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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book


As noted, a window is a content container. Desktop windows are of two basic types: modal and non-modal. A non-modal window is one that you can switch out of and then switch back to. A modal window is one that requires you to perform an action before it allows you to do something else. An alert box is an example of a modal window something you must deal with before you can do other work.

In red-circle-a, a non-modal application window is shown with some of its window interface elements identified. Here you can work in more than one window at the same time. The application is Microsoft Publisher, and the document is an origami crane. Windows were designed to work with both your mouse and your keyboard. You won’t use touch to use windows of this type.

Here’s a brief description of the important window elements:

  • Title bar. This bar contains the window name and, usually, the name of the application that is responsible for it. Drag the title bar to move the window from place to place.

    When a title bar has focus, its window is the active window and can be acted upon.

  • Window menu. The application icon is actually the Window menu, put there to allow you to perform window actions with your keyboard. Click the icon or press Alt+spacebar to reveal commands that allow you to restore, move, size, minimize, maximize, and close (Alt+F4) the window red-circle-b.

    red-circle-b Window commands

    Note that the Window menu and the Quick Launch toolbar shown in gray-circle-a are application-specific features (Microsoft Office). Here the application is Publisher, so that icon shows.

  • Restore command. This command gray-circle-b toggles a maximized window back to its previous size.
  • Move command. This command gray-circle-b selects the window and allows you to use the arrow keys or your mouse cursor to move the window in any direction.
  • Size command. This command gray-circle-b allows you to use the arrow keys or your mouse cursor to resize your window.
  • Minimize. Click this button on the toolbar or select this command gray-circle-b to reduce a window to an icon.
  • Maximize. Click this button on the toolbar or select this command gray-circle-b to display a window full screen.
  • Restore. Click this button on the toolbar or select this command gray-circle-b to return the window to its former size (before you minimized or maximized it).
  • Close button. Click this button or press Alt+F4 to close a window. The application should prompt you to save any changes, if necessary.

    Note that you can press Alt+spacebar to open the Window menu, and then press the underlined key to execute the command. This is a general Windows feature. For example, Alt+N minimizes the window.

  • Window border. Drag a window border to resize the window in one direction. Use the window corner to resize the window in two directions.
  • Scroll bars. The scroll bars are used as a visual indicator for your horizontal or vertical position inside the window. Click a scroll bar arrow to move one increment in that direction. Click the scroll bar to move one screen page in that direction. Drag the scroll box (slider) to move the view of the window contents as far as you like.

There are many keystrokes that move your window view. Use Home to move to the top of the window; End to move to the bottom; and Page Up or Page Down to move up or down one full page or screen. These keystrokes support the vertical toolbar.

To switch between windows on the Desktop, click a window to make it active or use the Task Switcher.

Sometimes a window can be both modal and non-modal. A modal window is one that requires an action before you can close it or that forces you to act before you can do anything else. Modal windows illustrate some important general window navigation features. red-circle-c shows a Save dialog box. It is both non-modal and modal at the same time. You can do things in programs other than Word; but it is a modal window for Word because you can’t do anything else in Word until you dismiss it.


red-circle-c A Save dialog box

Non-modal windows have the following features:

  • A Default action. This button is usually drawn with a bold button frame and can be activated by pressing Enter. gray-circle-d shows the Save button bordered with a blue dotted frame.
  • A Cancel or Escape action. This removes the dialog box without making changes. Press the Esc key or click the Cancel button to perform this action.
  • A Tab order. Press the Tab key to move from button to button in the tab order, or press Alt+Tab to move backward in that order.
  • Shortcuts. Dialog boxes and alert boxes have keystroke equivalents for buttons, fields, and other items. They are usually indicated by underlined letters. Here, you press the S key to perform the Save action.

To use the Task Switcher

  1. Press Alt+Tab to view the Task Switcher red-circle-d.

  2. Hold the Alt key down and press the Tab key repeatedly to cycle through all the open windows until the one you want is highlighted.
  3. Release the Alt key. You can use Shift+Alt+Tab to move backward through the Tab order.
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