Two major components of any "real" office are its filing cabinet and desktop. The filing cabinet is where you store and organize things you may need access to at some time. The desktop is where you do your work. In a computer, your hard disk plays the role of the filing cabinet. Everything that's "in your computer", so to speak, is actually stored on the computer's hard disk. The Windows desktop is the equivalent of your "real desktop", where you keep things you're working on right now.
When you first start your computer, you probably see only the Windows desktop and some desktop icons, the Start button, and other objects shown in Figure 1. Your desktop and icons won't look exactly like those in Figure 1. But you'll learn to easily recognize your own desktop in a moment.
Nothing ever replaces the Windows desktop. The desktop is always there, though it might be covered by some other item. It's like a real desktop in that way. If you clutter up your real desktop with enough stuff, you might not even be able to see your desktop. But it's still there, under all the clutter.
Right now you're using your Web browser (a program) to read this page. Your Web browser might be covering your Windows desktop. But the desktop is still there. Each open item on the desktop has a taskbar button, that you can click to make the item visible or invisible on your desktop. The taskbar button for your Web browser probably looks like one of the examples shown in Figure 2.
If you click on your Web browser's task bar button a few times, this window will disappear, and reappear, with each click. Go ahead and try it -- you can't do any harm. If some other window appears or disappears, you're just not clicking the taskbar button for your Web browser.
When you have a lot of open windows on your desktop, you can make them all invisible by clicking on the Show Desktop button in the Quick Launch toolbar, shown in the left side of Figure 3. Or, if you don't see that button, you can right-click the clock in the lower right corner of your screen, then click on Show the Desktop. Either way, you'll see the Windows desktop, then you can click on any taskbar button to make the program window it represents visible again.
The picture you see on your Windows desktop can be just about anything. As a beginner, it's a good idea to choose a picture you like, so it's easy for you to recognize the desktop when you see it. Just follow these steps:
Tip: If you don't see "Appearance and Themes" in Control Panel, click on "Switch to Category View" at the left side of Control Panel. Then click on Appearance and Themes.
Once you're able to recognize your Windows desktop, you can right-click it to do other things with it. For example, to neatly arrange all the icons on your desktop, right-click the desktop and choose Arrange Icons By Name, as in Figure 7..
If you ever want to return to the Display Properties dialog box and make other changes to your desktop, it's not necessary to go through Control Panel. You can, instead, take a shortcut by right-clicking your Windows desktop and choosing Properties.