Just bought a new PC? Finally got around to upgrading to Windows XP? Feeling disoriented? You're not alone. There's a lot that's new here -- and much of what's not new has been moved around. You could be forgiven if you suspected they were trying to confuse you. Get yourself un-confused, with Absolute Beginner's Guide to Microsoft Windows XP.
This splendidly simple (and dirt-cheap) book teaches you all the Windows XP most normal folks will need to know. How to find your way around. How to communicate. How to have fun. How to customize Windows to your own personal foibles. How to keep Windows running smoothly. How to share your computer or connect with your other computers. How to use the freebies that come with Windows. And how to use Windows' accessibility features if you need them.
That's pretty much what you'll find here. No super-techie stuff, no tomfoolery, no condescension, and no mystification. Shelley O'Hara writes well and clearly, and when a picture's worth a thousand words, that's what she gives you. Above all, as per the "Absolute Beginner's" moniker, if you can turn your PC on, you've got the prerequisites nailed.
For those who've upgraded from an earlier version of Windows, O'Hara starts with a quick tour of what's new in Windows XP: the revamped Start menu and Desktop, the Taskbar, program shortcut icons, and so forth.
You'll walk through essential techniques you can use with any Windows software; essential file management (including renaming, deleting, and especially undeleting files); and simple troubleshooting and maintenance (what to do when a program hangs, how to make sure your computer's running as fast as it can).
Next, O'Hara shows how to set up your email account in Outlook Express; check email, send and respond to messages; cope with file attachments, and print, organize, and search the messages you've received. The few minutes you spend setting up a system for storing your messages will pay for themselves the first time you can find some contact or information you'd otherwise tear your hair out looking for.
There's a full chapter on browsing the Web with Internet Explorer 6, including some tips most beginners (and many experienced users) don't know: for example, how to use the History button to find your way back to a site you visited last week, and how to email an entire web page.
One free bonus that's almost certainly built into your computer is a modem that can send and receive faxes. Why not trash that expensive, bulky fax machine and use your PC to handle your faxes? (That way all your faxes are stored for you without taking up one inch of storage space.) O'Hara shows how, walking through setting up the Windows XP fax console (and installing it if necessary); using the Fax Send wizard; viewing and printing faxes you've received; even forwarding faxed images to others via email. (Later, she introduces the free applet programs included with Windows XP, from Wordpad for simple word processing to Calculator, which now offers slick scientific functions alongside the basics).
Enough about productivity for now: O'Hara also covers the fun stuff. She shows how to play music and videos using Windows Media Player; briefly introduces the Windows Movie Maker digital video editor; and presents a full chapter on importing and working with images from your digital camera or scanner. She also demonstrates how to customize pretty much any part of Windows you like, from the Desktop to Internet Explorer.
Finally, if you share your PC with others, O'Hara tells you how to set up multiple user accounts, which doesn't just let you protect your personal files from snoops but also lets the kids customize Windows to their own personal tastes without mucking it up for you.
Windows XP and this Absolute Beginner's Guide -- Windows has never been simpler. Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.