Navigate Vista’s elegant new desktop Locate anything on your hard drive quickly with the fast, powerful, and fully integrated search function Use the Media Center to record TV and radio, present photos, play music, and record any of the above to DVD Chat, videoconference, and surf the Web with the vastly improved Internet Explorer 7 tabbed browser Build a network for file sharing, set up workgroups, and connect from the road Protect your PC and network with Vista’s beefed up security And much more. This jargon-free guide explains Vista’s features clearly and thoroughly, revealing which work well and which don’t. It’s the book that should have been in the box!
Review by John A. Suda:
It’s been over five years in the making and it’s nearly perfect. No, I’m not referring to Microsoft’s vast new operating system named Windows Vista, but to the reference book “Windows Vista: the Missing Manual,” by author David Pogue. The Missing Manual series is the benchmark of quality for computer manuals. Unless you’re a system administrator, programmer, or uber-geek, this is probably the only reference source you’ll need to learn Microsoft’s Vista.
Vista is the long-awaited successor to Windows XP and it is a major overhaul and upgrade of that operating system. It was designed primarily to address long-standing security issues with XP and its predecessors, but it also has a vastly new look and feel graphically and in operating features. It comes with a large number of new programs and features.
This Missing Manual uses every bit of 827 pages (including index) to provide similar descriptive and informational material as the built-in Vista sources, but provides much, much more:
One. Beyond mere description of features and functions, the book explains and evaluates all of the major (and many of the minor) changes from Windows XP to the new Vista. The introductory chapter itemizes all of the most important changes providing perspective on what Microsoft has done with the new operating system. It also highlights some of the more significant interface changes – the new search tool, the revised Start Menu, and the new “ribbon” bar.
Two. The author notes the options a user has in either using a new Vista feature, or in reconfiguring the operating experience to return to pre-existing features and the aesthetic elements of Windows XP and earlier versions of the operating system.
Three. Pogue provides an expert user’s perspective on the value of the changes and new features in Vista. Some things are improvements and upgrades; others are rated as inferior to what was before. If you don’t like the new or changed feature, Pogue guides you how to revert to previous iterations of the featuress, or otherwise provides workarounds.
Four. Pogue is great at providing an expert user’s perspective on working with the operating system efficiently and pragmatically. The Manual is written so that one almost feels that one is getting a one-on-one, hands-on lesson, in using Windows Vista. There is good reason that Pogue has been described as one of the “world’s best explainers.”
Five. Beyond all of the information, guidance and perspectives, Pogue has a great writing style. The writing is sprinkled with wit, sarcasm, and good-natured humor, extremely rare for a computer related book.
Six. The author writes for multiple levels of need and understanding. He details the basics of Windows Vista for beginners, provides richer material in breadth and depth for intermediate users, and a good amount of material useful for power users. There are many sidebars sprinkled throughout called “Power Users Clinic” which offer more technical tips, shortcuts, and information to PC veterans.
There is a lot new to Vista. The most important, if not the most noticeable, are the security enhancements. Microsoft now has a user account control which limits installation of new applications to a “user” who has administrative permissions. There is a full page of FAQs just regarding the user account control.
A major security upgrade is “service hardening” which prevents access to the all-important system files by outsiders or unauthorized users. Other new security elements are the Windows Defender program designed to prevent spyware installs, a phishing filter in Internet Explorer, parental controls, drive encryption, address space randomization, and much more.
What is most noticeable is the appearance of the desktop, windows, icons, system font , and interface features. These are all redesigned to take advantage the vastly enhanced graphic capabilities of Vista referred to as “Aero”. The Start Menu has been redesigned to be easier to use. The conventional menu bar for the desktop and most application windows has been replaced with a content-based ribbon bar.
There is a lengthy list of new applications, most significantly Window’s response to Apple Macintosh’s iLife suite of media applications. In Vista, these are the Photo Gallery, Calendar, DVD Maker, Media Player 11, and DVD Maker.
Mr. Pogue is an accomplished writer and computer expert having authored over 40 books, including 17 of the Missing Manual series. The writing is clear, concise, and jargon free. The book provides a fair evaluation of Microsoft’s latest operating system and gives it good grades overall.
The book is organized into eight parts including a set of appendices. These include the Desktop (or user workspace), the Vista software, Internet connection matters, the new Pictures, Movie, and Media applications, hardware and peripherals, PC maintenance, and networking with Vista. The page layout is clean. The book is filled with hundreds of screenshots and numerous step-by-step instructions on nearly all of Vista’s elements.
Part One explains the Desktop and what’s new, including the Welcome Center, Start Menu, and the greatly enhanced search tool which graces every window and the desktop itself. It now offers natural language searching for the first time. A full 10 pages is devoted to Microsoft’s improved speech recognition system, including a large handful of insights from an experienced user of such software.
Part Two contains most of the material on the new programs and the improved programs – Internet Explorer and its new RSS capability, tabs, and search bar, Mail (the Outlook replacement), and the Control Panel, which now contains at least 50 icons for mini-applications, wizards, links, and folders. Chapter 8 provides an applet by applet description. Dealing with the Internet with Internet Explorer and Mail comprises most of Part Three. There is a comprehensive section on connecting to the Internet with the growing number of methods-cable, DSL, dial-up, WiFi, cell, etc.
The media applications are covered in detail in Part Four including comparisons of Microsoft’s media applications to iTunes and Zune. Part Five deals with the fax, print, and scan functions and hardware related matters. Especially interesting are the printer tricks and the section on laptops, tablets, palm tops and hand-recognition software.
For maintenance, troubleshooting, and problem solving, there is a trio of chapters in Part Six covering disk maintenance and repair, the new “dynamic discs” feature, compression and encryption, and backups. Geeks may be interested in knowing how to uncover the hidden controls for the new improved firewall.
Part Seven covers the basics of accounts and networks. There is a lot new in Vista, especially in regard to its “separate users” architecture. The difference between workgroup and domain networks is explained clearly. Sharing and collaboration functions are explained and there is a comprehensive and deep section on remote control using a multitude of methods.
The appendices are great. Appendix A. discusses the installation of Vista in a comprehensive, systematic manner, from pre-purchase and installation considerations, to making decisions about upgrades or clean installs, to dual booting.
Appendix B. is cheekily titled “Fun with the Registry” and is an introduction, with examples, to the notorious registry which is carried over from XP and predecessors. Most authors writing for this level of reader tend to avoid discussion of the registry, but Pogue provides just enough material to intrigue the intermediate user.
Appendix C. is a short itemization of what’s missing in Vista from previous Windows operating systems.
Appendix D. is a master list of keyboard shortcuts for both the operating system and its major applications, like Internet Explorer 7, and the new Windows Mail.
There is no wasted space or text in this book. It’s worth every cent of its .95 price.
Review by Dale F. Farris:
Author David Pogue, now well known for his acclaimed “Missing Manual” series from O’Reilly, once again stuns us with his latest title, Windows Vista: The Missing Manual. The latest in this marvelous series of “Missing Manual” guides will surely get the attention of potential buyers when they peruse the abundance of computer books now filling the shelves. More importantly, Vista is a major new operating system from Microsoft, not just another security update, and this makes this title even more important.
With Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows Vista, this lack of a manual has created an opportunity for others to fill the gap. To the rescue comes this wonderful guide to Windows Vista that easily can serve as the manual that should have accompanied the software. Filled with hundreds of screen shots, this guide includes numerous step-by-step instructions for using almost every Windows Vista feature, including those you may not even have quite understood, let alone mastered.
Author Pogue has organized this book into eight parts, including The Windows Vista Desktop, Vista Software, Vista Online, Pictures, Movies, and Media Center, Hardware and Peripherals, PC Health, The Vista Network, and the Appendixes.
In this Missing Manual title, the author also discusses concerns regarding upgrading, versus a clean install of Windows Vista, and the all important issue of whether to even consider loading Vista on an existing machine, versus purchasing a brand new machine with Vista already installed. Readers will also be glad to know that the author includes comments on all the five (5) versions of Vista that will be available. These include Vista Home Basic, Vista Home Premium, Vista Business, Vista Enterprise, and Vista Ultimate.
This important book is designed to accommodate readers at every technical level, except system administrators. Computer network operators will want to supplement this book aimed more at desktop users with other more technical books on supporting Vista that will soon fill the shelves.
The primary discussions are written for advanced-beginner or intermediate PC users. If you are a first-time Windows user, the special sidebar articles called “Up To Speed” provide the introductory information you need to understand the topic at hand. If you are an advanced users, keep your eye out for similar shaded boxes called “Power Users’ Clinic” that offer more technical tips, tricks, and shortcuts for the veteran PC fan.