Book Review: Windows 7 The Missing Manual

Reviewed by Bill Coan, Microsoft Word MVP (Contributed)

904 Pages
by David Pogue
Pogue Press/O’Reilly Media

Two hours to power

When you pick up a 904-page book, any 904-page book, one of the first questions you ask yourself is “When can I put this puppy back down?”

For me, the answer in the case of Windows 7: The missing manual was that I couldn’t put it down for two hours, because I was sitting in front of my computer at the time, with the book in my lap, and every time I turned a page I found another great new idea that I wanted to try out. This went on for 172 fun-filled pages (yes, you read that correctly) before I took a break.

Let me back up and put this in perspective: I’ve been using Windows almost exactly 18 years, since Windows 3.1 was released in April of 1992, and I’ve been among the very first to try out each new version of Windows since then. I’ve taught Windows courses. Most of the people I know consider me to be a power user of Windows. I don’t necessarily agree with them, but I certainly consider myself to be comfortable with Windows, and I’ve never found myself thinking that I wish David Pogue would drop by and kick my productivity up a notch or two. (Besides, when someone drops by and starts kicking things, isn’t there a chance you could get hurt?)

A little more perspective: I’ve been working in Windows 7 for several months now, and so I already knew that Windows 7 is not only the most powerful but also the fastest, most visually appealing, most user-friendly version of Windows ever released.

Yet while working my way through the first 172 pages of “the missing manual,” I discovered dozens of new refinements in Windows and dozens of new, faster ways of doing things that until then had escaped my notice.

I think most readers can look forward to a similar experience, because the first 172 pages of the book describe techniques that everyone can benefit from, no matter what kind of work they are engaged in. This is where you’ll learn surprising new ways to exploit the power of the Start menu, the Taskbar, and Windows Explorer, plus new ways to search and organize your files.

If you’re thinking, “Great, because I’m new to Windows and I don’t even recognize the terms you’re using, much less how to do those things,” then I can offer you the following reassurance: This book is highly illustrated. It is clearly written. It is entertainingly written. It will show you and tell you what you need to know.

If (as is more likely) you’re thinking, “I already know how to do those things,” then I invite you to think again: Of course you know how to do those things! Who doesn’t? But these are some of the most common tasks you perform on your computer. You perform those hundreds if not thousands of times a day, day after day, week after week. What if you could perform them better and faster? What if you could perform them way better and way faster?

Everything I’ve said so far actually applies to pages 172 – 209, too, which pages cover changing the visual appearance of the Windows desktop and getting help from the Help system or from a user at a remote computer (whether down the hall or around the world) or from Microsoft.

The remaining 700 pages of the book are astonishingly comprehensive (and the writing is just as clear and just as engaging as the writing at the beginning), but few readers will want to bother reading every single chapter. Instead, this is the point at which you will return to the table of contents and pick and choose the chapters that matter to you. Later, you’re likely to dip into specific sections as needed, guided by the excellent index. Major subject areas: Software included with Windows 7; Online Services; Pictures, Music, and Television; Hardware and Peripherals; and Networking (including the all-new, easy-to-use Homegroups).

A lot of people contributed ideas and expertise to this book. Their names are listed inside, but it is David Pogue’s name on the cover, and whether by remote control or some other mysterious means, Pogue is the one who orchestrated the effort to produce the book. The results are superb. This is easily one of the most comprehensive and most readable books available on Windows 7. Even after spending just two hours with it, you’ll be amazed at the power you’ve gained.