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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Running Your Applications

If you're just upgrading from a previous version of Windows (such as 9x, XP, or Vista), you already know how to run applications, how to switch between them, and how to manage them. But if you are new to Windows OSs, here is a quick how-to guide.

How to Launch Your Apps

Applications are launched under Windows 7 in a number of different ways, as is the case with many other things in Windows. You'll probably end up using the technique that best fits the occasion. To run an application, perform one of the following tasks (ranked in order of ease of use):

  • Use the Start button to find the desired application from the resulting menus. Click All Programs if you don't see the one you want.
  • Open Computer or Windows Explorer, browse through your folders to find the application's icon, and double-click it.
  • Find the application by clicking Start and then typing the application name in the Search box. (The Search method works only for programs installed in a predefined list of folders called the search path, which is discussed in Chapter 29, "Command-Line and Automation Tools.")
  • Locate a document that was created with the application in question and double-click it. This runs the application and loads the document into it. With some applications, you can then close the document and open a new one, if you need to.

There are two easy ways to open an existing document in the application that created it:

  • Click Start, Documents, and look among the most recently edited documents. Clicking one opens the document in the appropriate application.
  • You can also click Start, Recent Items, and look among the most recently edited files if you have customized the Start menu to show Recent Items.

In the name of expediency, we don't cover all these options. When you get the hang of the most common approaches, you'll understand how to use the others. Notice that some of the approaches are "application-centric," whereas others are "document-centric." An application-centric person thinks, "I'll run Word so I can write up that trip expense report." A document-centric person thinks, "I have to work on that company manual. I'll look for it and double-click it."

Running Programs from the Start Button

The most popular way to run your applications is to use the Start button, which is located in the lower-left corner of your screen. When you install a new program, the program's name is usually added somewhere to the Start button's All Programs menu lists. If you've recently used an application, Windows 7 might list it in the recently used list on the top-level Start menu area. Sometimes you'll have to "drill down" a level or two to find a certain program because software makers sometimes like to store their applications under their company names. Then you just find your way to the program's name and choose it, and the program runs.

Note that all selections with an arrow pointing to the right of the name have submenus—that means they open when you click them or hover the pointer over them. Several levels of submenus might exist. For example, to see the System Tools submenu, you have to go through All Programs, Accessories, System Tools.

Often, you'll accidentally open a list that you don't want to look at (say, the Games submenu). Just move the pointer to the one you want and wait a second, or press the Esc key. Each press of Esc closes one level of any open lists. To close all open lists, just click anywhere else on the screen, such as on the desktop or another window. All open Start button lists go away.

Running a Program from Computer or Windows Explorer

If you're a power user, chances are good that you'll be sleuthing around on your hard disk using either the Computer approach or Windows Explorer. I certainly have programs floating around on my hard disk that do not appear in my Start button program menus, and I have to execute them directly. In general, the rule for running programs without the Start menu is this: If you can find and display the program's icon, just double-click it. It should run.

Getting to a program you want is often a little convoluted, but it's not too difficult to grasp. Plus, if you understand the DOS directory tree structure or you've used a Mac, you already know more about Windows 7 than you think. Double-click a drive to open it, and then double-click a directory to open it. Then double-click the program you want to run. Figure 4.10 shows a typical directory listing for Computer.

Figure 4.10

Figure 4.10 A typical directory as shown in Computer.

Here are some notes to remember:

  • Folders are listed first, followed by files. Double-clicking a folder reveals its contents.
  • If you want to see more folders on the screen at once to help in your search, you have several options. You can use the More options button on the toolbar to change view options. The Small Icons view uses small icons with only the object name. The Medium Icons, Large Icons, and Extra Large Icons views display images extracted from the file objects themselves—these views are most useful for graphic files. The List view displays everything in a column by its object name only. The Details view offers the most comprehensive information about file system objects in a multicolumn display, with object names, object type, size, modified date, comments, and so on. The Tiles view provides an image with the object type and size.

Of course, many of the files you'll find in your folders are not programs; they're documents or support files. To easily find the applications, choose the Details view and then click the column head for Type. This sorts the listing by type, making it easy to find applications in the list (which carry an Application label).

Using Libraries

Windows 7 is designed to help you focus on your creative tasks instead of the underlying OS, which supports the tools and files. Part of this includes the Documents, Pictures, and Music Start menu items. These links also appear on most file or browse windows, as well as within Computer and Windows Explorer. These three elements always link you back to a standard location where your personal data files are stored.

Windows 7 introduces the concept of libraries for your personal documents. While the standard My Documents, My Music, My Pictures, and My Videos folders are still listed and accessible under your user folder, Windows 7 gives you the ability to see data from all these directories in one convenient place—the library. Libraries can pull their data from multiple sources, whether that source is a folder on the local hard drive, an external hard drive, or a network location, and presents the files in an easy-to-manipulate interface. For more on libraries and how to configure them, see Chapter 5.

The Documents library is the master folder for all your personal data files. This is the default storage location whenever you save a new document or data file. These libraries are provided to simplify the storage and retrieval of your most intimate file-stored creations. Clicking on one of these Start menu links opens a Computer window to the library specified.


The Pictures library is to Windows 7 what the My Pictures folder was to Windows XP. You can store pictures in this folder and then view the pictures quickly from the Start menu (by clicking Start, Pictures) or from the Favorites Links section in Computer or Windows Explorer. A new installation of Windows 7 includes eight high-quality sample pictures in the Sample Pictures subfolder.


The Music library is to Windows 7 what the My Music folder was to Windows XP. You can store music files in this folder and then listen to the music files quickly from the Start menu (by clicking Start, Music) or from the Favorites Links section in Windows Explorer. A new installation of Windows 7 includes three high-quality sample music files in the Sample Music subfolder.

Using Speech Recognition

Not everyone who uses Windows uses the keyboard. Some people are physically unable to use a keyboard, and others prefer voice commands to typing text whenever possible. With Speech Recognition, Windows 7 accommodates users who want to talk to their computer.

Windows 7 interfaces with a keyboard and mouse (or mouse equivalent) by default. You can set up Speech Recognition by clicking Start, Control Panel, Ease of Access, Speech Recognition. The Speech Recognition window appears (see Figure 4.11).

Figure 4.11

Figure 4.11 The Speech Recognition window lets you configure your Speech Recognition settings.

This window contains five links to choose from, but the link you want to click first to set up Speech Recognition is Start Speech Recognition. After you click this link, the Set Up Speech Recognition Wizard appears, enabling you to set up the computer to recognize your voice. Tasks you complete in the wizard include setting up the microphone, taking a speech tutorial, and reading text to your computer to help your computer better translate your voice to text.

You can also view and print the Windows Speech Reference Card that contains a list of common voice commands that Windows 7 understands.

Advanced Speech Options

You can further configure Speech Recognition options by clicking the Advanced Speech Options link in the Speech Recognition window. The Speech Properties window appears with the Speech Recognition tab open, as shown in Figure 4.12.

Figure 4.12

Figure 4.12 The Speech Properties window Speech Recognition tab.

In this tab, you can select the Microsoft Speech Recognition software for the type of English you're speaking—US English (which is the default) or UK English. You can also create a new Speech Recognition profile, determine whether you want to run Speech Recognition when Windows 7 starts, and specify how your computer will improve its speech-recognition accuracy. As part of that accuracy, you can also adjust your microphone input.

If you prefer Windows to read text aloud through your computer speakers, click the Text to Speech tab (see Figure 4.13).

Figure 4.13

Figure 4.13 The Speech Properties window Text to Speech tab.

By default, only one voice is available in Windows Vista: Microsoft Anna, which is a pleasant female voice. You can preview Anna's voice by clicking Preview Voice. You can also control Anna's voice speed using the Voice Speed slider bar. Enable Text to Speech by clicking OK.

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