Computer Operating Systems: Managing Hardware and Software Resources

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  • 0:05 Applications vs.…
  • 1:21 GUI
  • 1:42 Desktop, Icons & Shortcuts
  • 2:58 Recycle Bin
  • 5:46 Background & Wallpaper
  • 7:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lori Jacobson

Lori holds an MBA. She has taught business and accounting at several community colleges.

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.
Desktop Icons


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.

Recycle Bin

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.
Recycle Bin Icon

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