The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Microsoft Windows Vista Book Review

Dear Frustrated Windows User,

Want to make my blood boil? Just tell me that someday, in the not-too-distant future, my refrigerator will include a computer that alerts me when I’m low on milk. Just tell me that someday my microwave oven will feature a computer that “senses” what’s inside and cooks it accordingly. Just tell me that someday my car will include a computer that lets it repair itself by “downloading” some kind of software off the Internet.

The crazy thing is that there are scientists and engineers actually working on these kinds of pie-in-the-sky ideas. Don’t these eggheads know that our regular computers are still too hard to use and are still too unreliable? Why can’t they work on fixing that?

So want to make my heart sing? Just tell me that someday, in the not-too-distant future, Microsoft will release a version of Windows that’s truly simple to use; a version of Windows that doesn’t make everyday tasks as easy as herding cats; a version of Windows that doesn’t crash if you happen to breathe out through both nostrils at once; a version of Windows that, in other words, doesn’t make otherwise-smart people[md]people who know how much milk they have in the fridge?feel like complete idiots.

Until that day comes, we have to content ourselves with trying to live with the Windows we have. And that’s why I wrote The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Windows Vista. My aim is to show you that although Windows Vista can be downright ornery at times, anyone with the regular complement of gray matter can soothe the savage Windows beast. No, you’re no idiot. In fact, you’re smart enough to know that there must be an easier way to get things done. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Windows Vista will show you how.

Happy computing!

So reads the inside cover of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Microsoft Windows Vista by? Paul McFedries, and what follows is a user’s manual of sorts for those that are truly left befuddled at the thought of attempting to learn the ins and outs of the newest Windows operating system.

It’s not often that I do a “book report”, but when I was offered the chance to look at this new Vista guide, I thought it might be fun. Since just about everything I know about using Windows is self-taught, I figured that I might even be able to pick up a few tricks in the process – and I did.

Before I go much further, I should mention that if you are looking for an in-depth user’s guide for someone that is already comfortable with Windows, this book might come across as a bit simplistic. But anyone that gets Vista on their first Windows box will likely appreciate the in-depth coverage of even the most basic functions.

The book’s chapters are broken down into Parts, and they are as follows:

– Part 1: Windows Vista Everywhere; a Few Things You Need to Know
1. Windows Vista: The 50? tour
2. Making Something Happen: Launching and Controlling Programs
3. Working With Vista Windows
4. Saving, opening, Printing, and Other Document Lore
5. Fiddling With Files and Folders
6. Installing and Removing Programs and Devices

– Part 2: Windows Vista at home
7. Playing with Images
8. Getting images from Scanners and Digital Cameras
9. Sights and Sounds: Vista’s Digital Media Tools
10. Making Movies with Windows Vista
11. Sharing Your Computer With Others

– Part 3: Windows Vista at Work
12. Places to Go, People to See, Using Windows Calendar
13. Fat-It-Yourself; Using Windows Vista’s Faxing Features
14. Windows Vista and Your Notebook Computer

– Part 4: Windows Vista on the Internet
15. Getting On the Internet
16. Wandering the Web with Internet Explorer
17. Sending and Receiving E-mail with Windows Mail
18. Your Net Safety Net

– Part 5: Windows Vista at the Shop: Customizing, Maintaining, and Troubleshooting
19. Refurbishing the Desktop
20. Revamping the Start Menu and Taskbar
21. Maintaining Your System in Ten Easy Steps
22. Troubleshooting and Recovering from Problems

– Appendix

As you can tell by the chapters and subheadings’ names, the subjects covered are pretty basic. What this means is that if you are looking for an in-depth how-to guide, this will most likely not be the solution you need. This point was especially driven home when I had to send my Fujitsu in for repairs, and I wanted to wipe my Tablet’s hard-drive. I thought it would be a great opportunity to use Windows Vista’s new Complete PC Backup, as covered in Chapter 21.

While there are easy to follow instructions on how to do the backup included in the book (and in the built-in Windows Help files), restoring?was another thing altogether. Absolutely nothing is written in the book on how to restore the created backup, which is not surprising because the instructions included in the built-in Vista Help files are ridiculously convoluted and nearly impossible to follow. Is it the fault of the book? Absolutely not. But I do think that it would be good for someone to bust Microsoft on the fact that their “Complete PC Backup” does nothing but give the user a false sense of security. I have heard of one person that was able to get it to work. One.?:ponder_tb: But I digress.

The book is written so that it can be read in bits, or all in one sitting, or used as an easy to search reference guide when questions arise. There are all sorts of helpful tips included in the book; for instance I’ll bet that not everyone was aware that the cool new Vista window’s stack is achieved by pressing the Windows Logo and Tab buttons together…

…or that tapping ALT and Tab together will display alternating thumbnails of open programs which highlight to allow you to leap between them, or that holding down the ALT button and pressing ESC will switch you between open programs one after the other. These aren’t earth-shaking tips, but they?can be quite?handy. I found the chapter on setting the computer to function as a fax especially useful. This is not something I have ever needed, so I had never done it…but now I know how.

This book wasn’t written as the end-all authority on Windows Vista, and if you are already fairly proficient with previous versions of Windows then it may seem a little bit simplistic. However those who are getting their first PC will greatly appreciate that The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Microsoft Windows Vista will walk them through all of the basics, while they grow familiar with the world’s most prevalent operating system.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Microsoft Windows Vista is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers.
MSRP: $18.95
What I Like: Covers the basics for those that are new to Windows and Windows Vista, includes tips that all may find useful
What Needs Improvement: Nothing, as it is a good guide for new users

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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
Judie is the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of Gear Diary, which she founded in September 2006. She started in 1999 writing software reviews at the now-defunct; from mid-2000 through 2006, she wrote hardware reviews for and co-edited at The Gadgeteer. A recipient of the Sigma Kappa Colby Award for Technology, Judie is best known for her device-agnostic approach, deep-dive reviews, and enjoyment of exploring the latest tech, gadgets, and gear.

2 Comments on "The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Microsoft Windows Vista Book Review"

  1. Not only will your car diagnose itself, it will drive itself too! Yep they are working on that right now, Knight Rider car of the future a estimated 20 years from now 😉

  2. At least with refrigerators, microwaves, and cars their engineers developed models that “just worked” before adding unnecessary complications. Microsoft keeps piling on features without fixing the cracked foundation.

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