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Windows 7: The Missing Manual 222

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
r3lody writes "It took me a little while after Windows 7 became available before I gave up my Windows XP desktop and purchased a new laptop with Windows 7 Home Premium pre-loaded. Like those who endured the change to Windows Vista, I found myself floundering around a little trying to figure out all of the new bells and whistles Microsoft had added to its operating system. Windows 7: The Missing Manual by David Pogue is meant to address the needs of people like me. The book, while readable by beginners, is written for users with some acquaintance with Windows. Advanced users will find the book too simplistic, but users up to the intermediate level will find it a handy reference to the new features in all of the flavors of Windows 7." Keep reading for the rest of r3lody's review.
Windows 7: The Missing Manual
author David pogue
pages 904
publisher Pogue Press
rating 8/10
reviewer r3lody
ISBN 0596806396
summary This book illuminates its subject with reader-friendly insight, plenty of wit, and hardnosed objectivity for beginners as well as veteran PC users.
Writing for the multiple levels of Windows 7 is handled by including a little sub-heading "cheat sheet" after each major heading. Most will have "All Versions", but you may see a subset like "Home Premium ? Professional ? Enterprise ? Ultimate". Handling multiple levels of users is a little more difficult. The book is written for advanced beginners to intermediate users, but beginners to Windows have "Up to Speed" sidebars added to help them understand concepts regular Windows users already know. More advanced users have "Power User's Clinic" sidebars to provide additional information.

Windows 7: the missing manual is organized into 8 parts, comprising 27 chapters and 4 appendices.

After an introductory section describing the book's layout, Part One deals with the Windows 7 desktop. Comprised of 5 chapters, Part One gives the basics of manipulating windows, programs, and files. Chapter 1 describes the Start menu, jump lists (frequently used documents) and the Run command. Next comes Explorer, the Taskbar, and general window controls. Most of chapter 2 is devoted to the eye candy provided by Aero. The third chapter discussing searching and organizing files follows that, with a good discussion of the much-improved Windows Search. Chapter 4 covers personalization (wallpaper, color and sound themes, screensavers and desktop icons), and the last chapter of part 1 explains the ways you can get help (Microsoft's Help system, Remote Assistance, and getting help from Microsoft).

Part Two uses 3 chapters to cover Windows 7 Software. After talking about opening and closing programs, opening and closing documents, and dialog boxes, David Pogue explains how to install and uninstall software, as well as handling compatibility issues. Speech recognition and gadgets got thrown into this chapter, but seem a little out of place. The next chapter discusses various freebie applications supplied with Windows 7, and those available as part of Windows Live Essentials. Most of those are explained in sufficient detail to use, but a few are deferred to later chapters. This part is closed out with rather brief coverage of Control Panel.

The next 5 chapters comprise Part Three, which is devoted to Windows 7 Online. After chapter 9 explains how to get hooked up to the Internet, chapter 10 is dedicated to Internet security. Microsoft Security Essentials, the Action Center, as well as Windows Firewall and Windows Defender are all covered, along with methods of protecting your privacy while you surf. This all leads into the grand tour of Internet Explorer 8, which is talked about in detail in chapter 11. The last two chapters go over Windows Live Mail and Windows Live Services.

Part Four is the media-centric portion of the book. David broke the discussion into three broad chapters: Windows Live Photo Gallery, Windows Media Player, and Windows Media Center. Windows Live Photo Gallery is Microsoft's challenger to Google's Picasa. While Picasa is more mature, Photo Gallery is not shabby by any means, and chapter 14 gives excellent explanations on how to get the most from the program. The next chapter goes over Windows Media Player, which has been around for a long time. There have been some minor changes to it, including streaming media to other computers and handling of more types of audio and video files. Windows Media Center was originally designed for the Media Center Edition PC, but is now available for any version of Windows 7 from Home Premium on up. You get a lot of information on how to set it up and use it for all sorts of media. You'll also find out how to use your PC as a DVR (assuming you have a TV tuner card or USB tuner).

The next part is all about hardware and peripherals. First printing, then Windows Fax and Scan, and finally general device handling are each given their due. The third and final chapter of Part Five covers laptops, tablets, and touchscreen computers, and their special capabilities and limitations.

One thing all computer users need to handle are the inevitable problems. Part Six covers various maintenance and trouble-shooting topics across three chapters. First, general maintenance and speed tweaks, followed by an in-depth discussion of disks, compression and encryption, and finally a chapter on backup, restore and trouble-shooting. All have just enough information to be useful, and not too much to absorb.

The last main part covers networking and homegroups. Windows is the most useful when it's part of a network, and Part Seven explains how to connect it and use it. After discussing setting up accounts, workgroups and domains have their own chapters, so home and office users can focus on what they need. This part ends with chapters on sharing files and remote control (including VPNs and Remote Desktop).

There is a set of 4 appendices that comprise Part Eight. Included are how to install and upgrade to Windows 7, how to use Regedit, and my favorite two chapters – Where'd It Go?, and the Master Keyboard Shortcut List.

Overall, the book does assume you've at least seen a previous version of Windows, as a lot of text explains how Windows 7 is different. I personally would have preferred the author keep the focus on Windows 7 and less on the differences from prior versions. There are a lot of attempts at humor. On the plus side, it keeps the tone of this fairly large book accessible to the novice to intermediate user. On the minus side, the occasional joke usually seems out of place.

I found Windows 7: the missing manual a valuable reference to the many offerings in Microsoft's latest incarnation of Windows. While the writing style varies from simple reference to the occasional attempt at light-hearted guidance, it is a comprehensive, informative and (most importantly) useful manual of the ins and outs of using Windows 7 in all its flavors.

You can purchase Windows 7: The Missing Manual from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Windows 7: The Missing Manual

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  • Bells and Whistles? (Score:3, Informative)

    by MLCT (1148749) on Friday June 04, 2010 @03:21PM (#32462292)
    It would seem to me that the manual aimed at the xp -> 7 movers should spend most of its time covering all of the inexplicable little changes that have been made. There aren't many new things, just lots of changed (or entirely removed) things.

    As I decided to change my work PC over to 7 last week I can testify. I had superficially played with vista and 7 up until now, but it is a different thing when your main machine moves completely. For example, in W7 MS have inexplicably removed the ability for auto arrange on files to be turned off in explorer - they now always "spring" to the grid - an annoying change. While day to day I didn't use this, it was used in xp now and then in sorting out a large folder full of files, as it is much more intuitive to spatially sort. Gone from W7, and no hack to get it back.

    The picture viewer is also crap now, slow, with a initially loaded blurred preview, then 1/2 a second later the real preview loads. Also when you zoom in it doesn't interpolate as it did in xp, just pixellates.
  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Informative)

    by dingen (958134) on Friday June 04, 2010 @03:22PM (#32462322)
    Altough Pogue did write a lot of books about Apple and Mac-related software, he also wrote lots of other stuff, including books about every major version of Windows since ME, but also books about things such as Twitter, the Palm Pilot and the Opera web browser.
  • by 0123456 (636235) on Friday June 04, 2010 @03:23PM (#32462336)

    Does it tell you how to solve the "700MB per 6 hours" speed limit win7 suffers when trying to copy files across a wireless network?

    Probably because there isn't one. While the first thing I did after buying a Windows-7 laptop was to configure it to dual-boot into Linux for anything other than games, I've had no problems with wireless performance, including downloading tens of gigabytes of games from Steam.

    That's not to say that you couldn't have a crappy driver or some misconfiguration, but there's no such fundamental limit in the OS.

  • Re:Libraries (Score:3, Informative)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Friday June 04, 2010 @03:31PM (#32462476) Journal

    What exactly is wrong with the libraries? I keep my music and videos on a separate drive and libraries make keeping up with new stuff as simple as drag and drop. I never have to go to where I actually keep anything anymore, simply drop it into the library under videos,music,whatever and it automatically places it into the appropriate place, easy peasy. And since Windows 7 disc image and backup gives you a simple checkbox for if you want your libraries backed up as well I don't even have to hunt or remember to back up my different media folders, just plug in the USB drive once a week and hit backup.

    Trust me, libraries are one of those new features that if you just use them for a little while you'll start to wonder how you did without them. I felt the same way about having breadcrumbs instead of a back button, but after I got used to how quickly you can jump around with breadcrumbs going back to WinXP irritates the hell out of me. Just spend a few minutes customizing your library and telling it where you like to keep your stuff, and then you'll never have to mess with hunting media folders again.

  • I ran a comparison (Score:3, Informative)

    by AndGodSed (968378) on Friday June 04, 2010 @03:48PM (#32462702) Homepage Journal

    Interface wise Win7 is a lot better than XP in *some* areas, but is seriously beginning to trail behind popular Linux distros. I did a comparison of Win7, Ubuntu, PCLOS, Linux Mint, Kubuntu with 6 everyday tasks and found it wanting a bit.

    (Warning shameless blog punt ahead, proceed with caution...)
    http://g33q.co.za/2010/06/01/usability-comparison-five-pc-operating-systems-compared/ [g33q.co.za]

    Given it's performance I think a book such as this will help out some users. I often buy books like these for the techs in our office to help them out, I use Ubuntu full-time myself since I am more involved with the servers atm, but given some confusing task layouts like checking connection info (in XP it used to be three clicks of a mouse, not it is a road-trip) it helps having something to refer to handy.

  • by oakgrove (845019) on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:02PM (#32462936)

    Now her wireless card doesn't work at all. Problem solved!

    I've seen plenty of hardware stop working after upgrading from one version of Windows to another. In the recent past, I've had a scanner and a graphics card that didn't have Windows 7 drivers and the lady just had me put XP back on the box.

    Linux may not work with everything but, when it does, it tends to work very well and continue to work. The only real problems are with hardware that just flat has to be reverse engineered to even work at all. If the manufacturer won't make a driver and won't release the specs, what are you going to do? Imagine the reverse, what if hardware just wasn't released with a Windows driver? Is that Windows' or Microsoft's fault?

    I'll sum this up with a couple of anecdotes. I have some hardware on my desktop that work much better under Linux. The USB720 wireless data card that I got from Verizon, for example, was a mess under Windows. 30 or more seconds to connect, shutting itself down after 2 hours or so requiring me to pull it out and reinsert it. Hideous and clunky software that came with it. On Ubuntu 10.04, it works flawlessly. Connects in less than 5 seconds, integrated perfectly with the network manager, never randomly shuts itself off. Also, my PVR350 USB TV tuner. Runs like crap in Windows, in Linux, it works perfectly. Very little CPU usage, no tearing, easy to record, etc. So, there really are 2 sides to the hardware Windows/Linux coin. than Windows.

  • to be an asshole... (Score:1, Informative)

    by macbiv (1695966) <macbilv AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:07PM (#32463030)
    1.start 2.control panel 3. click the arrow next to "view by" and select large icons 4. stop complaining
  • by ashridah (72567) on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:14PM (#32463110)

    You get used to the text-less icons pretty quickly. Particularly since most of the modern apps use high-resolution icons and are quite visible at the default icon size. Visually the Word, Explorer, IE/Chrome/Firefox buttons are all immediately identifiable, in a way that text just isn't.

    Also, since you can order the buttons, and pin them, you essentially get Win-1 through Win-9 or so to launch/access them. Adding shift to make it Shift-Win-1 will launch a new copy. Alt-Win-1 launches the context menu. It becomes far more quick to use, and can become muscle memory reasonably quickly.
    Beats the pants off the quick-launch bar that any app could poison with its own icons during install for. That kind of stuff used to piss me off.

  • by rueger (210566) on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:41PM (#32463462) Homepage
    At least with OSX it tells you exactly which keys are used for the shortcut right in the menu

    Hate to break it to you, but MS products have done the same thing for ages. Except the menuless "ribbon" in Office, which uses tooltips instead.
  • by amliebsch (724858) on Friday June 04, 2010 @05:03PM (#32463734) Journal

    Your complaints are invalid and stem entirely from your unwillingness to make the slightest effort to understand how the system works.

    In most Windows programs with a menu bar, there are two ways to use keyboard commands. One way uses CTRL as a modifier and does not involve the menus at all, though they are discoverable through the menu by using the tooltips. E.g., CTRL+S to save, CTRL+O to open. If you don't know or can't be bothered to remember these keyboard commands, you can alternately navigate the menu system by pressing the ALT key. Pressing ALT underlines the letters in the menu options to press to activate that menu option, so if you can't remember CTRL+O to open a file, you can press ALT, then F to activate the file menu, then O to select the open option. And incidentally, the CTRL keys are unchanged in Office 2007, the tool tips still tell you the CTRL keys, and pressing ALT still causes key commands to appear on the ribbon options, so if you've ever used keyboard shortcuts in office ever, they still work basically the same way.

  • by AndGodSed (968378) on Friday June 04, 2010 @05:28PM (#32463994) Homepage Journal

    Coming from an avid Linux advocate I agree, Linux "help files" are sorely lacking. I submit though that "Linux Help" is much more available than what you might think.

    There are also tons of free publications out there of high quality i.e.: Full Circle Mag (Ubuntu Centric) http://fullcirclemagazine.org/ [fullcirclemagazine.org] ; PCLinuxOS has their own magazine http://pclosmag.com/ [pclosmag.com] ; there is the Ubuntu Pocket Guide if you are so inclined www.ubuntupocketguide.com/

    If you dig a bit you will get the Ubuntu user guide and a google search returns any of a number of hits for Linux user guides.

    Here is a wiki based Ubuntu user guide as well: http://ubuntuguide.org/wiki/Ubuntu:Lucid [ubuntuguide.org]

    The problem was historically that these guides were written by geeks, hence not very end user friendly in language use and approach. Only recently did people with a talent for writing understandable and idiot proof documents and books get enough exposure and interest in Linux to produce handy and well written guides.

    Linux help is doing a lot better than only a few years ago.

  • by drsmithy (35869) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .yhtimsrd.> on Friday June 04, 2010 @05:50PM (#32464264)

    Wait, what? I didn't get a manual with Win7 (came bundled with my computer).

    Start ->Help.

    Windows keyboard shortcuts are an abomination, mostly because they are not defined anywhere, or they aren't very logical. Alt+F4? Huh? What's wrong with something like Alt+Q for quit?

    Alt+F4 is a hangover from Windows _3.1_ (more accurately, OS/2). It still works in modern Windows, for legacy reasons, but it's not the "standard".

    At least that way a user can GUESS what a shortcut might be. But then you run into the problem of which modifier key? How do I know? How do I get to the underlined O under the File menu to "Open" something. How is CTRL+F + CTRL+O better than a simple and consistent modifier key + O to open a file?

    All of this is explained in the help. Or, quite reasonably, assumed knowledge given that it's been consistent for 15+ years now.

    At least with OSX it tells you exactly which keys are used for the shortcut right in the menu, and you don't have to do four keystrokes to get to one nested option.

    Not all OSX shortcuts are in the menus, and having to do four nested keystrokes to get to an arbitrary menu item is still leagues ahead of not having a keyboard shortcut at all (since OSX's keyboard accessibility is so primitive).

    Also, the new Microsoft Office software doesn't even have menus, so looking in the menu for the shortcut key doesn't work anymore either. I have NO idea how to find the shortcuts now.

    They're in the tooltips.

    In short, pretty much your whole rant can be boiled down to "I have made no attempt to learn or understand the system, and therefore it sucks".

  • by stewbacca (1033764) on Friday June 04, 2010 @05:59PM (#32464386)

    Your complaints are invalid and stem entirely from your unwillingness to make the slightest effort to understand how the system works.

    No they are not. I'm a tech writer and the Microsoft tech writing manual is my lifeline. I know how the stuff is SUPPOSED to work. It is not for lack of effort on my part that the WinOS keyshortcuts are horribly documented and not intuitive.

    One way uses CTRL as a modifier and does not involve the menus at all, though they are discoverable through the menu by using the tooltips.

    I no longer have old Office versions so I can't verify, but I don't remember a tooltip for Office 2003. Keyboard shortcuts are defined nicely in 2007, but unless you KNOW to hover and wait, you might never discover this feature.

    E.g., CTRL+S to save, CTRL+O to open. If you don't know or can't be bothered to remember these keyboard commands, you can alternately navigate the menu system by pressing the ALT key.

    And therein lies the problem..multiple ways to do the same thing using two different modifier keys, neither of which are clearly marked. Making it worse is the ALT method exists only to keep dragging along legacy code.

    And incidentally, the CTRL keys are unchanged in Office 2007, the tool tips still tell you the CTRL keys, and pressing ALT still causes key commands to appear on the ribbon options, so if you've ever used keyboard shortcuts in office ever, they still work basically the same way.

    And that is still WAAAAY to many ways to do the same thing.

    Caveat: I didn't know about the alt key in 2007. Very helpful indeed. It works better with a ribbon than a menu hiearchy. Works more like Photoshop key shortcuts (pick a letter for the tool you want, for example).

    So how was I supposed to know about the ALT function? Certainly there is no "unwillingness" on my part, nor have a not spent any effort trying to learn these things, yet I still didn't know. And I do this stuff for a living. How does my clueless mother-in-law supposed to know?

    As helpful as your post turned out to be, it still nicely demonstrates how cumbersome the Microsoft keyshortcuts really are.

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday June 05, 2010 @12:08AM (#32466814) Journal

    Want to know why I hated Vista? Okay here goes: Oh Vista how I hated thee, let me count the ways: Networking-My network shares would "disappear" several times a day, and the only fix? A reboot, yeah because I missed rebooting often like Win9X, thanks Vista. Networking- try listening to music or watching vids while a file downloaded? Watch as the file slooooows down. I had that with SP1 as well. Thanks Vista!

    Performance-Sloooow, god damn that thing could suck the life right out of a PC! Now my PC at the time wasn't a monster, but it was no slouch for 07, P4 3.6Ghz with HT, 2Gb of RAM, 7600GS, but with Vista it felt like running Win9x on a 486, thanks Vista! Performance-WTF is with the thrashing? Damned thing thrashed a new 200Gb drive to death! I tried every damned tweak on the Internet, never could get Vista to quit pounding the drive like a pimp pounding his whore. Thanks Vista!

    I could go on all damned day with Vista crap. I also saw more BSODs from Vista than I EVER saw from XP. Now I don't know what they did to Windows 7, I frankly don't care. Folks can call it "Vista Sp3" all they want, but those of us who suffered through Vista know better. Windows 7 works and Vista...well let's just say I gave away my Vista disc and last I heard its still being passed around like a bad fruitcake. With Windows 7 there is NO thrashing, NO BSODs, NO networking trouble or problems with shares, NO dragging ass and feeling like my PC is running backwards, it all "just works". And in the end it is all I care about, it "just works".

It's time to boot, do your boot ROMs know where your disk controllers are?

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