CLA Technical Services

Windows 7 Overview


All new Dell workstations, plus some previously installed Dell machines, from late summer 2010 onward will have Windows 7 installed. There are significant differences in the look and feel of Windows 7 compared with Windows XP. This Windows 7 overview will familiarize you with some of the new features.

Please note that this is simply an overview; it is not meant to be a comprehensive training course on the operating system. You can view the online video course Windows 7 Essential Training from the Online Training Library, available to CLA faculty and staff for checkout.

Also, there are some specific items, such as Active Directory, that are applicable only to users who have state-owned machines with Windows 7 installed. Further, the information in this document pertains to standard user accounts, which are restrictive accounts.

Topics for this Title

  1. Logging into Windows
  2. The Desktop
  3. The Start Button
  4. The Taskbar
  5. Windows Explorer
  6. Windows Search
  7. Internet Explorer 8
  8. Built-in Support Tools
  9. Summary
  10. Conclusion

Logging into Windows

All new Windows 7-based FWP workstations within CLA will need to use the Active Directory authentication service to log onto their machines. In simple terms, Active Directory is a centralized account verification system that allows users to gain access to their files from anywhere with an Internet connection, particularly protected data files or documents. All users are allocated 1 GB of space to use as a repository. More information on Active Directory can be found in the CLA Tech document Active Directory Overview.

Turning on your machine will initiate the boot process. During the process, you'll see Windows 7 loading. Soon afterwards, you’ll see a sea-blue screen, which will eventually display a login area. Unlike Windows XP, which displayed a small dialog box, Windows 7 will display fields for the username and password, but otherwise will take up the rest of the screen.

  1. Turn on your computer.
  2. Let the computer boot up until you see the Windows 7 login screen.
  3. Type in your Cal Poly credentials, consisting of the following:
    • Username (any of these will work, but try them in order in case you're unable to log on):
      • jmustang
      • CP-CALPOLYjmustang (replace with your Cal Poly portal username)
    • password: your Cal Poly portal password
  4. Click OK.

Windows 7 Login ScreenAnother Windows 7 Login Screen

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The Desktop

Once logged in, you'll see the Windows desktop with a rotating background image. If you'd like to have a stationary image for your desktop, right-click on it and choose the "Personalize" option. You can choose one of the sample images, or add your own.

In many ways,the desktop looks familiar, but changes have been made throughout the environment.

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The Start Menu

Windows 7 Start MenuWhat was known in Windows XP as the Start Menu has now been replaced by a circular button with the Windows logo inside. Officially known as the Windows Orb, we will refer to it from hereon out simply as the Start button (or Start menu) in order to avoid confusion.

Click on the Start button, and you will see that the look of the menu has changed substantially from Windows XP. The first half of the menu displays a list of default Windows applications, while the lower half displays both recently opened and newly installed applications.

The right column of the Start menu displays a list of shortcuts that will take you to various locations on your computer. It starts with your user name, which is a shortcut that will open up a Windows Explorer window with a number of folder items. Other menu items underneath your user shortcut include the Documents (known as My Documents in XP), Pictures, Music and so forth. Beneath those options are other items such as drives (via Computer, formerly My Computer), Devices and Printers, and Help & Support.

Return to the left column of the Start button. When an application is selected on the list with a small triangular black arrow pointing to the right, a list of recently opened files that are associated with that application will appear. As opposed to Windows XP displaying a list of recently opened items for all programs, this new prcoess in Windows 7 makes it easier for you to find, and open, files you've worked on previously. Opening the file will launch the associated application.

Like XP, you can drag a shortcut from the Start menu (or the taskbar) to the desktop.

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After a while, older "recent items" will be replaced with new ones. With a new Windows 7 feature called pins, items that you return to regularly can be attached to the Start menu in order to avoid having to search for them. Pins are similar to bookmarks (or Favorites in Internet Explorer) in that once a program or a document has a pin icon next to it. the item will be available for easier access.

Pins will also work for shortcuts of recently-used applications. Pin it, and the shortcut will stay attached as part of the Start menu, or the taskbar, for as long as you wish for it to be there. You can pin an item to the Start Menu, as well as the taskbar.

Displaying Pin menu options

  1. Right-click on the item you'd like to be pinned.
  2. Choose either "pin item to menu" or "pin item to taskbar."
  3. The item is now selected. Verify by selecting the item has been pinned.

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All Programs

Toward the bottom of the Start menu is an All Programs option, which displays all of the applications installed on your machine. If you move the mouse pointer and either hover over or click on it, the list of installed programs will overlay the new/recently installed items, as opposed to popping out on the right side like it did in XP.

All Programs from Start Menu

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Shut Down & Log Out

When you choose Shut Down in Windows 7, you will not receive a window giving you choices of restarting, hibernating, etc. Shut down will literally start the shutdown process, which will cease once the machine is automatically powered off. If Windows has any software updates waiting to be installed, it will let you know during the shutdown process, and will shut down once the installation is complete.

To the right of the Shut Down button is an arrow. if you click on it, you will find additional options such as Log Off, Switch User, Standby and more. 

Windows Shutdown Menu Options

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The Taskbar

The new taskbar in Windows 7 replaces the thin, gray taskbar from XP (it's about twice the thickness of XP's taskbar, with some noticeable changes). At the far left of the taskbar, the Start button (aka the Windows Orb) still resides in the same location as XP. Next to the Start button are some pre-defined default shortcuts that come with your machine, including Internet Explorer 8, Windows Explorer and Windows Media Player. Like XP, you can add, or replace, the shortcuts with new ones.

When you hover the mouse pointer over a taskbar item representing an opened program, you will see thumbnail images representing the opened window or windows. For instance, hovering over the Windows Explorer shortcut will display one or more Explorer windows, depending on the number of windows currently open. When the pointer is moved to one of the thumbnails, the rest of the desktop windows “hide,” except for the full window the thumbnail is representing. Click on the thumbnail, and it becomes the new active window, moving to the front.

Windows 7 Left Side of Taskbar

On the rightmost side of the taskbar is a thin, rectangular box that lines up against your computer's display. Click on it, and everything except the active window will "disappear." However, if you look closely at the desktop, you can see outlines for window items that have disappeared, indicating that they are technically still open. In fact, clicking on one of the background windows will bring it to the front. The rectangle in the taskbar replaces the "Show All" icon on the taskbar in XP. Keep in mind that if you have a lot of windows open,  the thumbnails will be replaced by a pop-up list.

Windows Right Side of Taskbar

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Windows Explorer

There are substantial changes in Windows Explorer, including the file management capabilities. By default, you can find it on the taskbar, as well as your user folder or Documents, among other locations.

When you open an Explorer window, you'll see the path off the window at the top. To the right, you'll find a Windows Search bar, which will let you search from within the Explorer window based on where the window you've opened is located (i.e., you can search for all documents within the Documents folder).

Windows Explorer

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Windows Search

In Windows 7, Windows Search is a quick way for you to find not only files, folders and applications, but clicking on an item can launch an application and, if applicable, the associated file. You can use the fields located at the bottom of the Start button, from Internet Explorer, and from the top of the Windows Explorer to search for whatever you're looking for.

Windows Search field

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Internet Explorer 8

Internet Explorer taskbar icon

Windows 7 includes Internet Explorer 8, Microsoft’s built-in web browser. By default, it’s located on the left side of the taskbar, but you can also create a shortcut of the browser elsewhere if you’d like.

Additional features in IE8 include a search bar, now located on the left side of the toolbar. Either Google or Bing is the search provider that can be chosen as the default, though clicking on the small upside-down black triangle next to the little magnifying glass will allow you to add additional search providers such as Wikipedia, Yahoo and Amazon.

IE Search Bar

Favorites are essentially bookmarks. Favorites is now located on the left side of the toolbar. When "Favorites" is chosen, a default list of folders will appear. Clicking on the folder will reveal bookmarks for that folder. You can add web pages, as well as remove unwanted pages. create new folders, or edit current ones, for collecting bookmarks by whatever groups you choose to make.

Internet Explorer Favorites Area

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Built-In Support Tools

When you run into a computer issue of some sort, sometimes either the issue at hand may be too complex to explain, or you may be asked to duplicate an issue and gather enough information so that a tech can sort out the info and attempt to formulate a solution.

Problem Steps Recorder (PSR)

The Problem Steps Recorder

Windows 7 has a built-in support tool called the Problem Steps Recorder (PSR). PSR records and tracks tech issues in order for a technician to better understand, and help you resolve, your issue. You will find a shortcut to the program on the desktop labeled “Record Problems.”

  1. Double-click on the Record Problems icon.
  2. Click on the Start Record on the left of the recording bar.
  3. Duplicate whatever issue you are having.
  4. When you are done, click on Stop Recording.
  5. A Save As window will appear. Type in the desired name for the compressed zip file and save it to the desktop.
  6. In your email program of choice, compose the nature of your issue as best you can. Then add the zip file as an attachment. Mail it afterwards.

Snipping Tool

Snipping Tool

A second feature for aiding CLA Tech with visual representations of a computer issue is the Snipping Tool, which captures screenshots. You can then attach then to an email and send to CLA Tech.

  1. Click on the Start menu and select Snipping Tool. If you don’t see it in the menu, simply start typing “snipping” in the search field a the bottom of the Start menu, and select "Snipping Tool." You should see a small window that says “Snipping Tool” on the title bar.
  2. Choose from one of the screen capture options:
    • Standard rectangular area (to select portion of the computer screen),
    • Active window
    • Full screen
    • Free-form (to outline an area of the screen)
  3. Click on the Options button for features such as:
    • Showing a browser’s URL on the bottom of a page
    • Copy snips (the images) to the Clipboard
    • Hide instruction text

The Snipping Tool will hide itself whenever you capture an image.

Upon capturing the clip, a new window appears with the snipped image, You can then save the image, create a new one, and even circle and/or highlight a particular area. When you're done, you can send the images to CLA Tech via email, being sure to also explain your issue as detailed as possible.

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Windows 7's new features, such as the revamped Start menu and Windows Explorer, are meant to enhance and improve the overall computing experience and capabilities. Windows Search will help make searches easier and faster than ever, helping the user find anything from files to programs. Internet Explorer 8 features additional enhancements to help make your browsing experience more productive. Finally, the built-in support tools in Windows can help capture your tech issue with images that can, so the saying goes, speak louder than words.

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For more detailed information on Windows 7, review the Help & Support shortcut from within the Start menu. You can also request to view the online course from called Windows 7 Training Essentials, available for checkout, along with the entire Online Library of courses. Please email CLA Tech to request a limited-time user account.

Please note that not every feature in Windows 7 will be available to you, as your user accounts are restricted. You may use your account for most of your standard tasks; however, installation of most devices and hardware will usually require administrator access. Please contact CLA Tech for more information.

We welcome your feedback on this document, so please contact CLA Tech if you have comments, questions, and other concerns.

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