In this chapter we cover basic operating system support questions seen by most desktop support technicians. Technicians supporting applications running on Microsoft Windows XP will likely see many of these situations over time as adjunct questions to actual application support incidents and should be prepared to handle them. We discuss managing the Start menu, toolbar, and language settings. We also present information on working with folder settings and managing file associations. We finish with a quick discussion of available Windows XP troubleshooting and management utilities.
In this section we describe the components of the taskbar and Start menu and examine the common settings used when configuring them. We discuss each setting and show how it might affect the appearance and usability of the taskbar or Start menu. As you present this section, keep in mind how these settings can be administratively controlled in corporate environments via group policy, and encourage your students to determine which (if any) settings are administratively configured at their site to be able to effectively support them.
Called the system tray in earlier versions of Microsoft Windows, the notification area of the taskbar provides a space for notifying the user of system or application events and status. Some applications also provide access to configuration settings or controls through notification area icons. Operating system services such as network connections and printers announce their status and allow configuration here as well. This section discusses ways to customize the presentation of the notification area and to control which icons appear there.
You can configure the notification area to hide status icons that have not been recently updated by their applications. Doing so leaves this area of the screen relatively uncluttered. This slide calls out the location of the configuration setting that controls this behavior.
Many items can be added or removed from the notification area by configuring settings in the respective applications or services. Please refer to the textbook for examples of how to add and remove common items. To promote understanding of these procedures it is best to demonstrate them if possible. Be careful not to disable any critical services if you choose to demonstrate Msconfig.exe.
Power users might have a dozen or more applications open at the same time when busy. With earlier versions of Windows, these buttons would crowd together on the taskbar until the button text was unreadable. Windows XP gives users two options. They can allow the buttons to add a second tier on the taskbar, requiring users to scroll to view the contents. Alternatively, they can be grouped into “stacks” of like applications. The textbook shows two excellent examples of this. This slide calls out the location of the configuration setting that controls this behavior.
Adding frequently used applications to the Quick Launch toolbar is a great way for users to customize their desktops. They do not need to search the Start menu for their applications or minimize all open windows to find an icon on the desktop. When demonstrating the Quick Launch area, be sure to demonstrate adding an item by dragging its icon down. This is a quick way to add icons and is a great item desktop support technicians can show end users.
Keep the Taskbar And Start Menu Properties dialog box open for a while when discussing this slide. You can show where each of these settings is located and explain what happens when each is selected.
You can extend the taskbar with additional toolbars to give quick access to controls of applications such as Windows Media Player, or access to folders such as the desktop or another file system folder. The Address and Links toolbars give quick access to functions of Microsoft Internet Explorer. Be sure to demonstrate the Toolbars menu within the taskbar shortcut menu.
This section discusses the configuration of the Start menu. We discuss customizing the appearance of the Start menu and cover adding items to (and deleting them from) the various areas of the Start menu. As you present this slide, spend some time giving your students a tour of the various features of the Start menu. The next slides in the series cover configuration, so this orientation will help the students see the effects of their changes.
This section is best suited to a discussion of Start menu configuration. The following two slides depict the General tab and the Advanced tab of the Customize Start Menu dialog box. If you have access to a Windows XP computer, you can replace these slides with a demonstration of the various Start menu configuration settings.
This slide depicts the General tab of the Customize Start Menu dialog box. These are the most basic configuration settings, and the changes you make here affect only the left side of the menu. The next slide depicts advanced settings, and the changes you make there cover the right side of the Start menu.
This slide depicts the Advanced tab of the Customize Start Menu dialog box. These are the settings that control behavior of the items on the right side of the menu. These items include the appearance of My Computer, My Documents, Control Panel, and others. Users can customize all aspects of the Start menu to suit their tastes. Desktop support technicians might also encounter instances in which many of these settings are administratively configured using group policies. Access to Start menu settings might even be disabled by a group policy. Be sure to discuss how desktop support technicians should be aware of any local policies to this effect.
This slide provides a focus for discussion of Start menu icons and how they can be manipulated. If possible, demonstrate adding an item by dragging its icon to the Start button and then placing it on the Start menu. Also demonstrate the Pin To Start Menu option on the shortcut menu for a shortcut icon.
This and the following slides depict the Regional And Language Options dialog box. You might explain that all settings related to regional preference are configured here simply by selecting a new region. If custom settings such as a different currency or system of measurement are desired, you can set them in the Customize Regional Options dialog box (see next slide).
This slide covers the language options available in Windows XP. We also show the dialog boxes used when configuring language settings and how to use the Language Bar to select the keyboard layout in effect.
This slide depicts the Text Services And Input Languages dialog box. You can configure multiple additional languages here and define default keyboard layouts for each. Explain that each of these will appear on the Language Bar as a square blue icon.
The Language Bar allows selection of the language in use. It is a quick way for users of multilingual systems to select the language they wish to use for the moment. Many support professionals in multilingual organizations will eventually encounter an issue in which users sit down to a system with a keyboard configured for one language when they are expecting another.
This slide depicts the basic settings available in the Folder Options dialog box. You might want to discuss the purpose of each setting, or simply use this slide as an introduction to the more advanced settings to follow.
If possible, demonstrate this dialog box to show the many configuration items that have been brought together in one place. Settings critical to protection of system files and user profile data are side by side with settings that control the user’s experience when browsing file folders.
In this section, we discuss file associations, their purpose, and how to manage and troubleshoot them. Be sure to mention that most applications associate their own file types at installation time. Most often a support technician will become involved when an application has hijacked another application’s file associations (common among media applications).
Explain that file associations control which applications are “associated” with each type of file. This ensures that the appropriate application is used for each file type. In the example on the slide, Microsoft Word would be launched if one of the files displayed were to be opened.
Each of the items on the slide is managed in the File Types tab of the Folder Options dialog box. Although most applications properly register their file associations when they are installed, sometimes another application hijacks them or they are inadvertently deleted. Using the File Types tab, demonstrate how to add, delete, or change items in this view.
Given a good understanding of how file associations are used, students should be able to participate in a discussion of different scenarios from the textbook. You might choose to return to the File Types tab to demonstrate any proposed resolution to the stated scenarios.
This slide provides an anchor for a discussion of the available configuration and troubleshooting tools that will come in handy for those supporting applications on Windows XP. If time permits, run each tool and describe the function it can serve for analysis and repair of application problems. Msconfig configures system startup files to control the startup behavior and startup applications launched by Windows XP. Msinfo collects critical information on running processes, loaded components, and system statistics. Chkdsk scans the hard disk to locate any potential data corruption or failures. Disk Defragmenter consolidates application data files into contiguous blocks to speed access times and performance. System File Checker (SFC.exe) runs at the command line to scan and repair critical Windows XP system files.
This chapter presents many of the user experience features of Windows XP from a support perspective. Emphasize that the best way to effectively support these features is to use them. Experienced users make the best support technicians.