Almost everything you do on your computer requires using a program. For example, if you want to draw a picture, you need to use a drawing or painting program. To write a letter, you use a word processing program. To explore the Internet, you use a program called a web browser. Thousands of programs are available for Windows.
If you don't see the program you want to open but know its name, type all or part of the name into the Search box at the bottom of the left pane. For example, to find Windows Photo Gallery, type photo or gallery in the Search box. The left pane instantly displays search results. Under Programs, click a program to open it.
To browse a complete list of your programs, click the Start button, and then click All Programs. For more information, see The Start menu (overview).
You can also start a program by opening a file. Opening the file automatically opens the program associated with the file. See Open a file or folder.
Most programs contain dozens or even hundreds of commands (actions) that you use to work the program. Many of these commands are organized under menus. Like a restaurant menu, a program menu shows you a list of choices. To keep the screen uncluttered, menus are hidden until you click their titles in the menu bar, located just underneath the title bar. For example, clicking "Image" in the Paint menu bar displays the Image menu:
To choose one of the commands listed in a menu, click it. Sometimes a dialog box will appear, in which you can select further options. If a command is unavailable and cannot be clicked, it is shown in gray, like the Crop command in the picture.
Toolbars provide access to frequently used commands in the form of buttons or icons. These commands usually appear in the program's menus, too, but toolbars let you choose a command with just one click. Toolbars typically appear just below the menu bar:
For more information, see Using menus, buttons, bars, and boxes.
Many programs allow you to create, edit, save, and print documents. In general, a document is any type of file that you can edit. For example, a word processing file is a type of document, as is a spreadsheet, an e‑mail message, and a presentation. However, the terms document and file are often used interchangeably; pictures, music clips, and videos that you can edit are usually called files, even though they are technically documents.
Some programs, including WordPad, NotePad, and Paint, open a blank, untitled document automatically when you start the program, so that you can start working right away. You'll see a large white area and a generic word like "Untitled" or "Document" in the program's title bar.
If your program doesn't open a new document automatically when it starts, you can do it yourself:
Click the File menu in the program you are using, and then click New. If you can open more than one type of document in the program, you might also need to select the type from a list.
As you work on a document, your additions and changes are stored in your computer's random access memory (RAM). Storage of information in RAM is temporary; if your computer is turned off or loses power, any information in RAM is erased.
Saving a document allows you to name it and to store it permanently on your computer's hard disk. That way, the document is preserved even when your computer is turned off, and you can open it again later.
On the File menu, click Save. If this is the first time you are saving the document, you’ll be asked to provide a name for it and a location on your computer to save it to.
Even if you've saved a document once, you need to keep saving it as you work. That's because any changes you've made since you last saved the document are stored in RAM, not on the hard disk. To avoid losing work unexpectedly due to a power failure or other problem, save your document every few minutes.
For more information, see Save a file.
Most programs allow you to share text and images between them. For example, you can copy text or a picture from a webpage in Internet Explorer to a document in WordPad. When you copy information, it goes into a temporary storage area called the Clipboard. From there, you can paste it into a document.
Before you start moving information around, you should understand how to switch between the open windows on your desktop. See Working with windows.
In the document, select the text that you want to copy or move. (To select text, drag the pointer across it. The selection will appear highlighted.)
On the Edit menu, click Copy or Cut. (Copy leaves the information in your original document. Cut removes the information from the document.)
Switch to the document where you want the text to appear, and then click a location in the document.
On the Edit menu, click Paste. You can paste the text multiple times.
On the webpage, right-click the picture you want to copy, and then click Copy.
Switch to the document where you want the picture to appear, and then click a location in the document.
On the Edit menu, click Paste. You can paste the picture multiple times.
Pictures cannot be pasted into Notepad. Use WordPad or another word processor instead.
Most programs allow you to undo (reverse) actions you take or mistakes you make. For example, if you delete a paragraph in a WordPad document accidentally, you can get it back by using the Undo command. If you draw a line in Paint that you don't want, undo your line right away and it vanishes.
On the Edit menu, click Undo.
Almost every program comes with its own built-in Help system for those times when you're confused about how the program works.
To access a program's Help system:
On the Help menu of the program, click the first item in the list, such as "View Help," "Help Topics," or similar text. (The name of this item will vary.)– or –Press F1. This function key opens Help in almost any program.
In addition to program-specific help, some dialog boxes contain links to Help about their specific functions. If you see a question mark inside a circle or square, or a colored and underlined text link, click it to open the Help topic.
For more information, see Getting help.
Remember to save your document before exiting a program. If you have unsaved work and try to exit the program, the program will ask you whether you want to save the document:
To save the document and then exit the program, click Yes.
To exit the program without saving the document, click No.
To return to the program without exiting, click Cancel.
You're not limited to using the programs that came with your computer—you can buy new programs on CD or DVD or download programs (either free or for a fee) from the Internet.
Installing a program means adding it to your computer. After a program is installed, it appears in your Start menu in the All Programs list. Some programs might also add a shortcut to your desktop. See Install a program.