Windows XP Pro, 2nd Edition by David Pogue, Craig Zacker, L.J. Zacker
2nd Edition November 2004, ISBN: 0-596-00898-8

Reviewed by: Jim Huddle, CNE MCNE MCSE CBS ES-RC P+, April 2005
Published by: Pogue Press/O'Reilly
Requires: N/A
MSRP: US$29.95

If you are like many folks in the business world that have come to the conclusion that you finally have to upgrade to Windows XP Pro, you probably aren't too excited. Windows 2000 is likely more familiar to you, and for a Windows OS is also relatively stable and it's been on your desktop long enough that you know where things are. Now you're thinking of having to figure out where Microsoft moved everything in order to justify yet another version of their product. You already know you're not going to receive a product manual with XP. You are dreading having to wade through the online obfuscation (Ed. Note: Jim means the Windows Online Help System) in order to tune the operating system, find basic settings, or maybe just get rid of the pretty, pretty desktop. Thank the cosmic muffin that Pogue Press has put out Windows XP Pro, Second Edition, in their Missing Manual series.

I've been fighting the upgrade myself for quite a while. I prefer Linux. But at work I have to support Windows and so I run Windows XP there. Now that a good percentage of our boxes are coming with XP, it was inevitable that I'd have to take the plunge. By the way, that's the primary reason I asked to review this book. I was hoping to sidestep the “Where'd they put this now?” procedure and just get back to being productive. I have to say the book delivered beyond my expectations.

The manual is hefty, coming in at 668 pages, not including index. It weighs 2.6 pounds if you're interested (I'm not sure why I was, but there you are). Anyway, the book has answered every question I've had about XP so far. The authors break the book into twenty one chapters grouped into five major areas. It's laid out comfortably enough so that you can probably use the Table of Contents to find every page you need. The index is also well done and appears to be quite extensive.

The authors seem to aiming this book at the somewhat inexperienced user. The general tone of the book has a bit of a 'let me hold your hand and walk you through it' feel. On the other hand, the style wasn't annoying and I have a pretty low threshold for being annoyed. I read through the whole book before I actually put any of the suggestions or changes into place. I then went back and skimmed, placing scraps of Post-It notes along the way to quickly get back to the Windows XP configuration stuff I wanted to change right away. These people are just very good at writing this type of manual because after that, I was able to take a basic XP install and make it over into what I wanted in a short time. One thing that gave me a good feeling was that the authors are definitely not on the Redmond payroll. In several places they remark on some of the foibles of Windows, and have written the book to approach the operating system for what it is, warts and all.

I'm not going to go into specifics on what you will get from the book, it would just take too long. I will tell you that once you get into it you will be able to correct all the little helper junk Microsoft is hell bent to include, and even fix the activation issue when you replace your hard drive. You can also make XP look and act like Windows 2000, which MS refers to as “Classic” Windows. One specific tip of note: page 37 tells you how to get rid of that idiotic dog on the Search Results window. That alone is worth the price of the book. Recommended.

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