Windows XP is an easy-to-use, user-friendly operating system. If you’re new to XP, this article will walk you through some of the basic features and customizable settings it has to offer. If you’re not new to XP, stick around anyway – you might learn something.
– The desktop
The basic screen you see once Windows XP loads is your desktop. It will most likely have a Windows logo (or a picture of a blue sky and green meadow) across the screen, and there will be a gray bar across the bottom and a row or two of icons on the left side.
The row of icons are some of the pre-installed programs Windows comes with, as well as some of its handier features. You’ll probably see an icon for My Computer, My Documents, My Network Places, and the Recycle Bin. If you just bought this computer new from a retailer, there will probably be icons for America Online, Yahoo!, or the Microsoft Gaming Zone as well.
Double click on any icon to open it. My Computer takes you to a graphical view of your system – you should see your hard drive (C:), any CD or DVD drives (most likely D: and/or E:), a Shared Documents folder, and (if you’re using User Accounts) a folder with your name or login on it.
My Documents is a broad folder that is mainly there to help you organize your stuff. Inside My Documents you’ll find other folders such as My Pictures, My Videos, and My Music. You can create your own folders (or delete any of the current ones).
My Network Places is used if your computer is part of a network (either at home or the office). Go here to explore other computers in your workgroup or domain, or to share files or use network printers.
– The Start menu
From the Start menu, you can access almost anything Windows XP has to offer. Depending on how you’ve set it up, you can see My Computer, My Documents, My Network Places, the Control Panel, as well as your recently-opened documents and programs. By clicking on “All Programs” or “Programs” (depending on which view you’re using) you can access a list of all your currently installed programs.
You also have the “Run” command available from the Start menu. “Run” lets you execute any command-line program, such as “msconfig” (which lets you edit your system’s startup options). By typing “cmd,” you can bring up a DOS prompt for a wider variety of command-line options.
Under “All Programs,” there is a folder called “Accessories,” which has many useful programs. There are some standard Windows applications, such as the calculator, Notepad, and Paint, as well as the “System Tools” folder, which contains diagnostic and maintenance programs.
There is also a program in “Accessories” called “Tour Windows XP,” which is a tutorial designed to help you learn your way around the operating system better. Take advantage of this program if you have any questions about how to use XP.
– Control Panel
The Control Panel, which can be accessed from the Start menu (usually under “Settings”) contains most of the programs you would use to change Windows’ settings. These include printer options, volume control, mouse and keyboard settings, adding and removing programs, and security features. If you have Windows Service Pack 2 installed (which you should if you have automatic updates enabled), you’ll have access to the Security Center, which lets you control updates and the Windows firewall, and monitors your anti-virus program.
Make sure you have automatic updates turned on… periodically Microsoft will put out patches and service packs, which usually fix an existing problem or add a new feature to Windows. Occasionally there is a problem with an update (such as an incompatibility issue) but you can always go into Add/Remove Programs (in the Control Panel) and uninstall that update.
– Changing display settings
There are two main places to change your display settings – desktop properties and taskbar properties. To access desktop properties, right-click on any empty area of the desktop and choose “Properties.” This will bring up a multi-tabbed window with many adjustable display options.
To get to the taskbar properties, right-click on an empty area of the taskbar and select “Properties.” From here you can modify how both the taskbar and Start menu appear and function, customizing them to your liking.
– How to navigate
Navigating in Windows XP is very similar to other versions of Windows. Double-click on icons or folders to open them, and right-click on them to access their properties. The Start menu submenus will open if you hover over them, but you can single-click on them as well. There are many keyboard shortcuts Windows XP will recognize, and if you have a newer keyboard, you’ll probably have a Windows button somewhere on there. Pressing that button will bring up the Start menu.
Now you should be at least a little more familiar with Windows XP. If you still have questions, try running that Windows tutorial in your Accessories program.