To get the most out of Windows with the least frustration, it helps to become familiar with the following concepts and terms. You'll encounter these words and phrases over and over again—in the built-in Windows help, in computer magazines, and in this book. For example:
One of the most important features of Windows isn't on the screen—it's under your hand. The standard mouse has two mouse buttons. You use the left one to click onscreen buttons, highlight text, and drag things around on the screen.
When you click the right button, however, a shortcut menu appears on the screen, like the ones shown in Figure 1-1. Get into the habit of right-clicking things—icons, folders, disks, text in your word processor, buttons on your menu bar, pictures on a Web page, and so on. The commands that appear on the shortcut menu will make you much more productive and lead you to discover handy functions whose existence you may never even have suspected.
Figure 1-1. Shortcut menus (also called context menus) sometimes list commands that aren't in the menus at the top of the window. Here, for example, are the commands that appear when you right-click a disk icon (left), a document (middle), and a date square in a calendar program (right). Once the shortcut menu has appeared, left-click the command you want.
If you're left-handed, you can swap the functions of the right and left mouse buttons easily enough. Click Start→Settings→Control Panel. Then double-click the Mouse icon.
When the Mouse Properties dialog box opens, click the Basics tab, and where it says "Select the mouse button you want to use for most tasks," click Right, then click OK. Windows automatically assumes that you therefore want to use the left mouse button as the one that produces shortcut menus.
No matter what setting you want to adjust, no matter what program you want to open, Microsoft has provided five or six different ways to do it. To delete a file, for example, you can press the Delete key, choose Delete from the menu at the top of a window, use the DEL command at the Command Prompt, drag the icon onto the Recycle Bin, or right-click the icon and choose Delete from the shortcut menu.
Optimists point out that this abundance of approaches means that almost everyone will find, and settle on, a satisfying method for each task. Pessimists grumble that there are too many paths to every destination, making it much more difficult to learn Windows. Whenever you find a task has become irksome, remember you have other options.
A wizard is a series of screens that walks you through the task you're trying to complete. Wizards make configuration and installation tasks easier by breaking them down into smaller, more easily digested steps. Figure 1-2 shows an example.
Figure 1-2. Wizards—interview screens—are everywhere in Windows. On each of the screens, you're supposed to answer a question about your computer or your preferences, and then click a Next button. When you click Finish on the final screen, Windows whirls into action, automatically completing the installation or setup.
You can change almost every aspect of the way Windows looks and works. For example, you can replace the gray backdrop of the screen with your favorite photograph, change the typeface used for the names of your icons, or set up a particular program to launch automatically every time you turn on the PC.
When you want to change some general behavior of your computer, such as how it connects to the Internet, how soon the screen goes black to save power, and how quickly a letter repeats on the screen when you hold down a key, you use the Control Panel window (see Chapter 8).
Many other times, however, you may want to adjust the settings of only one particular element of the machine, such as the hard drive, the Recycle Bin, or a particular application. In those cases, you right-click the corresponding icon. In the resulting shortcut menu, you'll often find a command called Properties. When you click it, a dialog box appears containing settings or information displays about that object, as shown in Figure 1-3.
A driver is the software that translates between your PC's brain and the equipment attached to it. Windows requires a driver for anything you might attach to, or install inside, your computer—the mouse, keyboard, screen, floppy drive, CD-ROM drive, networking circuitry, modem, scanner, digital camera, and PalmPilot, among others. Without the driver software, the corresponding piece of equipment doesn't work at all.
You can read much more about drivers in Chapter 16. For now, it's worth noting that unlike Windows NT, Windows 2000 uses Plug and Play, a system that lets you connect a snew gadget to your PC without even having to think about the driver software. In most cases, Windows locates and installs the appropriate software driver automatically.