The Control Panel

The Windows XP Control Panel The Mac OS X System Preferences

Once you have opened a program, you can control it using its menus, toolbars, and keyboard shortcuts. However, after an OS opens, these controls are not fully available. A few things can be changed from the Desktop, and certain controls like the System Tray allow you to monitor and change some processes. However, most OS controls are to be found in a special location, generally referred to as the Control Panel.

In this section, we will focus on the Windows XP Control Panel.



When you first open the Control Panel, it will have a simplified view, called "Category View." This view was made so the Control Panels seem less confusing, but it also means that it is harder to control them specifically. To have more precise control over each part, try switching to the "Classic ViewIt's called "classic" because this was the arrangement when the Control Panel was originally introduced.."

The Classic View will look like this:

You can open each on of these up and make changes. When you do so, you change how the operating system functions anf presents itself. Below are some of the controls and examples of changes you can make:

You can set Windows to automatically check for updates from Microsoft as often as you wish, and set how the updates will be presented. You can change the appearance of the Desktop, windows, and other style elements in XP. This includes themes, color schemes, wallpapersThe image that appears on the Desktop, as well as screen resolutionYou remember this from the section on Monitors, right? If not, please go back and check. and screensaversAn animation or other distraction that plays after x minutes of no activity. This is intended to prevent the monitor from being damaged by "burn in.". You can also customize the Desktop, adding major icons like "My Computer."
Change the way folders act. For example, you can set the default for browser-style viewing (as opposed to new folders appearing in a new window), or you can choose between the Task Manager or Folder Navigation at the left of every window. Here you can change a good many settings for Internet Explorer. I strongly recommend NOT using IE, instead you should use alternate browsers such as Safari, Chrome, or Firefox. However, if you must use IE, you can change its settings here.
Here you can set up how numbers, currency, time & date will be displayed, depending on which country's standards you use. You may also install new language input sets--for example, on an English version of Windows, you can install East Asian fonts and inputfor Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. Set the beep sounds in XP. Don't like the error beep? Change it to something you like better. It should be a WAVA "WAV" file is a type of sound--as opposed to an "MP3," "WMA" or "AIFF" sound file. sound.
Find out information about your computer. Which version of the OS are you using? What CPU does your computer have? What is your clock speed? How much RAM is installed? Other more advanced controls are available as well, but CAUTION: changing settings you don not understand in theis panel could cause trouble. Want to put your task bar at the top instead of the bottom? Or make it bigger? Change how the Start Menu looks?

It might be a good idea to go through the Control Panel and see if there is anything you might want to change. Try to stay away from areas you don't understand, however; network or advanced system settings could cause problems that you might want to avoid.


A few other Control Panel items to consider:
  • Security Center: Make sure your security settings are done correctly. DO you have an anti-virus app running? (The one that came with your computer was only good for a few months, then turned off!) If you don't download the free app "Avast."

  • User Accounts: Do you share your computer with other people, maybe family members? Creating different accounts gives you privacy, allowing you to choose your own system settings, and having separate areas for email and documents.

  • Add or Remove Programs: On the Mac, you just drop apps in the Application folder, or send them to the Trash. In Windows, however, most apps muct be installed or uninstalled. This is the place where you do that.

  • Fonts: You can download free fonts from various sites (see our Link Page); install them by dropping them into this folder.

  • Printers and Faxes: If you are having trouble with a printing job, check the printer status here.


If you use a Mac, you should consider running through its System Preferences as well; you can find a variety of interesting user settings. Among the more useful "Preference Panes":

  • International: Mac OS has excellent language abilities. Change the main language of the OS (impossible in Windows), or activate any of 50 or so text-input languages in seconds.

  • Trackpad: Apple's trackpads are the best you'll find, and use multi-touch gestures, which you can control with this pane. Right-click with a two-finger tap; reveal the desktop by swiping four fingers upward; activate "Next" or "Back" buttons with three fingers swiping left or right.

  • Keyboard: Aside from standard keyboard settings, this pane also allows you to change or create keyboard shortcuts for the entire OS, as well as for any program; a powerful tool!

  • Sharing: This pane allows you to control many different network and sharing preferences. Share printers, web connections, network disks, optical disks, and much more using your Mac. If another computer cannot use a printer, they can just use it via another Mac on the network. You can also share screens, and see what another computer's monitor is doing. And if you do web page design, Mac OS X has a web server built-in; just switch it on and you can host a web site!

  • Others: Like Windows, Mac OS also has panes for User Accounts ("Accounts"), the Taskbar ("Dock"), Network, Displays, Mouse, Date & Time, Software Updates, and more. Using "CDs & DVDs" you can tell the computer what action to take when discs are intserted; using "Energy Saver," you can set auto-sleep and other power settings; "Time Machine" sets backups; and "Speech" allows for speech controls and reading of text.



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