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Peter Norton's Complete Guide to Windows XP

Peter Norton's Complete Guide to Windows XP

by Peter Norton, John Paul Mueller

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Peter Norton's Complete Guide to Microsoft Windows XP is a comprehensive, user-friendly guide written in the highly acclaimed Norton style. This unique approach teaches the features of Windows XP with clear explanations of the many new technologies designed to improve your system performance. The book demonstrates all of the newest features available for


Peter Norton's Complete Guide to Microsoft Windows XP is a comprehensive, user-friendly guide written in the highly acclaimed Norton style. This unique approach teaches the features of Windows XP with clear explanations of the many new technologies designed to improve your system performance. The book demonstrates all of the newest features available for increasing your OS performance. You will find Peter's Principles, communications, networking, printing, performance, troubleshooting, and compatibility tips throughout the book. Whether you're just starting out or have years of experience, Peter Norton's Guide to Microsoft Windows XP has the answers, explanations, and examples you need.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
These four guides approach Microsoft's newest operating system (which may or may not be generating requests at your library) from different perspectives. TechTV focuses only on Windows XP Home Edition yet assumes some familiarity with previous Windows versions and is more appropriate for upgraders or those buying an additional PC than for first-time Windows users. A valuable addition to XP collections, it will supplement more basic guides. On the other hand, Teach Yourself, Norton's, and Unleashed clearly target intermediate to advanced users and include information on both XP Home and Professional editions. A self-study resource for patrons who quickly need to get up to speed with XP, Teach Yourself is a solid series addition, with helpful summaries, Q&As, quizzes, and exercises. Norton's is a characteristically thorough reference packed with tips for power users and resources for further information. Unleashed mostly covers Windows XP Professional and features useful appendixes on related topics such as TCP/IP, but it is less clear and less detailed than Norton's. All three will suit larger public libraries with a business and technical population. [For more reviews of XP titles, see Computer Media, LJ 11/1/01. Ed.] Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
This user friendly guide for intermediate to advanced Windows XP users teaches the features of Windows XP with clear explanations of new technologies designed to improve system performance. Chapters cover new features of Windows XP, set up and performance, advanced techniques, the Windows XP "anatomy" (architecture, registry, and file system), underlying hardware, hardware and software connections, networking, and troubleshooting. Mueller is a freelance author and technical editor. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

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Chapter 3: Advanced User Features

Windows XP comes with more ways to modify your interface than any previous version of Windows. Not only can you use the new Windows interface, but many of the features of the Windows 2000 interface are available as well. All of this flexibility means that you can have the interface you really want—the one that will make you most productive. Unfortunately, all of this flexibility can also mean confusion on the part of the user. That's why I placed what I consider advanced user features in a separate chapter.

In the preceding chapter, we looked at the simplified Windows XP interface. This interface is easy to use, but doesn't provide much in the way of flexibility. Windows XP also supports what I call a standard interface, the kind of interface that most Windows users have come to expect. This chapter will show you how to convert from the simplified interface to the standard interface that many power users will want. In addition, we'll discuss how to obtain the Windows 2000 interface. Just because you're using Windows XP doesn't mean that you have to settle for an interface that doesn't suit your tastes.

Part of using the standard interface is negotiating the Classic Start Menu, the one found in previous versions of Windows. Chapter 2 discussed the new, simplified Start Menu that you'll see when you start Windows XP. This chapter concentrates on the standard menu components as well as on the standard toolbars. In fact, I'll show you how to create your own toolbars to make working with Windows more efficient.

One issue we really didn't discuss in the preceding chapter is the Desktop—the part of the display where you place icons, applications, and data files. Windows XP has two different Desktops. The first is the standard desktop found in even the old versions of Windows 9x. The second is the relatively new Active Desktop. We'll discuss both desktops, and you'll discover how to make maximum use of the Active Desktop if you decide to take the plunge and use it.

You learned in Chapter 2 that Explorer is one of the first tools you should learn how to use, and everyone should learn to use it fully. We only scratched the surface in Chapter 2. This chapter discusses advanced Explorer techniques. You'll learn how to configure Explorer to suit your needs and use it to reconfigure your system, and you'll even get some customization tricks that no one should be without. Most importantly, you'll learn why this tool is so essential for novice and expert alike.

This chapter ends with a discussion of some important but miscellaneous interface configuration issues. You'll learn about the Startup folder and how to use it to make your system self-configuring (at least to an extent). Anyone who has read Chapter 2 will see the effects of using Web content in folders. You can change the appearance of the Web content to suit your needs, so the effects in Chapter 2 are only the beginning. These sections will also tell you about screen savers and themes. If you used themes under Windows 9x and liked them, you really need to see how Microsoft has improved theme support for Windows XP.

Switching to the Standard Interface

The simplified Windows XP interface has many appealing features, but it also hides some of the power of Windows. If you perform the same tasks every day, the hidden features may not make much of a difference. An accountant who uses the same application all day to compute someone's tax bill won't worry much if he or she doesn't see the Administrative Tools folder. However, many power users will find the hunt for their favorite administrative tool frustrating. Speed is of the essence for the power user.

The standard interface is one that reflects the power of the original Windows 9x interface and the functionality of the Windows XP feature set. It allows a power user to find what he needs quickly. The same interface that confuses the novice and thwarts someone who performs the same task every day makes the power user more efficient. I'm making these distinctions because the myth of the perfect interface seems to pervade the media. The perfect interface is a myth. There's only the interface that works best for you, which is why I'm happy to see that Microsoft is adding much-needed flexibility to Windows XP.

Enabling the standard interface is as simple as making a few changes to your environment. Begin by right-clicking the Start Menu and selecting Properties. You'll see the Start Menu tab of the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box, shown in Figure 3.1. Select Classic Start Menu, as shown in the figure. (I'll show you how to customize this menu in the "Start Menu Customization" section of this chapter.) You'll find that the Classic Start Menu has most of the same features of the Windows 2000 Start Menu, but that the look and feel of the Start Menu differs slightly.

You'll also need to consider other features for the standard interface, such as Taskbar configuration. Power users will often hide the Taskbar to free screen real estate for appli-cation use. In addition, power users will often add standard and custom toolbars to their Taskbars. For example, I keep a list of folders on my desktops for all my current pro-jects. I make those folders instantly available, even with applications open, by adding the Desktop toolbar to my Taskbar. We'll discuss enhancements to the standard Taskbar in the "Using Toolbars" section of this chapter.

A final user interface adjustment for the standard interface is to modify Windows Explorer. Power users have many ways of using Windows Explorer. Most prefer a clean environment that's fast to use. Often, this means disabling Web content or at least creat-ing customized Web content. As you saw in the preceding chapter, the default Web con-tent, although helpful, is space consuming and not particularly helpful to someone who already knows how to perform basic tasks with Windows.

Switching to the Windows 2000 Interface

As nice as you can make the Windows XP interface, it differs from the one in Windows 2000. Some power users won't want to take the time to learn the new interface. At least a few companies will shy away from the Windows XP interface in any form because it means training support staff and then all users in the organization.

Interestingly enough, some users have also complained that the new interface is a case of too much of a good thing. Some have complained that the new interface gives them headaches or is too difficult to see. During the beta process, complaints ran from too many colors to the wrong color selection. Still other users miss the 3D look of Windows 2000. The point is that Windows XP is too bright and cheerful for some users—they want things quiet and mundane, which is just fine. Microsoft provides the means for users to select the older Windows 2000 interface.

Tip: At least a few users have claimed that the source of headaches (at least for them) when using Windows XP is the new Clear Type font smoothing. The new font-smoothing technique could cause problems when coupled with the new interface colors and flat appearance. At least one Microsoft representative commented that the company designed Clear Type for liquid crystal display (LCD) use, the kinds of displays provided with laptop computers. Windows XP still includes the standard font smoothing found in Windows 2000, so you can choose to use standard font smoothing or no font smoothing to see if your headaches go away. Right-click the Desktop, and choose Properties. Select the Appearance tab of the Display Properties dialog box. Click Effects, and you'll see an Effects dialog box. Choose something other than Clear Type for the font-smoothing option. Click OK twice to close the Effects and Display Properties dialog boxes. We'll discuss how Windows works with fonts in detail in the "Windows and Fonts" section of Chapter 14.

To obtain the Windows XP version of the Windows 2000 interface, you'll need to switch to the Classic Start Menu, as we did in the preceding section. After you make that change, you'll need to change the Windows theme. As we'll see in the "Themes" section of this chapter, themes are more than simple window dressing in Windows XP. Changing a theme requires that you right-click the Desktop and choose Properties. Select the Themes tab of the Display Properties dialog box, as shown in Figure 3.2. Choose the Windows Classic theme from the Theme drop-down list box.

Don't get the idea that this interface is precisely like the one you used in Windows 2000. It looks like the Windows 2000 interface and has many of the same features, but you'll still find Windows XP features mixed in. For example, none of the Properties dialog boxes will change simply because you change the theme. Although the Windows Classic theme does make more changes than a theme under Windows 2000, it can't change basic operating system functionality....

Meet the Author

Peter Norton flagship titles, Peter Norton's DOS Guide and Peter Norton's Inside the PC, have provided the same insight and education to computer users worldwide for nearly two decades. Peter's books are among the best selling and most-respected in the history of personal computing.

John Paul Mueller is a freelance author and technical editor, having produced 35 books and nearly 200 articles in topics ranging from networking, artificial intelligence, and database management. Some of his current book include a Windows 98 user level book, and ActiveX/ISAPI programmer's guide, and a Windows NT Web server handbook. John wrote the previous edition of this book on Windows 2000 Professional.

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