The Parts of a Window

infoIt is very important to learn the parts of a window. It makes working with Windows much easier, more pleasant and less frustrating. I've seen many people get frustrated because they cannot move a window out of the way, or can't change its size. They wouldn't have these problems if someone had sat down with them and explained to them what the parts of a window are and what they can do. Here is a small window, with its parts labeled.

Picture of a Notepad window

Each part of the window has special characteristics or functions. Let's take them one at a time.

The control buttons. The farthest right button, the red one with the X on it, closes the window or program when you click on it. The left-most button, that looks like a small underline character, minimizes the window. That means that when you click it, the window essentially disappears off your desktop and remains as a single button down at the bottom of your screen on the taskbar. When you click its button on the taskbar, the window comes back up again. Try it with the window you are viewing this in.

The middle button is called the maximize/restore button. That takes a bit of explaining. When a window is maximized, it takes up your entire monitor screen. It can't be moved when it is maximized, nor can you change the shape or size of a maximized window. When the middle button looks like it does above, it maximizes the window when you click it. You will notice that the middle button looks different once the window is maximized. It changes to look like this:

Image of just the 3 control buttons.

Now it shows two windows, one on top of the other. When you click on this, your window changes size to somewhere in between a minimized and a maximized window. It is restored to whatever size it was when not maximized or minimized. It is referred to as the restore button when it looks like this. When a window is restored, you can move it around the screen and you can change its size. You can have several windows on the screen this way, and the restore icon illustrates that point.

  • The Title Bar.  This is where the title of the window is displayed.  It shows you the title of any document that is open in the window, as well as the name of the program (application) itself.  If you click anywhere in the title bar (except on the control buttons, or on the icon on the far left) and hold your mouse button down, you can drag your mouse around, and the window will move wherever you drag it to.  Let go of the mouse button when you have it positioned where you want it.  You can only drag a window when you click in the title bar.

  • The menu bar.  This almost always has the word "File" on the far left, with "Help" on the right.  This is called the menu bar because when you click on any of the words on it, a menu of choices drops down from it.  You can then click on any of the choices on the menu to execute that function.

  • The Scroll bar and Thumb.  The scroll bar allows you to move up and down a page (or sideways, if it is a horizontal scroll bar) if the entire page or document does not fit on your screen.  There are several ways of using the scroll bar and it is helpful to be familiar with all of them.  If you click on one of the arrows at each end of the scroll bar, the page moves up or down one line.  If you click on either arrow and hold your mouse button down, the page scrolls up or down continuously until you release the mouse button.  If you click in the white space just above the thumb, your page will move up by one screen.  If you click on the white space below the thumb, your page moves down by one screen.  Alternatively, you can click and hold on the thumb itself and drag the page up or down as much as you wish, enabling you to go to any point on the page very quickly, without lots of clicking.  The thumb has another very interesting characteristic.  On some pages it is quite tall, on others quite thin.  The size of the thumb compared to the amount of combined white space above and below the thumb, shows you how much of the document you are viewing on your screen compared to the entire length of the document.  For instance, let's say that the thumb is about equal to the combined white space above and below it on the scroll bar.  That tells you that you are viewing approximately half of the page on your screen.  It also shows where you are in the page.  If the thumb is at the top in this instance, you are viewing the top half of the page, if it is at the bottom, you are viewing the bottom half of the page.  Let's say you are reading a news article that is too long to fit on your screen without scrolling.  You take a look at the scroll bar and see that the thumb is about an quarter of an inch tall, and the combined white space is about 6 inches.  You are viewing about 1/24th of the length of the article on one screen.  That's a fairly long article, and maybe you don't have time to read it right now, so you decide to come back to it later.  Maybe you read the first half and have to go somewhere.  You come back to the page later, you can drag that thumb about halfway down the page, and you'll be able to spot where you left off.  Play with the thumb on this page and you'll see very simply what takes many words to describe.

  • Toolbar. There is another part of a window that looks something like this:

  • Picture of a toolbar

  • This part is not shown in the labeled diagram at the beginning of this article because it contains various icons and buttons that will differ from one program to the next.  A toolbar gives you quick access to commonly used functions, without having to search through the menus to find the functions.  You will generally see a toolbar directly under the menu bar, but toolbars can also be at the bottom of a window, can run vertically along either side, or can even float over the active window. Some programs refer to this toolbar as the Ribbon, and it can typically be customized by the user.
  • Some programs have yet another similar toolbar referred to as the Quick Access Toolbar. This toolbar can be created and customized by the user to include functions like Save, Open, Print, Undo, etc.

  • Practice using the parts of a window so you can use them without thinking about it.  It will save you time and aggravation.

Click the arrow for the next article, Basic Computer Maintenance.