Organization of the Book

This book is divided into four parts.

This part of the book is designed to give you the lay of the land and to introduce the concepts used throughout the rest of the book. It consists of two chapters:

Chapter 1 gives a brief review of Windows XP, what’s new in this release, and where it fits into the grand scheme of things.

Chapter 2 covers the basics of using Windows, such as starting applications, manipulating files, and getting around the interface. If you’re familiar with any modern version of Windows, much of this is probably old hat.

This part of the book contains alphabetically organized references for each major element of Windows XP. Once you’re at a given point in the system, what can you do there?

Chapter 3 is a thorough examination of the elements that make up the Windows XP graphical user interface. In addition to the basics of windows, menus, buttons, listboxes, and scrollbars, you’ll learn about the new visual styles in Windows XP, how to make the most of the Taskbar, and how to use any component of Windows with only the keyboard.

Chapter 4 is the comprehensive reference that covers all the programs that come with Windows XP, those listed in the Start menu and Control Panel, and as those available only if you know where to look. For GUI-based applications, we don’t document every menu, button, and dialog box — the GUI is often self-evident. Instead, we focus on nonobvious features and provide helpful hints about power user features and things that will make your life easier. For command-line based programs, we cover every option, since these programs are not as obviously self-documenting (though many do support the conventional /? command-line option for help).

Chapter 5 is the way to find that elusive setting or feature without having to know ahead of time where Microsoft has decided to hide it away. Every option in every dialog box, as well as many common tasks, are presented in a single, straightforward reference. Options that affect how Windows plays sounds, for example, are scattered in a half-dozen different dialogs; here, they’re all under “S.”

Chapter 6 provides complete documentation on this often overlooked and underestimated part of the operating system. In addition to learning the ins and outs of the Command Prompt application, you can look up any command and find exactly what options it supports. Batch files, a quick and easy way to automate repetitive tasks, are also covered.

This part, encompassing the final three chapters, covers the more advanced topics in Windows XP:

Chapter 7 is your one-stop shop for setting up home networking, connecting to the Internet, and everything in between. Furthermore, security is a genuine concern for home users and businesses alike, and is covered throughout the chapter as well.

Chapter 8 describes the organization of the Windows XP Registry, the central configuration database upon which Windows and all of your applications rely to function and remember your settings. The Registry Editor, the primary interface to the Registry, is covered here, along with some of the more interesting entries scattered throughout this massive database.

Chapter 9 describes the Windows Script Host (WSH), the built-in scripting subsystem that is surprisingly flexible and powerful. Use the scripting language of your choice to automate common tasks and access features not available elsewhere.

This section includes various quick reference lists.

Appendix A covers everyone’s least-favorite activity. In addition to documenting the various installers and options, the chapter includes a number of pitfalls and solutions that will apply to nearly every installation.

Appendix B presents some of the factors you should take into consideration before you upgrade to Windows XP, as well as some of the adjustments you’ll need to make after you take the plunge. Among other things, you’ll learn how to make Windows XP look and feel more like previous versions of Windows by turning off some of the most annoying bells and whistles.

Appendix C gives a list of keyboard accelerators (also known as hotkeys or keyboard shortcuts) used in all parts of the Windows interface.

Appendix D covers the add-on suite of tools Microsoft has provided for “power users” of Windows XP. TweakUI is easily the most important tool in the bunch. It provides many features and settings that should have been included in the operating system in the first place.

Appendix E explains how to type the symbols and international characters normally only accessible with Character Map (discussed in Chapter 4).

Appendix F lists many file types and their descriptions. This appendix is useful when you’re trying to figure out how to open a specific file and all you know is the filename extension.

Appendix G lists the background services that come with Windows XP and their respective filenames. If you need to find a service, or simply need to determine the purpose of a particular program shown to be running in the Windows Task Manager (see Chapter 4), this appendix will provide the answer.

Conventions Used in This Book

The following typographical conventions are used in this book:

Constant width

is used to indicate anything typed, as well as command-line computer output and code examples.

Constant-width bold

is used to indicate user input in code.

Constant-width italic

is used to indicate variables in examples and so-called “replaceable” text. For instance, to open a document in Notepad from the command line, you’d type notepad filename, where filename is the full path and name of the document you wish to open.

[Square Brackets]

Square brackets around an option (usually a command-line parameter) means that the parameter is optional. Include or omit the option, as needed. Parameters not shown in square brackets are typically mandatory. See Section P.2.6, which follows, for another use of square brackets in this book.


is used to introduce new terms and to indicate URLs, variables in text, user-defined files and directories, commands, file extensions, filenames, directory or folder names, and UNC pathnames.

The following symbols are used in this book:


This symbol indicates a tip.


This symbol indicates a warning.

Path Notation

Rather than using procedural steps to tell you how to reach a given Windows XP user interface element or application, we use a shorthand path notation.

For example, we don’t say, “Click on the Start menu, then click on Search, then For Files or Folders, and then type a filename in the Named: field.” We simply say: Start Find Files or Folders Named. We generally don’t distinguish between menus, dialog boxes, buttons, checkboxes, etc., unless it’s not clear from the context. Just look for a GUI element whose label matches an element in the path.

The path notation is relative to the Desktop or some other well-known location. For example, the following path:

Start Programs Accessories Calculator

means “Open the Start menu (on the Desktop), then choose Programs, then choose Accessories, and then click Calculator.” But rather than saying:

Start Settings Control Panel Add or Remove Programs

we just say:

Control Panel Add or Remove Programs

since Control Panel is a “well-known location” and the path can therefore be made less cumbersome. As stated earlier in this preface, the elements of the Control Panel may or may not be divided into categories, depending on context and a setting on your computer. Thus, rather than a cumbersome explanation of this unfortunate design every time the Control Panel comes up, the following notation is used:

Control Panel [Performance and Maintenance] Scheduled Tasks

where the category, “Performance and Maintenance,” in this case, is shown in square brackets, implying that you may or may not encounter this step.

Paths will typically consist of clickable user interface elements, but they sometimes include text typed in from the keyboard (shown in constant-width text):

Start Run telnet


Ctrl-Alt-Del Shut Down

There is often more than one way to reach a given location in the user interface. We often list multiple paths to reach the same location, even though some are longer than others, because it can be helpful to see how multiple paths lead to the same destination.

The following well-known locations are used as starting points for user interface paths:

Control Panel

Start Control Panel (if you’re using the new Windows XP Start menu)

Start Settings Control Panel (if you’re using the classic Start menu)


The two-pane folder view, commonly referred to as “Explorer:” Start Programs Accessories System Tools Windows Explorer

My Computer

The My Computer icon on the Desktop (which may or may not be visible)

My Network Places

The My Network Places icon on the Desktop (which may or may not be visible)

Recycle Bin

The Recycle Bin icon on the Desktop


The Start button on the Taskbar

xxxx menu

Menu xxxx in the application currently being discussed (e.g., File or Edit)

Command-Line Syntax

Further conventions used for representing command-line options and arguments are described in the introduction to Chapter 7.

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