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. With few flaws, I rate this a 8 out of 10."