Never has this happened to me before: I start to review this book and I have the final verdict clearly shaped into my mind after only 3 minutes. Ironically, that only made the task more difficult, as I had to make a great effort to lose the preconception, stop thinking about how to gift-wrap this for my grandma, read through and see if Windows 7 Plain & Simple is actually as plain and simple as it seems.
Who should read this book
The authors, Jerry Joyce and Marianne Moon, set the audience from the start. If you have a computer around there… somewhere, if you don't find any thrill in staying in front of the monitor all day but it's a necessary evil, and you use it only because you have to, then Bingo! This book should, as the authors say, "help you get your work done quickly and efficiently so that you can get away from the computer and live your life". Now you might understand why I was so quick to jump to conclusions. However, after reading the book, I'm tempted to think of another target audience: entry-level users. And when I say entry-level I really mean it. You could be in front of a computer for the first time in your life, have only this book as a guide and still perform decently. The book even teaches you how to wake up your computer by moving the mouse around. Enough said.
How the book is organized
The book is split into 16 chapters, which contain almost any basic task you might come across while working with Windows 7. The good thing about this book is that it starts at the very beginning. It teaches you how to start and shut down Windows 7, how to start a program and how to find and open a folder or a document. It doesn't assume anything, it only starts from the premise that you have a functional computer, with Windows 7 on it, and that the Internet works. You don't have to bring any baggage of computer-related knowledge into the equation, and that's what makes it great for beginners.
What can I learn from it?
As I said just now, you don't have to know much about computers when you start reading this, you'll still be able to do a decent job. The information is comprehensible, and it's structured in a manner that allows you to find the answer to your problem in a very short time. You don't have to read everything, you just have to browse the table of contents, find what ails you at that certain moment, go to the page, follow the step-by-step procedure and perform the task quickly, so you can be on your way and "live your life". That sounds really nice indeed, but that also means that you won't get much knowledge on Windows 7 from it. This book is like a conversation guide in Finnish. Yes, you will be able to ask where the toilet is, and find it, but you'll never learn the language.
The authors wanted to write a book on computers with no computer talk. It's very friendly and fun to read, but if you want some technical stuff, you will need to look someplace else. If you couldn't care less about the technical background and you only want to get something done on a computer with the minimum amount of headaches, then this book is perfect. Here's what we can find in it:
- The first chapter is an introduction to the book. The authors talk about computers like they would about any other home appliance, meant to work for you, not to occupy a good chunk of your time. A computer enthusiast will huff and puff at this and not bother reading the rest, so if you made it through Chapter 1 with a smile on your face you'll be quite pleased with the rest.
- The second chapter, suggestively named "Jump Right In", covers the very basic maneuvers, like starting Windows 7, shutting down, starting programs, working with files and folders or getting help. The third chapter focuses on accessing and organizing files and folders, while the fourth is about running programs.
Chapter 5 is dedicated to personalizing the Windows interface, and chapter six is all about Internet browsing, using Internet Explorer 8.
Chapters 7 to 10 explore games, working with pictures, multimedia and voice. After four sections of fun and games, the book takes us to less entertaining, but more complex issues.
Chapter 11 is about Printing and Scanning, Chapter 12 is focused on communicating via E-Mail, while Chapter 13 tries to explain Networking with no computer talk. Here, things are not as smooth as they should be, because, unfortunately, some technical background is needed in order to understand the notions. For example, if you're a beginner, and you want to Create a VPN Connection using this book as a guide, you will get quite lost (and, dare say, quite cross) when you'll see that one of the 5 steps presented is "Enter a name for the connection, and select any options you want." It sounds like "do whatever", and it's not very helpful. The step-by-step approach is great for simple tasks but fails when confronted with more complex issues.
- The last three chapters are focused on setting up, maintaining security using different accounts and, finally, managing Windows 7.
Is the information comprehensible?
At a first glance, yes! It's plain English, with no computer talk, it tries to reach the reader at a more personal, human level. The step-by-step approach works great in the beginning, when the simple tasks are explained, but gets bumpy on the way, as the issues get more complex. Avoiding the technical jargon this much is a risky ambition since, as plain and simple as this book wants to be, it deals after all with computers.
After reading the book I realized that the initial verdict was the correct one. Windows 7 Plain & Simple is great for those who just want to know their way in Windows 7 and perform simple tasks on their own, without reading hundreds of pages of technical background they don't care about. It's also good for entry-level users, as they will be able to get accustomed to Windows 7 in an easy way. Applying the same metaphor I used earlier, I could say that, if you're just visiting Windows 7 from time to time and want to know your way around, this book is the perfect conversation guide. However, if you want to learn more about this operating system, buy yourself a 'dictionary'.