Getting Around Windows Vista

9/5/2010 9:43:47 AM

Prior to performing administration of Windows Vista, you should take a few minutes to get to know its enhanced interface. In this section, I'll introduce some key interface enhancements of Windows Vista, including those for the taskbar, the Start menu, and Control Panel. For additional information on interface changes.

Working with the Taskbar

The taskbar and the menu system are the primary means of getting around in Windows Vista. You use the Start button on the taskbar to display the Start menu. The Start menu in turn enables you to run programs, open folders, get help, and search for items stored on the computer. The taskbar also features Quick Launch items, quick access buttons for running programs, and a notification area.

By default, the taskbar is locked and appears as shown in Figure 1. Quick Launch items, displayed to the right of the Start button, enable you to quickly start commonly used programs, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer 7, to quickly switch to 3D flip view, and to quickly display the Desktop. You can add any program directly to the Quick Launch toolbar from the Start menu by clicking the Start button, navigating to the program that you want to be able to access quickly, right-clicking the program name, and then selecting Add To Quick Launch.

Image from book
Figure 1: The taskbar.

Although the Quick Launch toolbar is displayed by default, it can be removed by right-clicking the task bar, pointing to Toolbars, and selecting Quick Launch. If the Quick Launch toolbar isn't displayed and you want to display it, right-click the taskbar, point to Toolbars, and then select Quick Launch.

The taskbar displays a button for each program running interactively. Clicking the button enables you to display the program window in front of all other windows. When you are running multiple similar programs, these programs are grouped automatically under one taskbar button. Clicking the taskbar button then displays a dialog box with an entry for each folder window, enabling you to select which item to display.

With Windows Aero, when you move the mouse pointer over a taskbar button, Windows Vista displays a live thumbnail of the window, showing the content of that window. For grouped taskbar buttons, Windows displays a thumbnail of the most recently opened window and the thumbnail appears to include a group of windows.

Beyond this, you can work with running programs in several different ways:

  • If you press Alt+Tab, Windows Vista displays a view window containing live thumbnails of all open windows. This view is called a flip view. Holding down the Alt key keeps the flip view open. Pressing Tab while holding down the Alt key allows you to cycle through the windows. When you release the Alt key, the currently selected window is brought to the front. You can also select a window and bring it to the front by clicking the thumbnail.

  • If you press the Windows logo key and Tab, Windows Vista displays a skewed 3D view of all open windows. This view is called a 3D flip view. Holding down the Windows logo key keeps the 3D flip view open. Pressing the Tab key while holding down the Windows logo key enables you to cycle through the windows. When you release the Windows logo key, the currently selected window is brought to the front. You can also select a window and bring it to the front by clicking the 3D window view.

The notification area, on the far right on the taskbar, is divided into an area for standard notification icons, such as those used by programs you've installed, and an area for system notification icons, such as those for the clock, volume, network, and power. To manage the notification area settings, right-click the Start button and then select Properties. In the Taskbar And Start Menu Properties dialog box, click the Notification Area tab and then use the options provided to configure notification.

Working with the Start Menu

The Start menu is the gateway to all the programs installed on a computer running Windows Vista. As shown in Figure 2, when you click the Start button, you see a list of recently used programs and programs that have been pinned to the Start menu. By default, Internet Explorer and Windows Mail (previously called Microsoft Outlook Express) are pinned to the Start menu, and up to eight recent programs are displayed as well.

Image from book
Figure 2: The Start menu.

The Search box on the Start menu enables you to search a computer for files, folders, or programs that match the search text you've entered. Working with the Search box is easy. To do so, follow these steps:

  1. Begin a search by typing your search text into the Search box. Search results are displayed in the left pane of the Start menu.

  2. Click an item in the results list to open that item.

  3. Click the Clear button to the right of the Search box, or press the Esc key, to clear the search results and return to normal view.


If you're already at the Start menu, you don't need to click in the Search box before you begin typing. Just type your search text.

The system feature that performs the search is the Windows Search service. Windows Search service is the next generation of the Indexing service included in earlier versions of Windows. Windows Search service searches the entire computer for the search text you've specified. The search service returns any related results after performing the following tasks.

  • Matching the search text to words that appear in the title of any program, file, or folder

  • Matching the search text to properties of programs, files, and folders as well as the contents of text-based documents

  • Matching the search text to entries in the Favorites and History folders

By default, the service indexes the documents contained in the %SystemDrive%\Users folders and the %SystemDrive%\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\StartMenu folders, enabling it to quickly identify matches with items stored in these folders. You can use the Indexing Options utility in Control Panel to view indexing status and to configure indexing options. By default, index data is stored in the %SystemRoot%\ ProgramData\Microsoft\Search folder.


When you install and configure Microsoft Office Outlook 2007, user mailboxes stored or locally cached on the computer are indexed automatically. Any locally cached public folders are indexed as well.


You can perform local folder and Internet searches as well. When you open a folder, you'll find a Search text box in the upper-right corner of the Windows Explorer window. By default, typing search text in this text box and pressing Enter results in localized searches of the currently open folder and its subfolders. To perform an Internet search, click the Start button and then enter your search text. Afterward, click the Options button to the right of the Search box and then select the Search The Internet option. Search The Internet uses the computer's default search provider to search the Internet using the search text that you've provided. The default search provider is MSN Search. You can use the Internet Options utility in Control Panel to set the default search provider.

The right pane of the Start menu provides options buttons that you can use to access commonly used folders and features. From top to bottom, the option buttons appear as follows:

  • Current user Shows the name of the currently logged-on user. Clicking this option opens the user's personal folder in Windows Explorer.

  • Documents Displays the current user's Documents folder in Windows Explorer.

  • Pictures Displays the current user's Pictures folder in Windows Explorer.

  • Music Displays the current user's Music folder in Windows Explorer.

  • Games Displays the Microsoft Games folder in Windows Explorer. The Games button is not listed in the Start menu for business editions of Windows Vista.

  • Search Displays Windows Explorer, which you can use to search the computer.

  • Recent Items Displays a menu that lists recently opened files.

  • Computer Displays a window in which you can access hard disk drives and devices with removable storage. In the Computer window, double-click a disk to browse its contents.

  • Network Displays a window in which you can access the computers and devices on your network.

  • Connect To Displays the Connect To A Network dialog box for connecting to wireless networks.

  • Control Panel Displays Control Panel, which provides access to system configuration and management tools.

  • Default Programs Displays the Default Programs window, which lets you choose the programs that Windows Vista uses by default for documents, pictures, and more. You can also associate file types with programs and configure AutoPlay settings.

  • Help And Support Displays the Windows Help And Support console, which you can use to browse or search help topics.

Several additional options can be added to the right pane, including:

  • Administrative Tools Displays a list of system administration tools.

  • Printers Displays a Printers window, which lists and provides access to currently configured printers.

  • Run Displays the Run dialog box, which can be used to run commands.

To display these additional options, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click the Start button and then select Properties. This displays the Taskbar And Start Menu Properties dialog box.

  2. On the Start Menu tab, click the Customize button. In the Customize Start Menu dialog box, scroll down through the options.

  3. To display the Printers option, select the Printers check box.

  4. To display the Run option, select the Run Command check box.

  5. To Display the Administrative Tools option, select Display On The All Programs Menu And The Start Menu option under System Administrative Tools.

  6. Click OK.

Working with Control Panel

Most of the tools you use to manage computers running Windows Vista are accessible from Control Panel. You can access Control Panel by clicking the Start button on the taskbar and then clicking Control Panel. You can also display Control Panel in any Windows Explorer view by clicking the leftmost option button in the Address bar and then selecting Control Panel.

Control Panel in Windows Vista has two views:

  • Category Control Panel, or simply Control Panel, is the default view. This view provides access to system utilities by category and task.

  • Classic Control Panel is an alternative view. This view provides the look and functionality of Control Panel in Windows 2000 and earlier versions of Windows.

Unlike Classic Control Panel, which lists each individual utility available, Category Control Panel is a console window in which 10 categories of utilities are listed. As shown in Figure 3, each category includes a top-level link, and under this link are some of the most frequently performed tasks for the category. If you click a category link, Control Panel displays a list of utilities in that category. Each utility has a link that opens the utility, and under this link are several of the most frequently performed tasks for the utility.

Image from book
Figure 3: Control Panel.
  •  Managing User Account Control and Elevation Prompts
  •  Supporting Computers Running Windows Vista
  •  Using System Support Tools in Vista
  •  Managing System Properties
  •  Introducing Automated Help And Support in Vista
  •  Working with the Automated Help System
  •  Installing and Maintaining Devices in Vista: The Essentials
  •  Getting Started with Device Manager
  •  Working with Device in Vista
  •  Managing Hardware in Vista
  •  Customizing Hardware Device Settings
  •  Managing Internet Time in Vista
  •  Optimizing Windows Vista Menus
  •  Customizing the Taskbar in Vista
  •  Optimizing Toolbars in Vista
  •  Working with Desktop Themes in Vista
  •  Optimizing the Desktop Environment in Vista
  •  Screen Saver Dos and Don'ts in Vista
  •  Modifying Display Appearance and Video Settings
  •  Installing Programs in Vista: The Essentials
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