To start programs, access folders, make changes to Windows Vista, access Help, log off the computer, switch to a different user account, or turn off the computer, you should use the Start menu. To open the Start menu, click the Start button in the lower-left corner of your screen. You can also press the Windows logo key on your keyboard.
The Start menu is divided into three basic parts:
- The large left pane shows a short list of programs on your computer.
- In the lower-left corner is the Search box, which enables you to look for programs and files on your computer by typing in search terms.
- The right pane provides access to commonly used folders, files, settings, and features. It's also where you go to log off from Windows or turn off your computer.
The Start menu detects which programs you use the most, and it places them in the left pane for quick access (see Figure 3.2).
Figure 3.2 The Start menu.
One of the most common uses of the Start menu is opening programs installed on your computer. To open a program shown in the left pane of the Start menu, click it. The program opens, and the Start menu closes. If you don't see the program you want to open, click All Programs at the bottom of the left pane, as shown in Figure 3.3. Instantly, the left pane displays a long list of programs in alphabetic order, followed by a list of folders.
Figure 3.3 After you click All Programs, you can then access all programs installed in Window Vista.
To find things quickly, use the Windows Vista Search box, which is located in the Start menu. It searches programs, all the folders in your personal folder (which includes Documents, Pictures, Music, Desktop, and other common locations), your e-mail messages, saved instant messages, appointments, contacts, your Internet favorites, and Internet history (see Figure 3.4). A program, file, or folder will appear if the item that you are searching for is in the title, the actual contents of the file, or in the properties of the file (such as the author of the document).
Figure 3.4 Using the Search feature in Windows Vista.
To open a folder or file, click it. You can also click See All Results to display the search results in a folder with more advanced options; or you can click Search the Internet to open your web browser and search the Internet for your term. If your search produces no results, you can click Search Everywhere to search your entire computer. To clear the search results and return to the main programs list, click the Clear button (X).
The right pane of the Start menu contains links to parts of Windows that you are likely to use frequently, including the following:
- Personal folder. Opens for the currently logged-on user and contains user-specific files including the Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos folders. The folder is named for the name of the user account that is currently logged on.
- Documents. Opens the Documents folder, where you can store and open a user's personal documents such as letters, reports, and spreadsheets.
- Pictures. Opens the Pictures folder, where you can store and view digital pictures and graphics files.
- Music. Opens the Music folder, where you can store and play music and other audio files.
- Games. Opens the Games folder, where you can access all the games on your computer.
- Search. Opens a window where you can search your computer using advanced options.
- Recent Items. Opens a list of files you've opened recently.
- Computer. Opens a window where you can access disk drives, cameras, printers, scanners, and other hardware connected to your computer.
- Network. Opens a window where you can access the computers and devices on your network.
- Connect To. Opens a window where you can connect to a new network.
- Control Panel. Opens the Control Panel, where you can customize the appearance and functionality of your computer, add or remove programs, set up network connections, and manage user accounts.
- Default Programs. Opens a window where you can choose which program you want Windows to use for activities such as web browsing, editing pictures, sending e-mail, and playing music and videos.
- Help and Support. Opens Windows Help and Support, where you can browse and search Help topics about using Windows and your computer.
At the bottom of the right pane, you will find the Power button and the Lock button. The Power button is used to turn off the computer; the Lock button is used to lock your computer without turning it off. After it is locked, you need to use your password to unlock it. Clicking the arrow next to the Lock button displays a menu with additional options for switching users, logging off, restarting, or shutting down.