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Introduction to the Windows Operating System

Some Terminology

Single Click this means to click on an object ONCE with the left mouse button.
Right Click this means to click on an object ONCE with the right mouse button.
Double Click this means to click on an object TWICE, in rapid succession with the left mouse button.
Selecting to select an object, you single click on it.
Opening to open an object, you double click on it.

Introduction to the Windows 95 and Windows 98 Operating Systems

In this section we will discuss some very specific aspects of the Windows 95 and 98 operating systems. Keep in mind that you can do many of the same types of things on different operating systems. The only difference is in the way that the operating system allows you to perform the task. Keep in mind that the appearance of your OS installation could be a little different from the examples given in this tutorial because the OS allows you to customize its appearance to your liking.

Let’s start at the most obvious place, the Start Menu which is located in the lower left hand corner of the computer screen when Windows 95 or 98 is running.

Single click on the Start button with the LEFT mouse button to display the following menu items. Note that my example says "Windows NT Workstation". Your computer should say Windows 95 or Windows 98.


Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up.

Shut Down Use this menu option for three things. 1) To shut down your computer. 2) To restart your computer. 3) To Logoff of your computer, and/or logon as a new user.
Run Use this menu option to manually type in a command or program name to run on your computer. Most of the programs that you will run will be located under the Programs menu and you should not have to use the Run menu item except when installing new software.
Help This menu item provides help on the Windows 95/98 Operating System. Use this option if this tutorial fails to answer any questions you might have about the OS.
Find Use this menu item to Find Files on your computer, Computers connected to your computer by a network card or modem connection.
Settings This is where you can customize the Operating System appearance to your liking, define network printer connections, and set the properties of your computer.
Documents This is a list of your MOST recently accessed documents and files.
Programs The Programs sub-menu is what you’ll be accessing the most. Any time a new program or application is installed on your computer, a new menu item is installed in the Programs menu. Sometimes a program will even install a new button/link that can be accessed from the top level of the Start menu without going to the Programs sub menu.

It is literally impossible to go over the Programs sub-menu in any detail because the contents of this sub-menu will vary vastly from computer to computer. The Programs menu can be configured ANY way a user wants it to appear. The important thing to understand is that the sub-menu’s and buttons under the Programs menu are simply LINKS that point to the actual programs that get run when you click on them.


The desktop of the Windows 95/98 operating system is symbolic of a table desktop. Just as you can open up folders and documents on your office desktop, you can do the same thing on your Windows 95/98 desktop. When opening up documents, you are basically covering up your desktop with papers and items. It therefore becomes necessary to Close or Minimize programs and files on your computer if you need to view the Windows desktop. The following is only an example of what your desktop might look like.

All of the items on your desktop can be renamed to be titled something else. Don’t expect the above items to have the exact names as they do above, but most windows desktops have the above 3 items, or ICONS, on the desktop.

My Computer This is where you can Explore all of the information and devices located on, and connected to your computer. You can also define properties for your computer here.
Network Neighborhood This is where you can browse all of the computers connected to your Local Area Network (LAN). You can also define properties of how your computer should connect to your network.
Recycle Bin Anytime you delete a file on your computer, it is placed in the recycle bin. You can use the recycle bin to recover items that you may have accidentally deleted. You can also define the properties of the recycle bin to automatically delete items after it fills up to a certain point.

Task Bar

Located directly to the right of the Start menu, is the task bar. The task bar starts out with nothing on it when you first log into your computer. When you open up an application, the application will place a link to itself on the task bar. This way, if you have multiple applications or programs open at once, you can simply click on the link in the task bar to switch between them. In the previous example, there are 3 application links in the task bar.

Another important thing to remember about the Windows operating systems is that there is almost always more than one way to get something done. The way that I’m going to show you in the following examples are simply MY preferences on how to use the Windows OS.

Browsing Your Computer

Many people "Double Click" on the "My Computer" ICON on the windows desktop in order to open it up and browse around. The reason that I do NOT do this is because in the standard Windows environment this would open up a new Window every time you "Double Clicked" on a sub folder. For this reason, "Single Click" on the "My Computer" ICON with the right mouse button and choose "Explore". The Windows Explorer is a much more powerful way to browse through your computer files and devices.

If you get the following menu upon right clicking on My Computer, then it means that you clicked on My Computer and dragged the ICON a little before you released the mouse button. If this happens to you, simply click on "Cancel" with the left mouse button and try again. Be sure to hold the mouse steady while clicking.

A window similar to the following should have appeared after you clicked on the Explore option.

The left frame of the Explore window is a list of devices, folders, and other Operating System objects like the Recycle Bin. The right frame is a list of what is contained in the object that is currently selected in the left-hand frame. In order to display the FULL details of the Files and Folders listed in the right frame of the window, select "Details" from the View menu of the Explorer window.

You should now see details about the files and objects in the right frame. The following is an example.


Notice that there is a Minus (-) sign next to "My Computer" in the left frame. This indicates that the Object is expanded to show you what folders and objects are inside. Notice all of the other Objects, like the C, D, & E drives have a Plus (+) sign next to them. This indicates that the Objects are NOT expanded and you can’t see what’s contained within them. If you were to click on the Plus (+) sign next to the C drive, you would see it expand to show you all of the sub-folders contained in the C drive. If you were to single click on the C drive itself, the right-hand frame of the exploring window would show not only the sub-folders in the C drive, but it would also list any files which exist in the top level of the C drive. Remember our first analogy of seeing your computer as a filing cabinet. In the scenario just described we have opened up the C drawer of our file cabinet but have not opened up any of the sub-folders in our C drawer yet.

If you followed the above steps by expanding the C drive and viewing the folders and files in the top level of the C drive, then you have successfully browsed to the C drive of your computer.

Networking to share information instead of the Floppy Diskette

As previously mentioned, computer users used to exchange and share information by copying information to a floppy diskette. However, this is not necessary in a company which has their computers connected together on a network [Like a small Internet]. You can create a LINK to a Disk Drive [Folder] on another computer on the network and access that drive as if it were physically located inside your computer.

Mapping a Network Drive

From the Explore window that you opened earlier, choose the "Map Network Drive" from the Tools menu.

In the new window that appears, you’ll need to provide the following information.

      SoftButton.gif (337 bytes) What logical drive [E through Z] do you want to map to the remote disk drive to
      SoftButton.gif (337 bytes) The remote computer name
      SoftButton.gif (337 bytes) The share name [or hard drive] on the remote computer that you wish to map.

In the above window, I am telling Windows that I want to map the ShareName resource that is located on the ServerName system to my F drive. I can optionally fill in the Connect As field if I don’t have access and need to connect as someone with the appropriate access to the share name. I will be prompted for a password. Finally, if I want this drive automatically mapped every time that I log in to my computer, I can check the Reconnect at Logon box before clicking OK.

Common Application Examples

This section will discuss some common applications/programs that are used on PC’s. Once you learn your way through one or two programs, it shouldn’t be too difficult to tackle other programs. Understanding the underlying concepts will help you to learn new applications/programs.

Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word is basically a glorified word processor. It is a replacement for the typewriter. In the past, when a person made a mistake while using a typewriter, you would have to use correction tape, and retype over the misspelling to cover up your typing mistakes. With computers and applications like MS-Word, all you have to do is hit the backspace key to delete your typo. MS-Word comes with tons of other features, including spell checking and grammar checking.

Rather than make this a course on Microsoft Word, I’m not going to spend a great deal of time explaining how to do certain things in Word. Instead, I’m going to focus on the commonalties that Word has with other PC applications. The intent is to help you understand better how to use ALL the applications on your PC, not just MS-Word.

As stated previously, most applications will create a LINK to itself on the "Programs" menu of the "Start" button. Locate the Microsoft Word link and single click on it. It should look something like the following.

Once you’ve opened up MS-Word, MS-Word may be setup to automatically create a new blank document in the workspace. If not, you can select "New" from the "File" menu in Word window. For our tutorial here, it is not necessary to have an open document.

The Windows OS got its name from the fact that anytime you open up an application or file, a new window looking object opens up on your Windows desktop. These windows typically have some basic things in common with each other.

    They have a title bar that describes the application, and current working file or document. In the above example, the title bar states, "Microsoft Word – Document 1". The application is "Microsoft Word", and the current working file is "Document 1". Remember that Word may have automatically created this blank new document for you. Document 1 is the default name that Word assigned to this new working document.

In the upper right hand corner of the window, there are three small boxes that can be clicked upon to manipulate the appearance of the window.

Clicking the first button [the line] will cause the application to MINIMIZE itself to the taskbar. If you needed to reveal an application behind the current working application, you could click on the minimize button to move the current application out of your way.

Clicking the middle button [box or boxes] will cause your application to either EXPAND and use the full space on the desktop, or COLLAPSE to a smaller window leaving some background items on your desktop visible around the edges of the window.

Clicking on the third button [the X] will cause your application to CLOSE. Although most applications will prompt you to save your working document, be careful when clicking on this X. It could cause your application to exit without saving your work. To exit cleanly choose EXIT from the FILE Menu.

Just below the title bar of a window, there are typically some Menu’s that allow you to perform certain functions within the application. Many applications will have the three menu’s FILE, EDIT, & HELP. Because most applications work with files, it makes sense that they follow the same standard for certain functions. This makes it easier for users to learn a new application. Here are some examples of menu items that perform the same function no matter what application you are using.

    1. Saving your working document will be done the SAME EXACT WAY in most applications that you use. You will choose Save from the File menu.
    2. Exiting your application will be done by choosing Exit from the File menu. It’s almost always at the bottom of the File menu.
    3. The version number or release of the software application will be found by choosing About from the Help menu.
    4. You will print your working documents by choosing Print from the File menu.
    5. You can select text in a working file, Copy it onto the clipboard, then Paste the text somewhere else in your file. These menu items are always found on the Edit menu.

The clipboard is an invisible Windows OS storage area that you can use to temporarily store information such as text and images.

Many applications, like MS-Word can be configured to your liking. By default MS-Word automatically spell checks documents and will offer suggestions while you are typing. This can be a rather annoying feature at times, but you can turn this feature on or off depending how you work. These settings are typically found in menu items called Preferences, Options, or Settings. In MS-Word, the item is called Options, and is located under the Tools menu.

Most applications will provide some form of online help. There are two types of help that they may provide. Contents & Index. You can select this contents and index help option from the Help menu in MOST (not all) Windows applications. The window that opens up will look something like the following.

Some windows that are opened up within an application, like the above help window, don’t use menus. They use TABS instead. Window TABS are symbolic of folder tabs you might find in a binder. The tabs in the above example are Contents, Index, and Find. By clicking on the Contents tab, you are able to open up virtual books about the application you chose help on. The starting books in the above example are Key Information, and Getting Help. You can browse through these books for specific topics to learn more about the application. If you want to search through ALL of the books for a specific topic or word, then you can click on the Index tab and enter in a keyword to search for. The index is helpful in getting quick answers to a specific question you might have without having to page through the online books in the contents area.

Short Cuts

Most applications offer shortcuts for commonly used functions like Cut, Paste, Save, and Print. These shortcuts help you work faster by removing the need to drag the mouse around. Notice that on the menus within Microsoft Word, the first character of each menu item is underlined.

The underline indicates that there is a shortcut key to that menu. To access the shortcut keys to the menus, click and release the ALT key, then press the underlined letter of the menu you wish to access. For example, click the ALT key, then click the F key. This should display the File menu.

Next, in order to select any of the menu items under the opened file menu, you can type any underlined character in the file menu. In the above example, if you wanted to save your current document using the short cut, you could enter in the key sequence ALT, F, S.

Notice in the above example, the Ctrl+S text that is next to the Save option under the file menu. This indicates yet another short cut to this function. The PLUS sign indicates that you need to hold down BOTH keys together in order to execute the function. So, by holding down the CTRL key and typing S at the same time you can save your current working document. You now have three ways that you can save your working document. By clicking on the file menu with the mouse and choosing the Save option, by using ALT-F-S, and by using Ctrl+S.

When using the ALT key to gain short cut access to the menu system, you can use ALT again to exit from the menus, and you can also use the arrow keys to navigate through the menus without using the mouse.

Important Tips and Instructions

Backing up your data

You have learned that when you save a document on your desktop computer, it is saved on a bunch of tiny magnets as charges and non-charges. Well, what happens if an electrical surge comes down the power lines and demagnetizes all of the tiny magnets? You guessed it, you loose ALL of the information stored on your hard drive. Humans do not make PEFECT products either. What happens if the hard drive breaks or the surface of the magnets gets scratched because of a malfunction in the hard drive? Again, you’ve lost your data. It is therefore important make sure that your data is being backed up.

IMPORTANT! Information Services does NOT backup your computers C drive for you.

This is why it is important to save your documents on one of the shared network drives available to your department. These shared drives are backed up on a nightly basis to ensure that we have a backup copy of everything done for that day.

NOTE! What happens if you accidentally delete a document at 4pm that you’ve been working on since 9am? You’ve lost all your work. Backups do not typically take place until after 5 or 6pm. You can typically ask that a file be restored from the previous day, but not from the same day.

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Last Modified on Tuesday, May 11, 1999