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Using Control Panel

Control Panel is a central container of customizing tools for changing preferences, configurations, and settings. These miniature programs are commonly called applets or extensions. Many experienced Windows users are familiar with the interface in Figure 4.1, now called classic view. Windows XP’s Control Panel defaults to a novice-friendly interface called category view (Figures 4.2 and 4.3).

Figure 4.1. Classic view consolidates all Control Panel tools in one window.

Figure 4.2. Category view groups Control Panel tools into functional categories. Click a category to...

Figure 4.3. ...open an item or (as here) display a list of related tasks and Control Panel tools.

To open Control Panel:

  • Choose Start > Control Panel.


  • To start Control Panel from the Run command, type control; then press Enter.

  • To start Control Panel in the classic Start menu, choose Start > Settings > Control Panel.

  • To show Control Panel in the My Computer folder, choose Control Panel > Appearances and Themes > Folder Options > View tab > check Show Control Panel in My Computer check box (toward the bottom).

  • Control Panel can look quite different, depending on preferences set in a few scattered dialog boxes.

To open an item in category view:

  • Click its icon or category name.

    In some cases, such as Add or Remove Programs, the item opens in its own window. In others, such as Appearance and Themes, the category opens to a list of tasks and applets that you can click.

To open an item in classic view:

  • Double-click the item.


    Use the arrow keys to navigate to the desired item; then press Enter.


    Press the key of the item’s first letter; then press Enter.

To switch Control Panel views:

If the Control Panel task pane isn’t displayed, choose Tools > Folder Options > General tab > Show Common Tasks in Folders (Figure 4.4).

Figure 4.4. Select this option to make the task pane appear on the left side of the Control Panel window (as in Figures 4.1 and 4.2).

In the task pane, click Switch to Category View or Switch to Classic View (Figure 4.5).

Figure 4.5. The Switch View option toggles according to the current view.


  • If you can’t find the item you want in category view, click Other Control Panel Options in the task pane (or switch to classic view).

  • In either view, hold your pointer over a category or item to view a pop-up description of it.

  • If multiple items share the same first letter, press that letter repeatedly until the desired item is highlighted; then press Enter.

  • Working from Control Panel, you can create desktop shortcuts to its applets, which are handy if (for example) you’re setting up a network or a printer and need to launch one applet repeatedly. To create a shortcut, see “Managing Shortcuts” in Chapter 2.

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