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Preface > What Is an Annoyance?

What Is an Annoyance?

I admit it—I'm the guy people call when they need answers. Something doesn't work; my phone rings. Someone can't figure something out; I get an email. More often than not, the problem can be traced to Microsoft Windows, a product with which I've developed a healthy love-hate relationship. Luckily, I've channeled my rage into this book—many of the solutions, tips, workarounds, and warnings you're about to read are my responses to questions I get asked by inexperienced and seasoned Windows users alike.

More than anything else, an annoyance is a way of looking at a problem or an unfamiliar task. It's an attitude that gives you the fortitude and patience to solve any problem, rather than being powerless or frustrated, or feeling like a dummy.

Your computer should not be a "black box," something for which you must adjust the way you work and think. It's a hands-on, flexible tool with many capabilities and limitations. Humans design computers and the software that runs on them; so computers by their very nature are imperfect and often troublesome machines.

I've written this book with the philosophy that the more you know about a tool you use—specifically, Microsoft Windows Me—the better your day-to-day experience with it will be. If this contradicts what you've seen in other books or the Windows manual, you're getting the idea.

The Interface

One of the most frequently examined aspects of Windows in this book is the user interface, and this is no accident. The user interface in Windows Me includes everything from the visual components that comprise every window to the way individual dialog boxes are laid out. The interface is how you communicate with your computer and how your computer communicates with you; it directly influences how quickly you learn the various tasks in Windows and how efficiently you carry them out once you've learned them. An interface must be designed carefully and meticulously, intuitive enough to be understood by beginners, yet not too dumbed-down and cumbersome to annoy experienced users.

One of the strengths of Windows Me, and one of the reasons why the Windows PC is the dominant home-computer platform, is that its interface is extremely flexible and configurable. This, of course, is not to say that the default interface is the most effective one possible.

Now, I believe that it's better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness, which is why this book is full of solutions rather than gripes. It should be evident from even a brief look at the vast amount of information here that this book is not about "Microsoft-bashing" or complaining of any kind. The focus is on solving problems, and that sometimes means taking a critical view of the Windows interface or the design of a particular Windows component.

The default configuration of Windows Me—the settings that were in use when Windows was first installed—has been designed to showcase the various features of the product, rather than to make the operating system easy to use. One of the problems with this approach is that most users don't take the time to customize the interface and otherwise streamline the operating system. Whether this is caused by the valid fear of screwing something up or simply by a lack of time and patience, it is a common situation that decreases productivity and ease of use. Windows Me Annoyances can help change that.

Take the solutions in this book seriously, but don't follow them blindly. Anything that indeed improves the interface can streamline your work and make the overall Windows experience less painful and more enjoyable. However, one person's annoyance is another's feature; what's important is to construct the interface that works best for you.

How This Book Came to Be

Back in early 1995, I was using a pre-release (beta version) of Windows 95 on my machine. Only a few hours after installing it, I became aware of the extent to which the previous version of Windows had stunted my machine. A well-designed operating system can unleash the power of the hardware on which it runs, just as a poorly designed operating system can make you want to throw all of your expensive hardware in the thresher. Windows is a little bit of both those extremes.

Now, not being the complacent type, I immediately started compiling a list of questions and complaints about the operating system, some of which had solutions and some of which did not. This was the start of the Windows 95 Annoyances web site, which was one of the first web sites devoted to Windows 95. Later, in the summer of 1995, other pre-release users began writing in with their own questions and complaints, and even with occasional solutions to the problems I hadn't yet solved.

As readers' requests for information and additional solutions became more diverse, so did the web site. The site quickly evolved from a simple list of annoyances, to an extensive collection of tips and tricks, and then to a more general support center for Windows 95.

I then wrote the book Windows Annoyances in the beginning of 1997, followed by Windows 98 Annoyances in 1998. Both, of course, were bestsellers, but that's not important right now. What's important is that, although those books are now used under the short legs of tables, the third book in the series, Windows Me Annoyances, is here and has found its way into your capable hands!

Just as Windows Me is more than merely Windows 98 with a face-lift, this book is more than just an update to Windows 98 Annoyances. Windows Me Annoyances is a completely new volume, containing many more solutions, more undocumented secrets, and more troubleshooting information than either of the previous two books, yet presented in what I hope you'll find to be the same clear, straightforward format.

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