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What Exactly Makes A Good Windows Book?

November 14, 2001

note: Windows Assistance is an Amazon Associate. This means we get a cut of the purchase if you purchase a book by clicking through from this site. Ain't Capitalism grand! You can also use the Amazon search engine that is below the Go To menu to find a book. 

Windows XP books have been put over here.

This page will be continually updated. If you have a favorite book then eMail us with the information. All books will be considered but not necessarily posted to this page.

This initial posting is just the beginning. It is a lot of work to hunt down all the books listed below. The books Windows Assistance recommend have been reviewed and some purchased by Windows Assistance. The books listed under Top Sellers have not all be reviewed.

Going to the bookstore, whether online or the real thing, to purchase a Windows how-to book can be daunting task. Does size matter? Is that one over there with no CD but only 300 pages better or worse than the book on the top shelve with a CD but is over 1000 pages and weights 5 lbs? Or does any of that matter? Just what constitutes quality in Windows reference books?

First I will travel to Amazon web site and get their top selling list of Windows reference manuals. Does a top seller make a good book? We will compare each one against the criteria I have established for a good reference or how-to manual. 

Information you can get from amazon.com about the books is: Table of Contents [most items,] Read an Excerpt [some items,] Amazon Articles [some items,] Editorial Review [most items,] Customer Reviews [some items.] 

I look at both the Table of Contents and the excerpts when available. note: All O'Reilly books have sample chapters at the O'Reilly web site.

Next we need to travel to one of the big bookstores and examine each book for content.

The final judgment belongs to Windows Assistance.

How I Judged The Books

How Many Chapters Are About Non-Windows OS Subjects

Many of the large (600+ pages) get that way because they spend a lot of pages on subjects that have nothing to do with the Windows operating system. Add up all those non-Windows pages and you will be surprised how large the total is.

What Are The Chapters With The Most Pages

This can be a real eye opener. Many chapters that have nothing to do with Windows are the big winners in this category. Again big books get that way because of all the non-Windows subjects that are covered.

Can You Quickly Find Information On The One Subject That Confuses You The Most

Go to the index a see what you can find dealing with some part of Windows that drives you crazy. I generally search for anything about Find (or Search in Windows Me and Windows 2000.)  This can be the most telling test of all. In one 700+ page book I found only one reference to Find and it was dealt with only in secondary manner. Not good. 

How Well Are Files, Directories, Shortcuts, and Favorites Explained

Every new user is confused about this area of Windows (or Mac OS, Unix, whatever OS you are using.) This is one area I am very critical of in all books. Many of the basic or beginners books gloss over this subject or ignore it all together.

CDs Are Useless

You may think that having a CD included will enhance a book. Not. I have rarely used anything that is included on these CDs. With more advanced manuals the CDs may contain some useful data but I doubt it.

Since I wrote the previous paragraph I have examined many books. Very few have CDs. I think they get the picture. The Resource Kits do have a CD and it is very helpful.

Top Sellers by OS

What is a basic book. Hard to tell. Most, if not all, the illustrated books are for beginners. Many books that I or Amazon have classified as books for beginners may not be appropriate for them. That is why I always recommend that you, the user, examine a book before buying.

note: The list below contains links to the books at amazon.com

Windows 98: 

Basic: 
Windows 98 For Dummies 
Windows 98 Simplified 
Teach Yourself Windows 98 VISUALLY 
More Windows 98 For Dummies 
Special Edition Using Windows 98 Second Edition 
Windows 98 For Dummies Quick Reference 
Master Windows 98 VISUALLY 
The Big Basics Book of Windows 98 
Teach Yourself More Windows 98 VISUALLY 

Advanced: 
Troubleshooting Microsoft Windows
Windows 98 Annoyances [CD]
Windows 98 in a Nutshell: A Desktop Quick Reference 
Microsoft Windows 98 at a Glance 
Windows 98 Registry Handbook 
Windows 98 Registry For Dummies 
Windows 98 Secrets 
More Windows 98 Secrets 
Windows 1998 Bible, The 
Microsoft Windows 98 Resource Kit [CD]

Windows Me:

Basic: 
Windows Millennium: The Missing Manual 
Teach Yourself Windows Millennium Edition VISUALLY 
Special Edition Using Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition [CD] 
Microsoft Windows Me For Dummies 
How To Do Everything With Windows Millennium Edition 
Easy Microsoft Windows Millennium 
Complete Idiot's Guide To Microsoft Windows Millennium 
Microsoft's Windows Millennium Edition Simplified 
Master Visually Windows Millennium Edition [CD] 
Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition At a Glance 
Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition Fast & Easy 
Microsoft Windows Me for Dummies: Quick Reference 
Practical Microsoft Windows Millennium 
How To Use Windows: Millennium Edition 

Advanced: 
Windows Me Annoyances 
Troubleshooting Microsoft Windows 
Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition Secrets 
Windows Me Complete
Alan Simpson's Microsoft Windows Me Bible 
The Unauthorized Guide to Windows Millennium 
Windows Millennium Registry 
Do It Yourself Microsoft Windows Me 
Windows Millennium Edition: The Complete Reference 

Windows 2000 Professional:

Basic: 
Windows 2000 Pro: The Missing Manual 
Windows 2000 Professional for Dummies 
Windows 2000 Professional Simplified 
Master Windows 2000 Professional VISUALLY 
Easy Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional 
Complete Idiot's Guide To Microsoft Windows 2000 
How To Use Microsoft Windows Professional 
Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional At A Glance 
Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional Step by Step 

Advanced: 

Windows 2000: Quick Fixes
Windows 2000 Performance Guide
Mastering Windows 2000 Professional 
Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional Resource Kit [CD]
Troubleshooting Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional 
Special Edition Using Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional 
Running Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional 
Windows 2000 Professional Advanced Configuration and Implementation 
Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional Expert Companion 
Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional Unleashed 

Special Consideration: 

Computers Simplified: Simply the Easiest Way To Learn 
PC Upgrade and Repair Simplified 
Teach Yourself Networking VISUALLY 

My List

note: The list below contains links to the books at amazon.com

Windows 98: Selecting a basic book for beginners wasn't easy. I haven't like the dummies series and nothing else seems appropriate for the beginner. For the very new users the illustrated books will get you started. Do you consider yourself a dummy or an idiot? I didn't think so. If you plan on making yourself an expert on any of the Microsoft OSs then I recommend you get the Resource Kit for that OS.

Basic: 
Windows 98 Simplified 

Advanced: 
Windows 98 Annoyances [CD]
Microsoft Windows 98 Resource Kit [CD]

Windows Me: The Missing Manuals are terrific books. Very readable. That's why we recommend these manuals for whatever OS they cover.

Basic: 
Windows Millennium: The Missing Manual 

Advanced: 
Windows Me Annoyances 

Windows 2000 Professional

Basic: 
Windows 2000 Pro: The Missing Manual
 

Advanced: 
Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional Resource Kit [CD]
Windows 2000 Power Toolkit [CD]

Every User Needs A Manual

Companies spend a small fortune supporting their users. I suggest that every user in the company be given the basic manual. Make them sign for it. Tell them the manual is their first line of support. Only after they can show your support group that the basic manual isn't enough then they get help from others.

For Windows 2000 Professional users The Missing Manual is only $20.00 ($16.00 at amazon.com.) This is a tiny fraction of what is expended in the name of support and if bought in quantity can be purchased for even less.