This lesson will introduce you to computer operating systems and help you figure out the difference between application and operating system software. Also, we will learn the difference between a desktop and wallpaper.
Application vs. Operating System
When I ask someone what version of Windows they're using, I often get a comment similar to, 'I thought software was just software.' The truth is there are two main categories of software: applications and operating system software.
Application software is the software that lets us do something with our computer. In other words, the software you use to do the things you like to do, things like playing games, going online, listening to music and typing papers or creating presentations. The operating system software, or operating system or OS, is the software your computer uses to process start-up instructions, interpret and communicate between applications software and devices used and to maintain your system.
When you listen to your music, your player application software works to take your music from its source. The operating system sends the information from your music player to your speakers so that you can hear it.
The OS does the same to send the signals to your printer when you ask your word processing program to print that paper you're working on. If you have a network, where more than one computer shares a printer or other resource, the OS will coordinate those activities. What OS typically means for users like you and me is basic management of hardware and software resources and setting your system to look and perform the way you want it to.
Desktop icons are shortcuts to programs or files.
Operating systems today are gooey - no, not sticky, but GUI, or graphical user interface. GUI uses pictures or graphics to identify programs or photos that allow us to easily start programs, change settings and adjust our system for its best performance. Let me show you what I mean.
Desktop, Icons and Shortcuts
Your desktop is the whole area of your computer monitor. So from left all the way to right, top down to bottom, everywhere in between. Just picture the area you work at, your physical desk. On the top of it you probably have a pen holder, stapler, telephone, paper and computer: the tools you use to do your work.
On your computer desktop, you probably have some icons, or visual representations of a program or picture. On a desktop, these are called shortcuts, which are direct ways to open a program, a file or a photo. A tip for you - too many shortcuts on your desktop can actually slow your computer down. What I'm showing you is my desktop, and I keep just a few shortcuts here: the Recycle Bin and shortcuts for programs I use frequently, like GoToMeeting, QuickBooks, iTunes and a couple of other things we'll work with in a moment. Down below on the task bar are programs I use the most frequently - Windows Explorer, Google Chrome, Microsoft Word, Camtasia and some other Microsoft products. The task bar lets you have another form of shortcut.
The Recycle Bin is a standard Windows icon (it's called Trash in a Macintosh unit). Any shortcut you delete from the desktop, and files you delete, will be deposited here. It gives you the chance to change your mind before you delete it permanently. Just like your real recycle bin in your kitchen, this bin needs to be emptied periodically. Let me show you how to remove a shortcut, delete a file and then empty the Recycle Bin.
We'll start with removing a shortcut. Now this shortcut is for a program I don't use very often. To remove it, I can hold down the left mouse button, or left-click, and drag it over the Recycle Bin. Once there, release the button and the shortcut is gone. If you'll notice, it says, 'Move to Recycle Bin.' I'm going to let go, and it's gone. You should note that whenever you remove a shortcut in Windows systems newer than Windows XP, the actual program isn't affected - it just takes away the shortcut. If you want to remove a program, you would click on the Windows button down here, go in to Control Panel, click on Programs or directly on Uninstall a Program, choose the program you want to get rid of and click Uninstall.
Files put in the Recycle Bin can be retrieved before permanent deletion.
To delete a file, I'm going to open Windows Explorer and get rid of some pictures I don't need to have in here. I can choose just one, right-click, choose Delete from the drop-down menu and then say Yes, send it to the Recycle Bin. Or I can single-click the photo and press Delete on my keyboard and Yes again. If I want to select more than one photo at a time, I can click the photo, hold the Control button down, click the next photo and the next photo and again hit the Delete button on the keyboard and say Yes.
Now, how do you know something you deleted is in the Recycle Bin? You can double-click on your Recycle Bin, and you'll see a list of things here. I will make my icons larger, and here are the pictures that I deleted and here is the software shortcut I deleted from the desktop.
Now, emptying the Recycle Bin is much easier than gathering your recyclables out of the kitchen and taking to the curb or recycle center. Go to the Recycle Bin, right-click on it and choose Empty Recycle Bin (left-click). 'Are you sure you want to permanently delete?' and it will tell you how many. I'm going to say Yes, and cha-ching, it's gone.
Background and Wallpaper
The Recycle Bin and other icons on your desktop are displayed on an area called the background. I know - it looks like they are one in the same, desktop, background, right? However, we can make this background look pretty much any way we want by changing the wallpaper. So the wallpaper is what sits on the wall of your desktop.
To change your wallpaper, go to any open space on your desktop, right-click and go to Personalize. Now remember, I'm using a Windows 7 operating system. Windows Vista is close in steps; XP is different. The process is the same, but the steps are slightly different. My current background is a simple HP (Hewlett Packard) background. And just like with icons, the busier your wallpaper is, the slower your system can run. So if you use photos to run a slideshow on your background, it can slow your computer.
If you're running Windows, you'll notice some standard wallpapers to choose from. The ones that show more than one picture are going to run like a slideshow. Simply select what you like. I love the outdoors, so I'm going to choose Landscape by clicking on it. That means it's applied. And I can close the window.
You'll see my background wallpaper has changed to a beautiful mountain lake.
While this operating system I use isn't the only one in use, it is the most common. Remember, OS is the software your computer uses to process instructions between applications software - the software you use to do things - and devices used, including setting user preferences, such as the wallpaper.
The wallpaper is the look we choose for our desktop background, or area of our monitor that holds the computing tools that we use. Some of these tools are icons, which are graphical representations of a program or file. Icons set up on the desktop, or working surface, are shortcuts to quickly access a program or storage. And all this interface we're looking at is called GUI, or graphical user interface.
After watching this lesson, you should be able to:
- Differentiate between application software and operating system
- Define GUI, desktop, icons and shortcuts
- Explain how to use the Recycle Bin and change the wallpaper