Microsoft Windows Made Easy: A Beginner's Guide

This Keynote Support tutorial teaches basic terminology and features of the Windows operating system (OS). If you are a new PC user, this tutorial is for you! Whether your PC is running Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000, or Windows 98, this tutorial will help you understand how to use your personal computer. Please see our other Windows Basics tutorials on the menu at right.

If you like video-based introduction, check out Microsoft Windows 7 Tutorial DVD - Video Training. We have reviewed this course (over 6 hours of hands-on lessons) and find it well done and a good value.

Author: Keynote Support

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Basic PC Terms

Monitor or Display: the TV-like portion of a PC system. Also called a flat-screen, terminal, or CRT.

Windows Operating System: the software created by Microsoft that controls your PC, manages programs, and interacts with the user. When the PC powers on, Windows automatically loads.

Boot or reboot: to load or reload Windows.

Desktop: what is displayed on your monitor by the Windows Operating System. The Windows desktop has a background, icons, and the Taskbar.

Icon: a small image that typically represents a shortcut to a program, folder, or file.

Shortcut: an icon or text that, when clicked, opens a folder or file, or runs a program.

Taskbar: the blue strip at the bottom of the desktop that contains the Start button, small icons, and the system clock.

Cursor: the moving pointer or arrow, controlled by the mouse, that lets you select objects, highlight text, and choose the spot from which to begin typing in a document.

Mouse: the small piece of hardware that controls the cursor. It has a left and right button, and often a scroll-wheel in the center. Always use the left mouse button unless otherwise instructed!

Window: the rectangular holder that appears on your desktop when you run a program or open a Windows dialog. Many windows are resizeable

Click: to press a mouse button. By default, to click means to click with the left mouse button.

Double-click: rapidly pressing the left mouse button two times.

Right-click: pressing the right mouse button. When you right-click on an element, a context menu usually appears.

Highlight: to click on an object to select it, or to click and drag the cursor over a portion of text in order to select it. The object or text selected turns blue.

Newbie or noob: a person who is brand new to the PC, or to a particular technical skill...!

Windows Desktop Overview

The Windows desktop is what you see on your monitor after Microsoft Windows has finished loading. The desktop has a background picture (also called wallpaper) and icons (shortcuts). At the bottom of the desktop is a blue strip called the Taskbar.

Listed below are descriptions of these desktop elements and instructions on how to customize some of them. To look at your customizing options, click Start and click Control Panel. Then click Display. The first tab is labeled Themes, and a theme is defined as "a background, plus a set of sounds, icons, and other elements to help you personalize your computer with one click." The fourth tab is Appearance, and here you can enlarge fonts, if required, for easier viewing. The fifth tab is Settings, and I recommend new users leave this tab alone.

The second and third tabs discuss how to change your display's wallpaper and screensaver. These are discussed in detail in our tutorials How to Customize the Windows 7 Desktop and, for older versions of Windows, How to Customize the Desktop for Windows XP, Vista, 2000, and 98.

Note: You may have the option to view Control Panel in Classic or Category Mode. This article assumes you are using Classic Mode. Category Mode requires more mouse clicks and adds little value.

Minimizing, Maximizing, and Closing a Window

Whenever you execute a program or open a folder, it opens in a window, and a rectangular placeholder for that window appears on the Taskbar. You can minimize the window - clearing it off the desktop but not closing it - by clicking on this placeholder. If you click the placeholder again, the window will be restored to the desktop.

When a window is displayed on the desktop, you will notice 3 symbols in the upper right corner: 1) a dash, 2) two overlapping boxes or a single box, and 3) a red X.

  • Clicking on the dash symbol will minimize the window. As stated, the window remains open, but is no longer displayed on the desktop. Click on the placeholder at the bottom of the desktop to display the window once again.
  • If you see two overlapping boxes, this means the window is maximized and should fill your entire display. Click on the overlapping boxes symbol if you would like to make the window sizeable.
  • If you see one box in the center spot, this means the window is not maximized and is, therefore, sizeable. You can make a window any shape and size you desire. To do so, place the cursor on an edge of the window. When the cursor changes to a double-sided arrow, press the mouse button and drag the edge. You can put the cursor on the corner of a window and drag to change the height and width at the same time.
  • Clicking on the red X will close the window and close any program running in that window.

Working with Desktop Shortcuts (Icons)

A desktop icon usually represents a shortcut to a program, folder, or frequently-used file. When you double-click a shortcut, the program, folder, or file opens. If you delete a shortcut, you are only deleting the path to the object (e.g. program), not the object itself. Windows will allow you to move or save an actual file to the desktop, but this is not recommended. The desktop is for shortcuts. Data files should be stored in My Documents.

Most Windows PCs come with some shortcut icons already on the desktop, such as My Computer and Internet Explorer. If you have a CD and/or DVD drive, you will also have a shortcut icon to the program that controls these devices.

Creating a Shortcut

If you have an installed program without a shortcut on the desktop, you should create one. This directions can also be used to create a shortcut to a folder or file.

To create a program shortcut, click Start and click All Programs. Locate the desired program. If the desired program is inside a folder on the Start Menu, either click on the folder or hold the cursor over the folder and await a dropdown menu. Once you have found the program, follow the directions for your version of Windows.

◊ Windows 7

Place the cursor on the program name and right-click. Hover over "Send to" and click "Desktop (create shortcut)." The shortcut icon will be placed on the desktop.

◊ Windows XP and Older

Place the cursor on the program name until it is high-lighted. Right-click and select "Create Shortcut." The shortcut will be placed below the original program, or at the end of the program list. The shortcut name will be the same as the program name followed by (2). For example, a shortcut created for the program Excel will be named Excel (2).

Click Start | All Prgrams and return to the location of the new shortcut. Position the cursor on the shortcut and while holding down the left mouse button, drag the shortcut onto the desktop. Note: You MUST create a shortcut first because when you drag a program name from the All Programs list to the desktop, the program shortcut is moved, not copied, and you never want to remove a program from the All Programs list.

Renaming a Shortcut

To rename a desktop shortcut, right-click on the icon, click "Rename," and type in the new name. Or, you can click once on the shortcut to highlight it, click again, and begin typing.

Changing a Shortcut Icon

You can change the icon of a shortcut if you dislike the default image. Right-click on the shortcut and click Properties. On the Customize tab, click Change Icon. Choose an icon from the list provided, and click OK.

Grouping Shortcuts into Folders

If your desktop is cluttered with icons, you can create folders on the desktop in which to store similar shortcuts. I have a folder named Security in which all my security-related program shortcuts reside. I also have a folder called Seldom for shortcuts to programs I seldom use. To create a folder, right-click in an empty space on the desktop, move the cursor over the word New, click Folder, and type the folder name. If desired, customize the folder icon as described above. To move a shortcut into the folder, click the icon and, while keeping the mouse button pressed, drag it on top of the folder. When the folder highlights, release the mouse button.

How to Run or Execute a Program

Programs are often called applications, or "apps." Long ago, when only large companies had computers, they wrote programs to perform specific functions, like Billing, and called these programs applications. Programs are also called software. The word software is a broad term that refers to any piece of code that runs on a computer. The physical components of a PC are called hardware.

You should have a shortcut on the PC desktop for most of your installed programs. You can also view a list of your installed programs by clicking Start and All Programs. To run a program, double-click the shortcut. If the program doesn't execute but, instead, the program name becomes highlighted in blue, your double-click didn't work. If you have a problem double-clicking effectively, you have two options: right-click on the icon and then click "Open," or change the speed of the mouse double-click by following the directions in our customizing tutorials discussed above and on the Windows menu.

We hope this information has been helpful. Cheers!

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