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 place 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, with a special emphasis on the wireless (both WiFi and Bluetooth) talents that Service Pack 2 adds to XP. Security, a genuine concern for home users and businesses alike, is covered throughout the chapter as well, including SP2’s new Security Center and retooled firewall.

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 more annoying bells and whistles.

Appendix C, gives a list of keyboard accelerators (also known as hotkeys) 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.

Appendix H, introduces the infrequent but vital bug-fix collections that Microsoft makes available. At the time of writing, two have been released—known simply as Service Pack 1 and 2.

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