Basic Computing Using Windows/The Desktop

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There are no 'real' layers though; you can’t peel off the wallpaper and see the Desktop! However there are ‘virtual’ layers, arranged with the Desktop on the bottom. What you see behind the icons on the Desktop is called the wallpaper, whereas the whole thing is the Desktop, not just the picture/colour that you see behind the icons. Application windows are layered on top.

You can add shortcuts to your Desktop in a number of ways. The most common way is to right-click on the desktop, which brings up the popup-menu. On the popup-menu there should be a sub-menu labelled ‘New’, hover over this. When the sub-menu pops out find the item labelled ‘Shortcut’ and click it. A dialogue-box will come up asking you where the program or data collection is found. Later we will get into how to form something to type in the box, however it is easier to just click the button beside labelled ‘Browse...’.

The Browse button is a standard button that you will see often, clicking it always brings up a dialogue-box in which you can select programs and data collections. Select the program or data collection you want to make a shortcut to and click the button labelled ‘OK’. The OK button is also a standard button on dialogue-boxes that you click to tell it that you are done filling in information and it can use that data now. ‘OK’ is usually paired with ‘Cancel’, ‘Cancel’ closes the dialogue-box without doing anything.

When you have selected the correct program or data collection click the button marked ‘Next >’. The Next button is, again, a standard button that tells the dialogue box you are done this step and to go on to the next step in the process. It usually comes with the Back button to go to the previous step. This dialogue-box also has a Cancel button. After you have clicked ‘Next’ the dialogue-box comes up with a text-box asking what you want the text under the icon to be for this shortcut. When you have typed what you want into the box click ‘Finish’, another standard button.


NOTE: The true name of these buttons is above in bold. However it is common computer shorthand to say Click ‘OK’ instead of Click the OK button. We will be using this shorthand in this book.


If you do not like the text under a shortcut, you can change it. There are three primary ways to do this. The first one is to click on the shortcut, selecting it, and then push the ‘F2’ key on your keyboard. The text will become a text-box that you can type in to change what it says. The second way is to right-click on the shortcut, bringing up its popup-menu, and select ‘Rename’ from the popup-menu. The same thing will happen. Another way to cause it to happen is to select the icon and then click on it. Do not double-click! That will open whatever it links to, select it and then click.

If you want to change the icon (picture) one your shortcut, bring up its popup-menu and select ‘Properties’. Across the top of the window, just below the bar with the ‘X’ button on it (the title bar), there are a bunch of tabs, click the one labelled ‘Shortcut’. Then, click the button labelled ‘Change Icon…’, in the dialogue-box that comes up select the new icon that you want, or click ‘Browse’ to find more files with icons. In this same window where the ‘Change Icon’ button is, there is a text-box labelled ‘Target:’. It is the same as the box with a Browse button on the first step of adding a shortcut to the Desktop, only there is no browse button. That it what you change if you want the shortcut to link to something else.

You can also move or sort icons on the Desktop. To sort them right-click on the Desktop and hover over the sub-menu called ‘Arrange Icons By’. Then click on the way you want them sorted. If you want them automatically sorted make sure the ‘Auto Arrange’ option is checked (you can check or uncheck it by clicking on it). If you have Auto Arrange off, you can put the icons wherever you want them. Click on one and don’t let the button go back up. Move the cursor over to where you want the icon to be and it will move right along with it. When you have it where you want it, let go of the mouse button. This is called dragging-and-dropping.

If you want to take an icon off the desktop there are three major ways to do it. You can select the icon you want to remove and push the ‘Delete’ key on your keyboard. A dialogue-box will come up, click ‘Yes’. You can also drag-and-drop the icon onto the recycle bin, which is an icon on the Desktop labelled exactly that. Or you can right-click on the icon and click ‘Delete’. The same dialogue-box will come up for you to click ‘Yes’ on. If you did it by accident you can click ‘No’ and it won’t remove the icon.

There are other settings you can change on the Desktop. To access them right-click on the Desktop and select ‘Properties’ from the popup-menu. To change the wallpaper select the tab labelled ‘Wallpaper’ or ‘Desktop’. To change what picture is displayed for wallpaper select it from the list or if it is not in the list click ‘Browse…’. There is a combo box from which you can select whether to stretch, tile (repeat by picture with itself together likes tiles), or centre the picture. If you just want a colour for your wallpaper, then select ‘(None)’ from the list. Sometimes there is a combo-type box to select the colour right there and sometimes you have to change it under the ‘Appearance’ tab.

You can also change the Screen-Saver. The Screen-Saver is a program that shows up after your computer has not been used for so long so that the monitor will not get wrecked (which can happen if the same picture is displayed on it for hours at a time). To change the Screen-Saver click the tab labelled ‘Screen-Saver’. There will be a combo box that lists all the Screen-Savers on your computer. After you have selected the one you want you can change how long the computer waits before bringing it up in the text box with a spin button that is below the combo box.

You can also change the colour scheme of all the controls in almost all programs. Click the ‘Appearance’ tab. There is one or more combo boxes on this page that allow you to select different combinations of default colour schemes. On this same page, or sometimes you have to click ‘Advanced’ to get there, are other settings. You can select an element from one combo box, and then change it’s colour and how its text looks. You can try experimenting with this if you want, just be sure to save your current settings so you can change back (which some versions of windows don’t allow, so don’t worry then). You do this by clicking the ‘Save As…’ button and typing the name you want to call the colour scheme.

There is one final tab common to most versions of Windows. It is the ‘Settings’ tab. It is not recommended to change settings in this tab unless you know what you are doing. Some games will give errors when you try to start them like ‘256 colours required’ or ‘This program needs 640 × 480 to run’. This is where you set those. There is a combo box here, selecting a different option from this box changes the number of colours your computer can display. More colours mean more quality. There is also a slider labelled ‘Screen resolution’. It increases or decreases the size of everything displayed on your monitor. The larger the numbers, the smaller things are, and the smaller things are the more you can fit. When this is set to make things smaller, some programs (or you can manually) change their stuff so that it looks the same size, allowing them to have more quality in display.