got Windows XP,
and he’s already mastered it. But his parents won’t let him out at night.
If only he could fix your computer for you. . . .
With Windows XP Remote Assistance, he can. If you turn on Remote
Assistance, another person can log onto your computer and control it,
just as if they were sitting in front of it. They can tweak your computer,
setting up what needs to be done, and your computer will run as good
as new. (At least, that’s the concept.)
To load Remote Assistant, click the Start button, choose Help and Support, and choose Remote Assistance. Choose Invite Someone to Help
You from the program’s screen, and send a message by using Outlook
Express or Microsoft MSN Messenger. The recipient accepts your
request, and he or she sees your computer’s screen on their monitor.
You two chat back and forth, typing messages, and the helpful soul
moves around your mouse, clicking the right things, until the situation
is fixed.
_________________ Chapter 18: Ten Exciting New Windows XP Features
Expect to see it used by technical support staffs in the future. (And let’s
hope the hackers don’t figure out how to use it.)
Burning (Writing Information onto)
Windows XP finally caught up with the computers of the day, and it handles the recordable CD drives built in to most new computers. To copy
any file or files to a recordable CD drive, right-click on the file or files,
choose Send To from the menu that appears, and select Writable CD.
Pop! A little window pops up with the message that you have files waiting to be copied to the CD. Insert a CD into the drive, click the Start button, and choose My Computer. Open your recordable CD with a doubleclick and select Write These Files to CD to copy them to your CD.
Media Player copies songs to blank CDs as well, letting you create your
own “Greatest Hits” packages to play in any standard CD player. It converts MP3s or WMAs back into standard song format, so that you can fit
around 10 or 12 songs on the CD, just like normal.
To save your MP3s or WMAs on a CD, use the first method of copying,
so that Media Player won’t convert the songs into the larger format
used by normal CD players.
Files and Settings Transfer Wizard
This little wizard comes in handy as soon as you buy a new computer.
How in the world do you transfer all your stuff from the old computer to
the new one?
To make Windows XP handle the chores, unleash the wizard from your
Start menu’s System Tools area. (Click the Start button, choose All Programs, and click Accessories to find System Tools.)
The wizard works the fastest with a networked connection. Tell the wizard what information you want moved: Files, program settings, Internet
connection settings, and other pertinent items. Run the wizard on both
computers, and it handles the transfer chores, moving things from one
computer to the other.
_________________ Chapter 18: Ten Exciting New Windows XP Features
I describe more about the wizard in Chapter 10.
User Accounts
If you’re the only person using your computer, you won’t care about
this. But if your family computer has a line around it like the bathroom
of the Brady Bunch, then User Accounts are for you.
Windows XP lets folks have their own User Accounts. They click their
name at the Welcome screen and find their own personal folders containing their own information — nobody else’s. The screen looks just
the way they left it. Windows XP even lets them use their own favorite
desktop background.
When everybody has an individual User Account, it’s as if everybody
has his or her own computer. Windows XP treats everybody differently
— they’re not all grouped together on the same desktop. If one person
changes the menus around, she has only changed the menus on her
own account. The next person to use the computer finds the same
menus he has always used.
I cover User Accounts in Chapter 9.
Increased Stability
If you’ve been using other versions of Windows, you’re probably accustomed to the Blue Screen of Death: The screen turns bright blue, and
Windows displays a cryptic message about a Fatal Error in some oddly
numbered coordinate. Nobody knows what it means, or why it happened. Everybody knows that it’s a Pain in the Butt.
Windows XP throws away the old engine used to run Windows Me, Windows 98, and earlier versions of Windows. Instead, Windows XP uses
the more stable engine from Windows 2000 — the version used by businesses requiring a computer that won’t crash haphazardly.
Sure, a program will crash every once in a while. But it won’t bring
down the entire computer. When a program does freeze up, hold down
these three keys at the same time: Ctrl, Alt, and Delete. The Windows
XP Task Manager pops up, as shown in Figure 18-3, ready to shovel the
_________________ Chapter 18: Ten Exciting New Windows XP Features
frozen program out of its memory. Click the naughty program and click
the End Task button to whisk it away.
Figure 18-3:
Hold down
Ctrl, Alt, and
simultaneously to
Windows XP does something else fun: Turning off the computer’s power
switch doesn’t turn off the computer! It brings up the Turn Off Computer screen, where you can choose Stand By, Turn Off, or Restart.
Built-in Firewall against Internet
My cable modem is constantly connected to the Internet, so it’s no surprise that somebody tries to break into my computer at least a dozen
times a day. No, a person isn’t sitting at his computer, typing the keyboard, and trying to find a way inside. These people run easy-to-find
hacker programs that automatically scan thousands of computers,
looking for one that’s not secure.
If you’re on the Internet, these hackers could be knocking on your door,
as well — especially if you run a network or have a cable modem. To
keep the bad guys out but let the good ones in, you need a firewall, and
Windows XP tossed one in the bag. The firewall filters the information
that’s going into your computer and keeps your computer invisible to
the programs that scan for them.
_________________ Chapter 18: Ten Exciting New Windows XP Features
I show how to connect the firewall in Chapter 12.
Automatically Sets Clock
Windows XP automatically sets your computer’s clock and keeps it set
to the right time — if you tell it to do so. Double-click the little clock in
the bottom right corner of your computer, click the Internet Time tab,
and click in the box that is labeled Automatically Synchronize With An
Internet Time Server. After you’re connected to the Internet, your computer checks the time and resets its clock accordingly.
Windows XP Must Be Activated
It’s true. Windows XP is copy protected so that you can only install one
copy of it on one computer. If you want Windows XP on your laptop,
too, you must buy another version of Windows XP. I describe this alarming fact in more detail in Chapter 3.
Making Windows XP Run Like Your
Old Version of Windows
Some old-timers don’t like Windows XP because it looks, well, different
than their older, classic versions of Windows. In its aim to please, Windows XP wears “classic” clothes so that it looks and acts pretty closely
to older versions of Windows. Here’s how.
A Switch to a Classic Start menu: Right-click the Start menu button,
choose Properties, and then choose Classic Start Menu. That
replaces XP’s huge and rounded Start menu with the straightedged look of the older versions.
A Switch to a Classic Desktop Theme: Right-click the desktop,
choose Properties, and then choose Windows Classic from the
Theme drop-down menu. Wham! Now your windows turn from
rounded to square, and your rounded chartreuse Start button
turns gray and square. Plus, the old familiar icons reappear on the
desktop: My Computer, My Documents, My Network Places, and
Internet Explorer.
_________________ Chapter 18: Ten Exciting New Windows XP Features
A Turn back on the Shortcut keys: Older versions of Windows had
underlined letters in their menus. Instead of clicking the mouse on
menu items, you could press Alt and the underlined letter to activate that menu item — a shortcut key, if you will. Although Windows XP leaves them out, here’s how to turn them back on: Rightclick the Desktop, choose Properties, and click the Appearance
tab. Click the Effects button and remove the check mark from the
line, Hide Underlined Letters for Keyboard Navigation Until I Press
The Alt Key. The underlines all appear, ready for shortcuts.
A Speeding up the menus: Windows XP sometimes sacrifices looks
for speed. Menus fade in and out of place, for instance, looking
cool, but slowing down the job. To dump the fashion and bring
back the speed, try this: Right-click the My Computer icon, choose
Properties, and click the Advanced tab. Click the Settings button in
the Performance area and select Adjust For Best Performance.
Click OK and enjoy that burst of speed.
Chapter 19
Ten Aggravating Things about
Windows XP (And How to Fix
In This Chapter
B Changing the volume
B Finding out your computer’s version of Windows
B Wanting to double-click instead of click (or vice versa)!
B Reattaching fallen button bars
B Keeping track of multiple windows
B Finding a missing taskbar
B Fixing the Print Screen key
B Lining up two windows on the screen
B Updating a folder’s contents
B Understanding why you can’t do what an administrator can do
indows XP would be great if only . . . (insert your pet peeve
here). If you find yourself thinking (or saying) this frequently,
this chapter is for you. This chapter not only lists the most aggravating
things about Windows XP, but it also explains how you can fix them.
How Do I Change the Volume?
Although Microsoft designed Windows XP to be easier than ever to use,
the programmers stubbed their toe when it came to the most important
function of all: changing the volume.
__Chapter 19: Ten Aggravating Things about Windows XP (And How to Fix
What happens if you visit a Web site late at night, only to hear some
loud and merry synthesized music? Can you reach through your jumble
of wires for the speaker’s volume control before the family wakes?
Here’s how to put the volume control back where it belongs — right
next to the little clock in the bottom right corner of your screen:
1. Click the Start button, open the Control Panel, and click the
Sounds, Speech, and Audio Devices icon.
2. Click the Sounds and Audio Devices icon and select the Place
Volume Icon in the TaskBar check box.
A little speaker then appears next to your clock.
3. Click OK to close the window.
Now, if you need to turn the sound up or down in a hurry, click the
little speaker by your clock. A sliding volume control appears, letting you turn the sound up or down by sliding the control up or
down. Or, to turn the sound off completely, click the Mute box.
What Version of Windows Do I
Windows has been sold in more than a dozen flavors since its debut in
November 1985. How do you know what version your computer has?
Did it really come with Windows XP?
Open the Start menu, right-click on My Computer, and choose Properties. Click the General tab, if that page isn’t already showing.
Under the word System, Windows displays its version and version number.
__Chapter 19: Ten Aggravating Things about Windows XP (And How to Fix
I Want to Click Instead of DoubleClick (Or Vice Versa)!
Slowly but surely, Windows XP is stretching away from your desktop
and onto the Internet’s World Wide Web, which is a huge, worldwide
network of computers stuffed with everything from movie previews to
groups of people discussing eggnog recipes.
When accessing the Internet, users click once on icons — not twice, the
way Windows users have grown accustomed to doing. To see how your
computer’s currently set up, open any folder and choose Folder
Options from the Tools menu.
The last option, titled Click Items as Follows, lets you choose between
single-clicking and double-clicking. Select the one you want and click
OK to make your change.
When maneuvering through the options listed in the Start menu, you
only need to click once, no matter how your mouse is set up: Just click
the Start button to bring the Start menu to life. All the other menus contained in the Start menu pop up automatically as the mouse pointer
hovers over them. After you spot the program or choice you’re after,
click it, and the Start menu loads that program or choice.
My Bar Full of Buttons Just Fell
It’s happened to the best of us. We reach up to click a button from the
row of buttons along the top of a program or on the taskbar at the bottom of the screen, when all of a sudden something awful happens.
The entire row of buttons falls off and appears as a bar or window in the
middle of your program. What did you do wrong? Nothing, it turns out.
Microsoft figures that some people enjoy the versatility of placing their
buttons in the middle of their work. So, Windows lets people drag the
button bar off the program and place it someplace else.
To place the button bar back where it started, place the mouse pointer
on the bar, hold down your mouse button, and drag the bar back where
__Chapter 19: Ten Aggravating Things about Windows XP (And How to Fix
it belongs. Release the mouse button, and the bar reattaches itself. Or, if
that’s not working right, try double-clicking the bar. The bar often reattaches itself automatically.
If a toolbar flies off your taskbar, right-click the taskbar and choose
Toolbars. Remember which toolbar has a check mark next to it, and
then click its name. The toolbar disappears. Right-click the taskbar
again, choose Toolbars, and click the name of the same toolbar. After
the toolbar reappears, it should resume its rightful position.
Keeping Track of All Those Windows
Is Too Hard
You don’t have to keep track of all those windows. Windows XP does it
for you with a secret key combination: Hold the Alt key and press the
Tab key, and the little bar appears, displaying the icons for all your
open windows. Keep pressing Tab; when Windows highlights the icon of
the window you’re after, release the keys. The window pops up.
Or, use the taskbar, which I cover in Chapter 10. The taskbar is that long
strip along the bottom of your screen. The taskbar lists the name of
every window currently open. Click the name of the window you want,
and that window hops to the top of the pile.
In Chapter 7, you find more soldiers to enlist in the battle against misplaced windows, files, and programs.
The Taskbar Keeps Disappearing!
The taskbar is a handy Windows XP program that’s always running.
Usually, the taskbar sits along the bottom of your screen — if you can
just find the darn thing. The taskbar sometimes vanishes from the
screen. Here are a few ways to bring it back.
If you can only see a slim edge of the taskbar — the rest of it hangs off
the edge of the screen, for example — place the mouse pointer on the
edge you can see. After the mouse pointer turns into a two-headed
__Chapter 19: Ten Aggravating Things about Windows XP (And How to Fix
arrow, hold down your mouse button and move the mouse toward the
screen’s center to drag the taskbar back into view.
A If your taskbar disappears whenever you’re not specifically pointing at it, turn off its Auto Hide feature: Click a blank part of the
taskbar with your right mouse button and choose Properties from
the pop-up menu. When the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties
window appears, click in the Auto Hide box until a little check
mark disappears. (Or, to turn on the Auto Hide feature, add the
check mark.)
A While you’re in the Taskbar’s Properties window, make sure that a
check mark appears in the Keep the Taskbar on Top of Other Windows check box. That way, the taskbar always rides visibly on the
desktop, making it much easier to spot.
A To keep the taskbar locked into place so that it won’t move, rightclick the taskbar, choose Properties, and select Lock the Taskbar.
Remember, though, that before you can make any changes to the
taskbar, you must first unlock it.
A Running two monitors on Windows XP? Don’t forget the taskbar
can be on any monitor’s edge — that includes the second monitor.
Make sure that you point at every edge before giving up.
My Print Screen Key Doesn’t Work
Windows XP takes over the Print Screen key (labeled PrtSc, PrtScr, or
something even more supernatural on some keyboards). Instead of
sending the stuff on the screen to the printer, the Print Screen key
sends it to Windows XP’s memory, where you can paste it into other
A If you hold the Alt key while pressing the Print Screen key, Windows XP sends the current window — not the entire screen — to
the Clipboard.
A If you really want a printout of the screen, press the Print Screen
button to send a picture of the screen to its memory. Then, open
Paint or WordPad, choose Paste from the Edit menu, and print
from that program.
__Chapter 19: Ten Aggravating Things about Windows XP (And How to Fix
Lining Up Two Windows on the
Screen Is Too Hard
With all its cut-and-paste stuff, Windows XP makes it easy for you to
grab information from one program and slap it into another. With its
drag-and-drop stuff, you can grab an address from a database and drag
it into a letter in your word processor.
The hard part of Windows XP is lining up two windows on the screen,
side by side. That’s where you need to call in the taskbar. First, open the
two windows and place them anywhere on the screen. Then turn all the
other windows into icons (minimize them) by clicking the button with
the little line that lives in the top-right corners of those windows.
Now, click a blank area of the taskbar with your right mouse button and
then click one of the two Tile commands listed on the menu. The two
windows line up on the screen perfectly.
The Folder Lists the Wrong Stuff on
My Floppy Disk
Windows sometimes gets confused and doesn’t always list the files currently sitting on a disk drive or folder. To prod a program into taking a
second look, simply press the F5 key — the Refresh key — along the top
of your keyboard.
It Won’t Let Me Do Something
Unless I’m An Administrator!
Windows XP gets really picky about who gets to do what on your computer. The computer’s owner gets the Administrator account. Everybody else gets a Limited account. What does that mean? Well, only the
administrator can do these things on the computer:
A Install programs and hardware
A Create or change accounts for other users
__Chapter 19: Ten Aggravating Things about Windows XP (And How to Fix
A Install Plug and Play-type hardware, such as some digital cameras
and MP3 players
A Turn off the guest account
A Read everybody else’s private files
Most other people have Limited accounts. Those accounts, usually
bearing the person’s name, are created by the administrator especially
for that person. People with limited accounts can do these things:
A Access installed programs
A Change their account’s picture and password
Guest accounts are for the babysitter or anybody else you don't intend
to let permanently use your computer. Guests can log on to browse the
Internet or check e-mail and run installed programs.
Chapter 20
Ten (Or So) Windows XP Icons
and What They Do
In This Chapter
B What some Windows XP icons look like
B What those Windows XP icons do
indows XP uses different icons to stand for different types of
files. That arrangement means that the program is packed with
enough icons to befuddle the most experienced iconographer.
Table 20-1 shows pictures of the most common icons built into Windows XP and what the icons are supposed to represent. Double-click
the icon to open it or launch it into action.
Table 20-1
What It Looks
Windows XP Icons
What It Stands For
What It Does
3 1/2-inch floppy
Insert a disk and double-click to see
its contents.
3 1/2-inch floppy
drive shared on a
Almost anybody on the network can
access disks inserted into this
Hard disk
Almost all your files live on this.
Hard disk shared on
a network
Almost anybody on the network can
use files on this drive.
__________ Chapter 20: Ten (Or So) Windows XP Icons and What They Do
Table 20-1
What It Looks
Windows XP Icons (Continued)
What It Stands For
What It Does
CD-ROM drive
Place a CD in here and double-click
to see its contents.
CD-ROM drive
shared on a network
Networked computers can view
this drive.
Audio CD
A music CD is currently inserted in
your CD-ROM drive.
Audio CD on the
Almost anyone on the network can
listen to the CD — but only one at a
Bitmap file
Graphics usually created by Paint.
Cabinet file
A compressed collection of files
that Windows XP usually likes to
open by itself.
A digital camera, usually attached
through the serial, USB, or Firewire
DOS program
A very old-style program.
A computerized storage area for
files on a disk.
Help file
This icon contains instructions
stored in a special format for the
Windows XP Help system.
Hidden file
The gray, washed-out look means
it’s a hidden information file; Windows keeps these important system
files invisible unless the user flips a
secret switch.
Shortcut to an Internet site
Double-click to make Internet
Explorer open that site.
Internet page saved
on your computer as
an HTML file
When opened by Internet Explorer,
these files look just like a Web page
— even if you’re not connected to
the Internet.
__________ Chapter 20: Ten (Or So) Windows XP Icons and What They Do
Table 20-1
What It Looks
Windows XP Icons (Continued)
What It Stands For
What It Does
A file containing a movie, sound,
MP3 or MIDI song, or almost anything else playable in Media Player.
Outlook Express
E-mail that’s been cut or copied
from Outlook Express and pasted to
your desktop or another folder.
Show Desktop
Click this taskbar icon to minimize
all your open windows. (To see the
icon on your taskbar, right-click the
taskbar, choose Toolbars, and
select Quick Launch.)
My Documents
Store the majority of your documents in this folder for safekeeping
by creating a separate folder for
every project.
My Music
Store your music in this folder for
easy access. (Media Player stores
incoming songs here automatically.)
My Pictures
Store your digital pictures in this
folder to see them easily. (Your digital camera stores them here automatically.)
Recycle Bin
Deleted files end up in the Recycle
Bin where they can be grabbed if
you change your mind.
Scraps are dabs of information
dragged and dropped onto the
desktop: a paragraph from WordPad, for example.
Double-click here to install a program.
System file
Technical files for Windows XP to
Technical Text file
Settings information for a computer
program or part.
Usually created by Notepad, these
contain text without formatting.
__________ Chapter 20: Ten (Or So) Windows XP Icons and What They Do
Table 20-1
What It Looks
Windows XP Icons (Continued)
What It Stands For
What It Does
Word processor file
A file with formatting usually created by either WordPad or
Microsoft Word.
Network workgroup
A collection of computers on a network.
Zipped file
Files that have been compressed
into one. Double-click to see the
Unrecognizable file
A file Windows XP doesn’t think it
Chapter 21
Ten Most Frequently Asked
Windows Questions
In This Chapter
B Remembering what things you can do to a file
B Choosing between Windows XP Home or Windows XP Professional
B Adding a picture of your face to the Welcome screen
B Making Windows XP play your DVDs
B Making your MP3s sound better
B Removing the Welcome screen
B Seeing tiny previews of your photos and pictures in a folder
B Making Internet Explorer open full-screen instead of in a window
B Missing out without the Internet
ere they are, all in one place: the most frequently asked questions about Windows XP.
If you don’t find your answer here, check out Chapter 19. That chapter
shows how to cure the most aggravating facets of Windows, and plenty
of people are asking how to do that.
How Do I Remember All the Stuff I
Can Do to a File?
Windows lets you do zillions of things to a file in a zillion different ways.
How do you remember your options when dealing with a file? By just
remembering this one detail:
___________ Chapter 21: Ten Most Frequently Asked Windows Questions
Right-click on the file. A menu pops up listing all your available options,
as shown in Figure 21-1.
Figure 21-1:
on a file,
and a menu
lists your
Here’s a quick explanation of what those options accomplish.
A Open: This option opens the program that’s linked to the file; it
then places the file inside the program, ready for playing or editing. See how Open is printed in bold? That means it’s the default
option — it’s the one that automatically takes effect if you get lazy
and just press Enter or double-click the file.
A Print: Send the file to the printer by choosing this option.
A Edit:: Select this option to change an item — edit an image, for
instance — rather then simply displaying it.
A Open With: Select this option, and a list appears showing the programs most likely to open that program. Choose one of the programs, and Windows uses that program to open your file. Don’t see
the right program? Click Choose Program and browse your folders
for the right one.
A Send To: Selecting this option lists several commonly used programs. You can immediately send the program to your floppy
drive, compress it into a Zip file, place a shortcut to the file on the
desktop, mail it to somebody, store it in your My Documents area,
or write it onto a CD.
A Cut: This option moves the file to your computer’s memory, ready
to be pasted into another program or area.
___________ Chapter 21: Ten Most Frequently Asked Windows Questions
A Copy: This option places a copy of the file to your computer’s
memory, ready to be pasted somewhere else.
A Create Shortcut: Click here to create a shortcut in the same folder.
Then you can copy the shortcut to a new location.
A Delete: Poof! Your file’s sent to the Recycle Bin.
A Rename: This option highlights the file’s name, ready for you to
type in a new name.
A Properties: Click here to see the file’s size, creation date, and even
more detailed statistics.
If you drag a file while holding down your right mouse button, a similar
menu appears, letting you choose whether you’d like to copy the file,
move it, create a shortcut, or cancel your drag.
Should I Upgrade to the Windows
XP Home or Professional Version?
Windows XP comes in two versions, Home and Professional. There’s not
much difference in the way the two versions look or behave.
Part of the difference is mechanical. Windows XP Professional can use
two central processing unit (CPU) engines inside your computer, making it run faster and more powerfully.
Much of the remaining difference centers on networking and security.
Windows XP Professional includes the features of Windows XP Home,
plus it adds a backup program, higher-level of security in networking,
multi-language support, and more advanced features.
If you buy XP Home and decide its networking features aren’t powerful
enough for your needs, feel free to upgrade to XP Professional. That version installs over XP Home without problems. You can’t go the other
way, though: Windows XP Home can’t be installed over Windows XP
Professional. You need to free your hard drive of Windows entirely by
formatting it and then start over with a spotless Windows-free slate.
___________ Chapter 21: Ten Most Frequently Asked Windows Questions
How Do I Add a Picture of My Face
to My User Account?
Tired of the little spaceman or soccer ball Windows XP has added to
your User Account photo? Putting your own picture there isn’t tough,
provided that you have a digital image of yourself stored on your computer.
Don’t have a digital image of yourself? Then find a friend with a digital
camera, have her snap your picture, and store the picture in your My
Pictures folder as a JPG file. Then follow these steps to put that picture
on your account.
1. Click the Start button, choose Control Panel, and select User
2. Click Change My Picture.
If you’re the administrator, you might need to click Change an
Account, choose an Account, and then choose Change the Picture.
3. Choose an existing picture or choose Browse for More Pictures.
Switch to one of Windows’ listed pictures; or, to choose a picture
of yourself, choose the Browse option. Your My Pictures folder
opens up, showing its contents.
4. Locate your saved picture, click its name, and click Open.
Windows grabs your picture and sticks it on your account. Plus,
your picture appears as an option in your list of available pictures
for swapping.
Windows shrinks the entire picture to a thumbnail size to place it
onto your account image.
Here are a few more tips for changing your User Account picture:
___________ Chapter 21: Ten Most Frequently Asked Windows Questions
A If you have a digital picture of you within a group, open it with the
Windows Paint program, cut out your face, and save the face in
your My Pictures folder. When Windows opens that picture, it will
grab your face, and not everybody in the picture.
A Feel free to grab pictures off the Internet for your User Account,
too. If you spot a picture of Bart Simpson on the Web that you’d
like to use, right-click it, choose Save Picture As, type a name, and
click Save. That automatically saves the picture in your My Pictures folder for later grabbing.
Why Can’t Windows XP Play My
Many computers today come with CD-ROM drives that can play DVDs
as well as CDs. When you insert a CD, Windows Media Player comes up
singing tunes. But when you insert a DVD, Windows XP doesn’t play the
movie. What gives?
There’s a catch. Before a computer can read a DVD, it needs a software
or hardware DVD decoder to translate the numbers on the DVD into
sounds and moving pictures on the screen. Some DVD drives have the
decoder built-in. But many rely on software. And Windows XP doesn’t
include that software decoder. So how do you watch the DVD?
Well, you need to install a software DVD player from another company.
(Many new computers that include a DVD drive also come with a DVD
player.) Windows XP borrows the software decoder from that thirdparty software and plays the DVD in its own Media Player.
So, even though Microsoft may claim that Windows XP plays DVDs, a
key fact is left out: Windows XP plays DVDs if you already have DVDplayer software installed on your computer.
There’s another catch: If you’re upgrading your Windows 98 or Windows Me computer to Windows XP, your old DVD software probably
won’t work on Windows XP. You probably have to upgrade your existing
software to Windows XP standards, or buy new Windows XP-compatible DVD software. Bummer.
___________ Chapter 21: Ten Most Frequently Asked Windows Questions
Why Can’t Windows XP Create MP3
This one’s a little sticky, but bear with me. The company that engineered the MP3 file technology charges royalties for its MP3 codes,
known as codecs. Microsoft didn’t include the DVD codecs for playing
DVDs, as I discuss in the previous section. And Microsoft left out the
MP3 codecs, as well.
So, when you tell Media Player to create digital sound files from your
CDs, it lists two options: WMA (Windows Music Audio, Microsoft’s
sound format), and MP3. However, the MP3 option is grayed out and
can’t be selected.
Windows XP can create MP3s in the same way that it plays DVDs: It borrows the codec from other software. If you install MP3 creation software
that Microsoft approves of, Windows XP borrows that software’s
codecs, letting you select the MP3 option in Media Player. Then, and
only then, will Media Player let you create MP3s.
How Do I Get Rid of the Welcome
Microsoft added the Welcome screen to make it easier for people to
begin using the computer or to switch to other users. The Welcome
screen lists the names of all the people who hold accounts on Windows
XP. A user clicks his name, enters a password (if necessary), and starts
Some people want more security, though, and don’t want the account
names listed on the Welcome screen. Turning off the screen is easy — if
you’re the computer’s owner or hold an administrator account.
1. Click the Start button, choose Control Panel, and select User
2. Select Change the Way Users Log on and Off.
3. Remove the check mark by Use the Welcome Screen.
___________ Chapter 21: Ten Most Frequently Asked Windows Questions
The simpler Log on to Windows box replaces the Welcome screen
where users type in their names and passwords.
The pros: Because there’s no Welcome screen with names, nobody
knows who uses the computer. If lots of people are using the computer,
there’s no need to crowd the Welcome screen with a bunch of names.
When someone logs off, Windows XP automatically saves any work that
was done, as well as the customized settings, leaving the computer
ready for the next person.
The cons: Some people prefer the friendly Welcome screen and the convenience of not having to type their name. Doing away with the Welcome screen also does away with the possibility of a fast user switch —
where one user can quickly log off so somebody else can borrow the
computer for a quick e-mail check.
When waking up from the screen saver, Windows XP normally brings up
the Welcome screen, forcing users to log on again. To disable this, rightclick on your desktop, choose Properties, and click the Screen Saver
tab. Then remove the check mark next to the words, On Resume, Display Welcome Screen.
How Can I See Previews of My
Windows XP has made it easier than ever to peek inside your graphics
files. Instead of displaying a folder full of bland icons, Windows XP
transforms each icon into a thumbnail-sized preview of the file’s contents. Best yet, the previews are all done automatically.
That makes it a lot easier to find the picture of Kitty eating the bamboo
leaves after you dump 63 cat pictures into the same folder.
Although Windows XP displays the thumbnail view automatically when
it spies digital pictures in a folder, keeping your pictures in your My Pictures folder is best. That makes it easier to find them later, and keeps
them separate from the pictures stored by other users of your computer.
___________ Chapter 21: Ten Most Frequently Asked Windows Questions
If you want everybody on the computer to have access to your pictures,
store them in the Shared My Pictures folder.
How Can I Make All My Web Pages
Open in a Full-Screen Window?
Internet Explorer always opens Web windows to the same size as they
were when they were last closed. So, open Internet Explorer and double-click its title bar — that strip along the top. That makes it fill the
screen. Or simply drag the window’s edges until it’s the size you want.
(In Chapter 6, I explain how to change a window’s size.) After Internet
Explorer is the size you want, quit the program by clicking the little X in
its upper-right corner.
When you restart Internet Explorer, it should always open to its previously set size.
(This trick works for many other programs, too.)
What Will I Miss If I Don’t Use the
Internet with Windows XP?
I certainly won’t tell anybody. In fact, many people won’t notice. Despite
the media hype, plenty of people don’t use the Internet. Don’t get me
wrong; I use it an awful lot to look up subjects, such as determining the
manufacture dates of potentiometers and finding out whether I should
be feeding raw or roasted peanuts to the neighborhood blue jays.
I also read the news, check the weather, and listen to radio stations.
Yep, a lot of information is floating around on the Internet, but it’s certainly not everybody’s top priority.
My point? Rest assured that Windows XP works fine without the Internet plugged in. You can still write letters, make spreadsheets, and create databases. You can participate on networks, including ones run
around the office. You can even send faxes through your modem.
___________ Chapter 21: Ten Most Frequently Asked Windows Questions
However, Windows XP is designed to run exceptionally well with the
Internet. So if you don’t sign up for an Internet account, you’ll miss the
extra Internet goodies tossed into Windows XP:
A First, Windows XP needs to be activated during the first 30 days
that it’s on your computer. Although you can do this by telephone,
it only requires a mouse click if you’re connected to the Internet.
A Windows Update, a special place on the Internet, automatically
dishes out files that help your computer stay up-to-date with new
improvements to the Windows software. While you’re connected,
the Update Wizard peers under your computer’s hood and examines the way everything’s working. Then the Update Wizard recommends or installs any updates your computer might need.
A Windows XP includes Outlook Express, a freebie program for sending and receiving e-mail — if you have a connection to the Internet.
A The Windows XP program’s feature-packed Media Player plays
sound and videos through the Internet. Media Player tunes in radio
stations from Argentina to Zimbabwe and displays movie trailers,
news videos, and TV shows.
A You can download the week’s TV program list so that you can
always know when your favorite shows are on. (You can even set
alarms to go off when Survivor or The Sopranos begins.)
A Stayed away from the Internet because it was too hard to use? The
Windows XP New Connection wizard makes matters much easier
when signing up for Internet service. It automatically handles the
software configuration steps necessary for gaining access to the
Internet. (The New Connection Wizard can still toss you a few jawdropping questions that may send you scurrying to Chapter 12,
he Windows XP “easy access” Glossary program leaps to the screen
in two ways. First, if you spot an unfamiliar word in the Help program — and the word’s underlined — click the word, and Windows XP
fetches a definition for you.
The second method is more complicated. Choose Help And Support
from the Start button, type Windows Glossary into the Search box, and
click the green arrow. After Windows brings up a list of matching items,
click the item labeled “Windows Glossary” to see how Windows defines
its most puzzling words.
If Windows isn’t particularly handy, feel free to pick up a definition or
two right here.
active window: The last window you clicked — the one with a highlighted title bar — is considered active. Any keys that you press affect
this window.
Apply: Click this button, and Windows XP immediately applies and
saves any changes you made from the current list of options.
background: Formerly known as wallpaper, these graphics, designs, or
pictures cover the background of your computer screen. The Windows
XP Control Panel lets you choose among different background files.
bitmap: One of many types of graphic files that consist of bunches of little dots on-screen. The Windows XP program called Paintcreates, edits,
and saves BMP files.
border: The edge of a window; you can move the border in or out to
change the window’s size.
cache: A storage area where Windows temporarily memorizes recently
used files so that they can be retrieved quickly if needed.
____________________________________________ Appendix: Glossary
case-sensitive: A program that knows the difference between uppercase
and lowercase letters. For example, a case-sensitive program considers
Pickle and pickle to be two different words.
Classic style: Like Classic Coke, the Windows Classic style forgoes any
fancy Windows XP stylings and makes Windows XP operate like the perpetually crowd-pleasing classic “Windows 95” version released in 1995.
click: To push and release a button on the mouse. Clicking the left
mouse button selects something; clicking the right mouse button brings
up more information about an item.
Clipboard: A part of Windows XP that keeps track of information that
you cut or copied from a program or file. It stores that information so
that you can paste it into other programs.
cursor: The little blinking line that shows where the next letter will
appear after you start typing.
default: Choosing the default option enables you to avoid making a
more-complicated decision. The default option is the one the computer
chooses for you after you give up and just press Enter.
defragment: Organizing pieces of files that live on your hard drive so
that the drive can access them more easily and quickly.
desktop: The area on your screen where you move windows and icons
around. Most people cover the desktop with a background — a pretty
Dial-Up Networking: A way to connect to the Internet through a modem
and a telephone line.
directory: A separate folder on a hard disk for storing files. Storing
related files in a directory makes them easier to find. Windows XP no
longer uses the word directory and prefers the word folderinstead.
document: A file containing information, such as text, sound, or graphics. Documents are created or changed from within programs. See program.
DOS: Short for Disk Operating System, an aging operating system for
running programs. Windows XP can still run programs designed for
DOS, as well as programs designed for Windows.
____________________________________________ Appendix: Glossary
double-click: Pushing and releasing the left mouse button twice in
rapid succession. (Double-clicking the right mouse button doesn’t do
anything special.) Left-handed people often switch their mouse buttons
for comfort reasons.
download: To copy files onto your computer through phone lines or
cables. See upload.
drag and drop: A four-step mouse process that moves an object across
your desktop. First, point at the object — an icon, a highlighted paragraph, or something similar. Second, press and hold your left mouse
button. Third, move the mouse pointer to the location to which you
want to move that object. Fourth, release the mouse button. The object
is dragged to its new location.
driver: A file letting Windows talk to computer gizmos, such as video
cards, sound cards, CD-ROM drives, and other stuff. Windows XP usually requires Windows XP drivers for your computer’s parts, or it won’t
talk to them.
drop: Step four of the drag technique, described in the drag and drop
entry. Dropping is merely letting go of the mouse button and letting
your object fall onto something else, be it a new window, directory, or
area on your desktop.
FAQ: Short for Frequently Asked Questions, you usually find these text
files on the Internet. Designed to save everyone some time, the files
answer questions most frequently asked by new users. For example, the
Scanners FAQ explains all about scanners; the Xena FAQ would trace
Xena’s history, starting with Hercules.
file: A collection of information in a format designed for computer use.
firewall: Specialized hardware or software on a network that keeps
unauthorized people from breaking in through the Internet and accessing the network’s files. Some firewalls also keep employees from downloading unauthorized material. Windows XP contains a firewall program
that sometimes must be activated manually.
folder: An area for storing files to keep them organized (formerly called
a directory). Folders can contain other folders for further organization.
See subfolder.
____________________________________________ Appendix: Glossary
format: The process of preparing a disk to have files written on it. The
disk needs to have “electronic shelves” tacked onto it so that Windows
XP can store information on it. Formatting a disk wipes it clean of all
previously recorded information.
highlighted: A selected item. Different colors usually appear over a
highlighted object to show that it’s been singled out for further action.
icon: The little picture that represents an object — a program, file, or
command — making it easier to figure out that object’s function.
infrared: A special way for computers to communicate through invisible light beams; infrared ports (IR ports) are found frequently on laptops, pocket computers, digital cameras, and printers.
Internet: A huge collection of computers linked around the world. The
World WideWebrides atop the Internet along with other computer
transactions. You can connect to the Internet’s World Wide Web by paying a fee to an Internet Service Provider — much like paying a monthly
phone bill.
lasso: Grabbing a bunch of items simultaneously with the mouse. Point
at one corner of the items and, while holding down the left mouse button, point at the opposite corner. Releasing the mouse button highlights
the items for further action.
maximize: The act of making a window fill the entire screen. You can
maximize a window by double-clicking its title bar — that long colored
strip across its very top. Or you can click its maximize button — that
button with the big square inside, located near the window’s upperright corner. (Double-clicking the title bar again restores the window to
its former size.) See minimize.
memory: The stuff computers use to store on-the-fly calculations while
minimize: The act of shrinking a window down to a tiny icon on the
taskbar to get it out of the way temporarily. To minimize a window, click
the minimize button — that tiny button with the horizontal bar on it,
located near the window’s upper-right corner. See maximize.
multitasking: Running several different programs simultaneously.
____________________________________________ Appendix: Glossary
network: Connecting computers so that people can share information
without getting up from their desks.
operating system: Software that controls how a computer does its most
basic stuff: stores files, talks to printers, runs programs, and performs
other gut-level operations. Windows XP is an operating system.
path: A sentence of computerese that tells a computer the precise name
and location of a file.
PC card: Used mainly by laptops, PC cards can house modems, memory, network parts, or other handy items. (PC cards used to be called
PCMCIA cards.)
PDA: Short for Personal Digital Assistant, a PDA is a little computer toy
for keeping track of contacts, schedules, and e-mail (and playing Bachman Turner Overdrive tunes).
Plug and Play (PnP): A sprightly phrase used to describe computer
parts that Windows XP usually recognizes and installs automatically.
program: Something that enables you to work on the computer. Spreadsheets, word processors, and games are programs.See document.
RAM: Random-Access Memory. See memory.
scrap: If you highlight some text or graphics from a program, drag the
chunk to the desktop, and drop it, you create an official Windows
scrap— a file containing a copy of that information. The scrap can be
saved or dragged into other programs.
Shortcut: A Windows XP icon that serves as a push button for doing
something — loading a file, starting a program, or playing a sound, for
example. Shortcuts have little arrows in their bottom corners so that
you can tell them apart from the icons that really stand for files and programs.
shortcut button: A button in a Help menu that takes you directly to the
area that you need to fiddle with.
shortcut key: As opposed to a Shortcut, a shortcut key is an underlined letter in a program’s menu that lets you work with the keyboard
instead of the mouse. For example, if you see the word Help in a menu,
____________________________________________ Appendix: Glossary
the underlined H means that you can get help by pressing Alt+H. (To
see the underlined letters, press the Alt key.)
Start button: A button in the bottom-left corner of your screen that
brings up a menu of programs and options. Clicking the Start button
brings up the Start menu.
Start menu: A menu of options that appears after the Start button is
clicked. From the Start menu, you can load programs, load files, change
settings, find programs, find help, or shut down your computer so that
you can turn it off.
subfolder: A folder within a folder, used to further organize files. For
example, a JUNKFOOD folder may contain subfolders for CHIPS, PEANUTS, and PRETZELS. (Formerly known as a subdirectory.)
SVGA: A popular video standard for displaying information on monitors, SVGA (SuperVGA) uses a wide variety of colors and resolutions.
taskbar: The bar along the bottom of the screen that lists all currently
running programs and open folders. The Start button lives on one end
of the taskbar.
upload: To copy files from your computer to another computer through
phone lines or cables. See download.
VGA: An aging standard for displaying information on monitors in certain colors and resolutions. VGA is now nearly replaced by SVGA.
virtual: A trendy word to describe computer simulations. Virtual is
commonly used to describe elements that look real, but aren’t really
there. For example, when Windows XP uses virtual memory, it’s using
part of the hard drive for memory, not the actual memory chips.
Web browser: Software for maneuvering through the World Wide Web,
visiting Web pages, and examining the wares. Windows XP comes with a
free Web browser, Internet Explorer.
Web page: Just as televisions contain bunches of different channels,
the World Wide Web contains gazillions of different Web pages. These
screens full of information can be set up by anyone: The government
displays county meeting schedules; corporations project flashy marketing propaganda; publications display online versions of their works;
____________________________________________ Appendix: Glossary
and the Cushmans put up a Family Page with pictures of the baby at
window: An on-screen box that contains information for you to look at
or work with. Programs run in windows on your screen.
wizard: Helpful Windows program that takes over the chores of program installation and other computing chores.
World Wide Web: Riding atop the Internet’s motley collection of
cables, the flashy World Wide Web works as a sort of computerized television, letting you jump from channel to channel by pointing at and
clicking the pages. Also known simply as “The Web.”
Was this manual useful for you? yes no
Thank you for your participation!

* Your assessment is very important for improving the work of artificial intelligence, which forms the content of this project

Download PDF