Windows Vista, the latest product in a long line of operating systems from Microsoft, represents the most dramatic change in Windows since the move from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. Almost everything about the operating system has been altered, starting with a new look and feel to the desktop and interface featuring transparent, animated windows, to a new Control Panel, improved networking, new versions of Internet Explorer and the email program in Windows, improved security . . . the list, as you'll see throughout this book, is very long indeed.
Even if you've used a previous version of Windows, you'll find a lot that is new in Windows Vista, and you'll find there's much to learn as well. Windows Explorer looks and works differently, for example, and includes many new ways to access files and folders. The entire interface has gotten a major face-lift. It's easier than ever to set up and manage your own network, including wireless networks. And the new Search feature makes searching lightning-fast, and includes new ways of finding files.
A graphical user interface such as the one in Windows Vista is not a substitute for good, thorough documentation. Naturally, colorful icons and animated windows make the interface more inviting and help uninitiated users stumble through the basics of opening programs and printing documents. There are only so many hours in the day, though, and spending most of them trying to figure out the new networking system and Control Panel, sorting through the thousands of settings in the Registry, discovering all of the hidden tools, or even learning to be productive with the new Windows Movie Maker, is really not a good use of your time.
By taking the undocumented or otherwise hidden features and settings in Windows Vista and placing them in context with more conspicuous and familiar components, this book provides the complete picture necessary to truly understand the operating system and what is involved in completing just about any task.
There are many books on Windows Vista, but most of them get bogged down with elementary tutorials and the scrawniest tasks most of us could perform in our sleep. That's where this book comes in. Windows Vista in a Nutshell provides a condensed but thorough reference to Windows Vista, with an organization that helps you get right to the task at hand.
For example, there are literally hundreds of settings and features in Windows Vista, scattered throughout dozens of dialog boxes. Some are plainly accessible through the Start menu or in the Control Panel, and others are hidden under layers of application menus. A few aren't apparent at all without knowledge of hidden features. This book thoroughly documents them all and makes it easy for you to find them by using a simple organization that lets you find a setting, tool, or feature based on the task you want to accomplish.
Considerations and Scope
The focus of this book is on users and their networks and applications, not on large enterprise or corporate systems or network administration. However, the book recognizes that many people run small networks in their homes or in their offices, so it spends a considerable amount of time on network tools, settings, configuration, and troubleshooting. Therefore, in addition to covering the use of Windows Vista on a single PC, the book also covers how to set up a network, how to troubleshoot it, and how to take advantage of Windows Vista's numerous networking features, including file and printer sharing, offline folders, collaboration via Windows Meeting Space, using Remote Desktop Connections, and many other common and not-so-obvious network tasks.
This book also offers you a basic understanding of the deeper levels of network configuration available in large, enterprise-level networks, but specific installation details and detailed configuration information for system and network administrators are largely beyond its scope.
This book has tried to speak universal truths about Windows Vista, but sometimes it is forced to make assumptions about your settings or installed options. Microsoft gives so many configuration options, and computer manufacturers can change some configurations, so the truth is that, for better or worse, each user's machine represents a slightly different installation of Windows Vista. Of all the code and data Microsoft ships on the Windows Vista DVD, only about half is used in any particular user's configuration. What this book says about Windows Vista may or may not be true of your particular installationalthough it will be very close.
For example, there's a setting in Windows Explorer Folder Options that instructs Windows to open icons with either a double-click or a single-click, according to your preference. While most users tend to prefer the double-click option, and double-clicking is the default on most systems, your system might be different. Although both setups are clearly defined in Chapter 2, some procedures elsewhere in this book will instruct you to double-click where you may only need to single-click, depending on your system setup. This "knowledge gap" is an unfortunate consequence of the malleable nature of the Windows operating system.
Consider another oddity in Windows Vista: categories in the Control Panel, which split the components of the Control Panel into distinct categories, rather than simply listing them alphabetically. What's more, the Control Panel can be accessed in any of three different ways (as a menu in the Start menu, as a stand-alone folder window, or as an entry in the folder tree in Windows Explorer), and the category interface (which can be disabled completely, if desired) is used in only some cases. This means that it's difficult (and laborious) to predict when you'll need to open the "Appearance and Personalization" category before you can get to the Folder Options dialog. The book compensates for this ambiguity by enclosing the category name in "maybe" brackets, like this: Control Panel [Appearance and Personalization] Folder Options.
Also, for all the statements (from Microsoft and others) that Windows Vista is "integrated" and "seamless," the fact is that the system is actually amazingly modular, customizable, and "seamy." This is a good thing. But this almost infinite customizability and modularity of Windows Vista means that there are many different paths you can follow to your goal, and it can be easy to get lost. This book shows you all the paths, picks out the easiest one for you to follow, and includes signposts along the way. Ultimately, Windows Vista is a platform and set of capabilities, not a single, stable product with a fixed set of features. In this book, you get the information you need to tap into all of Windows Vista's capabilities, not just those that are showcased on Microsoft's web site or the Windows Desktop.
Organization of the Book
This book is divided into three parts.
Part I: The Big Picture
This part of the book is designed to give you an overview of Windows Vista and to introduce the concepts used throughout the rest of the book. It consists of two chapters:
Chapter 1, The Lay of the Land, gives you a brief guided tour of Windows Vista, highlights all the major changes to the operating system, details its hardware requirements, and offers a comparison of the various versions of Windows Vista and their features.
Chapter 2, Using Windows Vista, covers the basics of using Windows, such as starting applications, manipulating files, and getting around the interface. Even if you know your way around previous versions of Windows, this chapter will be helpful, because a lot has changed with Windows Vista.
Part II: Nutshell Reference
This part of the book contains alphabetically organized references for each major element of Windows Vista. To make it easier to find the element, tool, feature, or program you're looking for, it's organized by topics, such as Internet Explorer; Networking, Mobility, and Wireless; and so on. This section is the comprehensive reference that covers all the programs that come with Windows Vista, those listed in the Start menu and Control Panel, and those available only if you know where to look. For GUI-based applications, the book focuses on nonobvious features and provides helpful hints about power-user features and things that will make your life easier. For command-line-based programs, all options are covered, since these programs are not as obviously self-documenting (though many do support the conventional /? command-line option for help).
Chapter 3, The User Interface, is a thorough examination of the elements that make up the Windows Vista graphical user interface. It covers in detail new features such as Windows Aero, transparent windows, Windows Flip and Windows Flip 3D, and the Windows Sidebar and associated Gadgets. In addition, it covers the basics of windows, menus, buttons, listboxes, and scroll bars, as well as how to make the most of the Taskbar and how to use any component of Windows with only the keyboard.
Chapter 4, Working with the Filesystem, Drives, Data, and Search, covers all aspects of files and the filesystem, including the myriad new features of Windows Explorer. In addition, it covers the new search features of Windows Vista in great detail.
Chapter 5, Internet Explorer, details all aspects of the revamped browser in Windows. It covers tabbed browsing, the new antiphishing filter, RSS feeds, the Search Bar, and virtually all of Internet Explorer's other features, tools, and settings.
Chapter 6, Windows Mail, puts the spotlight on the email program formerly known as Outlook Express. In Windows Vista, Microsoft has clearly decided to make the email client built into Windows a serious piece of work. The new features extend well beyond merely renaming the program.
Chapter 7, Networking, Wireless, and Mobility, covers wired and wireless networks, as well as laptops and mobile computing. Almost everyone these days is a system administrator of some sort, even if it's only for a two-PC home network sharing an Internet connection with a printer attached. So this chapter delves into small networks in some detail, including wireless networks, wireless connections, public hotspots, and similar matters. It also covers the entirely new networking interface, new networking applications such as the collaboration tool Windows Meeting Space, and the Sync Center, which makes it easy to synchronize files among different computers and devices.
Chapter 8, Security, covers the myriad new security tools built into Vista, with an emphasis on Internet security. (Windows Vista has a greater emphasis on security than previous versions of Windows, so security gets its own chapter.) Among the topics covered are the Security Center, Windows Defender, User Account Control, System Protection, Network Access Protection, the Windows Firewall, file encryption, and Windows Update. The chapter shows how you can use Windows Vista to make your PC as secure as possible, and includes hidden ways to configure security, such as how to customize the Windows Firewall's outbound port filtering.
Chapter 9, Working with Hardware, covers everything about setting up, maintaining, and troubleshooting hardware, including keyboards, mice, monitors, USB devices, input devices, scanners, cameras, sound devices, and printers. It also covers adding, installing, and troubleshooting drivers.
Chapter 10, Managing Programs, Users, and Your Computer, covers how user accounts work on Windows Vista, and how to make best use of them. It details Group Policy and user profiles, and it spends a good amount of time on the new User Account Control features, and on the difference between running as a normal user and as an administrator.
Chapter 11, Performance and Troubleshooting, covers all of the performance and troubleshooting tools in Windows, including backup, disk defragmentation, System Restore, the Performance Diagnostic Console, Task Manager, system maintenance tools, and much more.
Chapter 12, Graphics and Multimedia, covers music and video playing and production, as well as new features that make it easier to connect a variety of multimedia devices to a PC. It includes the new Windows Media Player, the Media Center, connecting to and syncing with MP3 players, making videos with Windows Movie Maker, burning CDs and DVDs, and more.
Chapter 13, The Registry, describes the organization of the Windows XP Registry, the central configuration database upon which Windows and all of your applications rely to function and remember your settings. The Registry Editor, the primary interface to the Registry, is covered here, along with some of the more interesting entries scattered throughout this massive database.
Chapter 14, The Command Prompt, provides complete documentation on this often overlooked and underestimated part of the operating system. In addition to learning the ins and outs of the Command Prompt application, you can look up commands and find exactly what options they support. Batch files, a quick and easy way to automate repetitive tasks, are also covered.
Part III: Appendixes
This section includes various quick reference lists.
Appendix A, Installing Windows Vista, covers everyone's least favorite activity. In addition to documenting the various installers and options, the chapter includes a number of pitfalls and solutions that will apply to nearly every installation.
Appendix B, Keyboard Shortcuts, gives a list of keyboard accelerators (also known as hotkeys) used in all parts of the Windows interface.
Appendix C, Keyboard Equivalents for Symbols and International Characters, explains how to type the symbols and international characters normally accessible only with Character Map.
Appendix D, Common Filename Extensions, lists many file types and their descriptions. This appendix is useful when you're trying to figure out how to open a specific file and all you know is the filename extension.
Appendix E, Services, lists the background services that come with Windows Vista and their respective filenames. If you need to find a service, or simply need to determine the purpose of a particular program shown to be running in the Windows Task Manager, this appendix will provide the answer.
Conventions Used in This Book
The following typographical conventions are used in this book:
The following symbols are used in this book:
Rather than using procedural steps to tell you how to reach a given Windows Vista user interface element or application, I use a shorthand path notation.
For example, the book doesn't say, "Click on the Start menu, then click on All Programs, then on Accessories, and then on Paint." It simply says, Start All Programs Accessories Paint. The book generally doesnt distinguish between menus, dialog boxes, buttons, checkboxes, and so on, unless it's not clear from the context. Just look for a GUI element whose label matches an element in the path.
The path notation is relative to the Desktop or some other well-known location. For example, the following path:
means "Open the Start menu (on the Desktop), then choose Control Panel, then choose Security, and then click Windows Firewall." That is shortened to:
because Control Panel is a "well-known location" and the path can therefore be made less cumbersome. As stated earlier in this preface, the elements of the Control Panel may or may not be divided into categories, depending on the context and settings on your computer. Thus, rather than a cumbersome explanation of this unfortunate design, every time the Control Panel comes up, the following notation is used:
where the category"Security," in this caseis shown in square brackets, implying that you may or may not encounter this step.
Paths will typically consist of clickable user interface elements, but they sometimes include text typed in from the keyboard (shown in constant width bold text):
There is often more than one way to reach a given location in the user interface. I frequently list multiple paths to reach the same location, even though some are longer than others, because it can be helpful to see how multiple paths lead to the same destination.
Using Code Examples
This book is here to help you get your job done. In general, you may use the code in this book in your programs and documentation. You do not need to contact us for permission unless you're reproducing a significant portion of the code. For example, writing a program that uses several chunks of code from this book does not require permission. Selling or distributing a CD-ROM of examples from O'Reilly books does require permission. Answering a question by citing this book and quoting example code does not require permission. Incorporating a significant amount of example code from this book into your product's documentation does require permission.
We appreciate, but do not require, attribution. An attribution usually includes the title, author, publisher, and ISBN. For example: "Windows Vista in a Nutshell, by Preston Gralla. Copyright 2007 O'Reilly Media, Inc., 978-0-596-52707-5."
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This is the fourth In a Nutshell book covering a version of Microsoft Windows. Although this book has evolved substantially from its progenitors, Windows 95 in a Nutshell, Windows 98 in a Nutshell, and Windows XP in a Nutshell (as Windows itself has evolved), its existence is due to the hard work of those who worked on those earlier volumes.
Tim O'Reilly developed the original concept for the book; he and Troy Mott were the principal authors of the first edition. Andrew Schulman was also instrumental in helping get the first edition of this book off the ground, and it was he who insisted on the importance of the command line. Walter Glenn was a major contributor to the second edition. The Windows XP edition was developed by David Karp and incorporated some material from his bestselling Windows Annoyances series; David offered advice for this edition as well.
For this edition, old friend and Windows guru, Scot Finnie, offered much advice and support, and helped with getting me out of some thorny dual-boot installation problems during early Windows Vista betas. David Pogue offered a variety of tips and suggestions; for his look at Windows Vista, check out Windows Vista: The Missing Manual(O'Reilly). Editor of this edition, Brian Jepson, deserves combat pay for extremely fine-grained editing of this book with extensive attention to minute detail, while at the same time managing to get the book out the door on time. His technically astute analysis and overall solid editorial judgment and help made the final book a far better one than when it was begun. Thanks, also, to Rachel Monaghan, production editor and proofreader; Audrey Doyle, copyeditor; and John Bickelhaupt, indexer.
And, of course, most thanks go to my family: my wife Lydia, and my children Gabe and Mia. They reminded me that there is, in fact, a life beyond the keyboard.