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For Seniors: Understand Your Laptop's Windows 7 Desktop

The Windows 7 desktop appears when you log on to your laptop. On the desktop you'll find the Windows Start menu, taskbar, and shortcuts to favorite programs and files. You can use various elements of the desktop to open or manage files, access settings for Windows, go online, and more.

  • The taskbar is home to the Start menu, which you open by clicking the Start button. You use the Start menu to access your laptop settings, files, folders, and software.

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  • The right side of the taskbar, which is called the Notifications area, contains many commonly used functions such as the laptop date and time settings, the network connections icons, and the icon you click to safely remove hardware, such as a USB storage device, from your laptop. You can also quickly display the desktop using the Show Desktop button on the far right of the Notifications area.

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  • The Frequently Used Programs area is a set of icons within the taskbar that you use to open frequently used programs. You can customize this area of the taskbar to contain any programs you want. Open programs are highlighted on the taskbar, and you can click one to switch to that program.

  • The Recycle Bin holds recently deleted items. It will empty itself when it reaches its maximum size (which you can modify by right-clicking the Recycle Bin and choosing Properties), or you can do so manually.

  • Desktop shortcuts are icons that reside on the desktop and provide shortcuts to opening software programs or files. Your laptop usually comes with some shortcuts, such as the Recycle Bin and a browser shortcut, but you can also add or delete shortcuts. Click a desktop shortcut to open an associated file or folder.

  • Gadgets are handy little tools that can be placed on the desktop. Windows 7 includes stock ticker, clock, and calendar gadgets, but you can also download lots of other gadgets from the Windows website.

The desktop is always there as you open program windows to get your work done. If you make a program window as big as it can be (referred to as maximizing it), you won’t see the desktop, but the desktop is still there. You can go back to the desktop at any time by shrinking a window (minimizing it) or closing windows.

You can also press Alt+Tab simultaneously and choose the desktop from the open programs icons in the window that appears, or click the Show Desktop button at the right end of the taskbar.

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