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Book Review: Windows 7: The Missing Manual by David Pogue

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One sentence can accurately sum up Windows 7: The Missing Manual: if it's not covered in the book, you don't need to know it. The latest entry in David Pogue's Missing Manual series thoroughly discusses the basics as well as the advanced features of the operating system, using everyday terminology to explain some difficult concepts.

Pogue organizes the book into eight parts: "The Windows 7 Desktop," "Windows 7 Software," "Windows 7 Online; Pictures, Music, and TV," "Hardware and Peripherals," "PC Health; Networking and Homegroups," and appendices. Each chapter contains screenshots to illustrate various tasks, and boxes provide additional information for beginners and experienced users. Readers may choose how much instruction they need, since these boxes are clearly marked as to user level. Each page contains a header for easy reference, almost like tabs; in other words, readers can quickly locate the exact information they require.

Another area where Windows 7: The Missing Manual excels is in defining commonly used computer terms not necessarily linked to the Microsoft operating system and software. Ever wonder what RSS stands for and how it works? Pogue provides just enough details to satisfy average users, describing how RSS makes surfing the web easier. Even though he explains the concept within the boundaries of Internet Explorer, he still defines the idea broadly enough to apply to other software as well.

The author skillfully uses layman's language to explain how to accomplish complicated tasks. For example, part of the appendix is dedicated to those wanting to upgrade from Windows XP or Vista to Windows 7. While the Microsoft site provides often confusing, overly technical directions, Pogue explicitly guides the reader through all the steps. In this section, he lays out a "pre-upgrade" plan users should follow, including turning off antivirus software, updating drivers, and taking note of which software may not work with Windows 7. He honestly assesses the operating system and software, discussing pros and cons of upgrading. After upgrading, do you miss some of the features from previous versions? Pogue teaches you how to find these hidden features and re-enable them.

Pogue, the New York Times tech columnist and CBS News correspondent, effectively uses humor to educate and entertain. When describing what to do when a program stops responding, he explains how to use the task manager. Then he describes how your computer can send an error report to Microsoft when "a program has exited, shall we say, eccentrically." He likens someone switching from XP to Windows 7 as "you came home from college to find that your parents turned your old bedroom into a home office." While amusing the reader, he also conveys concepts by using common metaphors and language communicating that he experiences the same problems with Windows as anyone, despite his vast computer knowledge.

At over 800 pages, the manual may seem daunting. But the book functions as a reference tool, meant to be kept next to a computer for easy reference. Inexperienced Windows users may want to read the first section in its entirety, as Pogue explains the interface and its features. Advanced users will appreciate Pogue's tips for shortcuts and previously unknown applications. Used in this way, Windows 7: The Missing Manual definitely lives up to its motto as "the book that should have been in the box."

For more information, visit the Missing Manuals website.

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