Windows 95: Getting Started

What is Windows 95?

Windows 95 is a program that makes it easy for you to tell your personal computer what to do. Instead of memorizing commands and typing them at a prompt, you tell the computer what to do by selecting buttons, pictures (called "icons"), and commands from menus. Most of the time, you use your computer's mouse to make the selections; choosing a command is as easy as pointing at an option and clicking a button on the mouse. Windows 95 is designed to be easy to learn and easy to use.

With Windows 95, you can run more than one application at a time. Each application you run, such as Word, Excel, or Netscape, appears in a separate window, as if you had several computer screens but just one monitor. By learning to manage the different windows, you can easily work on several different projects at the same time. The way you work with these windows is very consistent, so you can apply what you learn here to any applications you run in Windows 95.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

One major feature of Windows 95 is its flexibility. You can do a task in several different ways, and we'll show you one or two of the options. In addition, each user can set up Windows 95 in a unique way to make getting to particular applications and files easier. This means you have tremendous flexibility, but it also means that what you see on your computer and what you see in this document or in CCSF classes will likely be different.

What You See When You Start Windows 95

When you turn on a computer with Windows 95 installed, you first see a screen called the desktop. Each window you open sits on this desktop. Sometimes windows are so large you can't see the desktop behind them, but it's always there. The desktop is just like your own desk: you can keep it as orderly or as messy as you like. Windows 95 does give you a tool that makes it easier to keep things tidy as you move from task to task: the Taskbar at the bottom of the window:

*Graphics here*

When you run different programs, the program icons show up on the Taskbar, making it easy for you to switch between programs. You'll see more about this later. At the far left side of the Taskbar is the button for the Start menu. The Start menu is, as the name implies, the place you generally go to start any programs. You can also shut down your computer from this menu.

*Graphics here*

Depending on how you've arranged your desktop, you usually see several icons like the one above on the left side of the screen. Among these may be My Computer, Network Neighborhood, Inbox, and the Recycling Bin. Let's look briefly at the purpose for each of these icons:

Other icons on your desktop are files and "shortcuts" to programs you frequently use. Now, let's look at how to use your mouse to run your computer in Windows 95.

Using the Mouse to Tell Your Computer What to Do

You'll use your mouse to make selections and tell the computer what to do with those selections. For example, you might use your mouse to select a file you want to open, or a button to close a window, or a graphic you want to move to another location. How do you use your mouse to make these selections? The first step is to point to what you want.

Begin with the mouse on a flat surface, such as a mousepad sitting on a desk or table. When you move the mouse with your hand on the mousepad, you move a pointer on the computer screen at the same time. If you pick the mouse up in the air and move it, the pointer doesn't move at all. Knowing this can help you move the pointer around comfortably on the screen; if your mouse doesn't have room to run on your mousepad, simply pick it up, reposition it, and start again.

You have two mouse buttons; when the "tail" of the mouse, that is, the mouse's cord, points away from you at 12 o'clock, one mouse button is on the left and one is on the right. You'll use your left mouse button most of the time. (Note to left-handers: You may want to make the right mouse button your "primary" button; you can change mouse settings from the Control Panels. You'll see how to get to the Control Panels later on in this document.)

Select with the Left Mouse Button (Point and Click)

You'll point and click with your left mouse button to select buttons, menus, commands, and other items. To make a selection with your left mouse button, just point at the item, hold you mouse still, and click once. For example, try clicking on the My Computer icon to select it. The icon changes color, which signals that you've selected it. Try selecting the other icons on your desktop for practice pointing and clicking. After you select something, you can tell the computer to act on it in some way. For now, we'll leave the icons alone, and look at the Start menu instead.

Click on the Start button: *Graphics here*

A menu such as this one appears:

*Graphics here*

Try selecting Help from the Start menu--just point and click. The Help window appears. Now, to close the Help window, click on the Cancel button at the bottom of the Help window. If you can do all that, you're getting pretty handy with the mouse.

Get Shortcut Menus with the Right Mouse Button (Point and Right-Click)

You can use the right mouse button in Windows 95 to make "shortcut" menus appear. These menus list frequently-used commands for the item you select. Just use your right mouse button to click on something, or on the desktop itself, and a shortcut menu appears for that item. Select a command from the menu just as you did from the Start menu. Let's look at an example. Try selecting My Computer with your right mouse button. Using either your right or left mouse button, select Properties from the menu that displays. The System Properties window displays for your computer. Don't worry about this window now. Using your left mouse button, select the Cancel button to close this window.

Open Folders & Files, Start Programs by Double-Clicking

One of the easiest ways to open a window, look at the contents of a folder, or open a file in a list of files is to double-click on it. By double-clicking, you take two separate actions at once: you select an item and you tell the computer what to do with the item, in one fell swoop. The action the computer takes is the "default" action, which is often to open the item or start a program. To double-click, point to an icon or file name and click twice rapidly, without moving the mouse. Try it with the My Computer icon or the Recycling Bin icon. Timing is important: if you wait too long between clicks, the computer doesn't know you're double-clicking--it thinks you just clicked on the same item twice. If your double-click doesn't do anything, try clicking faster. Also, be sure to hold the mouse perfectly still while clicking. If you double-click correctly, you'll start the program, see the contents of the folder, or open the file you selected. The best way to learn to double-click is to practice.

Left, Right, Single or Double? How Am I Going to Remember All This?

Here's a summary of the most common reasons you'll use the different mouse techniques: The more you use Windows 95, the more instinctive these techniques will become. Eventually, you won't even think about which button to click.

Wanna Drag?

You can click and drag to perfom many tasks, including these: The key to clicking and dragging is to keep your mouse button pressed down until you've completed the action. Specifically, to click and drag, point at an object, hold down the left mouse button, and move the mouse on the mousepad. Try it with one of the icons on the desktop. When the icon is in the position you want, release the mouse button, and the icon appears in a new location. By the way, clicking and dragging is also called "dragging and dropping" in various contexts.

Ready to Start?

Click on Start. Your Start menu probably includes the following choices: This menu may include other options, and is easy to customize, as you'll see later.

Notice that some of the options in the Start menu, such as Programs, have arrows next to them.

*Graphics here*

When you move your pointer to those options, another list of options displays. You're working now with nested menus or folders, with one folder tucked inside another. When you get to an option that doesn't have a black arrow, you've actually found a file, not a folder. If you click on one of these options, you run the program or open the document.

If you don't find anything in the Start menu that you like, just click outside the menu without selecting anything. The menu closes.

Talk to Me: Dialog Boxes

As you work in Windows 95, you'll also see various "dialog boxes." Choose Shut Down from the Start menu to see an example. When you see a dialog box, you must respond to it before you can do anything else. Usually, dialog boxes give you options that allow you to go through with the action (OK, Yes), close the dialog box without taking the action (Cancel, No), or see Help windows. Others are only informational, so you only have the option to confirm that you read the message (OK). Regardless, when you see a dialog box, your computer will insist that you have a conversation with it (click on a button to respond and move on).We don't want to shut down Windows 95 just yet, so click on No to close the Shut Down dialog box without ending your Windows 95 session.

Basic Window Structure and Function

The windows you see in Windows 95 have many essential features in common. We'll use the My Computer window to show examples of the following features: *Graphics here* In addition, many windows and dialog boxes have the following features:

Basic Window Types

You'll work with two basic types of windows:
*Graphics here*
  • Document Windows: When you open a file within an application, such as a document in a word-processor, a document window appears inside the application window. Both types of windows have the window features discussed previously. If you minimize a document window, however, a button for the document appears just above the Status bar in the application window, not on the Taskbar. If the document window is maximized, on the other hand, the resulting window is called a "hybrid."
  • *Graphics here*
    The document name appears along with the application name in the title bar. An icon for the document appears as another option on the menu bar in the left corner, and a restore button for the document appears on the right. To control the program window, use the icon, close and sizing buttons in the title bar; to control the document window, use the icon and resize button on the menu bar.

    More About Menus

    As mentioned previously, a menu bar appears in application and file management windows below the title bar. To see an example, go to the Start menu and choose Settings. From there, choose Control Panels. You can see the Control Panel menu bar right below the title bar. The purpose of menus is to provide you with commands, so you don't have to memorize them. To see the commands in a menu, click on its heading (for example, click on File). A drop-down menu appears. You can choose commands that are black; you cannot choose commands that are "greyed out." To choose a command from the menu, click on it; to close the menu without choosing an option, click outside it. Some commands require you to select an object before they become active. To see how this works, check which options are available from the File menu with nothing selected; then select one of the icons in the Control Panels and see which commands are available. If you click on an option that ends in an ellipsis (...), a dialog box appears; for example, select the View menu, and choose Options... . You use the dialog box to fine-tune your command or your computer's set-up. Some menus have options you can turn on or off. For example, take a look at the View menu. You can turn the Status Bar and Tool Bars on and off by clicking on them. When the option has a check ([[cedilla]]) next to it, it's turned on. Sometimes options in a menu are grouped, and you select one option from the group. For example, in the View menu, you can control how files are represented in the Control Panels window; you might want them to display as small icons, for example. The current option shows a filled black circle next to it.

    Actually, you don't always have to use menus, as convenient as they are. To the right of many commands listed in menus, you'll see the keyboad shortcut for the command. For example, in the Edit menu you can see that Ctrl + A is the keyboard shortcut for the Select All command; this means you can hold down the <Ctrl> key and type the letter "a" to issue the command. In addition, most applications have toolbars with buttons for popular commands.

    The features we've discussed are common throughout Windows 95. Don't be afraid to look at the contents of a menu--it's a good way to learn what's available. You don't have to choose anything; just click outside the menu to close it without choosing a command. You can just window-shop.

    Other Ways to Make It So

    The standard GUI environment gives you many features for specifying exactly how you want things done. We've discussed some of these features already. Here are some other standard GUI features, using examples from different applications:

    There Must Be 50 Ways to Start a Program

    We exaggerate a bit when we say 50 ways to start a program in Windows 95, but you do have numerous options, including these:

    Remember, when you start a program, a button for it appears in the Taskbar, so you can easily switch between programs. In addition, most programs can have more than one document open at one time, so you don't need to run multiple copies of the program at once--just switch from one document to another within the same program.

    Even More Control: Using the Control Panel

    You can control many features in Windows 95 by changing settings in the Control Panel. If it's not already open already, open the Control Panel now: pull up the Start menu, select Settings, and then Control Panel. To open a window for an option displayed in the Control Panel window, just double-click on it. You'll see tabbed cards with options you can change (refer to the earlier discussion of tabbed cards in this document for details on how to use them.) We'll discuss a few of Control Panel options window next.


    This option goes by various names, depending on the brand of mouse you use. Choose from the tabs in your mouse window to make adjustments like these:

    If you're using a laptop, you may be particularly interested in turning on Pointer Trails (on the Motion tab.) This option makes it easier to find your pointer arrow, which can be difficult on some laptop monitors.


    You may have two display icons; we'll discuss the icon that shows a monitor with a ruler and a paintbrush. To control how your Windows 95 environment looks, choose from the following Display tabs:


    Use this option to add printers and to trouble-shoot printing jobs. To see what jobs are waiting to be printed, double-click on the icon for your printer. You can then select a print job, and pause or cancel printing by choosing an option from the Edit menu.


    Look here for options that make Windows 95 more accessible to folks for whom some features present a physical challenge. Includes alternatives to using the mouse.

    Help! I Can't Find My Desktop!

    It's easy to lose sight of your desktop under stacks of windows. Let's say, for instance, that you're working with a spreadsheet, a word-processing program, and the Control Panel window. To tidy things up, first pull up a shortcut menu for the Taskbar (right click on a blank spot on the Taskbar.) To arrange all your open windows in an orderly fashion, choose Cascade, Tile Horizontally, or Tile Vertically. Or, minimize all the windows by choosing Minimize All Windows. You'll probably be able to see your desktop now. (Note: dialog boxes don't close when you choose Minimize All Windows.)

    Becoming a Task Master

    Moving and Re-sizing the Taskbar

    You can move and re-size the Taskbar. To move it, find a blank spot on the Taskbar, and click and drag its outline to a new spot. To change the size, move the pointer arrow to the edge of the Taskbar until you see the double-headed Windows re-sizing arrow. Then click and drag to change the size and shape of the Taskbar. By the way, you can move and resize toolbars in many other applications the same way.

    What if the Taskbar Disappears?

    If your Taskbar disappears, just move your pointer arrow to the very bottom of your screen. The Taskbar pops up.

    If your Taskbar disappears, it may be hiding under a large window, or it may be set to "Autohide" so that it doesn't appear unless you're using it. You turn Autohide off and on in the Taskbar Properties window. Choose Settings . . . from the Start menu, and then Taskbar, and adjust the settings to your liking.

    Keyboard Shortcuts

    You can use the keyboard to make selections in Windows 95 instead of or in addition to using your mouse. The following table lists common keyboard shortcuts.

    TaskKeyboard Shortcut
    Open Start menu<Ctrl>-<Esc>
    Open menu where character underlined is x<Alt>-x

    For example, to open a File menu, the shortcut is <Alt>-f.

    Select menu command where underlined character is y y

    For example, to choose the Select All command from an open Edit menu, type a.

    Reveal Taskbar<Ctrl>-<Esc>
    Minimize all windowsTwo steps:
    1. <Ctrl>-<Esc> (opens the Start menu)
    2. <Alt>-m (minimizes the windows.)
    Display short-cut menu for selected item<Shift>-<F10>

    You can find an exhaustive list of keyboard shortcuts on the World Wide Web at this URL:

    Not sure what that means? Sign up for our Internet Browsing class and find out!

    Getting Help

    You can get Help for Windows by choosing Help from the Start menu and choosing an option. Most applications also have Help menus. In addition, when you're uncertain about an option on a toolbar, put your pointer arrow on a button without clicking. A yellow flag appears with the name of the button. Often, the status bar at the bottom of the window also lists more information about how the button works.

    You can keep up with Windows 95 developments by visiting Microsoft's Windows 95 Information Page on the World Wide Web:

    Another helpful source is ZDNet's Windows 95 Special Reports page at:

    Exiting Windows and Turning Off the Computer

    Do not turn off the computer without shutting down Windows first! To shut down, first exit each open application, making sure you save any work you've done. When all of the applications are closed, choose Shut Down . . . from the Start menu. A dialog box appears. Choose the option you want, and click Yes to exit. You can safely turn off the power to your computer after you shut down Windows 95.

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