Lab 0: Windows Instructions

Getting Started with Windows

Follow your instructor's directions for beginning a session. When you see a white arrow on the screen (pointing to about the 11-o'clock position), the machine is ready for you to begin. If you have not used a mouse before, move it around on its pad and note how the white arrow moves in response. The white arrow is called the mouse cursor, and it is used to point at objects on the screen.

If you are not accustomed to using a mouse, take a few moments to practice pointing at objects on the screen.

Interacting with the Computer

The way in which you interact with a computer depends upon the computing environment of its operating system. For example, an environment in which you use a mouse to interact with menus, windows, and icons on a computer's screen is called a graphical user interface or GUI (pronounced "gooey").

In contrast to a GUI, there are environments that work a little differently:

  1. The computer displays a prompt and waits for you to enter a command.
  2. You enter a command.
  3. The computer executes (performs) that command, and it displays the results (if any).
The interaction then starts all over with the first step.

These are called command-line environments; you interact with the machine by entering commands following a system prompt. The MS-DOS operating system (a precursor of MS Windows) uses a command-line environment.

In order to use a command-line environment, you must learn those commands that the environment understands. This can make a command-line environment more difficult to use than a GUI, since you must be able to recall the right commands to use the system. By contrast, users of a GUI environment need only be able to recognize the proper menu choice, link, or icon they need to select in order to make something happen. However, a command-line environment is very powerful once you learn its language.

Let's begin by learning about the mouse. The left mouse button is usually used to select and open an object on the screen. Selecting an object is accomplished by pointing the mouse at the object and clicking once. Opening an object is similar, but requires a double-click (clicking the left button twice in rapid succession).

To illustrate, there is probably a tiny picture (called an icon) of a computer labeled My Computer in the upper left corner of your computer's screen. (This is its default name and location; depending on your local configuration, its name or position may be different.) Point the mouse at that icon and click the left mouse button. The icon should darken, indicating it has been selected.

Next, double-click while pointing at the My Computer icon, to open your computer. A new window should appear listing some of the storage devices that are inside your computer (e.g., a floppy drive named A:, a hard disk named C:, a CD-ROM named D:, etc.).

When you have multiple windows open, you can select a window by clicking on it, making that window the active window.

Drag and Drop

One of the most common things people want to do with windows is reposition them on the screen. This is quite easy in Windows: just point the mouse at the titlebar of the window, hold down the left mouse button, and move the mouse until the window is where you want it. This is called dragging the window. Then release the left mouse button and the window will stay put (until you drag it somewhere else). This is called dropping the window. Dragging and dropping makes it easy to reposition a window.

The Right Mouse Button

The right mouse button offers different options from the left button, usually allowing you to pull down a menu of options for the object at which the mouse is pointing. If you click it over your browser, you should see a menu with some choices, if you click it over the background, you should see a menu with different choices. Some of the choices have a tiny arrow to their right; if you move the mouse over that arrow, a secondary menu appears with more choices.

We will occasionally use the right mouse button, but the left mouse button is used far more often. As a result, if we say "click the mouse button" without specifying which one, we will be referring to the left button. If we want you to click the right button, we will explicitly say so.

Customizing Your Computer's Interface

Before we explore, lets take a moment to make sure that your environment is configured in consistently with this exercise. While the customization in Windows is convenient and user-friendly, covering every possible configuration is difficult and inefficient, so we will set up your environment to have a uniform look and feel.

Open (i.e., double-click) your My Computer icon. Then click on the View menu and make certain that selections Toolbar and Status bar both have checkmarks beside them. Select them to add a check mark if the checkmark is missing.

Next, select View -> Details to provide a detailed listing of the devices in your computer. This will provide more information than the other choices, including how much free space is available on your computer's storage disks.

Finally, select View -> Options and an Options dialog box will appear. Make sure the the File tab is selected in the box, and then make sure that the second radio button is selected:

Browse folders by using a single window that changes as you open each folder.
This will help to avoid "screen clutter" by using a single window for navigation through your computer.

Navigating in Your Computer

Ok! We're ready to explore! If your computer is networked, you may have your own space on a shared disk drive, so that you will not need a floppy disk to save your work. The instructions here are written as if you have a floppy disk, but apply equally well for a networked drive. Your instructor will tell you how to access the networked drive if you have one.

If you need and have a floppy disk, insert it into your computer's floppy drive, and let's get started.

At the top of the list of devices in the My Computer window should be 3-1/2 Floppy (A:) which refers to your floppy drive. Double-click on its icon or name and the window will change to display the contents of whatever disk you placed in the drive. The title of the window changes to A:\, which is the short-name by which the system refers to your floppy drive.

To get "back" to your My Computer window, click on the small button that looks like a folder with an up-arrow inside it. This button always take you "up" to the folder containing the current window, and since A:\ is "inside" My Computer, clicking this button returns you from A:\ to My Computer.

The other icons in your My Computer window refer to the other storage devices in your computer. If your computer has a second floppy drive, its name is B:. Since A: and B: are commonly used for floppy drives, C: is the name of the hard disk on most Windows computers; D: is the usual name of either a second hard disk or the CD-ROM drive. Your computer may have additional devices (e.g., network drives) depending on how it has been set up.

Each of these other devices can be explored in exactly the same way as your floppy drive -- by clicking on the icon for that device, and then in its window, clicking on whatever icon(s) you want to examine next.

Open your A: drive.

Folders in Folders

Very soon, you'll be entering and running a simple C++ program. But when you are done, you'd like to be able to save your program somewhere safe. To save your program safely, the computer stores it on magnetic media (usually a hard disk) in a container called a file.

During this course, you'll create dozens of files, and so some means of organizing them is needed. Just as the documents in a filing cabinet are often kept in manilla folders, Windows lets us create a folder (or directory) in which you can store related files.

To create a new folder point the mouse at your A: window and click the right mouse button to display a menu. Move the mouse downwards until it points at the New choice, and wait while the secondary menu appears. Then move the mouse again until you are pointing at the Folder choice, and click either button. You should see a folder icon labeled New Folder appear on your A: window.

When the new folder appears its name is automatically selected, so that you can give it a more descriptive name. Since we are creating a folder in which to store our labs, type labs to rename this folder appropriately.

Viewing the Contents of a Folder

To see what's inside of a folder is easy: just double-click on the folder icon to open it! Take a moment to look inside your labs folder. It should be empty, since we have not yet put anything into it. Note that the titlebar of the window changes when you open a folder, to indicate "where you are" within the folder hierarchy.

Now, suppose we want to get from A:\labs to C:. The white text window containing labs provides a quick way: click on this box and a drop-down menu will appear showing the location of your current folder as well as many other top-level devices and folders. You can use this same technique to move quickly up through nested folders.

For practice, navigate to A: and make three other folders: one named practice, one named projects, and one named myLib.

Discarding a Folder

We made practice just for practice, to learn how to get rid of unwanted folders. Click on practice, drag it to the Recycle Bin icon (the icon will darken when the mouse is properly positioned over it) and drop it there. Your folder should disappear into the Recycle Bin, and if the Recycle Bin was empty, its icon should change to indicate that it is no longer empty.

If you throw something away and later decide you want to get it back, you can open the Recycle Bin by double-clicking on it and drag what you want to retrieve our of the Recycle Bin window. If you are certain that you will not want to retrieve anything from the Recycle Bin, you can empty the bin by right clicking on the Recycle Bin icon and choosing the Empty Recycle Bin choice from the menu. This operation cannot be undone, so use it with caution.


active window, command-line environments, computing environment, directory, dragging, dropping, file, folder, graphical user interface, GUI, icon, mouse cursor

Go back to the main exercise.

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