Coly Computer Help

Windows--Basic Knowledge

Back to basics. Many computer owners never progress because they did not learn (or have forgotten) the basic principles described below.

This is the Desktop

The Desktop

Make sure you know the names of these Desktop items before moving on to the next step.

You will never progress unless you continually explore the menus and buttons on the screen. Don't be frightened to investigate and click things, you won't do any harm and everything you try can be reversed. Also use the Help item on the topmost menu to solve most problems and queries. After clicking Help, select Index and type in a word which relates to your problem.

Cream balloons: When an irritating cream coloured balloon appears in the bottom right corner, don't click it. Clicking the balloon is a waste of time as it merely gives you the same warning in a different format. Read whatever the balloon says and act on it. For instance if it says your anti-virus database or anti-virus definitions are out of date then go on-line and update the anti-virus definitions/database using the icon on the desktop. That little yellow shield with the exclamation mark in the Notification area puzzles some people.
It simply indicates that, while you are on-line, it is downloading the latest improvements to your Windows XP, (security and other important updates). Rest your cursor on the yellow shield and it will indicate what percentage has been downloaded so far. You do not have to stay on-line until it says 100%. Go off-line whenever you wish, when you next go on-line, the download will continue from where it left off.
When the download is eventually complete, a cream balloon may inform you. When you next shut down your computer, you will be told not to power off (shut down) because the updates need installing. The installation is entirely automatic, just wait. When the installation is done the computer will shut down off all by itself. The most convenient method of downloading and installing Windows XP updates is to set it to be semi-automatic as follows:
Click Start-->Control Panel. On the next window, look at the left hand panel, if it says Switch to Classic view, then click that instruction to select the classic view. If it says Switch to Category view, you are already in the correct view. Near the bottom of the screen you will see an icon labelled System, double click it. Click the tab labelled Automatic updates.
Now select Download updates for me, but let me choose when to install them.
Click Apply and then click OK.

Windows XP users: If you see a screen from Microsoft announcing the new version of Internet Explorer (IE 8), download it if you have broadband. Do not un-install the old version, it will be replaced automatically. If you are on dial-up, it will take 90 minutes to download, alternatively, call a technician (like me) who can promise to load it from a CD in 15 minutes.

Basic Exercise No 1. All Windows based programs operate within a frame called a window. The Title bar at the top of the window has 3 little boxes on the far right.
Manipulating a windowThe boxes contain a cross, a minus sign, and either a square, or two smaller overlapping squares.
Try experimenting with these. You already know that a file or program can be closed by clicking the cross.


Minimise: If you click the box with the minus sign, the window will vanish and re-appear as an oblong button on the task bar at the bottom of the screen. Return the window to the screen by a single click on the oblong button. Smaller size: Click the box with the two tiny overlapping screens to make a smaller sized window. With the window shrunk to a smaller size, click anywhere on the title bar, then hold down the left mouse button, you can now move the window around the screen and park it anywhere. On the smaller size window, put the cursor on the very edge of the window so that a little double headed arrow appears, hold down the left mouse button and move the mouse to stretch or shrink the window. Return the window to full size by clicking the box containing a square. Practise until you can manipulate the windows easily.

You may wonder about the usefulness of this; here is an exercise using this technique. Load your email program and open any email message to show its contents. Shrink the window to half size. Now load your word processor and with a blank page on the screen, shrink its window to half size. Move the windows around so that you can see most of both windows. Click the email then select a paragraph on the email, then hold down the Ctrl key and tap the C key (to copy it). Now click the page in the word processor window. Hold down the Ctrl key and tap the V key. This is called multi-tasking, which means working with two different programs at once.

To see today's date, rest the cursor on the time in the System Tray (Notification Area in Windows XP) at the bottom right of the screen.

Windows XP has an irritating habit of deleting icons from the Desktop and also of covering up icons in the Notification Area (the block of small items at right hand end of the task bar). To stop this behaviour, RIGHT click a clear area on the Taskbar. On the pop-up menu click Properties, Click the box labelled Hide inactive icons and remove the tick, click OK. Now, RIGHT click an empty area on the Desktop. On the pop-up menu click Properties. On the Display Properties window click the tab labelled Desktop. Click the button labelled Customize Desktop. On the Desktop items window, click to un-tick the box labelled Run Desktop Cleanup wizard every 60 days. Click OK.

Vista and Windows 7. Vista and Windows 7 need at least 2GB of RAM before it will match the speed of XP. No drivers were provided for a large range of scanners, cameras and printers. I have worked on Vista computers and I find that several important features have been omitted, made more complicated, or are re-located to obscure places. Dell offers a choice of XP or Vista because of customer demand to continue with XP.

Windows 7. A big improvement on Vista.

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