Windows XP Desktop and Start menu
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Newly installed Windows XP looks and feels different from the earlier versions. But you will get used to it. If not, you can change the look to the like of older versions of Windows known as Classic look.
I know most people these days are using Windows XP (some are using Vista) and they are already used to the new look and feel of XP. So this section is probably is redundant to many. But I decided to include it here because I know, many people do not even know that the XP look can be converted into the classic look. Also those who have only recently upgraded to XP from an earlier version of Windows and are still struggling to adjust to the new look and feel of XP, do have an option of changing back to the older look while still actually using XP.
What I personally did not like in Windows XP is that when you first start your computer and the desktop shows up, aside from the graphic of Windows XP (which I don't like) and a Recycle Bin on the lower right corner, there is absolutely nothing on the screen (not counting the taskbar and the Start button). Where are the familiar desktop icons like My Computer, My Documents, Internet Explorer, My Briefcase, Network Neighborhood, etc.? I don't know why Microsoft decided to do away with these helpful desktop icons. I think it is just for the sake of change. Whatever it is, I promptly created my own desktop shortcuts (click here to learn how to do that) and made my life a little easy.
Now let's learn how to change the look and feel of XP back to the classic look.
On an empty spot on the desktop, right-click your mouse. The following menu will appear.
On the above menu, click on Properties. You will get the following Display Properties dialog box.
Display Properties dialog box.
In the above Display Properties dialog box, look under the Themes tab. There you will be able to choose different themes for your desktop when you click on the downward pointing arrow. One of them will say Windows Classic. Click on it. Then click OK (or Apply, then OK). You are done. Windows Classic look will return to your desktop. No re-start necessary.
The same Display Properties dialog box will let you choose many other things. Just poke around by clicking on the different tabs there. The more you explore, the more you will learn. Don't be afraid to explore. If you don't like what have chosen, you can try another option from the same dialog box.
To me, when I first switched to Windows XP (several years ago), the most stunning difference was the Start Menu. When I clicked on the Start button, a two-column menu showed up, like the one shown below.
Typical two-column Start Menu of Windows XP.
It really looks different from the previous versions of Windows, and most people gets used to it after some time (because it is not difficult to understand). The left column (white), changes a little depending on your use of the computer. The top part, usually lists Internet Explorer, your e-mail client, and anything you add to the Start Menu (I added a shortcut for clipboard viewer). Under these, appear 6 of your most frequently used (or last used) programs, and these change. Below that, of course, All programs, which when clicked on will take you to a full list programs that have been installed in your computer. The right column (blue) of the Start Menu does not change and is pretty much self-explanatory.
Now if you don't like this two-column Start Menu of Windows XP, you can change it like the old Windows classic Start Menu. To do this right-click on the Start button. Then on the resulting menu, click on Properties. This will bring up a Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box as shown below:
Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box.
In the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box, under the tab Start Menu, click on the circle in front of Classic Start menu to select it, then click Apply, then click OK. You will now have a one column Start Menu like in older Windows versions. See Figure 5.
One column Start Menu like older versions of Windows.
Windows XP taskbar also looks different, and works slightly differently.
Default taskbar of Windows XP.
Compare the above with the task bar of Windows 98 (Figure 7).
Windows 98 taskbar.
You will notice the main difference between the two taskbars is that the Quick Launch Icons do not appear in the default taskbar of XP, and the Tray Icons in XP hide the icons that are not often used. But if you click on the arrow on the left of the Tray Icons in XP, it will reveal all the Tray Icons. This helps prevent the clutter on the taskbar. Windows XP also helps prevent the clutter on the taskbar by stacking multiple copies of the same program which you may have opened at a time. Here is an example. Please see Figure 8.
Applications stacking in Windows XP taskbar.
In the above example, I have opened 4 copies of Internet Explorer, 3 copies of Notepad, and one copy of a program called PhotoImpact as shown on the XP taskbar and they are all minimized. Now, if I want to read CNN.com Breaking News, I shall click on the Internet Explorer icon on the taskbar first. This will show the details of all 4 copies of IE that I have opened. To read CNN Breaking News, I shall now click on the bar that reads CNN.com Breaking News. That will restore or maximize that copy of the IE which has CNN Breaking News.
As I have said before, virtually everything in Windows XP is customizable. If you do not like the default taskbar of XP, right-click on an empty spot of the taskbar (or right-click on the Start button). This will bring up the following Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box (Figure 9).
Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box.
In this dialog box, under the Taskbar tab, select or de-select your preferences, and then click Apply, then OK. You are done. The taskbar will be changed according to your choices. (Note: In Windows XP, the Tray Icons are called the Notification Area.)
Before I close this section, I would like to mention one last thing. The Control Panel in XP is tatally different looking and it needs some getting used to. Initially, the XP's Control Panel did not look very helpful to me. (Now I have gotten used to it.) The good news is if you don't like it, you can change it to resemble the previous versions of Windows with just one click. Here is how:
Click Start, then Control Panel. XP's Control Panel will open. Look at the menu on the left. The very first thing says, "Switch to Classic View" (see Figure 10).
Menu on the left side of XP's Control Panel.
Just click where the hand is pointing in the above Figure 10. You will see the old look of the Control Panel. It is that easy! If later you decide to go back to XP's new looking Control Panel, just click on "Switch to Category View" next time.
In conclusion, Windows XP looks different from the previous versions of Windows in many cases. But most of the things can be changed as discussed above. If you don't like something look around, right-click, and fiddle with things a little bit. The chances are you will be able to change the look and feel of things.
Are you exhausted after all these? Relax and have a laugh. Watch the following video. You'll feel refreshed.