Windows Basics: all topics

Windows Basics: all topics
Windows Basics topics are designed to introduce you to personal computing and the Windows operating system. Whether you're a beginning computer user or someone with experience using a previous version of Windows, these topics will help you understand the tasks and tools you need to use your computer successfully.

Introduction to computers

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Are you new to computers? Do you wonder what they do and why you would want to use one? Welcome—you're in the right place. This article gives an overview of computers: What they are, the different types, and what you can do with them.

What are computers?

Computers are machines that perform tasks or calculations according to a set of instructions, or programs. The first fully electronic computers, introduced in the 1940s, were huge machines that required teams of people to operate. Compared to those early machines, today's computers are amazing. Not only are they thousands of times faster, they can fit on your desk, on your lap, or even in your pocket.
Computers work through an interaction of hardware and software. Hardware refers to the parts of a computer that you can see and touch, including the case and everything inside it. The most important piece of hardware is a tiny rectangular chip inside your computer called the central processing unit (CPU), or microprocessor. It's the "brain" of your computer—the part that translates instructions and performs calculations. Hardware items such as your monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer, and other components are often called hardware devices, or devices.
Software refers to the instructions, or programs, that tell the hardware what to do. A word-processing program that you can use to write letters on your computer is a type of software. The operating system (OS) is software that manages your computer and the devices connected to it. Windows is a well-known operating system.


Introduced in 1946, ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was the first general-purpose electronic computer. It was built for the United States military to calculate the paths of artillery shells. Physically, ENIAC was enormous, weighing more than 27,000 kilograms (60,000 pounds) and filling a large room. To process data, ENIAC used about 18,000 vacuum tubes, each the size of a small light bulb. The tubes burned out easily and had to be constantly replaced.

Types of computers

Computers range in size and capability. At one end of the scale are supercomputers, very large computers with thousands of linked microprocessors that perform extremely complex calculations. At the other end are tiny computers embedded in cars, TVs, stereo systems, calculators, and appliances. These computers are built to perform a limited number of tasks.
The personal computer, or PC, is designed to be used by one person at a time. This section describes the various kinds of personal computers: desktops, laptops, handheld computers, and Tablet PCs.

Desktop computers

Desktop computers are designed for use at a desk or table. They are typically larger and more powerful than other types of personal computers. Desktop computers are made up of separate components. The main component, called the system unit, is usually a rectangular case that sits on or underneath a desk. Other components, such as the monitor, mouse, and keyboard, connect to the system unit.
Desktop computer

Laptop computers and small notebook PCs

Laptop computers are lightweight mobile PCs with a thin screen. Laptops can operate on batteries, so you can take them anywhere. Unlike desktops, laptops combine the CPU, screen, and keyboard in a single case. The screen folds down onto the keyboard when not in use.
Small notebook PCs (often referred to asmini-notebooks), are small, affordable laptops that are designed to perform a limited number of tasks. They're usually less powerful than a laptop, so they're used mainly to browse the web and check e‑mail.
A laptop computer and a small notebook PC


Smartphones are mobile phones that have some of the same capabilites as a computer. You can use a smartphone to make telephone calls, access the Internet, organize contact information, send e‑mail and text messages, play games, and take pictures. Smartphones usually have a keyboard and a large screen.

Handheld computers

Handheld computers, also called personal digital assistants (PDAs), are battery-powered computers small enough to carry almost anywhere. Although not as powerful as desktops or laptops, handheld computers are useful for scheduling appointments, storing addresses and phone numbers, and playing games. Some have more advanced capabilities, such as making telephone calls or accessing the Internet. Instead of keyboards, handheld computers have touch screens that you use with your finger or a stylus (a pen-shaped pointing tool).
Handheld computer

Tablet PCs

Tablet PCs are mobile PCs that combine features of laptops and handheld computers. Like laptops, they're powerful and have a built-in screen. Like handheld computers, they allow you to write notes or draw pictures on the screen, usually with a tablet pen instead of a stylus. They can also convert your handwriting into typed text. Some Tablet PCs are “convertibles” with a screen that swivels and unfolds to reveal a keyboard underneath.
Tablet PC

What can you do with computers?

In the workplace, many people use computers to keep records, analyze data, do research, and manage projects. At home, you can use computers to find information, store pictures and music, track finances, play games, and communicate with others—and those are just a few of the possibilities.
You can also use your computer to connect to the Internet, a network that links computers around the world. Internet access is available for a monthly fee in most urban areas, and increasingly, in less populated areas. With Internet access, you can communicate with people all over the world and find a vast amount of information.
Here are some of the most popular things to do with computers:

The web

The World Wide Web (usually called the web, or web) is a gigantic storehouse of information. The web is the most popular part of the Internet, partly because it displays most information in a visually appealing format. Headlines, text, and pictures can be combined on a single webpage—much like a page in a magazine—along with sounds and animation. A website is a collection of interconnected webpages. The web contains millions of websites and billions of webpages.
Example of a webpage (Microsoft Game Studios)
Surfing the web means exploring it. You can find information on the web about almost any topic imaginable. For example, you can read news stories and movie reviews, check airline schedules, see street maps, get the weather forecast for your city, or research a health condition. Most companies, agencies, museums, and libraries have websites with information about their products, services, or collections. Reference sources, such as dictionaries and encyclopedias, are also widely available.
The web is also a shopper's delight. You can browse and purchase products—books, music, toys, clothing, electronics, and much more—at the websites of major retailers. You can also buy and sell used items through websites that use auction-style bidding.


E‑mail (short for electronic mail) is a convenient way to communicate with others. When you send an e‑mail message, it arrives almost instantly in the recipient's e‑mail inbox. You can send e‑mail to many people simultaneously, and you can save, print, and forward e‑mail to others. You can send almost any type of file in an e‑mail message, including documents, pictures, and music files. And with e‑mail, you don't need a postage stamp!
For more information about using e‑mail, see Getting started with e‑mail.

Instant messaging

Instant messaging is like having a real-time conversation with another person or a group of people. When you type and send an instant message, the message is immediately visible to all participants. Unlike e‑mail, all participants have to be online (connected to the Internet) and in front of their computers at the same time. Communicating by means of instant messaging is called chatting.

Pictures, music, and movies

If you have a digital camera, you can move your pictures from the camera to your computer. Then you can print them, create slide shows, or share them with others by e‑mail or by posting them on a website. You can also listen to music on your computer, either by importing music from audio CDs or by purchasing songs from a music website. Or, you can tune in to one of the thousands of radio stations that broadcast over the Internet. If your computer comes with a DVD player, you can watch movies too.


Do you like to play games? Thousands of computer games in every conceivable category are available to entertain you. Get behind the wheel of a car, battle frightening creatures in a dungeon, or control civilizations and empires! Many games allow you to compete with other players around the world through the Internet. Windows includes a variety of card games, puzzle games, and strategy games. For more information, see Learn about Windows games.

Parts of a computer

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If you use a desktop computer, you might already know that there isn't any single part called the "computer." A computer is really a system of many parts working together. The physical parts, which you can see and touch, are collectively called hardware. (Software, on the other hand, refers to the instructions, or programs, that tell the hardware what to do.)
The following illustration shows the most common hardware in a desktop computer system. Your system might look a little different, but it probably has most of these parts. A laptop computer has similar parts but combines them into a single, notebook-sized package.
Desktop computer system
Let's take a look at each of these parts.

System unit

The system unit is the core of a computer system. Usually it's a rectangular box placed on or underneath your desk. Inside this box are many electronic components that process information. The most important of these components is the central processing unit (CPU), or microprocessor, which acts as the "brain" of your computer. Another component is random access memory (RAM), which temporarily stores information that the CPU uses while the computer is on. The information stored in RAM is erased when the computer is turned off.
Almost every other part of your computer connects to the system unit using cables. The cables plug into specific ports (openings), typically on the back of the system unit. Hardware that is not part of the system unit is sometimes called a peripheral device or device.
System unit


Your computer has one or more disk drives—devices that store information on a metal or plastic disk. The disk preserves the information even when your computer is turned off.

Hard disk drive

Your computer's hard disk drive stores information on a hard disk—a rigid platter or stack of platters with a magnetic surface. Because hard disks can hold massive amounts of information, they usually serve as your computer's primary means of storage, holding almost all of your programs and files. The hard disk drive is normally located inside the system unit.
Hard disk drive

CD and DVD drives

Nearly all computers today come equipped with a CD or DVD drive, usually located on the front of the system unit. CD drives use lasers to read (retrieve) data from a CD; many CD drives can also write (record) data onto CDs. If you have a recordable disk drive, you can store copies of your files on blank CDs. You can also use a CD drive to play music CDs on your computer.
DVD drives can do everything that CD drives can, plus read DVDs. If you have a DVD drive, you can watch movies on your computer. Many DVD drives can record data onto blank DVDs.


·         If you have a recordable CD or DVD drive, periodically back up (copy) your important files to CDs or DVDs. That way, if your hard disk ever fails, you won't lose your data.

Floppy disk drive

Floppy disk drives store information on floppy disks, also called floppies or diskettes. Compared to CDs and DVDs, floppy disks can store only a small amount of data. They also retrieve information more slowly and are more prone to damage. For these reasons, floppy disk drives are less popular than they used to be, although some computers still include them.
Floppy disk
Why are these disks called "floppy" disks? The outside is made of hard plastic, but that's just the sleeve. The disk inside is made of a thin, flexible vinyl material.


A mouse is a small device used to point to and select items on your computer screen. Although mice come in many shapes, the typical mouse does look a bit like an actual mouse. It's small, oblong, and connected to the system unit by a long wire that resembles a tail. Some newer mice are wireless.
A mouse usually has two buttons: A primary button (usually the left button) and a secondary button. Many mice also have a wheel between the two buttons, which allows you to scroll smoothly through screens of information.
Mouse pointers
When you move the mouse with your hand, a pointer on your screen moves in the same direction. (The pointer's appearance might change depending on where it's positioned on your screen.) When you want to select an item, you point to the item and then click (press and release) the primary button. Pointing and clicking with your mouse is the main way to interact with your computer. For more information, see Using your mouse.


A keyboard is used mainly for typing text into your computer. Like the keyboard on a typewriter, it has keys for letters and numbers, but it also has special keys:
·         The function keys, found on the top row, perform different functions depending on where they are used.
·         The numeric keypad, located on the right side of most keyboards, allows you to enter numbers quickly.
·         The navigation keys, such as the arrow keys, allow you to move your position within a document or webpage.
You can also use your keyboard to perform many of the same tasks you can perform with a mouse. For more information, see Using your keyboard.


monitor displays information in visual form, using text and graphics. The portion of the monitor that displays the information is called the screen. Like a television screen, a computer screen can show still or moving pictures.
There are two basic types of monitors: CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors and the newer LCD (liquid crystal display) monitors. Both types produce sharp images, but LCD monitors have the advantage of being much thinner and lighter.
LCD monitor (left); CRT monitor (right)


A printer transfers data from a computer onto paper. You don't need a printer to use your computer, but having one allows you to print e‑mail, cards, invitations, announcements, and other material. Many people also like being able to print their own photos at home.
The two main types of printers are inkjet printers and laser printers. Inkjet printers are the most popular printers for the home. They can print in black and white or in full color and can produce high-quality photographs when used with special paper. Laser printers are faster and generally better able to handle heavy use.
Inkjet printer (left); laser printer (right)


Speakers are used to play sound. They can be built into the system unit or connected with cables. Speakers allow you to listen to music and hear sound effects from your computer.
Computer speakers


To connect your computer to the Internet, you need a modem. A modem is a device that sends and receives computer information over a telephone line or high-speed cable. Modems are sometimes built into the system unit, but higher-speed modems are usually separate components.
Cable modem

Using your mouse

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Just as you would use your hands to interact with objects in the physical world, you can use your mouse to interact with items on your computer screen. You can move objects, open them, change them, throw them away, and perform other actions, all by pointing and clicking with your mouse.

Basic parts

A mouse typically has two buttons: a primary button (usually the left button) and a secondary button (usually the right button). You will use the primary button most often. Most mice also include a scroll wheel between the buttons to help you scroll through documents and webpages more easily. On some mice, the scroll wheel can be pressed to act as a third button. Advanced mice might have additional buttons that can perform other functions.
Parts of a mouse

Holding and moving the mouse

Mouse pointers
Place your mouse beside your keyboard on a clean, smooth surface, such as a mouse pad. Hold the mouse gently, with your index finger resting on the primary button and your thumb resting on the side. To move the mouse, slide it slowly in any direction. Don't twist it—keep the front of the mouse aimed away from you. As you move the mouse, a pointer (see picture) on your screen moves in the same direction. If you run out of room to move your mouse on your desk or mouse pad, just pick up the mouse and bring it back closer to you.
Hold the mouse lightly, keeping your wrist straight

Pointing, clicking, and dragging

Pointing to an item on the screen means moving your mouse so the pointer appears to be touching the item. When you point to something, a small box often appears that describes the item. For example, when you point to the Recycle Bin on the desktop, a box appears with this information: "Contains the files and folders that you have deleted."
Pointing to an object often reveals a descriptive message about it
The pointer can change depending on what you're pointing to. For example, when you point to a link in your web browser, the pointer changes from an arrow to a hand with a pointing finger .
Most mouse actions combine pointing with pressing one of the mouse buttons. There are four basic ways to use your mouse buttons: clicking, double-clicking, right-clicking, and dragging.

Clicking (single-clicking)

To click an item, point to the item on the screen, and then press and release the primary button (usually the left button).
Clicking is most often used to select (mark) an item or open a menu. This is sometimes called single-clicking or left-clicking.


To double-click an item, point to the item on the screen, and then click twice quickly. If the two clicks are spaced too far apart, they might be interpreted as two individual clicks rather than as one double-click.
Double-clicking is most often used to open items on your desktop. For example, you can start a program or open a folder by double-clicking its icon on the desktop.


·         If you have trouble double-clicking, you can adjust the double-click speed (the amount of time acceptable between clicks). Follow these steps:
1.      mshelp://help/?id=Microsoft.Windows.Resources.ShellExecuteTopicIconClick to open Mouse Properties.
2.      Click the Buttons tab, and then, under Double-click speed, move the slider to increase or decrease the speed.


To right-click an item, point to the item on the screen, and then press and release the secondary button (usually the right button).
Right-clicking an item usually displays a list of things you can do with the item. For example, when you right-click the Recycle Bin on your desktop, Windows displays a menu allowing you to open it, empty it, delete it, or see its properties. If you're ever unsure of what to do with something, right-click it.
Right-clicking the Recycle Bin opens a menu of related commands


You can move items around your screen by dragging them. To drag an object, point to the object on the screen, press and hold the primary button, move the object to a new location, and then release the primary button.
Dragging (sometimes called dragging and dropping) is most often used to move files and folders to a different location and to move windows and icons around on your screen.

Using the scroll wheel

If your mouse has a scroll wheel, you can use it to scroll through documents and webpages. To scroll down, roll the wheel backward (toward you). To scroll up, roll the wheel forward (away from you).

Customizing your mouse

You can change your mouse settings to suit your personal preferences. For example, you can change how fast your mouse pointer moves around the screen, or change the pointer's appearance. If you're left-handed, you can switch the primary button to be the right button. For more information, see Change mouse settings.

Tips for using your mouse safely

Holding and moving your mouse properly can help you avoid soreness or injury to your wrists, hands, and arms, particularly if you use your computer for long periods of time. Here are some tips to help you avoid problems:
·         Place your mouse at elbow level. Your upper arms should fall relaxed at your sides.
·         Don't squeeze or grip your mouse tightly. Hold it lightly.
·         Move the mouse by pivoting your arm at your elbow. Avoid bending your wrist up, down, or to the sides.
·         Use a light touch when clicking a mouse button.
·         Keep your fingers relaxed. Don't allow them to hover above the buttons.
·         When you don't need to use the mouse, don't hold it.
·         Take short breaks from computer use every 15 to 20 minutes.

Using your keyboard

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Whether you're writing a letter or calculating numerical data, your keyboard is the main way to enter information into your computer. But did you know you can also use your keyboard to control your computer? Learning just a few simple keyboard commands (instructions to your computer) can help you work more efficiently. This article covers the basics of keyboard operation and gets you started with keyboard commands.

How the keys are organized

The keys on your keyboard can be divided into several groups based on function:
·         Typing (alphanumeric) keys. These keys include the same letter, number, punctuation, and symbol keys found on a traditional typewriter.
·         Control keys. These keys are used alone or in combination with other keys to perform certain actions. The most frequently used control keys are Ctrl, Alt, the Windows logo key , and Esc.
·         Function keys. The function keys are used to perform specific tasks. They are labeled as F1, F2, F3, and so on, up to F12. The functionality of these keys differs from program to program.
·         Navigation keys. These keys are used for moving around in documents or webpages and editing text. They include the arrow keys, Home, End, Page Up, Page Down, Delete, and Insert.
·         Numeric keypad. The numeric keypad is handy for entering numbers quickly. The keys are grouped together in a block like a conventional calculator or adding machine.
The following illustration shows how these keys are arranged on a typical keyboard. Your keyboard layout might be different.
How the keys are arranged on a keyboard

Typing text

Whenever you need to type something in a program, e‑mail message, or text box, you'll see a blinking vertical line ( ). That's the cursor, also called the insertion point. It shows where the text that you type will begin. You can move the cursor by clicking in the desired location with the mouse, or by using the navigation keys (see the "Using navigation keys" section of this article).
In addition to letters, numerals, punctuation marks, and symbols, the typing keys also include Shift, Caps Lock, Tab, Enter, the Spacebar, and Backspace.
Key name
How to use it
Press Shift in combination with a letter to type an uppercase letter. Press Shift in combination with another key to type the symbol shown on the upper part of that key.
Caps Lock
Press Caps Lock once to type all letters as uppercase. Press Caps Lock again to turn this function off. Your keyboard might have a light indicating whether Caps Lock is on.
Press Tab to move the cursor several spaces forward. You can also press Tab to move to the next text box on a form.
Press Enter to move the cursor to the beginning of the next line. In a dialog box, press Enter to select the highlighted button.
Press the Spacebar to move the cursor one space forward.
Press Backspace to delete the character before the cursor, or the selected text.

Using keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are ways to perform actions by using your keyboard. They're called shortcuts because they help you work faster. In fact, almost any action or command you can perform with a mouse can be performed faster using one or more keys on your keyboard.
In Help topics, a plus sign (+) between two or more keys indicates that those keys should be pressed in combination. For example, Ctrl+A means to press and hold Ctrl and then press A. Ctrl+Shift+A means to press and hold Ctrl and Shift and then press A.

Find program shortcuts

You can do things in most programs by using the keyboard. To see which commands have keyboard shortcuts, open a menu. The shortcuts (if available) are shown next to the menu items.
Keyboard shortcuts appear next to menu items.

Choose menus, commands, and options

You can open menus and choose commands and other options using your keyboard. In a program that has menus with underlined letters, press Alt and an underlined letter to open the corresponding menu. Press the underlined letter in a menu item to choose that command. For programs that use the Ribbon, such as Paint and WordPad, pressing Alt overlays (rather than underlines) a letter that can be pressed.
Press Alt+F to open the File menu, then press P to choose the Print command.
This trick works in dialog boxes too. Whenever you see an underlined letter attached to an option in a dialog box, it means you can press Alt plus that letter to choose that option.

Useful shortcuts

The following table lists some of the most useful keyboard shortcuts. For a more detailed list, see Keyboard shortcuts.
Press this
To do this
Windows logo key
Open the Start menu
Switch between open programs or windows
Close the active item, or exit the active program
Save the current file or document (works in most programs)
Copy the selected item
Cut the selected item
Paste the selected item
Undo an action
Select all items in a document or window
Display Help for a program or Windows
Windows logo key +F1
Display Windows Help and Support
Cancel the current task
Application key
Open a menu of commands related to a selection in a program. Equivalent to right-clicking the selection.

Using navigation keys

The navigation keys allow you to move the cursor, move around in documents and webpages, and edit text. The following table lists some common functions of these keys.
Press this
To do this
Left Arrow, Right Arrow, Up Arrow, or Down Arrow
Move the cursor or selection one space or line in the direction of the arrow, or scroll a webpage in the direction of the arrow
Move the cursor to the beginning of a line or move to the top of a webpage
Move the cursor to the end of a line or move to the bottom of a webpage
Move to the top of a document
Move to the bottom of a document
Page Up
Move the cursor or page up one screen
Page Down
Move the cursor or page down one screen
Delete the character after the cursor, or the selected text; in Windows, delete the selected item and move it to the Recycle Bin
Turn Insert mode off or on. When Insert mode is on, text that you type is inserted at the cursor. When Insert mode is off, text that you type replaces existing characters.

Using the numeric keypad

The numeric keypad arranges the numerals 0 though 9, the arithmetic operators + (addition), - (subtraction), * (multiplication), and / (division), and the decimal point as they would appear on a calculator or adding machine. These characters are duplicated elsewhere on the keyboard, of course, but the keypad arrangement allows you to rapidly enter numerical data or mathematical operations with one hand.
Numeric keypad
To use the numeric keypad to enter numbers, press Num Lock. Most keyboards have a light that indicates whether Num Lock is on or off. When Num Lock is off, the numeric keypad functions as a second set of navigation keys (these functions are printed on the keys next to the numerals or symbols).
You can use your numeric keypad to perform simple calculations with Calculator.

Show contentHide content Operate Calculator with the numeric keypad


Three odd keys

So far, we've discussed almost every key you're likely to use. But for the truly inquisitive, let's explore the three most mysterious keys on the keyboard: PrtScn, Scroll Lock, and Pause/Break.

PrtScn (or Print Screen)

A long time ago, this key actually did what it says—it sent the current screen of text to your printer. Nowadays, pressing PrtScn captures an image of your entire screen (a "screen shot") and copies it to the Clipboard in your computer's memory. From there you can paste it (Ctrl+V) into Microsoft Paint or another program and, if you want, print it from that program.
More obscure is SYS RQ, which shares the key with PrtScn on some keyboards. Historically, SYS RQ was designed to be a "system request," but this command is not enabled in Windows.


·         Press Alt+PrtScn to capture an image of just the active window, instead of the entire screen.

ScrLk (or Scroll Lock)

In most programs, pressing Scroll Lock has no effect. In a few programs, pressing Scroll Lock changes the behavior of the arrow keys and the Page Up and Page Down keys; pressing these keys causes the document to scroll without changing the position of the cursor or selection. Your keyboard might have a light indicating whether Scroll Lock is on.


This key is rarely used. In some older programs, pressing this key pauses the program or, in combination with Ctrl, stops it from running.

Other keys

Some modern keyboards come with "hot keys" or buttons that give you quick, one-press access to programs, files, or commands. Other models have volume controls, scroll wheels, zoom wheels, and other gadgets. For details about these features, check the information that came with your keyboard or computer, or go to the manufacturer's website.

Tips for using your keyboard safely

Using your keyboard properly can help avoid soreness or injury to your wrists, hands, and arms, particularly if you use your computer for long periods of time. Here are some tips to help you avoid problems:
·         Place your keyboard at elbow level. Your upper arms should be relaxed at your sides.
·         Center your keyboard in front of you. If your keyboard has a numeric keypad, you can use the spacebar as the centering point.
·         Type with your hands and wrists floating above the keyboard, so that you can use your whole arm to reach for distant keys instead of stretching your fingers.
·         Avoid resting your palms or wrists on any type of surface while typing. If your keyboard has a palm rest, use it only during breaks from typing.
·         While typing, use a light touch and keep your wrists straight.
·         When you're not typing, relax your arms and hands.
·         Take short breaks from computer use every 15 to 20 minutes.

Turning off your computer properly

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When you're finished using your computer, it's important to turn it off properly—not only to save energy, but also to help keep your computer more secure and to ensure that your data is saved. There are three ways to turn off your computer: pressing your computer's power button, using the Shut down button on the Start menu, and, if you have a laptop, closing the lid.

Use the Shut down button on the Start menu

To turn off your computer using the Start menu, click the Start button , and then, in the lower-right corner of the Start menu, click Shut down.
When you click Shut down, your computer closes all open programs, along with Windows itself, and then completely turns off your computer and display. Shutting down doesn't save your work, so you must save your files first.
Click the arrow next to the Shut down button for more options

Show contentHide content To change the Shut down button settings

There's one other form that the Shut down button can take. If you've set your computer to receive automatic updates, and the updates are ready to be installed, the Shut down button will look like this.
The Shut down button (install updates and shut down)
When you click the Shut down button, Windows installs the updates and then shuts down your computer.


·         Starting your computer after it has been shut down takes longer than waking your computer from sleep.

Using sleep

You can choose to make your computer sleep instead of shutting it down. When your computer goes to sleep, the display turns off and often the computer's fan stops. Usually, a light on the outside of your computer case blinks or turns yellow to indicate that the computer is asleep. The whole process takes only a few seconds.
Because Windows will remember what you were doing, there's no need to close your programs and files before making your computer sleep. But it's always a good idea to save your work before putting the computer into any low-power mode. Then the next time you turn on your computer (and enter your password, if required), the screen will look exactly as it did when you turned off your computer.
To wake your computer, press the power button on your computer case. Because you don't have to wait for Windows to start, your computer wakes within seconds and you can resume work almost immediately.


·         When your computer is asleep, it uses a very small amount of power to maintain your work in its memory. If you're using a laptop, don't worry—the battery won't be drained. After the computer has been sleeping for several hours, or if the battery is running low, your work is saved to the hard disk, and then your computer turns off completely, drawing no power.

When to shut down

Even though making your computer sleep is the fastest way to turn it off, and the best option for resuming work quickly, there are certain times when you need to shut down:
·         You are adding or upgrading the hardware inside your computer—such as installing memory, a disk drive, a sound card, or a video card. Shut down the computer, and then disconnect it from its power source before proceeding with the upgrade.
·         You are adding a printer, monitor, external drive, or other hardware device that does not connect to a universal serial bus (USB) or IEEE 1394 port on your computer. Shut down the computer before connecting the device.


·         When adding hardware that uses a USB cable, you don't need to turn off the computer first. Most newer devices use USB cables. A USB cable looks like this:
USB cable

Laptop users: Close the lid

If you have a laptop, there's an even easier way to turn off your computer: Close the lid. You can choose whether your computer sleeps, shuts down, or enters another power-saving state. See Change what happens when you close your laptop.
If you prefer, you can turn off your laptop by pressing the power button on its case. See Change what happens when you press the power button on your computer.

Desktop fundamentals

The desktop (overview)

The desktop is the main screen area that you see after you turn on your computer and log on to Windows. Like the top of an actual desk, it serves as a surface for your work. When you open programs or folders, they appear on the desktop. You can also put things on the desktop, such as files and folders, and arrange them however you want.
The desktop is sometimes defined more broadly to include the taskbar. The taskbar sits at the bottom of your screen. It shows you which programs are running and allows you to switch between them. It also contains the Start button , which you can use to access programs, folders, and computer settings.
For more information about the taskbar, see The taskbar (overview).

Working with desktop icons

Icons are small pictures that represent files, folders, programs, and other items. When you first start Windows, you'll see at least one icon on your desktop: The Recycle Bin (more on that later). Your computer manufacturer might have added other icons to the desktop. Some examples of desktop icons are shown below.
Examples of desktop icons
Double-clicking a desktop icon starts or opens the item it represents.

Adding and removing icons from the desktop

You can choose which icons appear on the desktop—you can add or remove an icon at any time. Some people like a clean, uncluttered desktop with few or no icons. Others place dozens of icons on their desktop to give them quick access to frequently used programs, files, and folders.
If you want easy access from the desktop to your favorite files or programs, you can create shortcuts to them. A shortcut is an icon that represents a link to an item, rather than the item itself. When you double-click a shortcut, the item opens. If you delete a shortcut, only the shortcut is removed, not the original item. You can identify shortcuts by the arrow on their icon.
A file icon (left) and a shortcut icon (right)

Show contentHide content To add a shortcut to the desktop

Show contentHide content To add or remove common desktop icons

Show contentHide content To move a file from a folder to the desktop

Show contentHide content To remove an icon from the desktop

Moving icons around

Windows stacks icons in columns on the left side of the desktop. But you're not stuck with that arrangement. You can move an icon by dragging it to a new place on the desktop.
You can also have Windows automatically arrange your icons. Right-click an empty area of the desktop, click View, and then click Auto arrange iconsWindows stacks your icons in the upper-left corner and locks them in place. To unlock the icons so that you can move them again, click Auto arrange icons again, clearing the check mark next to it.


·         By default, Windows spaces icons evenly on an invisible grid. To place icons closer together or with more precision, turn off the grid. Right-click an empty area of the desktop, point to View, and then click Align icons to grid to clear the check mark. Repeat these steps to turn the grid back on.

Selecting multiple icons

To move or delete a bunch of icons at once, you must first select all of them. Click an empty area of the desktop and drag the mouse. Surround the icons that you want to select with the rectangle that appears. Then release the mouse button. Now you can drag the icons as a group or delete them.
Select multiple desktop icons by dragging a rectangle around them

Hiding desktop icons

If you want to temporarily hide all of your desktop icons without actually removing them, right-click an empty part of the desktop, click View, and then click Show desktop items to clear the check mark from that option. Now no icons are displayed on the desktop. You can get them back by clicking Show desktop items again.

The Recycle Bin

When you delete a file or folder, it doesn't actually get deleted right away—it goes to the Recycle Bin. That's a good thing, because if you ever change your mind and decide you need a deleted file, you can get it back. For more information, see Recover files from the Recycle Bin.
The Recycle Bin when empty (left) and full (right)
If you're sure that you won't need the deleted items again, you can empty the Recycle Bin. Doing that will permanently delete the items and reclaim any disk space they were using. For more information, see Permanently delete files from the Recycle Bin.

The Start menu (overview)

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The Start menu is the main gateway to your computer's programs, folders, and settings. It's called a menu because it provides a list of choices, just as a restaurant menu does. And as "start" implies, it's often the place that you'll go to start or open things.
Start menu
Use the Start menu to do these common activities:
·         Start programs
·         Open commonly used folders
·         Search for files, folders, and programs
·         Adjust computer settings
·         Get help with the Windows operating system
·         Turn off the computer
·         Log off from Windows or switch to a different user account

Getting started with the Start menu

To open the Start menu, click the Start button in the lower-left corner of your screen. Or, press the Windows logo key on your keyboard.
The Start menu is divided into three basic parts:
·         The large left pane shows a short list of programs on your computer. Your computer manufacturer can customize this list, so its exact appearance will vary. Clicking All Programs displays a complete list of programs (more on this later).
·         At the bottom of the left pane is the search box, which allows you to look for programs and files on your computer by typing in search terms.
·         The right pane provides access to commonly used folders, files, settings, and features. It's also where you go to log off from Windows or turn off your computer.

Opening programs from the Start menu

One of the most common uses of the Start menu is opening programs installed on your computer. To open a program shown in the left pane of the Start menu, click it. The program opens and the Start menu closes.
If you don't see the program you want, click All Programs at the bottom of the left pane. Instantly, the left pane displays a long list of programs in alphabetical order, followed by a list of folders.
Clicking one of the program icons launches the program, and the Start menu closes. So what's inside the folders? More programs. Click Accessories, for example, and a list of programs that are stored in that folder appears. Click any program to open it. To get back to the programs you saw when you first opened the Start menu, click Back near the bottom of the menu.
If you're ever unsure what a program does, move the pointer over its icon or name. A box appears that often contains a description of the program. For example, pointing to Calculator displays this message: "Performs basic arithmetic tasks with an on-screen calculator." This trick works for items in the right pane of the Start menu, too.
You might notice that over time, the lists of programs in your Start menu change. This happens for two reasons. First, when you install new programs, they get added to the All Programs list. Second, the Start menu detects which programs you use the most, and places them in the left pane for quick access.

The search box

The search box is one of the most convenient ways to find things on your computer. The exact location of the items doesn't matter—the search box will scour your programs and all of the folders in your personal folder (which includes Documents, Pictures, Music, Desktop, and other common locations). It will also search your e‑mail messages, saved instant messages, appointments, and contacts.
The Start menu search box
To use the search box, open the Start menu and start typing. You don't need to click inside the box first. As you type, the search results appear above the search box in the left pane of the Start menu.
A program, file, or folder will appear as a search result if:
·         Any word in its title matches or begins with your search term.
·         Any text in the actual contents of the file—such as the text in a word-processing document—matches or begins with your search term.
·         Any word in a property of the file, such as the author, matches or begins with your search term. (For more information about file properties, see Add tags and other properties to a file.)
Click any search result to open it. Or, click the Clear button to clear the search results and return to the main programs list. You can also click See more results to search your entire computer.
Besides programs, files and folders, and communications, the search box also looks through your Internet favorites and the history of websites you've visited. If any of these webpages include the search term, they appear under a heading called "Favorites and History."

What's in the right pane?

The right pane of the Start menu contains links to parts of Windows that you're likely to use frequently. Here they are, from top to bottom:
·         Personal folder. Opens your personal folder, which is named for whoever is currently logged on to Windows. For example, if the current user is Molly Clark, the folder will be named Molly Clark. This folder, in turn, contains user-specific files, including the Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos folders.
·         Documents. Opens the Documents folder, where you can store and open text files, spreadsheets, presentations, and other kinds of documents.
·         Pictures. Opens the Pictures folder, where you can store and view digital pictures and graphics files.
·         Music. Opens the Music folder, where you can store and play music and other audio files.
·         Games. Opens the Games folder, where you can access all of the games on your computer.
·         Computer. Opens a window where you can access disk drives, cameras, printers, scanners, and other hardware connected to your computer.
·         Control Panel. Opens Control Panel, where you can customize the appearance and functionality of your computer, install or uninstall programs, set up network connections, and manage user accounts.
·         Devices and Printers. Opens a window where you can view information about the printer, mouse, and other devices installed on your computer.
·         Default Programs. Opens a window where you can choose which program you want Windows to use for activities such as web browsing.
·         Help and Support. Opens Windows Help and Support, where you can browse and search Help topics about using Windows and your computer. See Getting help.
At the bottom of the right pane is the Shut down button. Click the Shut down button to turn off your computer.
Clicking the arrow next to the Shut down button displays a menu with additional options for switching users, logging off, restarting, or shutting down. For more information, see Log off from Windows and Turn off a computer: frequently asked questions.
Click the Shut down button to shut down your computer or click the arrow for more options

Customize the Start menu

You can control which items appear in the Start menu. For example, you can pin icons for your favorite programs to the Start menu for easy access, or remove programs from the list. You can also choose to hide or display certain items in the right pane. See Customize the Start menu for more information.

The taskbar (overview)

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The taskbar is the long horizontal bar at the bottom of your screen. Unlike the desktop, which can get obscured by open windows, the taskbar is almost always visible. It has three main sections:
·         The Start button , which opens the Start menu. See The Start menu (overview).
·         The middle section, which shows you which programs and files you have open and allows you to quickly switch between them.
·         The notification area, which includes a clock and icons (small pictures) that communicate the status of certain programs and computer settings.
You're likely to use the middle section of the taskbar the most, so let's look at it first.

Keep track of your windows

If you open more than one program or file at a time, you can quickly start piling up open windows on your desktop. Because windows often cover each other or take up the whole screen, it's sometimes hard to see what else is underneath or remember what you've already opened.
That's where the taskbar comes in handy. Whenever you open a program, folder, or file, Windows creates a corresponding button on the taskbar. The button shows an icon that represents the open program. In the picture below, two programs are open—Calculator and Minesweeper—and each has its own button on the taskbar.
Each program has its own button on the taskbar
Notice how the taskbar button for Minesweeper is highlighted. That indicates that Minesweeper is the active window, meaning that it's in front of any other open windows and is ready for you to interact with.
To switch to another window, click its taskbar button. In this example, clicking the taskbar button for Calculator brings its window to the front.
Click a taskbar button to switch to that window
Clicking taskbar buttons is one of several ways to switch between windows. For more information, see Working with windows.

Minimize and restore windows

When a window is active (its taskbar button is highlighted), clicking its taskbar button minimizes the window. That means that the window disappears from the desktop. Minimizing a window doesn't close it or delete its contents—it temporarily removes it from the desktop.
In the picture below, Calculator is minimized, but not closed. You can tell it's still running because it has a button on the taskbar.
Minimizing Calculator leaves only its taskbar button visible
You can also minimize a window by clicking the minimize button in the upper-right corner of the window.
Minimize button (left)
To restore a minimized window (make it show up again on the desktop), click its taskbar button. For more information about these buttons, see Working with windows.

See previews of your open windows

When you move your mouse pointer to a taskbar button, a small picture appears that shows you a miniature version of the corresponding window. This preview, also called a thumbnail, is especially useful. And if one of your windows has video or animation playing, you'll see it playing in the preview.


·         You can see thumbnails only if Aero can run on your computer and you're running a Windows 7 theme.

The notification area

The notification area, on the far right side of the taskbar, includes a clock and a group of icons. It looks like this.
The notification area of the taskbar
These icons communicate the status of something on your computer or provide access to certain settings. The set of icons you see depends on which programs or services you have installed and how your computer manufacturer set up your computer.
When you move your pointer to a particular icon, you will see that icon's name or the status of a setting. For example, pointing to the volume icon shows the current volume level of your computer. Pointing to the network icon displays information about whether you are connected to a network, the connection speed, and the signal strength.
Double-clicking an icon in the notification area usually opens the program or setting associated with it. For example, double-clicking the volume icon opens the volume controls. Double-clicking the network icon opens Network and Sharing Center.
Occasionally, an icon in the notification area will display a small pop-up window (called a notification) to notify you about something. For example, after adding a new hardware device to your computer, you might see this.
The notification area displays a message after new hardware is installed
Click the Close button in the upper-right corner of the notification to dismiss it. If you don't do anything, the notification will fade away on its own after a few seconds.
To reduce clutter, Windows hides icons in the notification area when you haven't used them in a while. If icons become hidden, click the Show hidden icons button to temporarily display the hidden icons.
Click the Show hidden icons button to display all icons in the notification area

Customize the taskbar

There are many ways to customize the taskbar to suit your preferences. For example, you can move the entire taskbar to the left, right, or top edge of the screen. You can make the taskbar larger, have Windows automatically hide it when you're not using it, and add toolbars to it.

Desktop gadgets (overview)

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Windows contains mini-programs called gadgets, which offer information at a glance and provide easy access to frequently used tools. For example, you can use gadgets to display a picture slide show, view continuously updated headlines, or look up contacts.

Why use desktop gadgets?

Desktop gadgets can keep information and tools readily available for you to use. For example, you can display news headlines right next to your open programs. This way, if you want to keep track of what's happening in the news while you work, you don't have to stop what you're doing to switch to a news website.
You can use the Feed Headlines gadget to show the latest news headlines from sources you choose. You don't have to stop working on your document, because the headlines are always visible. If you see a headline that interests you, you can click that headline, and your web browser will open directly to the story.

Getting started with gadgets

To understand how to use gadgets, let's explore three gadgets: the Clock, Slide Show, and Feed Headlines.

How does the Clock work?

When you right-click the Clock, you'll see a list of things you can do with the gadget, including closing the Clock, keeping it on top of your open windows, and changing the Clock's options (such as its name, time zone, and appearance).
You can right-click a gadget to see a list of things you can do with it.


·         If you point to the Clock gadget, a Close button and an Options button will appear near its upper-right corner.
The Clock

How does Slide Show work?

Next, try resting the pointer on the Slide Show gadget, which displays a continuous slide show of pictures on your computer.
Slide Show
Right-clicking Slide Show and clicking Options allows you to choose which pictures appear in your slide show, control the speed at which your slide show plays, and change the transition effect between pictures. You can also right-click Slide Show and point to Size to change the size of the gadget.


·         When you point to Slide Show, the CloseSize, and Options buttons will appear near the upper-right corner of the gadget.
Some gadgets, like Slide Show, have CloseSize, and Options buttons.

Show contentHide content To change the slide show pictures

Show contentHide content To set the slide show speed and transition effect

How does Feed Headlines work?

Feed Headlines can display frequently updated headlines from a website that supplies feeds, also known as RSS feeds, XML feeds, syndicated content, or web feeds. Websites often use feeds to distribute news and blogs. To receive feeds, you need an Internet connection. By default, Feed Headlines won't display any headlines. To start displaying a small set of preselected headlines, click View headlines.
Feed Headlines
After you click View headlines, you can right-click Feed Headlines and click Options to choose from a list of available feeds. You can add to the list by choosing your own feeds from the web.

Show contentHide content To display a feed in the Feed Headlines gadget

Which gadgets do I have?

Before a gadget can be added, it must be installed on your computer. To see which gadgets are installed on your computer, do the following:
1.      Right-click the desktop and click Gadgets.
2.      Click the scroll buttons to see all the gadgets.
3.      To see information about a gadget, click the gadget, and then click Show details.
You can download additional gadgets online from the Windows Gadget Gallery.

Adding and removing gadgets

You can add any gadget that's installed on your computer to the desktop. If you want, you can add multiple instances of a gadget. For example, if you are keeping track of time in two time zones, you can add two instances of the Clock gadget and set the time of each accordingly.

Show contentHide content To add a gadget

Show contentHide content To remove a gadget

Organizing gadgets

You can drag a gadget to a new position anywhere on the desktop.

Working with windows

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Whenever you open a programfile, or folder, it appears on your screen in a box or frame called a window (that's where the Windows operating system gets its name). Because windows are everywhere in Windows, it's important to understand how to move them, change their size, or just make them go away.

Parts of a window

Although the contents of every window are different, all windows share some things in common. For one thing, windows always appear on the desktop—the main work area of your screen. In addition, most windows have the same basic parts.
Parts of a typical window
·         Title bar. Displays the name of the document and program (or the folder name if you're working in a folder).
·         Minimize, Maximize, and Close buttons. These buttons hide the window, enlarge it to fill the whole screen, and close it, respectively (more details on these shortly).
·         Menu bar. Contains items that you can click to make choices in a program. See Using menus, buttons, bars, and boxes.
·         Scroll bar. Lets you scroll the contents of the window to see information that is currently out of view.
·         Borders and corners. You can drag these with your mouse pointer to change the size of the window.
Other windows might have additional buttons, boxes, or bars. But they'll usually have the basic parts, too.

Moving a window

To move a window, point to its title bar with the mouse pointer . Then drag the window to the location that you want. (Dragging means pointing to an item, holding down the mouse button, moving the item with the pointer, and then releasing the mouse button.)

Changing the size of a window

·         To make a window fill the entire screen, click its Maximize button or double-click the window's title bar.
·         To return a maximized window to its former size, click its Restore button (this appears in place of the Maximize button). Or, double-click the window's title bar.
·         To resize a window (make it smaller or bigger), point to any of the window's borders or corners. When the mouse pointer changes to a two-headed arrow (see picture below), drag the border or corner to shrink or enlarge the window.
Drag a window's border or corner to resize it
A window that is maximized cannot be resized. You must restore it to its previous size first.


·         Although most windows can be maximized and resized, there are some windows that are fixed in size, such as dialog boxes.

Hiding a window

Hiding a window is called minimizing it. If you want to get a window out of the way temporarily without closing it, minimize it.
To minimize a window, click its Minimize button . The window disappears from the desktop and is visible only as a button on the taskbar, the long horizontal bar at the bottom of your screen.
Taskbar button
To make a minimized window appear again on the desktop, click its taskbar button. The window appears exactly as it did before you minimized it. For more information about the taskbar, see The taskbar (overview).

Closing a window

Closing a window removes it from the desktop and taskbar. If you're done with a program or document and don't need to return to it right away, close it.
To close a window, click its Close button .


·         If you close a document without saving any changes you made, a message appears that gives you the option to save your changes.

Switching between windows

If you open more than one program or document, your desktop can quickly become cluttered with windows. Keeping track of which windows you have open isn't always easy, because some windows might partially or completely cover others.
Using the taskbar. The taskbar provides a way to organize all of your windows. Each window has a corresponding button on the taskbar. To switch to another window, just click its taskbar button. The window appears in front of all other windows, becoming the active window—the one you're currently working in. For more information about taskbar buttons, see The taskbar (overview).
To easily identify a window, point to its taskbar button. When you point to a taskbar button, you'll see a thumbnail-sized preview of the window, whether the content of the window is a document, a photo, or even a running video. This preview is especially useful if you can't identify a window by its title alone.
Pointing to a window's taskbar button displays a preview of the window


·         To see thumbnail previews, your computer must support Aero. For more information about Aero, see What is the Aero desktop experience?
Using Alt+Tab. You can switch to the previous window by pressing Alt+Tab, or cycle through all open windows and the desktop by holding down Alt and repeatedly pressing Tab. Release Alt to show the selected window.
Using Aero Flip 3D. Aero Flip 3D arranges your windows in a three-dimensional stack that you can quickly flip through. To use Flip 3D:
1.      Hold down the Windows logo key and press Tab to open Flip 3D.
2.      While holding down the Windows logo key, press Tab repeatedly or rotate the mouse wheel to cycle through open windows. You can also press Right Arrow or Down Arrow to cycle forward one window, or press Left Arrow or Up Arrow to cycle backward one window.
3.      Release the Windows logo key to display the frontmost window in the stack. Or, click any part of any window in the stack to display that window.
Aero Flip 3D


·         Flip 3D is part of the Aero desktop experience. If your computer doesn't support Aero, you can view the open programs and windows on your computer by pressing Alt+Tab. To cycle through the open windows, you can press the Tab key, press the arrow keys, or use your mouse. To learn more about Aero, see What is the Aero desktop experience?

Arranging windows automatically

Now that you know how to move and resize windows, you can arrange them however you like on your desktop. You can also have Windows automatically arrange them in one of three ways: cascading, vertically stacked, or side by side.
Arrange windows in a cascade (left), vertical stack (center), or side-by-side pattern (right)
To choose one of these options, open some windows on your desktop, then right-click an empty area of the taskbar and click Cascade windowsShow windows stacked, or Show windows side by side.

Arranging windows using Snap

Snap will automatically resize your windows when you move, or snap, them to the edge of the screen. You can use Snap to arrange windows side by side, expand windows vertically, or maximize a window.

To arrange windows side by side

1.      Drag the title bar of a window to the left or right side of the screen until an outline of the expanded window appears.
2.      Release the mouse to expand the window.
3.      Repeat steps 1 and 2 with another window to arrange the windows side by side.
Drag a window to the side of the desktop to expand it to half of the screen

To expand a window vertically

1.      Point to the top or bottom edge of an open window until the pointer changes into a double-headed arrow .
2.      Drag the edge of the window to the top or bottom of the screen to expand the window to the entire height of the desktop. The width of the window doesn't change.
Drag the top or bottom of a window to expand it vertically

To maximize a window

1.      Drag the title bar of the window to the top of the screen. The window's outline expands to fill the screen.
2.      Release the window to expand it to fill the entire desktop.
Drag a window to the top of the desktop to fully expand it

Dialog boxes

A dialog box is a special type of window that asks you a question, allows you to select options to perform a task, or provides you with information. You'll often see dialog boxes when a program or Windows needs a response from you before it can continue.
A dialog box appears if you exit a program without saving your work
Unlike regular windows, most dialog boxes can't be maximized, minimized, or resized. They can, however, be moved.

Using menus, buttons, bars, and boxes

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Menus, buttons, scroll bars, and check boxes are examples of controls that you operate with your mouse or keyboard. These controls allow you to select commands, change settings, or work with windows. This section describes how to recognize and use controls that you'll encounter frequently while using Windows.

Using menus

Most programs contain dozens or even hundreds of commands (actions) that you use to work the program. Many of these commands are organized under menus. Like a restaurant menu, a program menu shows you a list of choices. To keep the screen uncluttered, menus are hidden until you click their titles in the menu bar, located just underneath the title bar.
To choose one of the commands listed in a menu, click it. Sometimes a dialog box appears, in which you can select further options. If a command is unavailable and cannot be clicked, it is shown in gray.
Some menu items are not commands at all. Instead, they open other menus. In the following picture, pointing to "New" opens a submenu.
Some menu commands open submenus
If you don't see the command you want, try looking at another menu. Move your mouse pointer along the menu bar and its menus open automatically; you don't need to click the menu bar again. To close a menu without selecting any commands, click the menu bar or any other part of the window.
Recognizing menus isn't always easy, because not all menu controls look alike or even appear on a menu bar. So how can you spot them? When you see an arrow next to a word or picture, you're probably looking at a menu control. Here are some examples:
Examples of menu controls


·         If a keyboard shortcut is available for a command, it is shown next to the command.
·         You can operate menus using your keyboard instead of your mouse. See Using your keyboard.

Using scroll bars

When a document, webpage, or picture exceeds the size of its window, scroll bars appear to allow you to see the information that is currently out of view. The following picture shows the parts of a scroll bar.
Horizontal and vertical scroll bars
To use a scroll bar:
·         Click the up or down scroll arrows to scroll the window's contents up or down in small steps. Hold down the mouse button to scroll continuously.
·         Click an empty area of a scroll bar above or below the scroll box to scroll up or down one page.
·         Drag a scroll box up, down, left, or right to scroll the window in that direction.


·         If your mouse has a scroll wheel, you can use it to scroll through documents and webpages. To scroll down, roll the wheel backward (toward you). To scroll up, roll the wheel forward (away from you).

Using command buttons

command button performs a command (makes something happen) when you click it. You'll most often see them in dialog boxes, which are small windows that contain options for completing a task. For example, if you close a Paint picture without saving it first, you might see a dialog box like this.
Dialog box with three buttons
To close the picture, you must first click either the Save or Don't Save button. Clicking Save saves the picture and any changes you've made, and clicking Don't Save deletes the picture and discards any changes you've made. Clicking Cancel dismisses the dialog box and returns you to the program.


·         Pressing Enter does the same thing as clicking a command button that is selected (outlined).
Outside of dialog boxes, command buttons vary in appearance, so it's sometimes difficult to know what's a button and what isn't. For example, command buttons often appear as small icons (pictures) without any text or rectangular frame.
The most reliable way to determine if something is a command button is to rest your pointer on it. If it "lights up" and becomes framed with a rectangle, you've discovered a button. Most buttons will also display some text about their function when you point to them.
If a button changes into two parts when you point to it, you've discovered a split button. Clicking the main part of the button performs a command, whereas clicking the arrow opens a menu with more options.
Split buttons change into two parts when you point to them

Using option buttons

Option buttons allow you to make one choice among two or more options. They frequently appear in dialog boxes. The following picture shows two option buttons. The "Color" option is selected.
Clicking a button selects that option
To select an option, click one of the buttons. Only one option can be selected.

Using check boxes

Check boxes allow you to select one or more independent options. Unlike option buttons, which restrict you to one choice, check boxes allow you to choose multiple options at the same time.
Click an empty check box to select that option
To use check boxes:
·         Click an empty square to select or "turn on" that option. A check mark will appear in the square, indicating that the option is selected.
·         To turn off an option, clear (remove) its check mark by clicking it.
·         Options that currently can't be selected or cleared are shown in gray.

Using sliders

slider lets you adjust a setting along a range of values. It looks like this.
Moving the slider changes the pointer speed
A slider along the bar shows the currently selected value. In the example shown above, the slider is positioned midway between Slow and Fast, indicating a medium pointer speed.
To use a slider, drag the slider toward the value that you want.

Using text boxes

text box allows you to type information, such as a search term or password. The following picture shows a dialog box containing a text box. We've entered "bear" into the text box.
Example of a text box in a dialog box
A blinking vertical line called the cursor indicates where text that you type will appear. In the example, you can see the cursor after the "r" in "bear." You can easily move the cursor by clicking the new position. For example, to add a word before "bear," you would first move the cursor by clicking before the "b."
If you don't see a cursor in the text box, it means the text box isn't ready for your input. Click the box first, and then start typing.
Text boxes that require you to enter a password will usually hide your password as you type it, in case someone else is looking at your screen.
Text boxes for passwords usually hide the password

Using drop-down lists

Drop-down lists are similar to menus. Instead of clicking a command, though, you choose an option. When closed, a drop-down list shows only the currently selected option. The other available options are hidden until you click the control, as shown below.
A drop-down list shown closed (left), and open (right)
To open a drop-down list, click it. To choose an option from the list, click the option.

Using list boxes

list box displays a list of options that you can choose from. Unlike a drop-down list, some or all of the options are visible without having to open the list.
List box
To choose an option from the list, click it. If the option you want isn't visible, use the scroll bar to scroll the list up or down. If the list box has a text box above it, you can type the name or value of the option instead.

Using tabs

In some dialog boxes, options are divided into two or more tabs. Only one tab, or set of options, can be viewed at a time.
The currently selected tab appears in front of the other tabs. To switch to a different tab, click the tab.

Programs, files, and folders

·         Using programs

Using programs

In this article
Almost everything you do on your computer requires using a program. For example, if you want to draw a picture, you need to use a drawing or painting program. To write a letter, you use a word processing program. To explore the Internet, you use a program called a web browser. Thousands of programs are available for Windows.

Opening a program

The Start menu is the gateway to all of the programs on your computer. To open the Start menu, click the Start button . The left pane of the Start menu contains a small list of programs, including your Internet browser, e‑mail program, and recently used programs. To open a program, click it.
If you don't see the program you want to open, but you know its name, type all or part of the name into the search box at the bottom of the left pane. Under Programs, click a program to open it.
To browse a complete list of your programs, click the Start button, and then click All Programs. For more information, see The Start menu (overview).


·         You can also open a program by opening a file. Opening the file automatically opens the program associated with the file. For more information, see Open a file or folder.

Using commands in programs

Most programs contain dozens or even hundreds of commands (actions) that you use to work the program. Many of these commands are organized in a Ribbon, located just under the title bar.
The Ribbon in Paint
In some programs, commands might be located under menus. Like a restaurant menu, a program menu shows you a list of choices. To keep the screen uncluttered, menus are hidden until you click their titles in the menu bar, located under the title bar.
To choose one of the commands listed on the Ribbon, click it. Sometimes a dialog box will appear, in which you can select further options. If a command is unavailable and cannot be clicked, it is shown in gray.
In some programs, toolbars provide access to frequently used commands in the form of buttons or icons. These commands usually appear in the program's menus, too, but toolbars let you choose a command with just one click. Toolbars typically appear just below the menu bar.
Clicking a toolbar button performs a command. In WordPad, for example, clicking the Save button saves the document. To find out what a particular toolbar button does, point to it. The button's name or function is displayed:
Point to a toolbar button to see its function
For more information, see Using menus, buttons, bars, and boxes.

Creating a new document

Many programs allow you to create, edit, save, and print documents. In general, a document is any type of file that you can edit. For example, a word processing file is a type of document, as is a spreadsheet, an e‑mail message, and a presentation. However, the terms document and file are often used interchangeably; pictures, music clips, and videos that you can edit are usually called files, even though they are technically documents.
Some programs, including WordPad, Notepad, and Paint, open a blank, untitled document automatically when you open the program, so that you can start working right away. You'll see a large white area and a generic word like "Untitled" or "Document" in the program's title bar.
The title bar in WordPad
If your program doesn't open a new document automatically when it opens, you can do it yourself:
·         Click the File menu in the program you are using, and then click New.
– or –
Click the menu button 
, and then click New. If you can open more than one type of document in the program, you might also need to select the type from a list.

Saving a document

As you work on a document, your additions and changes are stored in your computer's random access memory (RAM). Storage of information in RAM is temporary; if your computer is turned off or loses power, any information in RAM is erased.
Saving a document allows you to name it and to store it permanently on your computer's hard disk. That way, the document is preserved even when your computer is turned off, and you can open it again later.

To save a document

1.      Click the File menu, and click Save.
– or –
Click the Save button 
2.      If this is the first time you are saving the document, you’ll be asked to provide a name for it and a location on your computer to save it to.
Even if you've saved a document once, you need to keep saving it as you work. That's because any changes you've made since you last saved the document are stored in RAM, not on the hard disk. To avoid losing work unexpectedly due to a power failure or other problem, save your document every few minutes.
For more information, see Save a file.

Moving information between files

Most programs allow you to share text and images between them. When you copy information, it goes into a temporary storage area called the Clipboard. From there, you can paste it into a document.
Before you start moving information around, you should understand how to switch between the open windows on your desktop. For more information, see Working with windows.

 To copy or move text from one document to another

 To copy a picture from a webpage to a document

Undoing your last action

Most programs allow you to undo (reverse) actions you take or mistakes you make. For example, if you delete a paragraph in a WordPad document accidentally, you can get it back by using the Undo command. If you draw a line in Paint that you don't want, undo your line right away and it vanishes.

To undo an action

·         Click the Edit menu, and click Undo.
– or –
Click the Undo button 

Getting help with a program

Almost every program comes with its own built-in Help system for those times when you're confused about how the program works.
To access a program's Help system:
·         Click the Help menu and then click the first item in the list, such as "View Help," "Help Topics," or similar text. (The name of this item will vary.)
– or –
Click the Help button 


o    You can also access a program's Help system by pressing F1. This function key opens Help in almost any program.
In addition to program-specific help, some dialog boxes contain links to Help about their specific functions. If you see a question mark inside a circle or square, or a colored and underlined text link, click it to open the Help topic.
Help links
For more information, see Getting help.

Exiting a program

To exit a program, click the Close button in the upper-right corner of the program window. Or, click the File menu, and click Exit.
Remember to save your document before exiting a program. If you have unsaved work and try to exit the program, the program will ask you whether you want to save the document.
A dialog box appears if you exit a program without saving your work
·         To save the document and then exit the program, click Save.
·         To exit the program without saving the document, click Don't Save.
·         To return to the program without exiting, click Cancel.

Installing or uninstalling programs

You're not limited to using the programs that came with your computer—you can buy new programs on CD or DVD or download programs (either free or for a fee) from the Internet.
Installing a program means adding it to your computer. After a program is installed, it appears in your Start menu in the All Programs list. Some programs might also add a shortcut to your desktop. For more information, see Install a program.

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