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Configuring the Windows 7 Operating System (part 1) - Configuring the Desktop Environment

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After Windows 7 is installed, the next important step is configuration. If a Windows 7 machine is not configured properly, it will not run properly.

The following sections describe many of the configuration options for customizing Windows 7 for each individual user's needs. We will start with configuring the Windows 7 Desktop environment.

1. Configuring the Desktop Environment

Before we configure the Windows 7 Desktop, let's discuss what the Windows 7 Desktop actually is. The Windows 7 Desktop is the interface that appears when a user logs into the operating system. The Desktop includes the wallpaper, Start menu, gadgets, and icons (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. The default Windows 7 Desktop

The Windows 7 Desktop default settings also include the default All Programs section, shown in Figure 2. One of the advantages of the Windows 7 Desktop is that you can configure the Desktop the way you like it.

Figure 2. The default All Programs section

Microsoft includes premade Desktops called themes. You can set Windows 7 to use the Windows 7 Aero theme, the Windows 7 Standard theme, the Windows 7 Basic theme, the Windows Classic theme, or any customized theme you want.

The Windows 7 default Desktop appears after a user has logged on to a Windows 7 computer for the first time. Users can then configure their Desktops to suit their personal preferences and to work more efficiently.

When you install Windows 7 from a clean install, you will notice that the Desktop is clean except for the Recycle Bin. The following list shows the common default options that appear on the Start menu and the All Programs section.

Getting Started This is used to access preset tasks (see Figure 3). Some of these tasks are Discover Windows 7, Personalize Windows, Transfer Your Files, Add New Users, and Back Up Your Files.

Figure 3. Getting Started tasks

Calculator This shortcut starts the Calculator program.

Sticky Notes This application places a sticky note on your desktop, as shown in Figure 4. You can then type a message or reminder into the sticky note. It will remain on the Desktop until you remove it.

Figure 4. Sticky notes application

Snipping Tool This tool allows a user to capture an item on the Desktop (see Figure 5). The user clicks the Snipping Tool and drags the cursor around an area that will then be captured. The captured area can then be drawn on, highlighted, or saved as a file.

Figure 5. Snipping Tool

Paint This is a shortcut that starts the Paint program. The Paint program is an application that allows you to change or manipulate graphics files.

Remote Desktop Connection This program allows a user to connect remotely to another machine. To connect to another computer, the Remote Desktop Connection must be enabled on the receiving computer.

Magnifier The Magnifier utility is one of the Ease of Access utilities. The Ease of Access utilities are included with Windows 7 to allow users who may have difficulties seeing experience Windows 7 more easily. The Magnifier, Narrator, and On-Screen keyboard are among the Ease of Access utilities.

Solitaire This shortcut starts the Solitaire game. This game can also be accessed from the Games section of the Start menu.

Default Programs When you choose the Default Programs shortcut, there will be four different configuration items that can be accessed: Set Your Default Programs, Associate A File Type Or Protocol With A Program, Change AutoPlay Settings, and Set Program Access And Computer Defaults.

Default Gadget Gallery This shortcut opens the default gadget gallery. Gadgets are mini applications that can be placed on the Desktop.

Internet (Internet Explorer 8) This shortcut starts the built-in web browser. When used with an Internet connection, Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) provides an interface for accessing the Internet or a local intranet.

Windows DVD Maker This application is used to view and edit photo and video files to create your own personal DVDs.

Windows Fax and Scan This application is allows you to create and manage scans and faxes. Windows Fax and Scan allows users to send or receive faxes from their workstation.

Windows Media Center Windows Media Center allows you to watch TV on your computer or laptop. When you start the Media Center for the first time, a wizard will walk you through the TV setup. Windows Media Center also allows you to play DVD movies and music.

Windows Media Player The Windows Media Player allows you to play all your media files. It allows you to play videos, music, pictures, and recorded TV.

Windows Update This shortcut allows you to receive updates from either Microsoft's web server or a Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) machine. Windows Updates allows you to receive updates and security patches for the Windows 7 operating system.

XPS Viewer The XPS viewer is a new application that allows you to view Microsoft XML Paper Specification (.xps) files. The XPS viewer also allows you to print these files.

Accessories The Accessories section includes many Windows 7 tools (see Figure 6), such as the calculator, the command prompt, Windows PowerShell, the Ease of Access utility, Run, Paint, and Notepad.

Figure 6. The Accessories section of the Start menu

Games This section opens up the games that are included with Windows 7. Some of the games that are included are Chess Titans, FreeCell, Hearts, Internet Backgammon, Internet Checkers, Internet Spades, Mahjong Titans, Minesweeper, Purble Place, Solitaire, and Spider Solitaire.

Maintenance The Maintenance section includes important maintenance utilities like Backup and Restore, Create a System Repair Disk, Help and Support, and Windows Remote Assistance.

Startup The Startup section allows you to place application shortcuts within the Startup section. Once these shortcuts are placed in the Startup section, the applications will automatically start when the system user logs in.

User Documents This shortcut (shown as willpanek in Figure 4.2 earlier) opens the user's personnel folders.

Documents By default, this folder stores the documents that are created. Each user has a unique Documents folder, so even if a computer is shared, each user will have their own personal folder.

Pictures This application shows any pictures that are in the user's Pictures folder.

Music This shortcut will show any music that is in the My Music folder.

Computer This shortcut allows you to centrally manage your computer's files, hard drives, and devices with removable storage. It also allows you to manage system tasks and other places (such as other computers on the network) and to view details about your computer.

Control Panel Control Panel holds many utilities and tools that allow you to configure your computer.

Devices and Printers This shortcut opens the Devices and Printers section. In the Devices and Printers section you can add or configure any of your hardware devices or printers.

Help and Support This shortcut is used to access the Windows 7 Help and Support resources. You can also access Windows 7 online help from the Help and Support utility.

Search Use this option to search for pictures, music, video, documents, files and folders, computers, or people.

Shut Down Button This button is used to shut down the computer. There is an arrow next to the button that you can use to switch uses, log off, lock the machine, restart the machine, or cause the machine to sleep.


If you use any kind of remote management tools, you may want to rename the Computer icon with the computer's actual name. This allows you to easily identify which computer you're accessing.

When configuring the Desktop, you have the ability to switch between background and Desktop themes. To switch between these different themes, right-click an area of open space on the Desktop, select Personalize, and then click Theme. In the Theme Settings dialog box, you can select the theme you want to use.

The Desktop also includes the Recycle Bin. The Recycle Bin is a special folder that holds the files and folders that have been deleted, assuming that your hard drive has enough free space to hold the deleted files. If the hard drive is running out of disk space, the files that were deleted first will be copied over. You can retrieve and clear files (for permanent deletion) from the Recycle Bin.

You can configure the Desktop by customizing the taskbar and Start menu, adding shortcuts, and setting display properties. I'll describe these configurations in the following sections. Let's start with the Desktop themes that you can configure and choose from.

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