Windows XP is the most powerful, stable, useful, and all-around fun operating system Microsoft has released yet. From networks that work to desktop icons you can customize—and everything in between—this operating system rocks. Yet millions of people around the globe use it every day and have no idea what it can do for them. You don’t have to be one of them.
This book takes you under the hood, helping you find easier, faster, and better ways of using virtually every aspect of Windows XP, from the Start menu to the software that lets you watch movies on your PC.
Almost all of the hints in this book work whether you’re using the XP Home Edition or XP Professional. If a hint covers the Home Edition, it also applies to XP Professional, which has all the features of the Home version, plus a bunch of extras. If a hint covers XP Professional only, it’s noted.
If you’re not sure which version you have, head to the Start menu or desktop and right-click My Computer, then choose Properties, and in the dialog box that opens, click the General tab. The System area of the tab tells you whether you have XP Home or Pro.
Most computer books are set up to teach you a whole program, from start to finish. Not this book. Instead, it gives you the cream of the crop, and each hint can stand on its own. While many of the hints are, in fact, inter-related (who would want to know about wireless Internet tricks without also finding out about security?), a lot of the hints here involve a single trick or solution that isn’t related to any other hint in the book.
The cool thing about this arrangement is that you can just open the book anywhere, read a hint, marvel at how cool it is, and then jump back 63 pages to read about another amazing trick. Think of it as the “Choose Your Own Adventure” of computer books.
Some of the hints in this book require you to work with the Registry, a vast database inside Windows XP that contains all your system settings and vital stats. Because you can edit the settings, the Registry is a very powerful tool for customizing XP. (In fact, you actually change the Registry all the time without knowing it. For example, whenever you change a setting using the Control Panel, behind the scenes XP changes the Registry to put that new setting into effect.)
If you’ve never used the Registry before, fear not—you can easily master it. Chapter 15, "The Registry,” is devoted to teaching you exactly what you need to know to run the Registry tricks throughout this book. Despite the geeky nature of the Registry (and the weird language in the Registry hints), Chapter 15 is surprisingly digestible, and it walks you through the process for running the Registry tricks. Your grandmother could catch on in about 15 minutes. Seriously.
This book assumes that you already know the basics of Windows XP. It doesn’t explain how to log in, create an account, use menus, or other basics. (You might think of this book as a sort of intermediate sequel to Windows XP Home Edition: The Missing Manual and Windows XP Pro: The Missing Manual.)
Once you have some experience with the operating system, this book can help you progress from anybody-can-do-this to power hound.
Throughout this book, you’ll find sentences like this one: “Open the My Computer → C: → Windows folder.” That’s shorthand for a much longer instruction that directs you to open three nested folders in sequence, like this: “On your hard drive, there’s an icon called My Computer. Open that. Inside My Computer, there’s a folder for your C: drive. Open that. Inside your C: drive is your Windows folder. Open that.”
Similarly, this kind of arrow shorthand helps to simplify the business of choosing commands in menus, such as File → New → Window, as shown in Figure P-1. You’ll also see this arrow notation used to indicate which tab or pane of a dialog box you’re supposed to click: “Choose Tools → Options → General,” for example.
Since its initial release, Microsoft has released a number of upgrades to the system (Section 12.1.2 tells you all about these upgrades—they’re called Windows Updates). The upgrades don’t alter the basic functioning of the operating system, but there’s a chance one of them has changed slightly some of the menus and screens you see in this book. So don’t fret if what you see onscreen is a little different than what’s in the book—the same hints still apply.
At http://www.missingmanuals.com, you’ll find news, articles, and updates to the books in the Missing Manual and Power Hound series.
But the Web site also offers corrections and updates to this book (to see them, click the book’s title, then click Errata). In fact, you’re invited and encouraged to submit such corrections and updates yourself. In an effort to keep the book as up to date and accurate as possible, each time we print more copies of this book, we’ll make any confirmed corrections you’ve suggested. We’ll also note such changes on the Web site, so that you can mark important corrections into your own copy of the book, if you like.
In the meantime, we’d love to hear your own suggestions for new books in the Missing Manual and Power Hound lines. There’s a place for that on the Web site, too, as well as a place to sign up for free email notification of new titles in the series.