A Window and its Different Parts

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Let me begin by saying Windows (written with a capital W) is a registered trade mark of Microsoft Corporation. It is a software developed and manufactured by Microsoft. It is your computer's Operating System. It has been named so because it uses different kinds of windows using which your computer and you perform various tasks.

So, what are these windows? Well, they are rectangular boxes of various sizes and most of them have some common features, though there are really no rules that make a rectangular box a window. The only common feature is that they all have a titlebar.

Take a look at the picture below. It shows a number of open windows on a computer's desktop.

Several open windows on a desktop.
Several open windows on a computer's desktop.

Now let us take a close look at a typical application window and learn about its various parts and how each of them work.

Parts of a typical application window
Parts of a typical application window.
(The parts of a computer window is shown in red.)

On the topmost part of a window there is always a bright colored (by default this color is blue, but you can change it) bar called the titlebar. This bar has several parts.
1. Control Icon: This is situated on the extreme left side of the titlebar and different applications put different icons there. By clicking on it, you will get a menu (as pictured below) which lets you move, re-size, minimize, maximize, and close the window. Of course, you can do all of these in other ways without using the control icon. But as I have said elsewhere, in most cases, Windows lets you do the same task in various ways. So take your pick.

Clicking on the control icon will reveal this menu
Clicking on the control icon will reveal this menu.

2. Document name and Application name: These names (titles) appear on this bar and hence the name titlebar. Unless you have named your document (i.e., saved the file with a file name) most applications will put there names like Untitled, Document, Document1, Document2, etc. The above picture of a typical application window was created by using Windows free word processor WordPad, and I had not named the document yet. So on the titlebar, it says "Document - WordPad".
3. Minimize, Maximize, Close: These three buttons are always located on the extreme right side of the titlebar and their functions are obvious. Clicking on the minus (-) sign will minimize the window and it will become just a button on the taskbar. Clicking on the square box sign will maximize the window and it will expand to fill the entire desktop. Clicking on the X button will close the window.

Microsoft is no longer supporting Windows XP. If you are still using XP your computer is no longer protected from thousands of dangers lurking in the cyberspace. Please upgrade to Windows 8.1 ASAP. Don't be afraid. Everything you need to know about Windows 8.1 is already available at WINDOWS 8.1 - Help, How To's, and Tips.

Just under the titlebar is the menubar. As the name suggests, it holds the menu of commands. As in a restaurant menu, the commands are grouped into categories. Instead of Appetizers, Soups, Entrees, Desserts, Hot Drinks, Cold Drinks, etc. we have things like File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, Help, etc. here. Clicking on File will let the individual commands available under this category appear in a dropdown menu (a vertical menu literally falls from top to bottom), just like under appetizers a restaurant menu might have things like raviolis, egg rolls, spring rolls, chicken wings, chicken fingers, crab Rangoons, etc. Beginners should click on each item like File, Edit, View, etc. to make themselves familiar with which command is available under which category.

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Under the menubar comes the toolbar. This bar holds tools for the commonly executed commands. Just clicking on the command's icon executes the command and hence saves time needed to find the command from the menubar and then clicking on it. Most modern day programs use the same icons for the commonly executed commands. Hence it is useful to remember the icons for each command. (Clue: Hover your mouse pointer over any of these tools. It will reveal what it is used for).

In the picture of a typical application window above, there are eleven tools shown on the toolbar of WordPad. From left to right, they are used for performing the following commands respectively:
New | Open | Save | Print | Preview | Find | Cut | Copy | Paste | Undo | Insert date/time

In some large programs there may be more than one toolbar. This means the toolbar may appear in two lines. So that the window may not look clumsy, these programs usually offer the option of Show/Hide Toolbar. And that option is usually available under the View category in the menubar.

The large blank area in the middle of the application window that covers the most area of the window is for holding the document you are creating, or editing, or viewing.

Below the document area runs the statusbar. In this area Windows notifies you about what is currently happening, such as when you are saving a file, it might tell you Saving ... or Done. It might also announce things like Press F1 for Help. Your browser's window states things like Web site found, Downloading files, 4 files remaining, Done. In the typical window's picture above, my mouse pointer is resting on the Print tool. See for yourself what the statusbar is saying. Interesting, huh? Make it a habit of looking at the statusbar (where available). You will find useful information.

On the extreme right side of the statusbar in some windows, you may see a square box with three diagonal lines on its lower right corner. This box is marked with a red border in the windows picture above. This indicates that this window can be re-sized. In fact, most windows can be re-sized whether this box is present or not. Within this box in some windows, you may see another small square box towards its upper left corner, and in the lower right corner, instead of three, there are only two diagonal lines. That indicates this window cannot be re-sized. Again, even without that indicator, some windows cannot be resized. These are generally warning messages, error messages, some dialog boxes, and the like. I just had to tell you about this re-size option indicators!

When the document is too big (too long, too wide, or both) for the window to display in its document holding area, Windows automatically inserts scrollbars and scroll boxes as shown in the windows picture above. The vertical scrollbar is for scrolling up and down the window. The horizontal scrollbar is for scrolling side to side. Scrolling is done either by clicking on the scroll arrows - one click at a time, or by pressing a scroll arrow with the mouse pointer and keep it pressed, or by clicking directly on the scrollbar, or by dragging the scroll box with the mouse pointer. If you have a scroll wheel in your mouse, you can place the mouse pointer on the scroll box and move the wheel with your index or middle finger backward or forward to go down or up the page respectivly. Each of these methods has a different result in terms of scrolling speed. Try it out for yourself. You have to click on the lower scroll arrow to go down the page and click on the upper scroll arrow to go up the page. Similarly, you have to click on the right scroll arrow to see the right side of the page and click on the left scroll arrow to see the left side of the page. Practice scrolling. It is one of the basic skills needed to use the computer. Also, note that by looking at the scroll box you can tell approximately how far down on the page you have gone. If the scroll box is on the middle of the scrollbar, you are approximately in the middle of the page. This is an approximation but you will find it useful at times, especially when you are negotiating through a very long page. (Look at the scroll box in the vertical scrollbar of your window right now while you are reading this page. The scroll box is near the bottom. That means you have almost reached the end of this page). The scroll box is long when the page is not too long and only little scrolling is needed to see the entire page. As the page gets longer, the scroll box gets shorter. See how much information about a page's length (or width) and your location on the page can be gathered just by looking at the scroll box? Learn to observe these small details and outsmart your peers.

We have discussed in considerable details about the various parts of an application window. What about other windows? Other widows (such as document windows, help windows, dialog windows/boxes, warning windows and so forth) all have similar features but generally they will have fewer features. Some windows may only have a titlebar, a title and a close (X) button on it. Some may only have a titlebar, a title, and a Close or OK button inside it. I have seen error messages in a white rectagular box that does not even have a title bar. I am not sure whether such boxes can be called a window, but such things are really rare. If you have read and understood the features of a typical application window described above, I am confident that you will be able to figure out everything you encounter in any window that Windows may throw on your way.

Enough learning for today. At this age you should take things easy. Now relax and have a little laugh. Watch the following video. Click on the big, fat arrow in the middle of the picture.

For a full list of my videos, click on Catalog of My Videos. There is something for practically all normal human beings!

Quick Quiz:
In the window you are in, there is no toolbar at all. You want to have a printout of the document you are looking at. How can you print?

Answer: On the menubar, click on File. On the resulting dropdown menu, click on Print. (Make sure your printer is turned on and you have paper in the printer).


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