Demo: Desktop basics

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If you want to learn your way around Windows Vista, this demo is a good place to start. You'll discover the basics of using the Start menu, the taskbar, the desktop, and Windows Sidebar. These four areas help you access and interact with your programs, files, and folders.

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Windows Vista has four main areas that help you access and interact with your programs, files, and folders: the Start menu, the taskbar, the desktop, and Windows Sidebar. Let's look at how you can use each one.

The Start button is the best place to begin. You click it to open the Start menu, which gives you access to your programs, files, and folders. This area shows programs you commonly use. You can click any program to open it. This area provides access to frequently used folders, settings, and features. Here, you can get to files you've recently opened. And this is where you go to turn off or lock your computer.

To see a complete list of the programs installed on your computer, you click All Programs. And to find programs and files, you can type a search term here.

Let's search for WordPad. It's a basic word processing program. The search results appear above the Search box. You click a result to open it. Notice how the program displays here on your desktop. This is called a window. You can have several programs running at once, and each one will display in its own window. So let's open another program.

Notice how each program is represented by its own button on the taskbar. You can click these buttons to switch from one program to another. To make a program fill the entire screen, you click this button to maximize it. To restore the window to normal size, you click the button again.

To hide a program while you work on something else, you click this button to minimize it. The program disappears from the desktop, but it's still running. Notice that it still has a button on the taskbar. To show the program again, you click its taskbar button.

When you're done using a program, you click the Close button in its window. Notice how the programs disappear from both the desktop and the taskbar.

Windows Sidebar is a place that holds small programs called gadgets, which put information and tools at your fingertips. A few gadgets appear on Sidebar by default. You can change any gadget's settings by pointing to it, and then clicking this button. Let's change the appearance of the Clock.

You can also add new gadgets to Sidebar. You click here to see the gadgets installed on your computer. Then double-click the gadget you want to add…like this. If you want, you can drag a gadget to the desktop and use it there.

Now you know the basics of using the Start menu, desktop, taskbar, and Sidebar.