Windows XP In a Nutshell by David A. Karp, Tim O'Reilly and Troy Mott

Reviewed by: Jeff Matthews, send e-mail
Published by: O'Reilly, go to the web site
Requires: Windows XP
MSRP: $29.95

Are you new to Windows or a Linux fan that has never touched Windows and would like to give it a shot? Windows XP in a Nutshell is the only book you will need. It's a reference guide that is essential for everyone from beginner levels to advanced. Beginners will get to learn Windows while advanced users will learn new tips and tricks.

Windows XP is the first consumer OS based on a platform (Windows NT) that was once used only by advanced users. The book gives a brief history of Windows noting that the first releases of Windows were nothing more than graphical application launchers run on top of DOS. Microsoft's new piracy tactics are explained, detailing the changes Windows XP boasts to combat software piracy including the requirement to activate each installation via telephone or Internet. Each copy of Windows XP can only be installed on one computer.

The Windows XP interface will not be anything new to users that have used NT or Windows 98. Windows XP defaults to a cartoonish graphical treatment that can be easily changed into the classic interface seen in Windows 98. The control panel in Windows XP has received a facelift too and now contains category groupings instead of an applet list. Beginners will find a tutorial on the device manager and learn how to completely turn off a device or upgrade its drivers.

The book is broken up into chapters covering such things as the Windows XP interface, networking, the Windows registry, command prompts, file name extensions and applications found within Windows XP. The file system in general is explained too, providing details such as what characters are allowed in a file name. In a comparison, you'll also find out that Windows XP has better compatibility with games as well as more features than Windows 2000.

The first chapter goes over what is new in Windows XP that hasn't been found in other versions of the operating system. The second and third chapters go into detail about starting applications, copying files and using the Windows XP GUI. This is a great guide for beginners which also tells you how to do such things as uninstall fonts and how to set up the Windows XP firewall.

Have you ever gotten an e-mail from a friend with a file extension you may not be familiar with? Windows has many file extensions and this book contains a complete list with a descriptions. Windows scripting host is explained in depth in this book as well as networking. It includes a troubleshooter if you have problems connecting to the Internet as well as instructions on how to set up a Local Area Network (LAN). It explains why security is important while on the Internet and how to prevent problems by setting up a firewall.

The final pages of the book include directions on how to install XP. Even advanced users who encounter difficulties installing XP due to certain errors may check the guide for some troubleshooting. When I was installing XP on a reformatted hard drive I couldn't get it installed due to an error. The book recommended a change to my BIOS settings (to boot from CD-ROM first) and I was able to do an error-free install.

Today Windows has more powerful features and networking capabilities than ever before. Windows XP has been a step towards merging its consumer and business operating systems into one. Those upgrading from Windows 98 will notice substantial change while users of previous NT versions will hardly notice a difference.

There is a lot of information jammed into 592 pages. The authors of the book have been thorough in bringing you a guide that tells you where you can find settings for everything related to the operating system so you will not have to explore the vast array of menus and dialogs by trial and error. Even advanced users can benefit from this. Windows XP in a Nutshell is an excellent book.

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