Virtually any Operating System (OS) that utilizes a Graphical User Interface (GUI), for user interaction, will have a desktop. The desktop is the focal point for all user interaction; the desktop gives the user easy access to both user programs and system tools, and at the same time it manages all of these programs in a way that optimizes user productivity (at least that is the goal). Below is a picture of a Windows XP desktop in "Classic" Mode. The Classic desktop has the look and appearance of the older Microsoft operating systems, but still has all of the new features that are included with Windows XP. Below, the key features of the desktop are explained in greater detail.
- Add a network place - This option allows you to add places indiscriminately. Using this tool allows you to specify a location in your network, a Web Site, ftp address, etc. These places are like the Favorites in Internet Explorer, merely shortcuts to make your time more productive.
- View network connections - Your computer can have multiple connections to different networks which could consist of dial-up locations, wired network connections, wireless network connections, etc. Clicking on any of these items displays the properties for that connection. If the connection is active it displays a window that displays connection statistics, and if you click on the Support tab, there is a useful "Repair" button. If you ever have any network problems, you should click on this button first.
- Set up a home or small office network - Although most experts would not choose to use this feature to set up a network, people who do not know or do not want to know how to set up a network will find this tool invaluable, as it requires almost no knowledge of networks or their policies to set up.
- View workgroup computers - This option allows you to browse through computers in your workgroup and/or domain. Only computers that are sharing resources on the network will be visible, and then you will only be able to browse those resources if the Administrator of that computer has given your account permission.
Windows Volume\Documents and Settings\User Name\Documents\
Since the folder is dependant upon the current user that is logged in, every user's My Documents folder is different. Depending upon the version of Windows XP you are using, and your user classification, no other user can access any of the files is this folder The My Documents folder is the default location to save all of your documents, downloaded files, pictures, and music.
The Taskbar contains four items: 1) the Start Menu (explained later), 2) the System Tray, 3) the Quick Launch Bar, and, 4) for lack of a better word, the Taskbar. Both the Quick Launch Bar, and the Taskbar as a whole can be resized to your preference. If it seems that you cannot resize these items, simply right-click on them, and make sure that "Lock the Taskbar" does not have a check next to it.
The System Tray is, unfortunately, an often overlooked portion of the desktop. The System Tray is, by default, the rightmost portion of the Taskbar, and is a holding place for programs which are running in the background, almost always, anonymously. Good management of the System Tray is essential for a smooth running computer since it is an indicator of how many programs are launched at start-up; as common-sense suggests, the more icons that are present, the more resources are being consumed. Most of the programs that appear in here are worthless and do nothing more than slow down your computer. Most multimedia applications such as Real One Player, QuickTime, Winamp, etc. all launch needless programs at startup and you could free up valuable resources by disabling them. With that being said, the System Tray is an invaluable place to have programs run that would otherwise clutter your Taskbar. Many programs have an option to hide in the Taskbar when minimized; you should consult the documentation of your program for information on how to accomplish this.
Windows XP has a feature that hides InActive icons in the system tray. In order to see all of the programs that are running, simply click, if present, the arrow on the left edge of the System tray.
Quick Launch Bar
Windows XP, by default, has the Quick Launch bar turned off. I, however, find this feature invaluable since I do not like the new XP style Start menu. To turn it on, simply right-click on the Taskbar, and then alter the relevant settings in the properties dialog. The Quick Launch Bar is a place to store shortcuts to your most commonly used programs and/or documents. With the shortcuts here, you can launch the programs without minimizing your currently running programs, or browsing the Start Menu. You can add shortcuts here simply by dragging them from an existing location, and you can delete unnecessary items by right-clicking on them and selecting delete.
The Taskbar is a portion that takes up the largest portion of the whole; in the classic Windows theme it is gray, but blue in the XP theme. The vast majority of the programs that you launch will immediately show up here as a rectangular box with corresponding title and icon. Windows includes this feature in order to allow the user to easily switch between programs. In newer versions of Windows, there is a feature incorporated into the Taskbar that stacks multiple windows of the same type on top of one another in the same rectangle when the Taskbar becomes full. Clicking on one of these grouped items will show you a sub menu of windows instead of bringing a program to the foreground. Another, alternative, method of switch programs is to hold down <alt>, and then push <tab>.