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Book Review: Windows 7 Inside Out: Deluxe Edition by Ed Bott, Carl Siechert, and Craig Stinson

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One thing Windows 7 Inside Out: Deluxe Edition is not is a book for beginners. The staggeringly thick (over 1000 pages) manual, written by Ed Bott, Carl Siechert, and Craig Stinson, assumes that the reader already knows Windows basics, but wants to learn about every single task the operating system can accomplish. In other words, instead of just displaying a car’s exterior, these authors explore the workings under the hood, and even encourage users to tinker with the gears.

Windows 7 Inside Out is divided into 31 sections, each detailing such issues as customizing Internet Explorer 9, keeping up with security updates, managing digital media, and setting up a home or office network. Black and white screen shots illustrate various tips, and numerous sidebars provide troubleshooting ideas, extra information, and “notes” or further instructions on certain processes. What does “Windows Live” actually do? The authors spend many chapters on the topic, as they admit that Microsoft uses the term for a variety of software and services—therefore the “Windows Live family,” as the writers dub it, has confused users.

For many Windows users, the troubleshooting chapters may be one of Window 7 Inside Out’s best features. Troubleshooting tips are scattered throughout the chapters, but an entire section also explains how your computer reports issues to Microsoft, how to generate and read error reports, and all the diagnostic tools Microsoft provides. Again, this information mainly applies to advanced users, as some tasks require venturing into hidden menus and functions. Does the average person need to know about the command prompt? While interesting, many Windows customers may never even see such menus.

The book also includes a CD, which contains the e-book version of Windows 7 Inside Out; further troubleshooting advice; customizable Windows PowerShell scripts; and links to various resources, including blogs, references, tools, and utilities. Essentially the CD serves as an extended version of the physical book, which may be even more useful for readers wanting to quickly learn how to set up a home network, for example.

Other sections will perplex novice Windows users—what are “shell commands”? Why should anyone alter the registries? Does anyone need to know about Windows PowerShell? Arguably most readers, particularly if they are at the beginning-to-intermediate levels—will never need to use these functions. Full-color illustrations as well as coloring the various sidebars and boxes would also make for easier reference. Also, remember that this is a Microsoft-branded publication; anyone looking for objective information on Windows products (e.g. which is better—Windows Media Player or iTunes?) should supplement this text with an additional resource not connected with the computing giant.

The bottom line: first-time and intermediate computer users should consult shorter, more basic guides like Windows 7 Plain and Simple, or any Dummies or Missing Manual book. Advanced users wanting to know about Windows 7’s every function, and who want to fully customize the operating system to their very specific needs, should own Windows 7 Inside Out Deluxe Edition. If the authors haven’t covered a particular concern or function, you probably do not need to know about it!

For additional information and to download companion content, visit O’Reilly’s Media’s site.

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About Kit O'Toole