Windows is a graphically driven operating system (opposed to a command line driven operating system) in which multiple windows may be open simultaneously. In this post, I explain the anatomy of a window with emphasis on the specific parts that construct an application window and descriptions of the elements that comprise a standard window.
Active Versus Inactive Windows
Commands, or actions, are applied to the active window. Below are examples of active and inactive windows.
The simplest way to tell which window is active is to look for the blue title bar at the top of the window. Also, the active window is always “on top” of other windows that may be open and when the inactive window is behind the active window, you cannot do anything with that window without first moving the active out of the way.
Color Schemes and Active Versus Inactive Windows
If your colour scheme hasn’t been changed from its default settings, the active window’s title bar is blue while the inactive window’s title bar is grey (in Windows XP). In Windows Vista and Windows 7 the title bar is always faded slightly out lower in colour than the active title bar.
[ Top of Page ]
Window Anatomy – Dissecting Various Application Windows
In this section I use three applications to dissect the parts of an application window. The applications I use are Notepad, Microsoft Word, and Windows Explorer, to give you a better understanding of how the various components that make up a window operate with practical emphasis on different utilities built into a Windows operating system.
I have dissected the Notepad window to give you an idea of the anatomy of a window. Its main components are listed below from the top down.
- Minimize Button – minimizes an application to the system tray or decreases its size from larger to smaller.
- Maximize Button – enlarges the application window to fit full screen or increases its size from smaller to larger.This button is also known as the restore button. It’s job is to return a window to its previous size. It only shows if a window has been maximized.
- Close Button – closes the application window completely or exits the application.
This is the menu bar. These menu systems appear in all software applications as a way to access key functions within a program.
If I hover over the File word on the menu, a sub-menu appears with seven sub-menus each with a specific program function.
You can hover your mouse cursor over the Edit, Format, View, and Help menus and get the idea of how each menu works. You select command by left clicking once with the mouse, and the action is completed or executed.
[ Top of Page ]
A toolbar is a set of buttons that provide specific program functions. The Windows Notepad application being used in the example below has no toolbars available, so I am going to use Microsoft Word as the new example.
There are four tool bars visible below the menu bar. Although Microsoft Word has more toolbars available to the application, I have shown only four of them to save screen space. Each toolbar has various commands and functions for completing tasks within the application.
You carry out actions by using the mouse and left clicking the icon or the toolbar command. Once you click on a button the action is executed. For example, if you want to create a new Microsoft Word document, simply click on the first button on the main toolbar that resembles a white paper sheet. A new document will then be created.
[ Top of Page ]
File and Folder Selection Area
After the tool bars comes File and Folder selection area. I’ve changed the example from Microsoft Word to Windows Explorer because it is more practical of an example to exemplify how this area on the Window works.
This is called the file selection area. Commands or actions are applied to objects on the this part of the Window. You can double click to open a new drive or folder and the contents are displayed accordingly in Windows Explorer.
The Status Bar
On the very bottom of the Window there is the object known as a status bar, that provides details about selected files. For example, this area might show the total amount of disk space used for any selected file or it will tell you how many objects have been selected.
The status bar shows information about a particular command and allows you to view status information. It will change based on the application, but you get see the general idea of how it works. The status bar is there to provide you with added information about an object on a Window.
[ Top of Page ]
Put all the object elements together, and you have the following windows:
Windows Explorer Application:
Microsoft Word Application
So now that you have a basic understanding of how a Window operates, you can further explore different applications and focus on the terminology used in this article to help you understand the elements of a window.
Congratulations! This is the end of the article. You now have a basic understanding of the anatomy of different windows in a Microsoft operating system environment, and what makes them tick.