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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.

Opening a program

The Start menu is the gateway to all of the programs on your computer. To open the Start menu, click the Start button Picture of the Start button . The left pane of the Start menu contains a small list of programs, including your Internet browser, e‑mail program, and recently used programs. To open a program, click it.

If you don't see the program you want to open, but you know its name, type all or part of the name into the search box at the bottom of the left pane. 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).

Tip

  • You can also open a program by opening a file. Opening the file automatically opens the program associated with the file. For more information, see Open a file or folder.

Using commands in programs

Most programs contain dozens or even hundreds of commands (actions) that you use to work the program. Many of these commands are organized in a ribbon, located just under the title bar.

The ribbon in Paint
The ribbon in Paint

In some programs, commands might be located 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 under the title bar.

To choose one of the commands listed on the ribbon, 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.

In some programs, 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.

Clicking a toolbar button performs a command. In WordPad, for example, clicking the Save button Picture of the Save button saves the document. To find out what a particular toolbar button does, point to it. The button's name or function is displayed:
Picture of the mouse pointer over the Print button in WordPad, showing the tooltip
Point to a toolbar button to see its function

For more information, see Using menus, buttons, bars, and boxes.

Creating a new document

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 open 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.

Picture of the title bar in WordPad
The title bar in WordPad

If your program doesn't open a new document automatically when it opens, you can do it yourself:

  • Click the File menu in the program you are using, and then click New.
    – or –
    Click the menu button Picture of a menu button, 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.

Saving a document

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.

To save a document

  1. Click the File menu, and click Save.
    – or –
    Click the Save button Picture of the Save button.
  2. 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.

Moving information between files

Most programs allow you to share text and images between them. 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. For more information, see Working with windows.

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To copy or move text from one document to another

  1. 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.)

  2. Click the Edit menu, and click Copy or Cut. (Copy leaves the information in your original document. Cut removes the information from the document.)
    – or –
    On the Home tab, click Copy or Cut.

  3. Switch to the document where you want the text to appear, and then click a location in the document.

  4. Click the Edit menu, and click Paste. You can paste the text multiple times.
    – or –
    On the Home tab, click Paste.

To copy a picture from a webpage to a document

  1. On the webpage, right-click the picture you want to copy, and then click Copy.

  2. Switch to the document where you want the picture to appear, and then click a location in the document.

  3. Click the Edit menu, and click Paste. You can paste the picture multiple times.
    – or –
    On the Home tab, click Paste.

Note

  • Pictures cannot be pasted into Notepad. Use WordPad or another word processor instead.

Undoing your last action

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.

To undo an action

  • Click the Edit menu, and click Undo.
    – or –
    Click the Undo button Picture of the Undo button .

Getting help with a program

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:

  • Click the Help menu and then click the first item in the list, such as "View Help," "Help Topics," or similar text. (The name of this item will vary.)
    – or –
    Click the Help button Picture of the Help button .

    Tip

    • You can also access a program's Help system by pressing 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.

Picture of Help links in dialog boxes and windows
Help links

For more information, see Getting help.

Exiting a program

To exit a program, click the Close button Picture of the Close button in the upper-right corner of the program window. Or, click the File menu, and click Exit.

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.

Picture of a Paint dialog box
A dialog box appears if you exit a program without saving your work
  • To save the document and then exit the program, click Save.

  • To exit the program without saving the document, click Don't Save.

  • To return to the program without exiting, click Cancel.

Installing or uninstalling programs

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. For more information, see Install a program.