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Windows Elements


I've talked to many people who have no idea what I'm talking about when I refer to things such as "the File menu" or opening an item that's part of a tree. So, I've decided to explain them all here with pictures to make it easier to understand.


A window is simply a rectangular unit that acts independently from other windows. Windows come in two basic types: the application window, and the dialog box.

Application Window This is an application window. Application windows are the main part of almost all programs. Common elements of application windows include the control menu, menu bar, and border.
Dialog Box This is a dialog box. It is also, technically, a window. Dialogs are usually tied to an application and help perform a specific task or give details for the application. Most dialog boxes lack several of the control buttons and a border, and will have other buttons inside the window to complete a request such as "OK" and "CANCEL".


A border is "a part that forms the outer edge of something." (If you don't understand the dictionary definition of these words, you may as well give up.) As you can see in the above examples, the application window has a thin border around the edges (it's the part that looks like this: Border.) The border not only defines where the window is on the desktop, but it can also be used to change the size of most windows. If you point to the border with the mouse, the pointer will change to a double-headed arrow, like so: Resize Cursor. If you hold down the mouse button at this time, you can drag the border around and thus alter the size of the window.

Title Bar

A title is "a general or descriptive heading." A heading is "the title, subtitle, or topic that stands at the top or beginning." So, the title bar of the above application window would be: Title Bar; or more specifically, Title, since the control buttons are separate items. Besides identifying the window, a title bar lets you move the window around on the desktop by holding the mouse button down on the title and moving it.

Control Buttons

Control buttons are all the little buttons that are on the title bar but are not actually part of the title. These include:

Control menu: In Windows 3.x, the button that activates the control menu always looks like this: Control Menu Button. In Windows 95, the button is a miniature version of the program icon, such as: Control Menu Button. In every case, the button is located at the left hand side of the title bar. Pressing it will give you a menu with several standard window manipulation commands, such as: Control Menu. Note that all of these commands can be done with the mouse using other windows elements; their primary usefulness is in when you have to do any of these functions with the keyboard.
Minimize Button: In Windows 3.x, this button looks like: Minimize Button. Pressing it will remove the window and replace it with a program icon somewhere on the desktop. Clicking on that icon will bring up the control menu, so that you can open the window up again. In Windows 95, the button looks like: Minimize Button. Pressing it will remove the window, but leave the program's button on the Taskbar. If you click that button with the right mouse button, it will bring up the control menu just like Windows 3. But if you click the program's button with the left mouse button, the program window will immediately be brought back.
Maximize / Restore Button: In Windows 3.x, the Maximize Button looks like: Maximize Button. Pressing it will make the window as large as it cam possibly go - usually as large as the screen. The button will then change to the Restore Button: Restore Button, which you can press to change the window back to its previous size. In Windows 95, the Maximize Button looks like: Maximize Button. It does the same thing as its Windows 3 counterpart, except that the window will (usually) only go down as far as the Taskbar. This lets you see all the other programs that have buttons on the Taskbar so that you can easily switch between them using the mouse. The Restore Button in Windows 95 looks like: Restore Button.
Close Button: Windows 3.x doesn't have one of these. In Windows 95, it looks like: Close Button. Pressing this button is just one way of closing the window, and it's the easiest. But take caution on dialog boxes: when this button is active, it usually has the same effect as pressing the "CANCEL" button, so be sure you don't need to save any changes you made in the dialog box. Other ways of closing the window include double-clicking the control menu or clicking on the File menu and then Exit if it's an application window, and clicking on the "OK" button if it's a dialog box.
Help Button: A special addition to some Windows 95 title bars is this button: Help Button. If you press it, a question mark will be attached to the mouse pointer. Then when you click on something else in that window, you will see a little box describing the purpose of what you clicked on and/or how to use it: Help Popup.

Resize Handle

A new addition to some Windows 95 windows, the resize handle: Resize Handle is actually an extension to the border, found in the lower right corner of the window. It is especially useful when you want to change the size of the window but for some reason the border is too thin.

Menu Bar

A menu bar is present in merely every application window directly below the title bar. Each word on the bar is a separate menu. If you click on the word, the corresponding menu will appear, like so: Menu. Some programs have cascading menus, which means that an item inside the menu will bring you to another related menu. A very common example in Windows 95 is the Start menu (which, by the way, is not part of a menu bar but rather a button on the Taskbar): Cascading Menu Note that you can identify a cascading menu by the right-pointing arrow at the side.

Popup Menu

Another type of menu is the popup menu. Unlike other menus, the popup does not have a menu heading and is not attached to a particular spot on a window. Popup menus are usually activated by clicking the right mouse button on something, and the menu you get will depend on where exactly you clicked. For example, a typical popup menu for text box would look like this: Popup Menu.

Status Bar

Some windows have a status bar to indicate the current state of various parts of the application. This bar is usually located at the bottom of the window, and is a more-or-less solid gray line. For example, the status bar on the bottom of WordPad looks like this: Status Bar. On the left is a one-liner to give you hints about what you are doing. To the right are a couple of boxes that indicate whether the Caps Lock and Num Lock keys are on. (Part of the border and the Resize Handle are also shown.) The contents of the status bar will vary depending on what application you are in, and sometimes may change in the same program depending on what you are doing.


More Windows Elements on the next page


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