Windows 7 Unleashed, by Paul McFedries (Softcover, 2010)|
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Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
This 758-page book on Windows 7 is a solid resource for beginners and power users alike.
In fact, it is especially useful for beginners. One of the annoying things Microsoft began doing in earlier versions of Windows was hiding the file extensions. How in the heck are you supposed to be able to know what files you're working with if that information isn't visible? So McFedries devotes some time early on to correcting this and other productivity-killing "enhancements" so a person can actually get work done on a Windows computer. He doesn't however, go far enough with this.
I don't recall if the book mentions to right click the Start button to open Windows Explorer, but that's another tip I give beginners who don't know where to begin. Microsoft has, mercifully, not disabled that in W7 (else, you'd have to navigate to where they hide the shortcut to it). If Microsoft is still around a couple of years from now and releases another OS, I hope the Unleashed book will have a chapter titled "Fixing the Enhancements" so beginners and power users can save time getting Windows to make sense. This chapter needs to address each annoyance that the Microsoft User Frustration Team has come up with, and explain how to fix it.
While not exhaustive, this book's coverage is extensive. It does have two glaring problems, though. It's wrong about networking, and it's wrong about menu alteration.
The reason I got this book was I thought it would help me make sense of what I see as Microsoft's flakiest OS interface yet. For example, I use my computers to accomplish tasks. What a novel concept. Thus, I organize my start menu by the mission of each application. I have folders for Communication, Financial, Graphics, Utilities, Webworking, etc. It's set up based on the idea I want to accomplish something or perform a specific type of task. Microsoft's defaults are based on some other idea.
My first step in a Windows install on a laptop is to create a data partition (on a desktop, I just use a second physical drive for data). Fortunately, W7 makes this step easy; in earlier versions of Windows, I had to spend yet another wad of cash to buy a program to provide this functionality. Why Windows doesn't by default create an OS partition and a data partition already (or, in the case of desktop machines, autosense the second hard drive and make it the data drive), I have no idea. It would not take much to just make it that way.
Then I change all of the program defaults to save data outside the OS partition or drive (reinstalling Windows is inevitable, which means data loss is inevitable if you store data on the OS partition). My next step is to go into Windows Explorer and set up folders for the program menu shortcuts. Even after reading this book, I can't figure out how to do that in W7.
That said, I typically don't start work by opening an application (e.g., Word) and searching for files from it. I typically start by opening a file with Windows Explorer (file association is something Microsoft got right). However, there are times when I don't have an existing file to work from and want to begin with a program. Wading through a long list of unrelated program names instead of going directly to a logically-named folder of related apps is a productivity killer.
The great thing about W7 is it boots up quickly. If not for that, I would have given up on it after an hour of fussing with it. This book was helpful, but its explanation of how to find the location of the user profiles and menu folders doesn't match what is on my computer. Since I still can't get the Start Menu shortcuts arranged in anything approaching a logical setup, I still might replace W7 with XP.
I disagree with the author's assertion that Windows 7 makes networking easier. I have found the reality to be exactly the opposite. After buying a laptop with Windows 7, I came within an inch of wiping out the OS partition and installing Windows XP on it. After spending far more time than I should have and even tapping an IT pro for help, I finally did get W7 to at least see my XP machine (can't get it to work the other way). By contrast, I can plug any pre-W7 machine into my network and connection/detection is automatic. If you want to affirm that this networking problem is widespread and immensely frustrating, just google it.
All in all, a solid book IF you aren't networking with earlier versions of Windows, and IF you already know why you never save files in the same partition as the OS, and IF you already know how to "de-enhance" the interface so it is logical and efficient. What's missing is the chapter I mentioned earlier.
I became a power user when DOS 3.0 was the current OS, and have carried forth the lessons learned in subsequent OS releases (while updating my knowledge by reading at least two books on each release). New computer users don't have that experience to draw from, and most users don't have that education to draw from. So a book like this is a godsend.
New users will choose between W7 and Mac, which goes a long way toward explaining why Mac sales are on the rise and Microsoft has had layoffs. For those of us stubbornly clinging to Wintel and wanting to make it work in frustration-free fashion, Windows 7 Unleashed is an excellent resource.