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Making Your Programs Do What You Want Them to Do

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Making Your Programs Do What You Want Them to Do

In This Chapter

  • A couple ways to get a program off the ground

  • Learning about pull-down menus, toolbars, and dialog boxes

  • Getting the hang of the taskbar

  • Techniques for switching between programs

  • Shutting down a program

  • A lot of useful tidbits for dealing with programs within Windows Millennium

The previous chapter's tour of the desktop had its moments, but it didn't exactly scream, "Productivity!" However, your computer is a digital domestic designed (at least in theory) to help you get your work done better and faster. (And, recognizing the all-work-and-no-play factor, your electronic lackey can also help you surf the Web and play games.)

The thing is, if you want to get your computer to do anything even remotely nonpaperweight-like, you need to launch and work with a program or three. For example, if you want to write a memo or a letter, you need to fire up a word processing program; if you want to draw pictures, you need to crank up a graphics program.

Fortunately, Windows Millennium comes with a decent collection of programs that enable you to perform most run-of-the-mill computing tasks. This chapter shows you how to get at those programs as well as how to mess with them after they're up and running.

How to Start a Program

In Chapter 2, "The Shallow End of the Pool: Some Windows Basics," I told you about the various icons that reside on the Windows Millennium desktop. You learned that most of those icons represent programs that come with Windows Millennium, and that you can start them by double-clicking the corresponding icon. However, those icons represent only a small subset of the programs that Windows Millennium has available. How do you get at the other ones?

Although it isn't the only method, the Start button is the most obvious point of attack; it is, in fact, your royal road to most of the Windows Millennium world. So, without further ado, let's head down that road. Use your mouse to point at the Start button and then click. As you can see in Figure 3.1, Windows Millennium responds by bringing up a list of options—called the Start menu—up the screen. (Note that the specific items displayed on the Start menu depend on how Windows Millennium is set up. Therefore, the items you see on your Start menu might be a bit different from the ones shown in Figure 3.1.)

Figure 3.1 The Start menu—your Windows Millennium launch pad.

Maneuvering Around the Start Menu

Other Ways to Uncover the Start Menu

Clicking the Start button is probably the most common way to get at the Start menu, but Windows Millennium also offers a couple of keyboard methods that you should have in your arsenal:

  • Press Ctrl+Esc.

  • If you have the Microsoft Natural Keyboard—the one with the alphanumeric keys split down the middle and the curvaceous, left-the-darn-thing-too-long-in-the-microwave-again look—press the key with the Windows logo on it (). Note, as well, that most recent keyboards sport the Windows logo key. In almost all cases, the key is located between the Ctrl and Alt keys.

To select one of the items shown on the Start menu, click it with your mouse. What happens next depends on which item you clicked:

  • If the item represents a built-in Windows command or a program (such as Shut Down or Help), Windows Millennium launches the command or program without further ado.

  • On the other hand, some of the Start menu items represent submenus. Specifically, these are the four items (Programs, Documents, Settings, and Search) with the little arrow on the right. Here's a bonus: You don't even need to click these items. When you move your pointer over the arrow, a new menu automatically slides out to the right of the Start menu (see Figure 3.2).

Figure 3.2 The Start menu is loaded with all kinds of submenus.

Don't be surprised if you find yourself wading through two or three of these submenus to get the program you want. For example, here are the steps you would follow to fire up WordPad, the Windows Millennium word processor:

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

  2. Click Programs to open the submenu.

  3. Click Accessories to open yet another submenu.

  4. Click WordPad. Windows Millennium launches the WordPad program.

In the future, I abbreviate these long-winded Start menu procedures by using a comma (,) to separate each item you click, like so: "Select Start, Programs, Accessories, WordPad." Windows Millennium offers another way to launch programs: the Run command on the Start menu. I tell you all about it in Chapter 6, "Using My Computer to Fiddle with Files and Folders."

Cross Reference-

See ""From Word Amateur to Word Pro: Windows' Writing Programs," p. 219.

See "Launching a Program with the Run Command," p. 94

A Start Menu Summary

Table 3.1 provides a summary of each item on the main Start menu.

Table 3.1  The Standard Start Menu Items and What the Heck They Do

Start Menu Item

What It Does

More Info

Windows Update

Launches Internet Explorer and takes you to the Windows Update Web page.

Chapter 22


Displays a submenu that takes you to a collection of programs and Windows Millennium components. People upgrading from Windows 3.1 should note that their old Program Manager program groups appear on this submenu.

Throughout book


Opens a list of the last 15 documents you worked with in any of your applications. When you select a document from this folder, Windows automatically launches the appropriate program and loads the document.

Chapter 5


Displays a submenu with several options. For example, you use Control Panel to play around with various Windows Millennium settings; you use Printers to set up and work with a printer; and you use Taskbar & Start Menu to customize—you guessed it—the taskbar and Start menu.

Chapters 5, 19, and 26


Contains tools that help you find things on your computer, the Internet, and the Windows Address Book.

Chapters 6 and 8


Starts up the Windows Millennium Help system.



Enables you to run a program by typing its name and location.

Chapter 6

Log Off

Logs the current user off Windows or the network.

Chapter 25

Shut Down

Tells Windows Millennium that you've had enough for one day and want to return to the real world.

Chapter 2

Now You See 'Em, Now You Don't: Personalized Menus

After you've used Windows Millennium for a few days, you could get a "What the heck!?" moment when you see that several Start menu commands have up and disappeared on you. In their stead, you see only a mysterious double arrow, as shown in Figure 3.3. What the heck, indeed.

Personalized Menus-

This is a new feature in Windows Millennium.

What's happened here is that you've run headlong into one of Windows Millennium new features: personalized menus. The idea behind them is that Windows Millennium sneakily keeps tabs on which items you choose in your daily Start menu travels. When it has gathered enough data (which usually takes several days), Windows reconfigures the various Start menus to show only those items that you used the most. So you end up with Start menus that are less cluttered, which is a good thing.

Unfortunately, the other Start menu stuff is gone, which is a bad thing. Not to worry, though, because it just takes an extra step to get at those kidnapped Start menu commands: Click the double arrow that appears at the bottom of each menu. (If you're feeling particularly lazy, you don't have to click; instead, just hover the mouse pointer over the double-arrow.) If you're keyboard-bound, press the down-arrow key until you hit the double-arrow. Fortunately, it's easy to turn the personalized menus feature off if you don't like it (see Chapter 19).

Cross Reference-

See the "Toggling Some Start Menu Settings On and Off," p. 302.

Figure 3.3 After a few days, Windows stealthily hides unused menu commands.


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