Chapter 3: Using Windows Vista

Exam Cram

Cover image 

Excerpt from MCTS 70-620 Exam Cram: Microsoft Windows Vista, Configuring.

By Patrick Regan

Published by Exam Cram

ISBN-10: 0-7897-3688-8

ISBN-13: 978-0-7897-3688-8
  • Identify parts of the desktop used in Windows Vista.

  • Use the Control Panel to configure certain aspects of Windows Vista.

  • Load and manage device drivers.

  • List the requirements for Windows Aero.

  • Using the Ease of Access Center to enable accessibility technology.

  • Use parental controls to limit access on Windows Vista.

Before learning how to configure and troubleshoot Windows Vista, you need to become familiar with the Windows Vista interface. This includes understanding how to use the desktop, the Start menu, and taskbar. In addition, when you open programs, the programs will appear in windows. You will then need to know how to navigate between the programs and how to manage the windows that the programs are running in. If you are familiar with Windows XP, you will find some similarities between Windows XP and Windows Vista. However, you will find enough differences that will cause you lots of grief if you don't know where to go.


Similar to Windows XP, the Windows Vista interface is based on the desktop, which is the main screen/graphical space that you see after you turn on your computer and log on to Windows. Like the top of the actual office desk, it serves as a surface for your work (see Figure 3.1).

Figure 3.1

The Windows Vista desktop.

When you work at your office desk, you will open up folders that contain office documents such as letters and reports. You may spread them on your desk so that you can easily and quickly access them. When working on a Windows Vista machine, you open programs or documents. Sometimes, these programs and documents are located in folders throughout your computer disk drives. Of course, the folders are used to organize your programs and data files so that you can find things in the future. Other times, you place files and folders, shortcuts to files and folders, or shortcuts to programs directly on the desktop, arranging them however you want so that you can easily access them.

To represent the files, folders, and programs, Windows Vista uses icons. A shortcut is an icon that represents a link to an item, rather than the item itself. You can identify shortcuts by the arrow on their icon. Like Windows XP, double-clicking an icon starts or opens the item it represents. If you double-click the Internet Explorer icon Internet Explorer will start. If you double-click a report that was written using Microsoft Word, Microsoft Word will start, and the report will be opened. When you double-click a shortcut, the item opens.

Managing Desktop Icons

By default, when you first start Windows, you'll see at least one icon on your desktop: the Recycle Bin. Depending on how your computer is configured, after its initial installation, you may have additional desktop icons, including the Control Panel, Internet Explorer, or Computer icon. Of course, depending on your preference, you can add or remove icons. Some people like to have a clean, uncluttered desktop with few or no icons, whereas others like to have their frequently used programs, files, and folders.

To add a shortcut to the desktop, follow these steps:

  1. Locate the item that you want to create a shortcut for.

  2. Right-click the item, click Send To, and then click Desktop (create shortcut). The shortcut icon appears on your desktop.

To add or remove common desktop icons such as Computer, your personal folder (My Documents), Network, the Recycle Bin, Internet Explorer, and Control Panel, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click an empty area of the desktop, and then click Personalize.

  2. In the left pane, click Change Desktop Icons.

  3. Under Desktop icons, select the check box for each icon that you want to add to the desktop, or clear the check box for each icon that you want to remove from the desktop, and then click OK.

To remove an icon from the desktop, right-click the icon, and then click Delete. If the icon is a shortcut, only the shortcut is removed; the original item is not deleted.

To move a file from a folder to the desktop, follow these steps:

  1. Open the folder that contains the file.

  2. Drag the file to the desktop.

By default, Windows lines up the icons in columns on the left side of the desktop. However, you can move an icon by dragging it to a new place on the desktop.

You can have Windows automatically arrange your icons. Right-click an empty area of the desktop, click View, and then click Auto Arrange. Windows lines up your icons starting in the upper-left corner, locking them into place. To unlock the icons so that you can move them again, click Auto Arrange again, clearing the check mark next to it.

By default, Windows spaces icons evenly on an invisible grid. To place icons closer together or with more precision, turn off the grid. Right-click an empty area of the desktop, click View, and then click Align to Grid to clear the check mark. Repeat these steps to turn the grid back on.

To move or delete a bunch of icons simultaneously, you must first select all of them. Click an empty area of the desktop and drag the mouse to surround the icons with the rectangle that appears. Then release the mouse button. Now you can drag the icons as a group or delete them.

Note - In a list of items, you can select multiple items that are sequential (in order) such as files and folders by clicking the first item. You would then click and hold down the Shift key and use the arrows on the keyboard or by the mouse to select the next sequential item or items. To select nonsequential items, click and hold down the Shift key and use the mouse to select each item.

To temporarily hide all of your desktop icons without actually removing them, right-click an empty part of the desktop, click View, and then click Show Desktop Icons to clear the check mark from that option. To get the icons back, click Show Desktop Icons.

Whenever you open a program, file, or folder, it appears on your screen in a box or frame called a window (that's where the Windows operating system gets its name). Of course, these windows will often partially or completely hide the desktop as the windows are placed on top of the desktop. To see the entire desktop without closing the programs or windows, right-click the taskbar and select the Show the Desktop option. You can also click the Show Desktop button on the Quick Launch toolbar. To restore all the windows, click the Show Desktop button again.

Taskbar and Sidebar

Besides icons, the desktop also includes the taskbar and the Windows Sidebar. The taskbar (similar to Windows XP) is located at the bottom of the screen. It shows which programs are running and allows you to switch between the different programs running. The taskbar also contains the Start button, which opens the Start menu so that you can access programs, folders, and computer settings.

The Windows Sidebar is a pane on the side of the Microsoft Windows Vista desktop where you can keep your gadgets organized and always available. Gadgets are easy-to-use mini programs that give you information at a glance and provide easy access to frequently used tools such as checking the weather, checking the time using a digital clock, or checking e-mail without opening up other programs.

Start Menu

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.

Note - If you are unsure what a program does, move the cursor over its icon or name, and a box will appear that contains a description of the program.

Figure 3.3

After you click All Programs, you can then access all programs installed in Window Vista.

Search Box

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).

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).

Figure 3.4

Using the Search feature in Windows Vista.

Right Pane

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.

  • Note - The default location of the personal folder is C:\ Users\%UserName%, where %UserName% is the name of the user account.

  • 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.

Note - The Switch User option does not appear on the Start menu in Windows Vista Starter.


The taskbar is the long horizontal bar at the bottom of your screen. By default, the taskbar is always on top, making it always visible even after you open several windows or programs.

The taskbar has four main sections:

  • The Start button, which opens the Start menu

  • The Quick Launch toolbar, which enables you to start programs with one click

  • The middle section, which shows which programs and documents are open and enables you to quickly switch between them

  • The notification area, which includes a clock and small icons that show the status of certain programs and computer settings

Quick Launch Toolbar

To the immediate right of the Start button is the Quick Launch toolbar. As mentioned earlier, it enables you to launch or start programs with a single click. By default, the Quick Launch toolbar also contains the Show Desktop button (used to temporarily hide all open windows and show the desktop). You can also click the Switch Between Windows button to switch between open windows using Windows Flip 3D.

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