Paul McFedries' Web Home


The Complete Idiot's Guide to Windows 98 The Complete Idiot's Guide to Windows 98

Chapter 1


Title art Copyright Judd Winick What's New in Windows 98

In This Chapter

Some of Windows 98's Shiny, New Features
Windows Gets Webbed: Web Integration and the Active Desktop
The Net and Windows 98: Internet Explorer 4 and More
New Tools for Problem-Free Computing
Sights for Sore Eyes and Ears: Windows 98 Multimedia
Support for the Latest Hardware Toys
A Few More New Features to Get Excited About
The Transition from Windows 3.1 to Windows 98

In this chapter, I give you a quick rundown of the new and noteworthy knickknacks that come with Windows 98. I also give former Windows 3.1 users a few pointers to help ease their transition into Microsoft's latest and greatest operating system. Of course, this is just to give you the lay of the Windows 98 land; everything I mention here is cross-referenced to later parts of the book where I provide complete info on these features.

Some of Windows 98's Shiny, New Features

If you've used Windows 95, you and Windows 98 should get along just fine, thank you. Sure, this new version is chock full of changes large and small. But you arenít likely to find anything in Windows 98 that throws you for a loop. Many of these improvements are internal tweaks that only technology jockeys find interesting, but that help your system run faster, smoother, and more efficiently. And there are plenty of new and improved goodies for average users who just want to get their work done without any extra fuss.

Windows Gets Webbed: Web Integration and the Active Desktop

Anyone who has messed around with the Internet's World Wide Web knows just how easy it can be to click links to move from page to page; it really is a quick, intuitive way to get from here to there. The Microsoft programmers have given us more of a good thing in Windows 98, with their "Web integration" design. In Windows 98, you move through the system, files, and folders just as you move through the Web—click here, jump there. Web integration alters the Windows landscape in the following ways:

One-click icon and program launching: With Web integration, Windows 98 underlines the names of icons and files so that they resemble Web page links. Launching an icon or file now requires only a single click.
No-click icon and file selection: Web integration also means that you can select an icon or file simply by hovering the mouse pointer over the object.
Folders are now mini Web pages: Each folder on your system now comes with a "Web view" that makes the folder look and act like a miniature Web page. For example, check out the My Computer folder shown in the following figure. It has a Web-like look—and if you move the mouse over an icon, you get a short description of that icon (to its left).

The My Computer folder in Web view
The My Computer folder in Web view: a nicer look and "live" icons, to boot.

The Active Desktop: The Windows 95 desktop was a simple all-show-and-no-go affair. That's now changed because the Windows 98 Active Desktop offers plenty of "go" for those who want it. The Active Desktop is capable of displaying all kinds of moveable feasts, including Web pages and miniprograms such as Java applets and ActiveX controls. The next figure shows the Active Desktop with a couple of gadgets from the Active Desktop Gallery (a weather map and a stock ticker).
The Windows 98 Active Desktop
This ain't no Windows 95 wallpaper: The Active Desktop can display interactive and updateable content.

The Net and Windows 98: Internet Explorer 4 and More

The Internet is where all the action is these days, and Windows 98 has carved out its own seat on the bandwagon. If you're itching to get online, Windows 98 has a ton of topnotch tools for getting you on the Internet and keeping you there:

Get online with a minimum of bother: Windows 98's improved Internet Connection Wizard makes it easy to establish your Internet lifeline. There's also a new Online Services folder for quick setup of online services such as America Online and the Microsoft Network.
Browse the Web just as you do your computer: In Windows 98, the differences between what's on your computer and what's "out there" on the Internet are blurred. As you can see in the following figure, with the new Windows Explorer, Web pages and other Internet sites are just another resource in addition to your hard disk and CD-ROM.

You can access the Internet from Windows Explorer
The Internet: Think of it as a really big hard disk!

The Cadillac of browsers—Internet Explorer 4.0: The Internet Explorer 4.0 Web browser is sewn right into the fabric of Windows 98. It's ready-to-surf, so you don't have to suffer through the whole download-and-install rigmarole. Plus you get all the nifty features found in Internet Explorer 4.0: subscriptions, channels (that's the "push" media everyone's talking about), new and improved Search, Favorites, and History features, and much more.
Internet tools to beat the band(width): The Windows 98 stocking is stuffed with lots of other handy Internet programs. For those who can't pass up a good conversation, there's Outlook Express for email and newsgroups, and NetMeeting for phone or video conferencing. If you feel like putting your own words on the Web, there's FrontPage Express, the Web Publishing Wizard, and Personal Web Server.
Web-based upgrades with Windows Update: Keeping up with the latest Windows innovations has always been a difficult task, particularly with the accelerated pace we've seen over the past few years. To help out, Microsoft now has a Windows Update Web site that checks your system and then lets you know whether new features are available. You can grab these updates from the Web, and Windows 98 will install everything for you automatically.

New Tools for Problem-Free Computing

Computers are fairly reliable machines these days, but that doesn't mean that trouble never rears its ugly head. You can help lessen the chances of a problem arising by performing regular system maintenance chores. That's not as much of a burden as it might seem because Windows 98 has some excellent tools for the job:

A better Backup: Doing the backup thing has never been easier, thanks to Windows 98's revamped and "wizardized" Backup utility.
The Maintenance Wizard: This new member of the wizard family (shown in the next figure) takes you step-by-step through the process of setting up and scheduling automatic system maintenance.
The new Maintenenace Wizard
The new Maintenance Wizard.
Scheduled Tasks folder: The easiest way to make sure that regular maintenance chores stay regular is to use the new Scheduled Tasks folder to force Windows to perform those chores at scheduled intervals.
More space on your drive with DriveSpace: Windows 98's version of the DriveSpace disk-compression program is much better at squeezing data down to size. It can also do much of the work behind the scenes so that you'll rarely have to worry about it.
The System File Checker: This new utility keeps an eye on some crucial system files to make sure they don't get trashed. If they do, the System File Checker can restore a previous configuration to get you up and running again.

Sights for Sore Eyes and Ears: Windows 98 Multimedia

If the right side of your brain is wondering, "Hey, what's in this for me?" tell it not to worry—Windows 98 has no shortage of multimedia marvels:

Watch TV on your PC: Windows 98 comes wired for cable! With the right equipment in your PC, you can use WebTV for Windows to find and watch TV broadcasts.
"What's on the Web tonight?"—The NetShow Player: The Web gets more TV-like each day, and Windows 98's built-in NetShow Player hastens that transition. NetShow enables you to view videos and other "live" Web-based multimedia content without having to wait for a huge file to download (see the following figure).
The NetShow player
The NetShow player lets you eyeball videos and live feeds from the Web in real time.
Pentium MMX support: If you purchased your computer recently, there's a good chance it's an MMX (MultiMedia eXtensions) machine. This means it's capable of displaying fancy graphics images, such as the ones found in the latest games. Because Windows 98 has built-in support for MMX, you'll be able to get the most out of your graphics hardware.
Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) support: DVD is the would-be successor to both videotape and CD-ROMs. It hasn't taken off yet, but it probably will soon. When it does, you'll be ready because Windows 98 and DVD are fast friends.
Image and video capture: Windows 98 supports a number of devices that capture still images (scanners and digital cameras) and video streams (conferencing cameras and desktop video camcorders).

Support for the Latest Hardware Toys

One of Windows' goals is to make it easy for you to interact with the devices attached to your computer. The hardware manufacturers have been busy over the past couple of years, and Windows 98 has been beefed up to handle a wide variety of recent hardware innovations. You probably don't want to know much about things like the Universal Serial Bus and FireWire, and thanks to Windows 98's support for these initiatives, you won't have to. Here's a list of a few of the hardware-related features that Windows 98 is friendly with:

Real wheel mouse support: Windows 98 has built-in support for the extra wheel "button" found on the Microsoft Intellimouse (and a few other mice). In most Windows 98 windows, you can scroll up or down by rotating the wheel.
Niceties for notebooks: If you use a notebook computer, Windows 98 has plenty of fun things in store for you. For example, you can manage the notebook's power consumption to save battery life. Windows 98 also has new tools for working with PC Cards (the credit card-size modems and things that slip into your machine—especially into notebook computers; they're also know as PCMCIA cards), infrared ports, and docking stations.
More storage options: Windows 98 has increased support for storage devices outside the standard floppy disk/hard disk/CD-ROM realm. In addition to working with DVD drives, as mentioned earlier, Windows 98 can also deal with Zip drives and Jaz drives.

A Few More New Features to Get Excited About

To finish our look at what's new in the Windows 98 world, here's a list of a few miscellaneous improvements:

Faster startup and shut down: The Microsoft engineers have streamlined some of the startup and shut down chores, and now Windows 98 loads and quits faster than before.
It's easier to find the things you need: Windows 98 comes with a folder called My Documents that you can use as a central storage area for the files you create. Also, you can use the Favorites folder to store locations you visit often, whether on the Internet, your network, or your hard disk. And because the Favorites folder is now accessible from the Start menu, dialing up your fave spots is more convenient than ever.
Easier Start menu customization: Windows 98 enables you to reposition Start menu items by dragging them up or down in a menu.
Improved Accessibility options: Windows 98 continues the excellent support for the needs of disabled users that was pioneered in Windows 95. To make these Accessibility options even easier to use, Windows 98 comes with a new Accessibility Wizard (see the following figure). Windows 98 also includes a new utility, called the Microsoft Magnifier, that enables you to zoom in on the screen and view the contents at increased magnifications.
The Accessibility Wizard
The Accessibility Wizard makes it easier than ever to customize Windows for users with special needs.

The Transition from Windows 3.1 to Windows 98

Lots of people will be heading into Windows 98 having already struggled with the intricacies of Windows 3.1. That's a good start, but Windows 98 is different enough that you'll face a bit of a learning curve.

The overall design of Windows 98 is simpler and cleaner than that of Windows 3.1. Launching programs is more straightforward and the things you need are much easier to find. For my money, though, Windows 98's Most Valuable Feature award definitely goes to its support for longer file names. That's right—no more trying to shoehorn a meaningful name into a measly eight-plus-three characters. Now you can go crazy because the limit has been bumped up to a positively verbose 255 characters! (One word of warning, though: only programs designed for Windows 95 or Windows 98 can understand these long-winded names.)

By far the most annoying thing about Windows 3.1 was its perverse tendency to go up in flames whenever an important deadline or meeting loomed large. Windows 98 was designed from the ground up to be more stable and not give up the ghost as easily as Windows 3.1 did. (Again, however, you'll need to use programs created specifically for Windows 95 or Windows 98 to get semi-bullet-proof operations.)

Directories? Nope—Folders
You may as well remove the word "directory" from your Windows vocabulary. Directories are called "folders" in Windows 98.

To give you an idea of what to expect from your new operating system, the following table names a few common Windows 3.1 tasks (and some DOS 6 ones, too), tells you the Windows 98 equivalents, and points you to the relevant chapters in the book.

Windows 3.1 tasks and their Windows 98 counterparts.


TaskWindows 3.1/DOS 6Windows 98Chapter

Launch a programProgram ManagerStart menu3
Switch programsAlt+TabTaskbar or Alt+Tab3
Word processingWriteWordPad21
Create picturesPaintbrushPaint22
Work with filesFile ManagerWindows Explorer13-15
Find filesFile | Search in File ManagerStart | Find14
Undelete a fileUNDELETE (DOS)Recycle Bin14
Repair a diskSCANDISK (DOS)ScanDisk25
Defragment filesDEFRAG (DOS)Disk Defragmenter25
Compress filesDRVSPACE (DOS)DriveSpace25
Back up filesBACKUP (DOS)Backup26
Control print jobsPrint ManagerPrinters folder7
Customize WindowsControl Panel groupControl Panel folder9-12
Use a modemTerminalHyperTerminal16
Connect computersINTERLNK (DOS)Direct Cable Connection24
Use accessoriesAccessories groupStart | Programs | Accessories3
Set the timeControl Panel | ClockTaskbar clock11
Get helpHelp menu in Program ManagerStart | Help8
Exit WindowsFile | Exit in Program ManagerStart | Shut Down2



Return to The Complete Idiot's Guide to Windows 98 home page


Copyright © 1995 - 2014 Paul McFedries and Logophilia Limited