Let’s get STARTed

Data In, Data Out

Let’s get STARTed
by Bill O’Kane

Of all the icon, shortcuts and applets we have seen in the last eight articles, none is as important as the “Start” button, found in the lower left corner on the task bar. By clicking the start button, you access the start menu and many more utilities as well as the installed programs on your computer.

The start menu has changed from version to version, but some utilities and menu items are included in all versions. These are the ones we will discuss today.

Click illustration to enlarge
Click illustration to enlarge
Microsoft has done an excellent job of providing help to system settings and information for the user. By clicking the menu item named “Help” you will be presented with a new window containing two panes. In the left pane is a column of general help topics. Clicking any of the general topics will expand the subject tree and present the user with a more specific list of topics. Clicking any one of these topics causes information on the subject to be displayed in the right pane.

By changing to the “Index” tab above the left panel you will have access to an alphabetical list of subjects that can be searched with the text box above the list. As you type your word in the box the help utility will automatically scroll to the subject heading being entered. By going to the “Search” tab above the list you can search subjects by keyword. The system will display a list of any help article that has reference to the keyword. Later versions allow you to save your most often used searches as favourites for easy access in the future.

Help, in my experience is the least used tool on the computer. Get used to using it and trying to solve simple problems yourself before asking friends or co-workers for help. You will learn much and remember what you have learned a lot longer.

Click illustration to enlarge
Click illustration to enlarge
Also on the start menu is the “Find” or “Search” utility. This program allows the user to search files and folders. Why would you need to search? During the use of your computer you will be creating hundreds maybe thousands of files and filing them amongst many folders on the hard drive, at some point you will be looking for that file you created three months ago but just cannot remember where you put it. In this situation the search utility is your best friend.

Search not only allows you to search for files by name, but also by strings of text within the file. For example, if you wrote a letter in February of 2000 but could not remember where you saved it you could do a search for files containing the string “February” or “2000” or both, going on the assumption that the text of the letter contained a date.

If you can remember the file name, such as “my letter” you can do a search for files named “my letter.” You can also specify where to look. This is where your understanding of the file structure comes in handy. If you save all your documents in “My Documents” then it only prolongs the search by searching the whole hard drive; it will be quicker to start by searching “My Documents.”

There are two “wildcard” characters you can also use in the search field if you can only remember a part of a name. The first is the “*” you will find it on your “8” key. This character can represent any number of unknown characters. For example: searching for “bi*” will return bid, bit, bill, bike, bite, bimini, bibliography, etc.

Another wild card is the “?” it can represent any ONE unknown character. For example: replacing the “*” with “?” in the previous example would be “bi?” This would only return bit and bid.

These wildcards can be used in combination and multiple times to create quite specific searches. Depending on the version you are using tabs or links will allow you to refine your search even more by specifying files of certain sizes and created on certain dates.

The start menu also contains an item called “Setting.” This allows you quick access to your Control Panel setting, printer, network and task bar. Once again most settings should be fine by default until you are more comfortable with the system and feel comfortable making changes in how things work.

The “Printers” sub-menu will allow you to install and configure a printer on your computer. If this is the first printer being installed, clicking the “Printers” item will open a new window containing a wizard called “Add Printer” which will take you step by step through installing the new printer. If other printers are installed icons will appear representing all the printers installed on your system. Tinkering with printer settings is not for the new user and can leave your printer unusable or printing garbage.

If you move your mouse pointer over the “Documents” menu item a sub menu will appear displaying a list of recently used files. This allows you to go back to files you have been working on quickly.

In the next article we look at the “Programs” menu and submenus. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions please feel free to contact me. I am always happy to hear from readers and help out in any way I can.

Contact Bill O’Kane at: Alternative Business Systems
36 Bradd Street
Miramichi, New Brunswick
E1N 2A9
Phone: 506-622-7469
Fax: 506-622-6705
Email: absys@nbnet.nb.ca
Web: http://www.alternative-business-systems.ca
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