Windows Vista / Getting Started

What Is Windows Vista, and Why Are You Using It?

Created and sold by a company called Microsoft, Windows is not like your usual software that lets you write term papers or send angry e-mails to mailorder companies. No, Windows is an operating system, meaning it controls the way you work with your computer. It is been around for more than 20 years, and the latest whiz-bang version is called Windows Vista.

Windows gets its name from all the cute little windows it places on your monitor. Each window shows information, such as a picture, a program that you are running, or a baffling technical reprimand. You can put several windows on-screen at the same time and jump from window to window, visiting different programs. You can also enlarge a window to fill the entire screen.

Like the mother with the whistle in the lunch court, Windows controls every window and each part of your computer. When you turn on your computer, Windows jumps onto the screen and supervises any running programs. Throughout all this action, Windows keeps things running smoothly, even if the programs start throwing food at each other.

In addition to controlling your computer and bossing around your programs, Windows Vista comes with a bunch of free programs. Although your computer can run without these programs, they are nice to have. These programs let you do different things, like write and print letters, browse the Internet, play music, and even whittle down your camcorder's vacation footage into a three-minute short - automatically.

And why are you using Windows Vista? If you are like most people, you did not have much choice. Nearly every computer sold since early 2007 comes with Windows Vista preinstalled. A few people escaped Windows by buying Apple computers (those nicer-looking computers that cost more). But chances are, you, your neighbors, your boss, your kids at school, and millions of other people around the world are using Windows.

  • Microsoft took pains (and several years of work) to make Windows Vista the most secure version of Windows yet. (Just ask people who upgraded from previous versions.)
  • Windows makes it easy for several people to share a single computer. Each person receives his or her own user account. When users click their name at the Windows opening screen, they see their own work - just the way they left it. Vista adds new controls for parents to limit how their kids use the PC, as well as how much of the Internet they can view.
  • A new, automated version of Backup makes it easier to do what you should have been doing all along: Make copies of your important files every night. (Vista Home includes the Backup program, but it is not automatic: You must remember to run the program each night.)
  • Finally, Vista's powerful new search program means that you can forget about where you stored your files. Just click the Start menu and type what that file contained.
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