Section 3.1. The User Interface

3.1. The User Interface

The Address Bar is a special toolbar with an input field and (optionally) an arrow. It appears in Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer, and, if you've right-clicked on the Taskbar and selected Address from the Toolbars menu, on the Taskbar. When you type an Internet address, the name of a program, or the path of a folder, and then press Enter, the Address Bar will respond in one of many ways, depending on its location and your system's settings.

Windows Explorer now includes bread crumb navigation along the top, which shows you the complete path to your current location. Click on any spot back along the path, and you'll navigate directly there. Click the arrow next to any spot on the path, and you'll see a drop-down list of all the subfolders under that location.

Change the color and "glassiness" of windows, the Start menu, and the Taskbar.

To open

Control Panel [Appearance and Personalization] Personalization Window Color and Appearance

Right-click the Desktop and choose Personalize Window Color and Appearance


One of the most notable changes in Windows Vista compared to earlier versions of Windows is its transparent windows, courtesy of Windows Aero. You can change their colors and transparency from the Window Color and Appearance page.

Click a color to choose a new color. If you want to further customize the colors, click "Show color mixer," and controls will let you choose the precise colors of your windows. To change the transparency of windows, use the Color intensity slider. Move the slider to the left to make windows more transparent and to the right to make them less transparent. To change the colors and fonts of all screen elements in pretty much any way you'd like, click "Open classic appearance properties for more color options," and you'll open a dialog box from Windows Vista that lets you customize all elements of your screen.

Tip: If you aren't using Windows Aero, choosing Window Color and Appearance leads you to a different screenAppearance Settings, a holdover from Windows XP that lets you choose a color scheme but doesn't let you set the transparency of windows.

The central interface for most of the preferences, hardware configurations, and other settings in Windows Vista.

To open

Start Control Panel

Windows Explorer navigate to the \Users\username\Desktop folder, however)

Search box or Command Prompt Control

Search box or Command Prompt filename.cpl


 control [filename.cpl] [applet_name] control [keyword] filename.cpl 


The Control Panel has no settings of its own; it's merely a container for any number of option windows (commonly called applets or Control Panel extensions), most of which you can access without even opening the Control Panel folder. Unfortunately, the Control Panel can look vastly different from one computer to another, based on preferences scattered throughout several dialog boxes. Furthermore, the default settings vary, depending on how Windows Vista was installed. To simplify notation in this book, I'm making certain assumptions about your preferences. It's best to familiarize yourself with the various options described here so that you won't be confused when a setting in the Control Panel is referenced.

The Control Panel has two views: the normal view and the "Classic" view. In the normal view, you see major categories and click through to subcategories until you find the setting or applet you're looking for. Windows Vista changes Control Panel behavior to a certain extent compared to Windows XP, because even at the category level, there are applets you can click without having to drill down. The Classic view, by way of contrast, presents a simple, alphabetical listing of all Control Panel applets. To switch from the normal view to the Classic view, click the Classic View link. To switch from the Classic View to the normal view, click Control Panel Home.

See Table 3-1 for a list of Control Panel applets that you can run directly from the command line, and the category in which you can find them. Not listed are applets that you cannot run from the command line.

Table 3-1. Control Panel applets

Applet name


What to type at the command line

Add Hardware


control hdwwiz.cpl

Add or Remove Programs


control appwiz.cpl

Administrative Tools

System and Maintenance

control admintools

Appearance Settings

Appearance and Personalization

control color

Audio Devices and Sound Themes

Hardware and Sound

control mmsys.cpl

Date and Time

Clock, Language, and Regions

control timedate.cpl


control date/time

Display Settings

Appearance and Personalization

control desk.cpl


control desktop



control firewall.cpl

Folder Options

Appearance and Personalization

control folders


Appearance and Personalization

Explorer "\windows\fonts"


control fonts

Game Controllers

Hardware and Sound

control joy.cpl



control infocardcpl.cpl

iSCSI Initiator


control iscsicpl.cpl

Internet Options

Network and Internet

control inetcpl.cpl


Hardware and Sound

control main.cpl Keyboard


control keyboard


Hardware and Sound

control main.cpl


control mouse

Network Connections

Network and Internet

control ncpa.cpl


control netconnections

Pen and Input Devices

Hardware and Sound

control tabletpc.pcl

People Near Me

Network and Internet

control collab.pcl

Phone and Modem Options

Printers and Other Hardware

control telephon.cpl


control telephony

Power Options

Hardware and Sound

control powercfg.cpl

Printers and Faxes

Hardware and Sound

control printers

Regional and Language Options

Clock, Language, and Regions

control intl.cpl


control international

Scanners and Cameras

Hardware and Sound

control sticpl.cpl

Windows Security Center


control wscui.cpl

Task Scheduler

System and Maintenance

control schedtasks

Text to Speech

Ease of Access

control speech


System and Maintenance

control sysdm.cpl

User Accounts

User Accounts and Family Safety

control nusrmgr.cpl


control userpasswords


control userpasswords2

Set your system's clock, choose a time zone, and enable Internet time synchronization.

To open

Control Panel [Clock, Language, and Region] Date and Time

Right-click on the time in the notification area, and select Adjust Date/Time.

Command Prompt timedate.cpl

Command Prompt control date/time


The Date and Time dialog is pretty straightforward. Set your system's clock and time zone with the Date and Time tab, add additional clocks with the Additional Clocks tab, and automatically synchronize your PC clock to the true time over the Internet with the Internet Time tab.

Hover your mouse over the time, and the time of your additional clocks pops up in a small display. Click the time for a fuller display.

Change the settings for your monitor and screen.

To open

Control Panel [Appearance and Personalization] Personalization Display Settings

Command Prompt control desk.cpl


Display Settings allows you to change your display hardware settings. Here, you can choose the resolution and color depth of your screen.

Make it easier to access your computer.

To open

Control Panel [Appearance and Personalization] Ease of Access Center


If you have problems with your vision, or other issues that make it difficult to interact with your computer, the Control Panel's Ease of Access Center will let you change your settings to make it easier to use your PC.

The center offers these settings. Select any of them, and they will automatically be turned on when you boot up your PC:

Start Magnifier

Lets you enlarge sections of the screen so they're easier to see

Start On-Screen Keyboard

Lets you use a mouse or other pointing device to type by clicking on keys on an on-screen keyboard

Start Narrator

Turns on the Narrator, which reads text aloud from the screen

Set Up High Contrast

Turns on extremely high contrast to reduce eyestrain and make the screen easier to see

Display a preview and summary of any supported font file.

To open

Control Panel [Appearance and Personalization] Fonts Double-click any font file


 fontview [/p] filename 


It's easiest to use Font Viewer by double-clicking on a font file. You can view any font formats normally supported by Windows Vista, including TrueType fonts (.ttf), bitmap fonts (.fon), and Type 1 fonts (.pfm).

In addition to the font name and summary information displayed at the top of the report, a preview of the font is shown with the full alphabet in upper- and lowercase, the full set of numbers, a few symbols, and the phrase "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. 1234567890" in several different sizes.

Display all the installed fonts.

To open

Control Panel [Appearance and Personalization] Fonts

Command Prompt control fonts

Command Prompt explorer \windows\fonts


The Fonts folder is merely a folder on your hard disk (specifically, \Windows\fonts). However, when viewed in Explorer, it's configured to display a list of installed fonts instead of a list of the folder's contents. (The two aren't necessarily the same thing.) Select View Details for a view that lets you match up a font name with the file in which its stored. Use the Preview Pane for a preview of the font.

This feature of Windows Aero displays a thumbnail of the contents of any window on the Taskbar when the mouse hovers over the window. Above the thumbnail is the name of the application and open file. The thumbnail is actually live; it shows what is currently happening in that window, unless the window is currently minimized. So if a video is playing, you'll see the video playing in the thumbnail. Live Taskbar thumbnails work only when your PC uses Windows Aero.

The notification area, commonly known as the Tray, is the small area at the far right (or bottom) of the Taskbar that, by default, holds the clock and the tiny, yellow speaker icon, among other possible icons. With the exception of the clock, the purpose of the tray is to hold status icons placed there by Windows and other running applications. Hold the mouse cursor over the clock to see the date temporarily or click it to see a full clock. Right-click on an empty area of the Taskbar and click Properties to turn the clock on or off and to change other settings.

Personalize Windows Vista's appearance.

To open

Control Panel [Appearance and Personalization] Personalization

Command Prompt control desktop


This Control Panel category serves as the central location for customizing the way your Desktop and Windows Vista look and sound, and it contains a variety of applets that let you change everything from your desktop background to your display settings, font size, and more.

In the early days of computing, once you deleted a file it was gone. An unerase tool (available as part of Norton Utilities) was commonly used to recover accidentally deleted files. Microsoft caught on, and a while back gave Windows its own Recycle Bina feature that gives nearly every file a second chance, so to speak.

Drag any item from the Desktop to the Recycle Bin icon to delete it. When you drag the item and hold it over the Recycle Bin, an arrow appears next to the item. Drop it in the bin and the item disappears. Selecting File Delete on the menu bar of a folder also moves items to the Recycle Bin, as does selecting the item and then pressing the Delete key. By default, files are not deleted immediately but are stored until the Recycle Bin runs out of space, at which point they are deleted, oldest first, to make space. Until that time, you can retrieve them by double-clicking on the Recycle Bin icon, browsing through the contents of the Recycle Bin window, and dragging or sending the file elsewhere.

Language and localization settings affecting the display of numbers, currency, times, and dates.

To open

Control Panel [Clock, Language, and Region] Regional and Language Options

Command Prompt intl.cpl

Command Prompt control international


Numbers, times, dates, and currency are displayed differently in different parts of the world, and the Regional and Language Options dialog allows you to choose your display preferences in painful detail.

The central location for your application shortcuts and many Windows features.

To open

Desktop Start

Press the Windows logo key, if you've got one.



The Start menu was one of Microsoft's answers to the growing size and complexity of the Windows operating system when it was introduced in Windows 95. Since then, other features have been introduced to compensate for the Start menu's inadequacies, such as the Quick Launch Toolbar, the new Windows Vista-style Start menu, and the new Start Search input box.

Tip: One of the subtler changes to the Start menu is that when you're using Aero Glass, the menu is slightly transparent (translucent, really) so that you can see the content underneath it in a hazy kind of way.

Here is a quick rundown of the items you'll find in the Start menu. Note that some of these items may be hidden as a result of changing the Start Menu settings.

All Programs

While the Desktop is commonly used to hold icons for the most frequently used programs, the All Programs menu is designed to hold icons for every program installed on your computer. Hold your mouse over the arrow or click it to see a list of all the programs installed on your PC. Some programs are listed directly on the All Programs menu when you click it, and others are organized in folders (Games, Microsoft Office, etc.). The Windows Vista All Programs menu differs significantly from the Windows XP All Programs menu. The Windows XP All Programs menu cascaded; the Windows Vista All Programs menu shows the programs directly on the Start menu itself.

Tip: You can drag and drop programs to any location on the All Programs menu, including inside folders, to change the location where it appears. When you do this, you're not moving the actual program itself, but instead a shortcut to the program.

All Programs Startup

To have a program run automatically when Windows starts, place a shortcut to the program in this special folder. If you have more than one user set up on your computer, you'll want to control whether the program starts up automatically for just you or for all users, so instead of dropping it right in your Start menu, right-click on the Start button, choose Open All Users or Explore All Users, click Programs, and then click Startup. From this folder, you can add or delete shortcuts for startup programs.

Recently Used Programs

Located just above All Programs, this is a list of the programs you've most recently used. Click any icon to run the program. For security reasons, you may want to disable this menu. To do so, right-click on the Taskbar and choose Properties Start Menu, uncheck the box next to "Store and display a list of recently opened programs," and then click OK.

Internet, Email

These two items are user-customizable links to your favorite web browser and email program, respectively. By default, they're set to Internet Explorer and Windows Mail, but you can replace them with any programs properly registered as web browsers and email clients.

User Account

At the top of the Start menu is your user account icon. Click it to manage your user account. Clicking this icon brings you to the same Control Panel applet as if you followed the path Control Panel User Accounts and Family Safety User Accounts.

Tip: For advanced options for controlling user accounts, at a command prompt type control userpasswords2, and use the resulting dialog box.

username Button

Just below the User Account icon is a button which, when clicked, opens Windows Explorer to the username folder, which contains personal documents, Desktop settings, Favorites, and personal information for the currently logged-on user.

Documents, Pictures, Music

Clicking any of these buttons brings you to the corresponding folders for the current user accountusername\Documents, username\Pictures, and username\Music.


This button leads you to the Games folder, which has a list of installed games. It's the same list you'll find if you choose All Programs Games.


This brings you to Search.

Recent Items

This is a list of automatically generated links to the last dozen or so documents that were opened. Click the links to open the documents in their default applications. For security reasons, you may want to disable this menu. To do so, right-click on the Taskbar and choose Properties Start Menu, uncheck the box next to "Store and display a list of recently opened files," and then click OK.


This is a mirror of the current user's Favorites folder (\Users\username\Favorites) and the All Users' Favorites folder (\Users\All Users\Favorites). Although this is the same menu you'll see in Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer, the shortcuts in this menu will launch whatever browser is currently registered as the default. By default, this menu is not displayed. To turn it on, right-click on the Taskbar and choose Properties Start Menu, click Customize, check the box next to "Favorites menu," and click OK.

Tip: If you're a fan of the Run box from Windows XP, you can have it displayed on the Start menu. Right-click on the Taskbar and choose Properties Start Menu, click Customize, check the box next to "Run command," and click OK. As a practical matter, theres no real need for this box, though, because the Start Search box does everything that Run does, and more.

Shut Down

This lets you shut down your PC, hibernate or sleep it, restart it, switch to another user, and similar options.

Log Off

This logs you off but doesn't shut down your PC.

Start Search

This lets you do a quick search for files, folders, programs, and sites you've visited.


This opens Windows Explorer to the Computer view of your PC, the topmost level of Windows Explorer, and displays all of your drives.


This opens your network in a Windows Explorer window.

Connect To

This opens the Connect to a Network dialog box, which lets you connect to wireless, dial-up, and VPN networks.

Control Panel

See "Control Panel," earlier in this chapter.

Default Programs

Opens the Default Programs Control Panel applet, which lets you change a variety of settings related to how you run programs in Windows Vista, such as choosing your default programs for email, browsing the Web, and playing music. You can get to this applet via the Control Panel by going to Control Panel Programs Default Programs.

Help and Support

This opens the Windows Help and Support Center, where you can search for help, launch troubleshooters, and get help online.

The Taskbar contains the Start Menu button, buttons representing all open application windows, the notification area (also known as the Tray, discussed earlier in this chapter), and any optional toolbars.

The Start button isn't terribly complicated: just click on it to open the Start menu (discussed earlier in this chapter).

Windows Aero (sometimes referred to as Aero Glass) represents a significant change in the Windows interface. It adds a variety of new features, including transparent windows, live Taskbar thumbnails, and Windows Flip and Windows Flip 3D, some of which are designed to make it easier to navigate and find useful information (live Taskbar thumbnails and Windows Flip 3D) and others that are designed to make the overall experience more visually pleasing (transparent windows and animation).

Preview open windows and switch among them.

To open

Alt Tab (Windows Flip)

Windows logo key Tab (Windows Flip 3D)

Click the Windows Flip 3D icon in the Quick Launch area


The old Alt-Tab method of switching among windows in Windows XP has been replaced by the far more useful Windows Flip and Windows Flip 3D in Windows Vista. They each let you see thumbnails of your windows before you switch among them, making it easier to decide which window you want to switch to. Windows Flip shows the thumbnails side by side, and Windows Flip 3D shows the thumbnails stacked in three dimensions.

Gadgets perform automated tasks and display information; they live in the Windows Sidebar on the Desktop.

To open

Double-click the Windows Sidebar icon in the notification area.

Control Panel [Appearance and Personalization] Windows Sidebar Properties Start Sidebar when Windows starts

Start All Programs Accessories Windows Sidebar


One of Windows Vista's most useful new features is the Windows Sidebar and the Gadgets that live there. Gadgets are mini-applications that automatically perform a variety of useful tasks or display helpful information; many of them are designed to connect to the Internet in order to grab information for you. For example, they can fetch and display current stock information, news, and traffic reports. They can also play live slideshows of pictures on your PC and display information about how your system is currently performing. And they can integrate with your applications to give you a quick way to interact with them, for example, by displaying Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds from Internet Explorer, or displaying recent emails.

Windows Vista Pocket Reference
Windows Vista Pocket Reference: A Compact Guide to Windows Vista (Pocket Guides)
ISBN: 0596528086
EAN: 2147483647
Year: N/A
Pages: 63 © 2008-2017.
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