Computer Environment

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In Chapter 2, you learned a little about the magic that happens inside a computer. Specifically, you learned about its internal memory (random access memory [RAM]) and how that memory runs software and stores your work. Now you're ready to actually turn on your computer and become familiar with the GUI (graphic user interface) that helps the internal system communicate with you and vice versa. A user interface consists of the graphical components you use to view and interact with your computer. For instance, a menu from which you execute items and a button that you click are both pieces of a user interface. (For more specific information on GUIs, read the section "GUI" in Chapter 2.) In this section, you'll learn the following:

  • How to turn on and turn off your computer

  • How to learn more about your system and control those settings yourself

  • How to install and uninstall a software application

  • How to get help when you need it

  • How to print screen elements

  • How to launch a text-editing application, create and save a file, and then close the text editor

First Steps with the Computer

Turning on and off a computer isn't always as simple as flipping a switch, but most of the time it is. Sometimes you must turn it on using nothing more than the equipment itself for clues.

Starting the Computer

Start the computer.

Most of the time, turning on your computer is a simple process, but every system is different, so it's vital that you be familiar with your equipment. (See Chapter 2 for an explanation of the many types of computers and equipment you might encounter.) This section assumes you're working with a personal computer. Now, prepare to start your computer:

  1. Perhaps the most important step occurs before you turn on the system. First, check all your cables to make sure they're securely connected. Also check your electrical outlets to make sure that all the equipment is properly plugged in and that any complex outlet units or surge protectors are turned on. If your outlets are controlled by an exterior switch, make sure that switch is in the on position.

  2. Using your system's user documentation or user's guide, locate the on and off switch for each piece of your equipment: monitor, CPU, printer, and any other peripherals. A peripheral is any device you have connected to your system. Every system is different, but most new systems position the power button on the front of the CPU. (Learn about the CPU in Chapter 2.)

  3. After locating the appropriate switches on all your equipment, turn on the monitor.

  4. Turn on the CPU.

  5. Turn on the printer and any other peripherals, such as a Zip drive, speakers , scanner, and so on. This last step will be unique to your system. Systems often turn on all peripherals automatically once the computer itself is turned on. Generally, you can tell by simply watching the on and off lights for each device. If you're unfamiliar with the equipment, wait just a second or two before you start turning on the peripherals to see whether they power up automatically.

High voltage can quickly fry your system and can enter your computer through power cords and even the modem (online) connection. Protect your system by using a surge protector that absorbs voltage surges so they don't reach your computer. Some surge protectors come with a modem jack that also protects your online connection.

You might hear someone refer to the process of turning on your system as a boot or booting as in "boot the system." The preceding example might be further defined as a "cold boot" because the system was turned on after being turned completely off (cold).

Shutting Down the Computer

Shut down the computer using an appropriate routine.

Most modern systems use the operating system to power down:

  1. Save your work and close any open software applications.

  2. Click the Start button on the Windows taskbar to display the list of options shown in Figure 3.1.

    Figure 3.1. Click the Start button.

  3. Select Turn Off Computer.

  4. Click Turn Off in the resulting dialog box shown in Figure 3.2 to shut down the operating system and turn off the computer (and probably most of the peripherals, depending on how your system is configured). Table 3.1 defines the four options in detail.

    Figure 3.2. Use the operating system to turn off your computer.

  5. If necessary, turn off the monitor, printer, and any other peripherals that aren't automatically shut down by the system.

Table 3.1. Options for Powering Down Your Computer




Switches the system to Standby mode, which reduces (or even turns off) the power to most of the devices, except memory. Anything in current memory isn't automatically saved. If power is lost, the current memory is also lost. Be sure to save your work before switching to Standby mode.

Turn Off

Shuts down the operating system and turns off the CPU.


Shuts down the operating system and then restarts it automatically.


Dismisses the current dialog box without taking any action.

Regardless of how tempted you might be, don't use the on and off switch to turn off your computer. You might seriously damage your files if you don't shut down properly.

Restarting the Computer

Restart the computer using an appropriate routine.

If necessary, you can reset your computer to its original settings and defaults by rebooting:

  1. Save your work and close any open software applications.

  2. Click the Start button on the taskbar.

  3. Choose the Turn Off Computer item.

  4. Click Restart from the resulting options (see Figure 3.2). Doing so shuts down the operating system, turns off the computer, and then reboots your system automatically.

Restarting your system is often referred to as a warm or soft boot .

When an Application Stops Responding

Shut down a nonresponsive application.

Systems and software just keep getting better and better, but occasionally problems occur and your system freezes . When that happens, your computer might fail to respond to the normal clicks and selections. Unfortunately, the only way to restore order is to restart your system, but more than likely you'll find that you can't even access the Start menu (which we reviewed in the previous section).

When this happens, you might have to force the issue by pressing and holding down all three of the following keys at the same time: Ctrl, Alt, and Del. (The Ctrl key might also be labeled Control, and the Del key might also be labeled Delete.) Doing so displays the dialog box shown in Figure 3.3. Click the Shut Down menu to open its drop-down list and then choose Restart. Windows shuts down and your computer turns off and restarts automatically. This process clears the internal error that caused your system to freeze.

Figure 3.3. Unlock a frozen system.

Any activity in memory (unsaved) is lost if you use the Ctrl+Alt+Del keystroke combination. We recommend frequent saves to reduce the amount of work you might lose in the event of such a problem. In addition, don't try to resolve the problem by turning off the system either at the switch or the electrical source. Either could result in corrupted files and unrecoverable data.

Using Ctrl+Alt+Del to restore your system is sometimes referred to as a hard boot because you're unable to save your work and shut down applications before shutting down the operating system.

Sometimes you can shut down the application that's locked up without shutting down the entire system. Check the task list for the status "not responding." If you find one, select that item and click End Task.

Basic Information and Operations

You'll want to familiarize yourself with your system, just as you would your car or stereo. After all, would you jump into a new car and drive off without first finding the switch for the lights or the windshield wipers? Similarly, you need to know your computer equipment to know what software and peripherals it can support.

Learning About Your System

View the computer's basic system information: operating system, and version number, installed RAM (random access memory).

Perhaps the simplest method to learn a few quick details about the current system is to view the system's properties in the Windows Help window:

  1. Right-click the Start button and select Explorer on the taskbar to open the Windows Explorer the graphical interface Windows uses to display the system's file structure.

  2. In the resulting window, select About Windows from the Help menu to display the window shown in Figure 3.4.

    Figure 3.4. Review a few system properties.

  3. After viewing the information, click OK to close the dialog box.

Modifying Your System

Change the computer's desktop configuration: the date and time, volume settings, and desktop display options ( color settings, screen pixel resolution, and screen saver options).

Many of the system's default settings, such as the date and time and display options, are used by other software applications. From time to time, you might need to review these settings or even change them.

Most of these settings are accessible via the Control Panel, so we give the instructions for displaying the Control Panel window now. Click the Start button on the taskbar and choose Control Panel from the Start menu to display the Control Panel window shown in Figure 3.5. (This figure shows Windows XP default; your screen might look different.)

Figure 3.5. The Control Panel window provides access to a number of system settings and tools.

Changing the Date and Time

To change a system's date and time, double-click the Date, Time, Language, and Regional Options link (in the Control Panel window). Then, click the Change the Date and Time link to display the Date and Time Properties dialog box shown in Figure 3.6. Click the Date & Time tab if necessary. (You can also double-click the clock in the Notification area of the taskbar to open this dialog box.) You change a date component by selecting the appropriate value from that control.

Figure 3.6. Change a system's date and time settings.

Changing the time is similar to changing the date. The time consists of three components: hour , minute, and second. Highlight the appropriate section and click the spin control's up or down arrow, accordingly . You might find it easier and quicker to type in the new time by highlighting a component and then entering the new value via the keyboard.

In the United States, the operating system might automatically adjust the system's time twice a year when many areas switch to Daylight Savings Time and then again when those areas revert to their standard times. Click the Time Zone tab to check the current setting by clicking the Time Zone control's drop-down arrow. Next , select the appropriate zone item from the control's list. Be sure to uncheck the daylight savings option if you don't want the system to automatically adjust your time when appropriate.

Changing Audio Capabilities

In addition, most of today's systems are equipped with audio capabilities and speakers. You might need to modify the default volume settings. To do so, click the Sounds, Speech, and Audio Devices link in the Control Panel window. Then, click the Adjust the System Volume in the next window. Or you can double-click the volume control icon in the Notification area of the taskbar. Both methods open the Sounds and Audio Devices Properties dialog box shown in Figure 3.7. Adjust the slider control accordingly and close the dialog box.

Figure 3.7. Adjust sound properties.

If there's no volume control icon in the Notification area of the taskbar, you can display it. Open the Sounds and Audio Devices Properties dialog box, click the Volume tab, and then check the Place Volume Icon in the taskbar option.

Changing Display Options

Display options determine the specific colors and the size of each element onscreen. You can adjust the settings, but you should know that most software applications inherit these options. That means any changes you make affect most everything you might seeeven elements within a software application.

There are three types of display options that you might want to adjust:

  • Color Determine the number of colors your monitor can display.

  • Resolution Determine the size of individual elements.

  • Screen Saver Display a graphic or animation when the computer is inactive.

In the Control Panel window, click the Appearance and Themes link and then click the Change the Screen Resolution link to open the Display Properties dialog box. Click the Settings tab (if necessary) to work with the color and resolution. You can use the Color Quality control to select the number of colors that will be displayed on your monitor.

The second setting on this tab is the Screen Resolution setting. Simply adjust the slider to reduce or increase the number of pixels displayed. The more pixels you display, the more information you can display onscreen (and the smaller everything will appear).

The last display setting we want to explore is the Screen Saver : that's a file that displays moving elements when the computer is idle for a specific length of time. Newer monitors aren't really at risk, but older monitors could be permanently scarred by screen elements if they remain set for too long. For this reason, some people employ screen savers, which temporarily change the display and keep elements moving around the screen to prevent damage.

The operating system comes with a number of screen savers, but you're free to purchase one or even download a free file from the Internet. (Not all files are free; read instructions carefully before downloading.)

To specify a screen saver, click the Screen Saver tab and choose a file from the Screen Saver control's drop-down shown in Figure 3.8. Click the Preview button to see what the file looks like in real time; you might decide that you don't like the selected file and try another. Some screen savers have settings you can modify by clicking the Settings button and following the subsequent instructions. Use the Wait control to determine how long the computer can remain idle before the screen saver kicks in. The default is 10 minutes. You can also use the Power button to turn your monitor off entirely after a fixed time period rather than have it display a screen saver.

Figure 3.8. Choose a screen saver from the available files.

Determining the Language

Set, change keyboard language.

Just because you and your system use English doesn't mean that you won't ever need to correspond with someone in another language. Fortunately, you can change the default language for your system or switch between a large number of input languages. To set the default language your computer uses, you must first install it:

  1. In the Control Panel, click the Date, Time, Language, and Regional Options link.

  2. Click the Add Other Languages link.

  3. On the Languages tab, click the Details button. The default input language is probably English (United States)-US.

  4. Click the Add button in the Installed Services section to display the Add Input Language dialog box.

  5. Open the Input Languages control's drop-down list and choose the language you want to install. Figure 3.9 shows Russian installed. Notice that the Keyboard Layout/IME control updates accordingly.

    Figure 3.9. The operating system supports a number of languages.

  6. Click OK to return to the previous dialog box, which now displays two available languages in the Services Installed list, as shown in Figure 3.10.

    Figure 3.10. Install a second language.

  7. Open the Default Input Language control's list (the combo box at the top) and you'll find that Russian is now listed as a possible default language. Go ahead and select Russian from the list. (You can quickly switch back to English later.)

  8. Click OK twice. Nothing seems to change: everything is still in English. Check the new Language bar in the taskbar. It should resemble the one shown in Figure 3.11.

    Figure 3.11. The operating system supports a number of languages.

The language bar then displays RU (for Russian) as the default language. If you expect the system to magically transpose your English words into Russian, you might be disappointed. All you've done is reset the key-board; the feature doesn't suddenly display everything in Russian. (If you actually reset your system, be sure to reset the default to English before you continue.)

You might not want to change the default language but still need to correspond in languages other than the default. In this case, you can access any number of input languages as you need them. An input language is the language you use to enter text at any given time. What that means is you could be typing in English (the default) and then switch to Russian, French, Spanish, or any number of supported languages to type in a single word, sentence , paragraph, or section. In fact, you could use an input language for an entire document if you likedwithout changing the system's default language.

To access a default language, repeat Steps 1 through 6 from the previous exercise. The only difference is that you won't change the Input Default Language selection in that control. Adding the input language displays the Language bar you saw earlier and you're free to switch back and forth. However, the operating system won't change the system's default language.

To use an input language, open a blank document using Notepad or WordPad and start entering text. Then, using the Language bar, choose Russian or another listed language. Any text you enter assumes the input language's keyboard, not the English keyboard you're actually using.

By default, most input languages are installed automatically. However, to enter or display text in any of the East Asian languages or a right-to-left language, you must install the language manually from the system's CD-ROM.

Preparing Disk Storage Medium

Format removable disk media: diskette, Zip disk.

In Chapter 2, you learned a bit about removable storage devices. (See "Storage Devices" in that chapter.) Before you use a floppy or Zip disk, you must format it. In this context, format means to prepare the disk to store electronic data.

You can purchase formatted diskettes, so you might never actually need to format a brand new disk. In fact, we recommend that you use factory-formatted diskettes. However, occasionally, you might want to format a used disk to erase old data.

Formatting erases everything on a diskette, so use care when formatting your diskettes. In addition, never try to reformat your hard drive. Doing so deletes everything on your hard drive: all your data, all your software applications, and even your operating system. You won't be able to access your computer at all.

To format a floppy diskette, follow these steps:

  1. Insert the floppy diskette into the appropriate drive.

  2. Open My Computer and select (don't double-click) drive A in the Devices with Removable Storage section. (Access My Computer from the Desktop or the Start menu.)

  3. Choose Format from the File menu.

  4. Windows displays the dialog box shown in Figure 3.12. Most of the time you can just click Start. Occasionally, you might want to check the Quick Format option to save a little time. This option erases files but doesn't check for bad sectors. Use this option only if the disk has been previously formatted and you're sure the diskette isn't damaged. Otherwise, stick with the Capacity setting.

    Figure 3.12. Most of the time you'll use the default format options.

Formatting a Zip disk is basically the same. Repeat Steps 1 through 3 in the previous exercise. This time, select the Zip drive in the My Computer window. When the operating system displays the dialog box shown in Figure 3.13, click Format. Use the Long Format option only when the Zip disk has developed errors. Remember, just like with a floppy disk, formatting a Zip disk completely erases its contents.

Figure 3.13. Use default formatting options unless you have good reason not to.

Working with Software

Install, uninstall a software application.

More than likely, your system will arrive with a few software applications already installed. However, you'll probably purchase more, and when you do, you'll need to install your new software to use it.

Fortunately, installing software has become simple and routine. To install a software application from a CD-ROM or a floppy drive, follow these steps:

  1. Insert the CD-ROM or the floppy disk in the appropriate drive. If the software automatically initiates the install process, simply follow the instructions.

  2. If not, open the Control Panel by clicking Start and then choosing Control Panel.

  3. Click the Add or Remove Programs link.

  4. Click the Add New Programs option in the Add or Remove Programs window, and then click the CD or Floppy button in the next window.

  5. At this point, the software installation process kicks in: follow the instructions. We recommend that you accept the default (or typical) installation option unless you have specific reasons not to.

Uninstalling a software application is also easy. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the Control Panel by clicking Start and then choosing Control Panel.

  2. Click the Add or Remove Programs link.

  3. Click on the application that you want to uninstall.

  4. Click on the Change/Remove button and follow the instructions to remove the application.

Some software might ask you to reboot the system after you finish the installation or uninstallation. You might want to schedule software installation for a time when you're not doing other important tasks .

Capturing Screen Data

Use keyboard print screen facility and paste contents into a document.

You've probably heard the old saying about a picture being worth a thousand words. Sometimes you can better make your point with a picture than text. That's when printing the screen might come in handy. For instance, you might want to share a specific error with a technician.

To save a copy of the screen, press the Print Screen key to copy the entire screen, exactly as it appears. Next, open a program such as Microsoft Paint or Microsoft Word and choose Paste from the Edit menu. At this point, you can save or print the image.

When You Need Help

Use available Help functions.

Few people master their computer without a little help now and again. The first place you'll want to go when you have questions is the computer itself. Windows offers a number of ways to get the help you need.

The best place to start is with the Help and Support Center. Click the Start button and select Help and Support Center. Or open the Control Panel window and click the Help and Support link. The resulting page shown in Figure 3.14 has the look and feel of a Web page. From this page, you can quickly access a number of help features.

Figure 3.14. Check the system's Help and Support area.

To use the Index, click the Index button on the toolbar and enter a search string. As you enter characters , the window updates with the best match in the index items. For instance, enter the word "default" and then double-click the Setting Default Printer item to display information on that subject, as shown in Figure 3.15.

Figure 3.15. Display helpful information on specific subjects.

You can skip the Index window and enter search text in the Search control. For instance, enter "default printer" into the Search control and press Enter or click the Search Now button (the arrow to the right of the control). Windows updates the Search Results list accordingly. In this case, clicking the Specify Your Default Printer link in the Suggested Results list displays the same information you saw in Figure 3.15. Click a topic or click one of the group buttons for more possible subjects:

  • Suggested Topics Attempts to select the most relevant topics to match the search criteria.

  • Full-text search matches Displays help documents that contain the exact text.

  • Microsoft Knowledge Base Displays links to appropriate online articles in Microsoft's Knowledge Base.

Text Editing

Everyone uses text files. You might write letters or just keep a personal journal. Windows comes with two text editorsNotepad and WordPad. A text editor is a program that allows you to enter and manipulates text in a document and then save that document.

Preparing to Work with Text

Launch a text-editing application. Open, create a file.

Both Notepad and WordPad are accessible through the Programs menu. We'll be working with Notepad, but you can launch WordPad the same way. To launch Notepad, click the Start button on the taskbar and Select All Programs in the Start menu. (If Notepad appears on the Start menu, you can skip the All Programs steps that come next and just launch Notepad from the Start menu.) Then, select Accessories in the Programs menu to display another menu of actual applications. Select Notepad from that list, as shown in Figure 3.16. Notepad launches a blank document in a new window. At this point, you can start entering text, as shown in Figure 3.17.

Figure 3.16. Select Notepad, a text editor, from the list of Windows Accessories programs.

Figure 3.17. Notepad opens a blank document when you launch it.

Saving a Text File

Save the file to a location on a drive.

Enter the text, "This is my practice text file," and then save the file on your hard drive. To do so, choose Save As from the File menu. In the resulting dialog box, choose a location for the file using the Save in control. Simply open that control's drop-down list and select the appropriate folder. As you can see in Figure 3.18, you can select the hard drive, a floppy drive, the CD-ROM (if you have a CD writer), or even a Zip drive if you have one installed. In the File Name control, name the text file "PracticeTextFile." When you're ready, click Save.

Figure 3.18. Choose a location and enter a name for the text file.

To open an existing file, choose Open from Notepad's File menu, and select the right folder in the Look in control. Select the file from the list of files, and then click the Open button.

Closing a Text-Editing Application

Close the text-editing application.

When you're done working with the text file, close Notepad by clicking Exit from the File menu. Or click the Windows Close button (the X in the top right of the title bar).

Most text editors work with just one file at a time, so closing the file is the same thing as closing the text editor. If you don't want to close the editor, but you want to work on a new file, choose New or Open from the File menu. Doing so closes the active document before opening another.

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ICDL Exam Cram 2
ICDL Exam Cram 2
ISBN: 0789730928
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 142 © 2008-2017.
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