Adjusting to the Windows Interface

The basic building blocks of the Windows interface have remained unchanged for years, with only relatively minor tweaks to break the familiar routine With Windows 7, those familiar pieces get the biggest makeover they've had since the turn of the century In this section, we present a whirlwind tour of the Windows 7 desktop; you'll find more details (and our exclusive Inside Out advice on how to tweak things to match your preferences) in Chapter 4, "Personalizing Windows 7."

The basic layout of the Windows taskbar is the same as it has been for more than a decade: a Start button on the left side, a clock and some small icons on the opposite side, and room in between for buttons that represent programs .

By default, those taskbar buttons are noticeably bigger than the ones you're accustomed to from earlier Windows versions. They also serve a dual purpose: to start up programs and to switch between running application windows . You can pin shortcuts to the taskbar so that they're always available (even when the program they represent isn't running) and drag buttons left or right to reorder them.

When you move your mouse over a taskbar button that represents a running program, the Aero interface shows you a live thumbnail preview of every window associated with that button . Hover the mouse over a preview, and a nifty new feature called Aero Peek hides other windows to show you only the one you've highlighted. Move the mouse away from the preview and Windows restores your desktop

For programs that support lists of recently opened files, you can right-click to display a Jump List, like the one shown in Figure 1-2. You can "pin" frequently used items to this list as well so that they're always available.

|jgl Weekly progress report template Recent —

Project X status report Product launch proposal

^ WordPad

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^ WordPad

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Figure 1-2 Jump Lists allow you easier access to documents you've opened recently.

Figure 1-2 Jump Lists allow you easier access to documents you've opened recently.

Every Windows user has, at some point in their computing lifetime, watched in horror as the number of icons in the notification area rose to double digits and threatened to overwhelm the rest of the taskbar. In Windows 7, notifications are hidden by default. You can customize individual notifications so that they're always visible, or click the arrow to the left of the visible icons to reveal and work with the collection of hidden icons. In the Notification Area Icons dialog box (shown in Figure 1-3), you can adjust each icon's behavior individually or use the links at the bottom of the dialog box to globally change the appearance and behavior of this area.

Arguably, personalizing the Windows environment with custom desktop backgrounds, sounds, and screen savers has only a minor impact on productivity. But those tweaks are still psychologically important. In Windows 7, the entire collection of personalization settings is consolidated in a single dialog box, shown in Figure 1-4.

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Select which icons and notifications appear on thetaskbar

If you choose to hide icons and notifications, you won't be notified about changes or updates. To view hidden icons at any tim^ click the arrow next to the notification area on the taskbar,

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Turn system icons on or off Restore default icon behaviors

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Figure 1-3 Use the Notification Area Icons dialog box to adjust the behavior of every icon in the notification area.

Figure 1-4 In Windows 7, all personalization options are consolidated in a single control panel.

If you dig deep enough into the many categories under the Personalization heading in Control Panel, you'll find a large and interesting selection of desktop backgrounds, which can be chained together into sets that refresh automatically at intervals you specify, plus new sound schemes and even an expanded collection of pictures that identify your user account, as shown below. You'll find our Inside Out advice on how to master the full range of personalization options in Chapter 4.

And finally, Windows 7 refines the concept of gadgets . These minimalist programs perform simple tasks such as displaying a clock or your favorite pictures in a small desktop window, retrieving RSS feeds, or monitoring CPU and network activity. In Windows Vista, gadgets reside by default in the sidebar and have to be dragged manually to the desktop . In Windows 7, gadgets float on the desktop at all times . Although the host process is still Sidebar, exe, the confining sidebar itself is gone, and a simple keyboard shortcut (Windows logo key+G) allows you to temporarily move all running gadgets to the top of the desktop, above any program windows, for easy reference.

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