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Using the Start Menu

All the software programs and utilities on your computer are accessed via Windows' Start menu. You display the Start menu by using your mouse to click the Start button, located in the lower-left corner of your screen.

As you can see in Figure 3.8, the Windows XP Start menu consists of two columns of icons. Your most frequently used programs are listed in the left column; basic Windows utilities and folders are listed in the right column. To open a specific program or folder, just click the icon.

Figure 3.8. Access all the programs on your system from the Start menu.


note

The operations presented in this chapter are described as how they look and act by default in a typical Windows installation. If you're using someone else's PC, things might not look or act exactly like this. It's normal for two different PCs to look and act a little different, because there are so many options that you can customize for your own personal tastes—as you'll learn in Chapter 5, “Personalizing Windows.”.


To view the rest of your programs, click the All Programs arrow. This displays a new menu called the Programs menu. From here you can access various programs, sorted by type or manufacturer. (When more programs are contained within a master folder, you'll see an arrow to the right of the title; click this arrow to display additional choices.)

Launching a Program

Now that you know how to work the Start menu, it's easy to start any particular software program. All you have to do is follow these steps:

1.
Click the Start button to display the Start menu.

2.
If the program is displayed on the Start menu, click the program's icon.

3.
If the program isn't visible on the main Start menu, click the All Programs button, find the program's icon, and then click it.

Switching Between Programs

After you've launched a few programs, it's easy to switch between one program and another. To switch to another program (and send all other open programs to the background), you can do one of the following:

  • Click the application's button in the taskbar, as shown in Figure 3.9.

    Figure 3.9. Use the taskbar buttons to switch between applications.

  • Click any visible part of the application's window—including its title bar.

  • Hold down the Alt key and then press the Tab key repeatedly until the application window you want is selected. (This cycles through all open windows.) When you're at the window you want, release the Alt key.

If you have multiple windows open at the same time, you can determine which is currently the active window by its title bar. The title bar for the active program is brighter, and the title bar text is bright white. An inactive title bar is more dull, with off-white text. If you have overlapping windows on your desktop, the window on top is always the active one. The active application's Taskbar button looks like it's pressed in.

Shutting Down Windows—and Your Computer

Windows starts automatically every time you turn on your computer. Although you will see lines of text flashing onscreen during the initial startup, Windows loads automatically and goes on to display the Windows desktop.

caution

Do not turn off your computer without shutting down Windows. You could lose data and settings that are temporarily stored in your system's memory.


When you want to turn off your computer, you do it through Windows. In fact, you don't want to turn off your computer any other way—you always want to turn off things through the official Windows procedure.

To shut down Windows and turn off your PC, follow these steps:

1.
Click the Start button to display the Start menu.

2.
Click the Turn Off Computer button.

3.
When the Turn Off Computer dialog box appears, click the Turn Off button.

4.
Manually turn off your monitor, printer, and other peripherals.

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