We reviewed the original edition of Windows 7 Inside Out back in 2010 and we considered it a great book for people who want to go in depth with their understanding of the Windows 7 operating system. The authors together with Microsoft Press, just launched a Deluxe Edition of the book. So I wondered: what makes this new edition worthy of being called Deluxe? I was very interested to find out.
NOTE: As with our previous review, I am reviewing the e-book version, so I can't comment on the extra materials in the printed edition.
What's New and... Deluxe?
The authors (Ed Bott, Carl Siechert and Craig Stinson) say that they added several new chapters and put their continuing research into Windows 7 into other revisions throughout the book. Since the original version was a "mere" 1000 pages long, and this edition is 1360 pages long, it's clear they've gone all out to give the reader even more. Some large books get their size from filler, illustrations and editorial digressions, but this book is not one of them. It's full of genuine, useful information delivered by people who clearly know what they're talking about and—more importantly—how to explain it all to other people who need to know more.
The book's chapters and sections are logically laid out, for the most part. Windows 7 Inside Out, Deluxe Edition starts with an introduction to the operating system, then leads the reader through the differences between Windows 7 and previous versions of Microsoft Windows, and then explains how to set it up and configure it. In fact, most of the book is devoted to things that one can do with Windows 7 on your computer, without connecting to the Internet or using additional software. There's information about Internet Explorer, Windows Live, and Windows Help included in "Part 1. Getting Started", but that's the only part of the book that takes you outside your own workspace. I would have liked to see all that information combined in a section of its own, placed at the end of the book after all the chapters about getting your Windows 7 computer set up and managed to your own specifications, but that's a minor quibble.
Everything about everything?
Even though this is a huge book, it's well laid out and the chapters walk the reader through each topic in logical steps. The authors clearly know their subject and their writing is clear and to the point. I found the straightforward, conversational style especially appealing. The authors always make it clear when some versions of Windows 7 have, or don't have, the features they're discussing. There's an abbreviated Table of Contents and a more detailed one, and a 70-page index, so finding any particular topic is easy, even if you don't have electronic search tools at your disposal. The book is available in multiple e-book formats, although the file may be too large for some older e-readers (like my Sony Touch). Like almost all computer books, Windows 7 Inside Out, Deluxe Edition need not be read straight through, although there are so many interesting tidbits available throughout the book that someone who just looks up what they need to know may miss out on a lot. Of course, not everyone needs the wealth of information that's here, and the extremely extensive exploration of Windows 7 is definitely not for everyone. I especially liked the section that deals with Windows Explorer. That's been one of my most-used applications for all the years I've been using various versions of Microsoft Windows, and the interface changed so radically between Windows XP and newer versions that, when I first installed Windows 7, I had a difficult time adapting. This section gave me some great ideas for making Windows Explorerwork the way I want it to (the book as a whole talks a lot about personalization and logical shortcuts) and after reading it I've got an interface that makes sense for the way I work. A definite plus.
Tuning, Tweaking & Fixing Everything
Part 5 of the book, Tuning, Tweaking and Troubleshooting, has six chapters, two of which should be required reading for everyone: Performing Routine Maintenance and Troubleshooting Windows Errors and Crashes. Since Windows 7 works so well, many of us figure we don't need to keep up the maintenance that we had to do to keep previous versions of Windows alive. While things like disk defragmentation are a lot less necessary now than they once were, it's good to see the authors explain why it still should be done. I've always been a firm advocate of not using hard drives for dead storage, and I was happy to see the authors agreed with me on that, and gave good, common-sense instructions for file management, disk cleanup, removal of the Windows 7 features the reader does not use, and general strategies for conserving space. Quite frankly, I wish more books about Windows 7 would include a section like that. Years ago when I worked at a radio station, when things went wrong, we always knew the Chief Engineer's first question would be "What have you done to try to fix the problem?". Computers can be confusing and scary at times, and being armed with a good solid reference book like Windows 7 Inside Out, Deluxe Edition can go a long way toward making the reader feel confident. The Troubleshooting Windows Errors and Crashes chapter helps give the reader confidence in the error-reporting process and confidence in finding out what might have gone wrong and putting it right. That alone might be well worth the price of the book.
What I Liked and Did Not Like
Honestly, I found very little not to like in this book. It's easy to read and loaded with practical and interesting information. The authors know their subject and clearly have enjoyed digging deeper into Windows 7 than most people would. They like explaining things and offering helpful tips to make everything work more efficiently. It is easy to find information in the book, and since the writing and explanations are so clear, it's easy to understand what to do once one finds the information. That said, this is a very large book and it's not really for the beginner who just wants simple instructions to get Windows 7 up and running and to keep it working right. It goes into a lot of detail, which may be more than some people want to deal with. The focus is on doing things with Windows 7 in your own workspace rather than the things one can do when connected to the outside world. The section called Some Useful Accessory Programs is about applications built into Windows 7, rather than easily available software from other sources.
Windows 7 Inside Out, Deluxe Edition is an excellent reference and a genuine educational resource. It's a huge book and has all kinds of information that the reader may not have known before (but can be put to good use immediately). If you want buy only one Windows 7 reference book, this definitely should be the one. It's a keeper! If you purchased the first edition of the book, look through the table of contents of this new edition. I'm pretty sure you will find new chapters & content which will make you consider this new edition. If you did not purchase the first edition of the book, then go directly for the Deluxe Edition. You don't get more complete books about Windows 7 than this.