Update: I’m giving away my copy of this book, completely free to one lucky comment author. See below for more details.
Andy Rathbone started geeking around with computers in 1985 when he bought a 26-pound portable CP/M Kaypro 2X. Like other nerds of the day, he soon began playing with null-modem adapters, dialing computer bulletin boards, and working part-time at Radio Shack.
He wrote articles for various techie publications before moving to computer books in 1992. He’s written the Windows for Dummies series, Upgrading and Fixing PCs for Dummies, TiVo for Dummies, PCs: The Missing Manual, and many other computer books.
Today, he has more than 15 million copies of his books in print, and they’ve been translated into more than 30 languages. You can reach Andy at his Web site, www.andyrathbone.com.
In this article, I interview Andy and find out about his new book Windows 7 for Dummies and share my thoughts on it after reading it myself.
Interview with Andy Rathbone
Tell me about your first Windows for Dummies book.
My first “For Dummies” book was cowriting the first release of “PCs For Dummies” with Dan Gookin. Dan had just finished writing “DOS For Dummies,” the book that started the whole Dummies franchise. When DOS For Dummies began to sell well, the publishers wanted a quick sequel. Since Dan was about to take off for his honeymoon, he gave me a call, and we cowrote the first edition of “PCs For Dummies” in a month, swapping chapters with a dial-up modem. (This was 1992.)
After PCs For Dummies took off, I wrote Windows For Dummies, based on Windows 3.1. That book came out in 1992, as well. Since then, I’ve written more than 40 For Dummies books, and just brought Windows For Dummies up to the latest version, Windows 7 For Dummies.
What inspired you to write Windows for Dummies?
It wasn’t an inspiration as much as a great opportunity. Back then, nobody really knew the series would sell. Booksellers were afraid to stock a book that referred to readers as “Dummies.” Thankfully, the public not only understood but embraced the concept as a welcome change. Back then, most computer books were dry, boring things written for techies and computer scientists. Nobody wrote books for the general public, and since PCs had just started to enter homes, there was a huge demand.
You wrote an article for Datamation titled: Why I dont like Vista. In the article, you list problems like: security issues, UAC nags, and no simple “off” button. In fact, you provided quite a comprehensive list. What is your biggest Vista pet peeve?
Windows Vista never gave me a sense of being in control of my own PC. Vista behaved like a mean schoolteacher trying to thwart me from doing anything fun. Whether it’s the nag screens, or the extra layer of clicks required to accomplish simple tasks, Vista behaves more like an obstacle than a helper.
Do you feel this is addressed with Windows 7?
Yes. Windows 7 is much more friendly and accommodating than Windows Vista, and it makes Windows XP look like an old VW – comfortable, familiar, and nostalgic, but also slow and quirky.
What are your three favorite features of Windows 7?
Well, I like the Search box, for example. I type quickly, so it’s easier to fetch the Calculator by typing “calc” into the Search box than clicking Start, choosing All Programs, then Accessories, and then clicking “Calculator” from the list.
Whenever I’m on a Windows XP PC, I miss Windows 7’s Jump Lists. Like most people, I round up the same applications and documents every day. Right-clicking a taskbar icon fetches a list of the last few things I’ve worked on, making them easy to retrieve without having to create shortcuts, or remember any folder locations.
Libraries took some getting used to, but I find they’re a quick and easy way to find things on my PC, as well as on my network. We’re living in an age of terabyte hard drives and scattered data, and Windows XP just can’t keep up.
Is Windows 7 a turning point of redemption, from Vista, for Microsoft? Why (not)?
Yes. The birth of netbooks finally made Microsoft realize that bigger isn’t always better. So the programmers stripped out the fat, focused on speed and ease of use, and came up with Windows 7. It’s run well on every PC I’ve installed it on, from old laptops to an old Pentium 3 I use as a backup on my network.
Manufacturers now have a good stock of drivers, so most modern devices work with Windows 7. If something doesn’t work after the first install, Windows 7 can often fetch a driver through Windows Update.
You say “My books aren’t written for ‘dummies,’ they’re written for people who feel like dummies when Windows doesn’t act the way it should.” My Mum doesn’t really know how Windows should act, is this book for her?
She’d probably enjoy it. Lots of people prefer step-by-step instructions, which reduces the fear of failure. That’s what holds many people back, especially older people who weren’t born with PCs in their schools. When electronic devices first appeared, they were pretty fragile. Many older folks are still afraid of breaking their PC by clicking the wrong thing. Windows For Dummies gives them enough confidence and knowledge to plunge ahead. Plus, the book tosses in enough tidbits of information to take them to a higher level – if they care about becoming proficient with computers. Many people prefer putting their energies into other areas, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.
What about tech-enthusiasts who are learning how to use Windows here at Windows Guides?
Most tech-enthusiasts welcome the Dummies books. They might not learn much from them personally, but they’re sure handy to hand to friends and relatives who need to know the basics.
Amazon has a pre-order for Windows 7 For Dummies Book + DVD bundle, due for release on Oct 3, 2009. Will users be able to watch the DVD and follow along with their PC as they are watching?
Yes, to an extent. The DVD shows some step-by-steps, and offers a few tips. It’s also a confidence booster to see the steps walked through onscreen. By itself, it’s no substitute for the book, but the two complement each other well.
What is your number one tip for Windows users?
When in doubt, right-click. A right-click nearly always fetches a pop-up menu with helpful information, or a list of tasks you can do with that item. It helps beginners copy files to a CD, for example. But it also helps techies. For example, a techie friend of mine had four drives in his PC, but he couldn’t figure out which physical drive he was viewing in Windows’ Disk Management window – that area where you can view and change your drives’ partitions. But if you right-click on a drive’s name in Disk Management, say, “Disk 2,” and choose Properties, the Properties window shows the model number of the drive, making it easy to see which drive bay contains the drive you’re reading about.
That right-click tip can carry you a long way.
Thank you for your time Andy!
My Thoughts on Windows 7 for Dummies
The PC books for dummies really are designed for anyone that’s ever used a PC and felt like a dummy because the computer isn’t doing what they expect it to do. Windows 7 for dummies is an excellet compliment to Windows 7 and can be found useful by anyone (your Mum included :)
This 414-page book covers the A-Z of Windows 7—from Windows 7 Stuff Everybody Thinks You Already Know to Customizing and Upgrading Windows 7 and Music, Movies, Memories (And Photos, Too.) I love how the books expounds upon simple concepts like “What’s the difference between Save and Save As…?” right through to advanced concepts like configuring a home network’s homegroup to work with Windows XP, Vista, and 7.
The book comes with tons of valuable tidbits like Ten Things You’ll Hate About Windows 7 (and How to Fix them), which covers: getting your iPod to work with Windows by using iTunes and not transferring music to the “Portable Hard Drive” as Windows recognizes it; this section also covers things like annoying popups and slow-downs from Windows Aero (glass effect.)
There’s a great introduction to Windows 7 Media Center, which will prepare you to hack it and modify it with these guides on mintywhite.
I highly recommend this book. I love books like this and I’ve nearly read it cover to cover (will have it finished by the time this article is published… I just couldn’t wait to write the review!) You can buy it on Amazon and get it before Windows 7 hits the shelves.
Win a Copy of this Book
To win a copy of this book, simply make a comment on this post. You have until Monday, October 5, 2009 @ 11 P.M. EST to enter. I’ll randomly choose a winner and get in contact with you via private message/social network contact (your email is not collected with your comment.) The competition is open to anyone around the world and, of course, I’ll cover shipping. Thank you to book publisher and Andy for letting me give away the copy of the book they sent me.
Update: the winner is announced.
Buy Windows 7 for Dummies
Dislaimer: I have no affiliation with Andy Rathbone, Amazon, or the Dummies book series. I just love this book!