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Windows 7: The Missing Manual 222

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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  • by Skarecrow77 ( 1714214 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @02:48PM (#32461770)

    but windows just isn't that hard to use.

    Maybe if you're from a 3rd world country and this is your first exposure to a microsoft product, I'd understand... or maybe if it was 1996 and you're finally purchasing your first PC, but I don't think there are too many people left in developed countries who've reached adulthood who have escaped using some version of windows at least occasionally.

    And if there is anybody who has somehow managed to do the task of never having worked with windows... I doubt it going looking for a book to learn it.

  • Agreed, it isn't hard to use at all for anyone with any real exposure to the OS.

    But...if you really want to UNDERSTAND why things are the way they are, then manuals like these are very good for the noob to intermediate level person.

  • Libraries (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PoiBoy ( 525770 ) <(moc.sgnidlohiop) (ta) (nairb)> on Friday June 04, 2010 @02:58PM (#32461930) Homepage
    Is it me, or are the libraries in Windows 7 stupid? I prefer Vista because it doesn't have those damn things. I've read about registry hacks to disable them, though I've not had any luck getting those hacks to work.
  • Wait, what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @03:06PM (#32462056) Homepage Journal

    People keep saying they don't want to switch to Mac OS X or Linux because they don't want to re-learn how to use their computer... But simply changing the Windows version is enough to warrant an article on a nerd website about a manual about Windows 7?

    I'm betting some people would find the switch from Windows XP to either Mac OS X or any Linux distro to be easier than switching to Windows 7.

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Friday June 04, 2010 @03:13PM (#32462152) Homepage Journal

    Or my netbook's copy of "Windows 7 starter edition, most of which is missing" operating system.

    It's a damned shame that books like this are needed. Too bad "help" is so fuXXored.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 04, 2010 @03:13PM (#32462156)

    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?

    You're either making this up or you're an idiot who can't configure their wireless card right.

  • by dingen ( 958134 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @03:18PM (#32462230)
    But you don't need a book to learn the keyboard shortcuts of your operating system. Not only are they probably explained in the user interface, they're also listed in the manual that came with the OS and placed in the support section on the developer's website. Who doesn't check out these sort of sources before they go out and purchase a book?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 04, 2010 @03:26PM (#32462380)

    You're not an asshole. (Well not for this.) What you're missing is W7 is used by a lot of people who aren't much interested in learning about the OS, and /. is populated by people who are the friend/relative who gets asked the computer questions.

    I've just been one of each for two who've got nice new machines with W7. And you know what? I don't know shit about where things are in Windows menus these days, and don't much care to find out. So I insisted both buy Chris Fehily's Windows 7 Visual QuickStart Guide [fehily.com].

    Maybe The Missing Manual is just as good. I simply went to the book store and browsed the titles and liked Fehily's book. It's well written, thorough, and has just the right sort of depth to be the desk reference for these folks. Thank you /. for including a review of Missing Manual to spotlight another.

    Obligatory reply to Why Not Ubuntu?: Did that. Both got fed up with dual booting to XP to do things like run apps that aren't available on Ubuntu, and do basics like clean the printer heads and find out how much ink is left. Or print duplex. At least they listened to me insisting that Vista must be avoided, and waited for W7 before getting a new computer that does everything they want again.

    And yeah, they miss some things about Ubuntu. They didn't hate it at all. Just on the balance the compromises were in favour of Win in their own situations. When W7 corks up with malware like their XPs did, they'll be quicker to switch to Ubuntu again. They definitely respect it now as 'pretty good'.

  • by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @03:45PM (#32462654)

    But you don't need a book to learn the keyboard shortcuts of your operating system.

    Like I pointed out, it was just an example. I'm sure that Windows 7 includes several new tools and utilities that one wouldn't run across with normal usage, but would still be helpful to know about.

    Not only are they probably explained in the user interface

    Not that I'm aware of, I don't know where I would see a tooltip to indicate that I can press Windows-E to open Explorer, or Windows-R to open the Run dialog, or Windows-M to minimize/restore all applications.

    they're also listed in the manual that came with the OS and placed in the support section on the developer's website

    Like most other users, I assume, I only check the manual or support website when I'm having a problem. I don't normally peruse those to look for useful tips I don't already know about if I'm not having any other problems using the software.

  • by stewbacca ( 1033764 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @04:20PM (#32463200)

    Not only that, but books like this are good for pointing out useful things that otherwise would be hard to find out about just from using it.

    Hence the "Missing Manual" part of the title. Pogue has made a career off of this technique. I, for one, am a fan.

  • by stewbacca ( 1033764 ) on Friday June 04, 2010 @05:41PM (#32464160)

    No, you aren't "breaking" anything to me. The inconsistency in the Windows environment is well-known. One app will have "Ctrl + S" in the menu, yet another will use an underlined letter in a word under a menu list without listing the modifier key.

  • by drsmithy ( 35869 ) <drsmithy@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Friday June 04, 2010 @05:53PM (#32464320)

    The "Vista is crap" mentality that still pervades is rather baffling to me.

    What's more entertaining is the people who rail on Vista being crap, praise Windows 7 for being "best evar", then turn around and call Windows 7 "Vista SP1".

    There's some pretty serious mental gymnastics going on there. :)

  • by drsmithy ( 35869 ) <drsmithy@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Friday June 04, 2010 @05:56PM (#32464354)

    Only a couple of years ago /. would never allow anything with "Windows" in the article title on a front page. Either times have changed, or /.

    Say what ? Slashdot has fairly consistently had at least one "Windows sucks" article a week for over a decade now.

  • Re:Libraries (Score:3, Insightful)

    by devent ( 1627873 ) on Saturday June 05, 2010 @12:16AM (#32466850) Homepage
    What are you talking about? In my $HOME I have Documents, Music, Videos and Downloads. I go to Music and all is in one place, sorted by the Artist and by Album. The Music folder is a soft link to a different partition as the Documents is a soft link to a Truecrypt container, because I like to save my documents encrypted.

    Soft links are working transparent to every application, so I can use file managers or other applications. If I need to backup I just copy it over or I use tools like rsync.

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford