Monday, April 02, 2007

Windows Vista the Missing Manual





Windows Vista is arguably one of the greatest changes Microsoft made to its operating system since it introduced Windows 95. If you bought Windows 95, you got a decent manual that explained its features, and computer hardware manufacturers frequently included a Windows 95 "start here" CD that explained the new features Windows 95 had to offer. Those were the good old days, weren't they? Gas was under $3.00 a gallon and you didn't take your shoes off at the airport unless your feet were tired. In 2007, we have none of that. Windows Vista comes with many new features, wizards, and a complete change of the start menu, but Microsoft provided no printed guide explaining these features. Even worse, we now have up to seven different varities of Vista, each with different features.

As we know some things in life you can't avoid: death and taxes. I always add one other inevitable facts of life: great books by David Pogue. "Windows Vista, the Missing Manual" doesn't disappoint. Mine is already dog-eared, marked up, and has passed around more times than (insert inappropriate comment here). I'm not running Vista yet, but friends and family constantlyask me about its esoteric features.

"Missing Manuals" tend to always share common traits such as clearly explained examples and great screen shots to illustrate the points. While other books feel compelled to explain every esoteric function of a particular program or operating system, Pogue focuses on those features the average user would need help with. He also doesn't waste time explaining the basics such as how to use the mouse or how to turn off the computer. The reader should have a basic understanding of how to use a computer and simply wants to know how to maximize their use of Vista's features. By far the handiest feature of this book is clearly explaining which features work with which flavor of Windows. For example: which version have faxing and which have the cool Aero feature? Another part of the book I constantly refer to is the "where did it go" section.

I only have two complaints about the book. First, you can tell Mr. Pogue "cuts and pastes" from other versions. In addition, I would have liked to have seen more troubleshooting help in the appendix. Granted, this isn't a repair manual, but people often read manuals when something isn't working the way they want and I would have nominated the book for Sainthood if it had those features. Overall this is an outstanding book and should be purchased by anyone anxious or concerned about making the switch to Vista. Advanced users won't like the book because it doesn't go into enough details...but advanced users rarely read manuals anyway.

Pros: Perfect explanation of the features the average Vista user will need to know
Cons: Not enough troubleshooting advice.