1. TechSpot is dedicated to computer enthusiasts and power users. Ask a question and give support. Join the community here.
    TechSpot is dedicated to computer enthusiasts and power users.
    Ask a question and give support.
    Join the community here, it only takes a minute.
    Dismiss Notice

Windows Vista basics

By Alex.A · 12 replies
Jul 2, 2007
Post New Reply
  1. Microsoft’s years-in-the-making new operating system has finally arrived. Because I didn't see a basic presentation about the new OS, I decided to add this course here. I hope you'll make an impression of what Vista is and can do. What’s new? What’s different? Should you upgrade from XP? In this course you’ll learn everything you need to know about basic Windows Vista operation, from the interface to the new Sidebar to Vista Media Center.

    In this course you will learn how to:
    • Navigate the new Start menu
    • Use and configure the Sidebar
    • Take advantage of Vista Media Center
    • Understand Vista’s new security features
    • Use Vista’s new search features
  2. Alex.A

    Alex.A TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 73

    1. The start menu

    In this lesson, you’ll learn how the Start menu has changed and how to work with its new features, including the overhauled All Programs view and Instant Search box.

    The first thing a Vista user is likely to notice is the new Start menu. Scratch that: It’s the new Start button that stands out. Gone is the word itself; in its place is a small circle containing the Windows logo. Click it and you’ll see the new Start menu, which differs from its predecessors in three key ways.

    The new Windows Vista Start menu

    • First, Vista banishes the cascading application menus that used to fly up and out from All Programs. Now, when you click All Programs (or hold your mouse pointer over it for two seconds), your installed applications appear in a compact, scrollable list.
    • Vista’s second Start-menu change is its Instant Search box, which appears immediately above the Start button when you click it. Type a few letters into the box and Vista immediately begins to display matching results. Because this particular Instant Search box resides in the Start menu (other boxes are littered everywhere within Vista), it lists matching applications first, then other items it finds on your PC: documents, Web favorites, and so on.
    • Vista’s third Start-menu modification changes the way you shut down your PC. Just to the right of the Instant Search box you’ll see a circle with a line in the middle. Click it to put your PC in standby mode (Vista does a better job managing this low-power state than XP did), or click the arrow next to it to access the complete shut-down menu.

    This can seem a little awkward at first, especially if you’re more accustomed to finding a program by its location within the cascading menus. (For instance, perhaps you instinctively knew to look for Picasa near the top of the second cascading pane.) However, this new method is actually a much faster way to find a program, as you don’t have to wait for and scan fly-out menus that can span the entire screen. Instead, you just scroll until you find what you’re after.

    Thus, you can launch programs without ever taking your hands off the keyboard. Just press the Windows button, type the first few letters of the desired application (such as “pic” for Picasa), then press Enter to launch it.
  3. Alex.A

    Alex.A TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 73

    2.The Windows Vista Sidebar

    In this lesson you’ll learn how to access the Vista Sidebar and use it to add and configure gadgets.

    One of Vista’s goals is to put more information at your fingertips. Enter the Sidebar, a feature of built-in desk accessories, a concept first popularized by the Mac. It occupies the right or left end of your screen and serves up a clock, calendar, newsreader, weather gauge, and other useful items. You can add, remove, and reorganize these mini-applications or “gadgets” as you please to create exactly the Sidebar you want. Here’s how.

    The Windows Vista Sidebar, displayed on the right side of the desktop

    First, decide if you want the Sidebar to be a permanent fixture on the desktop or something that stays hidden until you mouse over to the side of your screen. Right-click an unoccupied area of the Sidebar, choose Properties, and then check or uncheck “Sidebar is always on top of other windows.” (This is also where you decide if the Sidebar should occupy the right or left side of the screen.)
    Get more gadgets

    To remove any of the existing gadgets from the Sidebar, mouse over it, then click the little close-application x in the corner. To change the settings for a gadget, click the little wrench instead. You can also drag and drop a gadget to a different location on the Sidebar, or drag it off the Sidebar altogether and position it somewhere else on your desktop.

    To add gadgets to the Sidebar, click the plus sign at the top of it. You’ll see a dozen or so choices; drag any of them to the Sidebar. However, there are hundreds more available online. Here’s a partial list:

    • Live Clock
    • Amazon Search
    • iTunes Songs
    • Pong
    • WeatherBug
    • Hangman
    • Video Player for YouTube
    • Bible verse of the day
    • Google Searcher
    • HTML Sandbox

    Click the “Get more gadgets online” link to see a complete list. There are literally hundreds of gadgets from categories including fun and games, search tools, security, and more. These aren’t drag-and-drop additions, however; you’ll have to download and install them first. Fortunately, most gadgets cost nothing.
  4. Alex.A

    Alex.A TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 73

    3. Windows Vista Media Center

    In this lesson you’ll learn what you can do with Windows Vista Media Center: watch, pause, and record live TV; play your DVD and music collection; listen to FM radio; and much more.

    If your PC has Windows Vista Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate, it can double as a full-featured media center. That’s because those versions of the operating system come equipped with Media Center, an entertainment-minded interface designed to be operated by remote (but also keyboard-friendly). Thus, your PC can serve as the heart of your living room or as an extra entertainment center in the den or bedroom.

    To get the most from Media Center, you’ll want a TV tuner for your PC. The ATI TV Wonder 650, for example, installs in a desktop PCI slot, while the Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 950 plugs into a USB port, making it suitable for desktops and notebooks alike. Both models let you tune in standard cable/satellite stations or, with an optional antenna, over-the-air HD stations. (And believe it or not, even a typical LCD monitor offers enough pixels to fully resolve HD signals. It’s like you got a free HDTV and didn’t even know it.)

    The Windows Vista Media Center

    Even better, Media Center can pause, rewind, and record live shows, just like a TiVo or cable-company DVR. It features a free electronic program guide (EPG), and it supports multiple tuners (meaning you could watch, say, American Idol live while Lost is being recorded).

    Media Center also lets you tap into your PC’s photo, video, and music libraries; listen to FM radio (you’ll need an antenna, of course); play DVDs; and access online media like NPR News, XM Radio, and the Movielink movie-download service. All this happens from within Media Center’s user-friendly “twist” interface.

    Although many of these features are currently available in the Windows XP versions of Media Center, Vista sports a new and aesthetically improved interface as well as more intuitive navigation. Vista Media Center utilizes the wide-screen aspect ratio, displaying everything in a left/right layout as opposed to the traditional up/down, reducing the amount of screen scrolling required.

    Still, if your sole reason for upgrading to Vista is the new-and-improved Media Center, early reviews suggest that those already plugged in with an up-to-date Windows XP Media Center may want to wait. Thus far, Vista offers too few functional improvements aside from a fresh coat of paint.

    One final note: If you own an Xbox 360, you can stream all your media (live/recorded TV, music, photos, etc.) from your PC to your game console–effectively turning it into a second media center.
  5. Alex.A

    Alex.A TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 73

    4.Vista Security

    In this lesson, you’ll learn about Vista’s new security features and how they promise to protect you from viruses, spyware, and identity theft.

    It’s the rare Windows user who hasn’t had to deal with some kind of security hassle: phishing attempts, spyware infestations, virus activity, and the like. Vista brings numerous new tools to the table in an attempt to make your PC safer and less vulnerable.

    Internet Explorer 7, for instance, includes a built-in anti-phishing filter. Suppose, for example, you receive an urgent e-mail from your credit card company warning you of fraudulent activity on your account. The message looks legit, complete with the company’s logo and boilerplate warnings about identify theft (how ironic). You click the provided link and end up at the company’s site, where you’re asked to verify your personal information (by typing it in). Problem is, it’s not the company’s site, but rather an identical-looking fake. Internet Explorer 7 can detect these fakes and issue proper warning. This anti-phishing technology is also included in Vista’s Outlook Express replacement, Windows Mail.
    Added protections

    Perhaps even more important, IE 7 employs a new Protected Mode that should help block the kinds of attacks that made IE 6 so vulnerable. Parts of that mode rely on a new Vista feature called User Account Control (UAC), which blocks certain tasks from running until the user manually approves them. For example, Vista won’t install certain kinds of applications without your approval–a helpful safeguard against spyware or a virus that you didn’t even know was there. Although UAC can get annoying–you need to provide consent just to access Device Manager–it goes a long way toward protecting you from hidden dangers.

    Speaking of spyware, Vista incorporates Windows Defender, an anti-spyware and anti–malware utility that was available as an optional download for Windows XP. It runs in the background, so you won’t have to deal with it unless it detects some unauthorized activity and requests your input.

    Finally, Vista updates Windows XP’s built-in firewall to include outbound protection, meaning that if some malware does find its way onto your PC, it’ll have a hard time establishing communications with other PCs. Even so, you might want to consider a third-party firewall product that offers more robust protection, as Vista’s blocks only the outbound traffic that matches preconfigured rules.

    The Windows Vista Security Center

    The settings for Vista’s security features can be turned on and off from the Windows Vista Security Center screen. This allows you to control Windows Defender and other applications that safeguard your computer, including the Windows firewall and virus protection.

    By all reports, Microsoft takes security seriously with Vista. In fact, experts from Symantec and McAfee (two major security vendors) predict that Vista’s new security features will shut down current avenues of hacker attack. Still, be ever vigilant against attacks; where there is a will by cyber-criminals to attack Vista, they will eventually find a way.
    knotjustacross likes this.
  6. Alex.A

    Alex.A TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 73

    5.Vista Search

    In this lesson, you’ll learn more about the Instant Search capabilities described in Lesson 1 and how to use them in other areas of Vista.

    You already got a taste of Windows Vista’s new Instant Search capabilities in Lesson 1. Now let’s take a closer look at this tool, which makes finding what you need blissfully easy.

    For starters, the Instant Search box is downright ubiquitous in Vista, appearing not only in the Start menu (see Lesson 1), but also in Control Panel, Windows Media Player, Windows Explorer, and even certain Vista applications (mostly notably Contacts and Windows Mail).
    Two key concepts

    There are two key things you’ll want to understand about Instant Search. First, it’s context-sensitive, meaning it begins its search wherever it’s being run. When you search inside the Start menu, for instance, the tool looks for applications first–the items most closely associated with that instance of Instant Search. Search in Control Panel and you’ll see Control Panel results ahead of any others.

    Second, Instant Search is dynamic: It works as you type, narrowing the results a bit further with each letter (or number) you add to the search string. Type “mo,” for instance, and you’ll immediately see all documents, applications, and other items that contain those letters. Keep typing, however, until you get to “monthly,” and your search will narrow considerably.

    To see Instant Search in action, click Start and then click Search in the right-hand pane. This will open Vista’s basic Search window, which you can use to find, well, just about anything on your PC. Notice the “show only” buttons across the top; click one to quickly filter your search results.
    Windows Vista Instant Search Results

    After you’ve completed a search, click the Save Search button to save the results in a Virtual Folder. This folder contains no actual files, only the results of your search. It’s dynamically updated, too: The next time you view the folder, it will show any items that have changed.

    Just one question: Why didn’t Microsoft put an Instant Search box on the desktop? Here’s hoping that oversight gets remedied in Service Pack 1!

    Click HERE to see if your PC is compatible for Windows Vista. Download the program and it will scan your computer and give you all the information needed.

    If your PC is not so powerful and the Microsoft Vista will take you too much resources or you just wanna see how Vista looks, you can download the skin transformation pack from HERE.

    Also, if it can be done, please one of the moderators, make this thread sticky, so people can have an easier access to it.
  7. ntoren

    ntoren TS Rookie Posts: 19

    Windows Mail and Contacts issue

    Would love any help with this one:

    Using Vista Business, I am having trouble with the new Mail program. Used to be with my old XP machine, using Outlook Express, that when I type the first couple letters of a contact's email address the program would finish the address, provided they were in my Contacts. Not seeming to be the case with Windows Mail. Any ideas or advice?

  8. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,729   +409

    Make sure that AutoComplete is turned on in the preferences. I'm not exactly sure where it would be, but you should be able to find it. I've also read that it won't AutoComplete until you've already sent mail to that address, regardless of whether it is in your address book or not. So can you check and see if it works with an address you know you've already sent to from Windows Mail?
  9. ntoren

    ntoren TS Rookie Posts: 19

    Will try the Autocomplete function, thanks. But what you mentioned is exactly the problem my boss was experiencing, that is, once he has typed the address in an email the autocomplete works fine. Until then... What a major oversight in programming, it seems to me.
  10. Sukami

    Sukami TS Rookie


    whoa...no...it still has certain enhanced features, some of my favorites being, the ready boost, universal search feature, NEW AGE VSS, new Windows RE, built in MEMTEST86, And other great things.....

    Don't knock something because you ( not you specifically, but people in general) don't like change
  11. aleph

    aleph TS Rookie

    Cool. Thank you!
  12. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 10,432   +801

  13. jeremy1982

    jeremy1982 TS Rookie Posts: 69

    Is there any way to delete programs like Window's defender,calander, journal, mail, photogallery, side bar!!

    I.M.O i think side bar is waste of space, same with the rest of those programs i have stated!!

Similar Topics

Add New Comment

You need to be a member to leave a comment. Join thousands of tech enthusiasts and participate.
TechSpot Account You may also...