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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book


In general terms, a desktop is the onscreen work area. The Windows desktop is much more: it's not just the screen that greets you when you turn on your system. The desktop is a sort of collection point from where you can quickly launch your most often used applications and files.

Working with Icons

The desktop presents time-saving options by way of icons—small images displayed onscreen that represent objects or files that you can manipulate or a set of commands that you can execute. To open the file or execute the commands, you simply click the icon. Think of icons as a shortcut to a file or a task. By storing the icon on the desktop, you can reduce your work by several keystrokes. For instance, if you work with the same set of files everyday, you can save time by clicking an icon on the desktop that opens each file instead of opening the software and maneuvering through the file hierarchy to open the exact file.

Recognizing Common Icons

  • Recognize common desktop icons such as those representing files, directories/folders, applications, printers, recycle bin/ wastebasket.

Your operating system comes with a few icons already on the desktop, and you can add your own. Figure 3.19 shows a few icons, some you probably recognize:

  • My Computer—Right-click and choose Explore to quickly open the My Computer window.

  • Applications—Double-click to launch the applications you use most often.

  • Recycle Bin (wastebasket)—Drag files to the recycle bin (wastebasket) or double-click to view the current contents of the recycle bin.

  • Printer—Drag a file to the printer or view the printer's current status.

  • Folder—Double-click a folder to open the folder, which allows you to view the files stored in the folder.

  • File—Double-click a file to launch both it and the software application you use to view and manipulate it.

Figure 3.19Figure 3.19 You'll find many icons on the desktop.

Moving Icons

  • Select and move desktop icons.

You're not stuck with the way icons are arranged on the desktop; you can arrange them any way you like. Most likely you'll want to arrange them in meaningful groups, such as work files and personal files or departmental files and so on. The arrangement will be personal and unique to your system. Use the drag and drop method to move an icon. By drag and drop, we mean the following:

  1. Hover the mouse pointer over the icon you want to move.

  2. Click and hold down the mouse button.

  3. Continue to hold down the mouse button while you drag the icon to the target position.

  4. When the icon is where you want it, release the mouse button.

Manipulating Files from the Desktop

  • Open a file, directory/folder, application from the desktop.

Opening a file, a folder, or an application from the desktop couldn't be simpler. Locate the icon that represents the file, folder, or application and double-click it. That's it!

Creating Icons

  • Create a desktop shortcut icon, desktop menu alias.

Before you can use an icon to open a file or application, you must have an icon that represents that file or application on your desktop. These icons are known as shortcut icons—icons that open a file, folder, or application.

To create a shortcut for a file, folder, or application, follow these steps:

  1. You must locate the appropriate file in the Windows Explorer. Let's create a shortcut icon that opens PracticeTextFile.txt.

  2. Select the file and then choose Create Shortcut from the File menu.

  3. Windows creates the shortcut file and displays it within the same folder, as shown in Figure 3.20.

Figure 3.20Figure 3.20 Choose Create Shortcut from the File menu to create a shortcut.

  1. Right-click the shortcut file and choose Send to.

  2. From the resulting submenu, choose Desktop (Create Shortcut). View the Desktop to see the new shortcut shown in Figure 3.21.


Perhaps the easiest way to create a shortcut icon is to create what some refer to as a desktop menu alias. To do so, simply drag and drop an item from the Start menu to the desktop, and you've got an instant shortcut icon that works the same as the Start menu item.

Figure 3.21Figure 3.21 The operating system copies the shortcut file to the desktop.

Work with Windows

The Windows operating system provides a convenient user interface that most Windows software programs emulate. The more you use Windows software, the more you see these familiar elements and become accustomed to working with them.

The Window Environment

  • Identify the different parts of a window: title bar, menu bar, toolbar, status bar, scrollbar.

Almost every Windows-compliant application relies on the window to communicate information with the user. Through this window, the user views existing data and enters new data. Each window has a number of common elements, as shown in Figure 3.22:

  • Title bar—The strip across the top of a window. Sometimes the title bar contains a description or a name for the current object or application. Sometimes an application can have more than one window open, and each window has its own title bar.

  • Menu bar—The thin grey strip below the application's title bar that lists a number of options. Clicking one of these options displays a drop-down list of menu commands that are appropriate for the current environment and task at hand. A window has just one menu bar as a rule. Some windows don't have any menu bar.

  • Toolbar—The grey strip (usually) beneath the menu bar with a line of icons. A window can host any number of toolbars, with tools that are usually grouped by function.

  • Status bar—The bar at the bottom of the application window just above the Windows taskbar. This bar displays status and statistical information about the current application or process.

  • Scrollbar—Used to view information that extends offscreen to the right or below the regular screen. Scrollbars automatically appear when needed and are usually visible or enabled only when needed. To move the contents of the window, grab the thumb and move it. The thumb is the grey rectangle that slides from one end to the other.

Figure 3.22Figure 3.22 Most windows share a number of the same elements.

Maneuvering a Window

  • Collapse, expand, resize, move, close a window.

The convenient thing about the window element is that you can open and close it almost any time you want. In addition, you can move them and resize them, as shown in Figure 3.23, to make them or other elements more accessible while you work.

Figure 3.23Figure 3.23 Make a window just the right size.

Most windows host a few common buttons at the right margin in the title bar:

  • Minimize—Reduces or "collapses" the window to an icon on the Windows taskbar.

  • Maximize (or Restore)—"Expands" the window to cover the available screen. If the window already covers the screen, the same button restores it to its original size.

  • Close—Removes a window from the current work session so that it is no longer accessible.

You can also resize a window to a unique size (as long as the window is not maximized):

  1. Hover the mouse pointer over any corner or border of the window until the double-arrow mouse pointer is visible.

  2. Drag in or pull out the window's border.

  3. Repeat step 2 until the window is the size you want.

You can also move a resized window so you can reach elements behind the window. To move a window, click the title bar and hold down the mouse button. Drag the window to the new position and then release the mouse button.

Switching Windows

  • Switch between open windows.

Your operating system is capable of multitasking. That means you can work in more than one window at a time. As a result, you might end up with several windows open at any given time. To quickly access a window, hold down the Alt key while pressing the Tab key. Doing so displays a small window that contains the name of the last window you occupied before moving to the current window. As you press the Tab key, the window cycles through all the open windows. At any time, you can release the keys to access the currently referenced window. Or simply click the appropriate window-representing icon on the taskbar (refer to Figure 3.23).

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