Operating Systems

Check list with the words objectives next to it

Learning Objectives

  1. Access websites
  2. Access and managing folders
  3. Set up your 365 and MS Office account


Light bulb logo with words learn itlady sitting on a bed while looking at a laptop with books on the side of her

Mainly, there are two kinds of software—application software and system software. Application software allows us to use a computer or computing device in many ways, such as creating a Microsoft Word document, creating a PowerPoint presentation, creating an Excel file, creating and querying a database, sending emails, browsing the internet, etc. Software such as Microsoft Office, Google Docs, antivirus programs, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, and various apps that we install on our iPhones and Android phones are examples of application software.

An operating system (OS) is a system software. It is the most important software that runs on a computer or a computer system. In essence, an operating system allows us to operate a computer, thus the name “Operating System.” It manages the computer system’s memory and processes, as well as all of its software and hardware. It also allows us to communicate with the computer without knowing how to speak the computer’s language. Without an operating system, a computer is useless.

The computer’s operating system (OS) manages all of the software and hardware on the computer. Most of the time, there are several different computer programs running at the same time, and they all need to access the computer’s central processing unit (CPU), memory, and storage. The operating system coordinates all of this and resolves conflicts to make sure each program gets what it needs. For example, if two processes (users) send two documents to print on a network printer, the operating system makes sure that one of them is printed while the other is queued because the printer can print only one document at a given time. It won’t be neat to print a mix of two documents!

Examples of operating systems are Windows, Macintosh, iOS, Android, Linux, etc. The Disk Operating System (DOS) is the oldest operating system, which was introduced by Microsoft in 1981 to operate IBM computers. Windows operating system is built around the DOS. You can access the DOS on your Windows computer by using the command line. Operating systems usually come pre-loaded on any computer we buy. Many people choose the computer they buy based on the operating system, but it is possible to upgrade or even change operating systems. The operating system consists of many smaller programs, stored as system files, which transfer data to and from the disk and transfer data in and out of the computer’s memory. Other functions performed by the operating system include hardware-specific tasks: for example, when a key is pressed or when the mouse is clicked, the operating system translates it into appropriate actions such as displaying on the screen or starting a program.

Most operating systems use a graphical user interface, or GUI (pronounced goo-ee). A GUI lets you use your mouse to click icons, buttons, and menus. Everything is clearly displayed on the screen using a combination of graphics and text. We can think of Windows as the GUI for the Disk Operating System.

Functions of an operating system include

  • Booting
    • Booting is the process of turning on the computer and powering up the system.
  • Memory management
    • This is the process of controlling and coordinating the computer applications and allocating space for programs.
  • Loading and execution
    • Your OS will load, or start up, a program and then execute the program so that it opens and runs.
  • Data security
    • The OS is responsible for keeping data safe inside your computer. It sets up security features to prevent cyber attacks.
  • Disk management
    • This manages all the drives installed in a computer like hard drives, optical disk drives, and flash drives. Disk management can be used to divide disks, format drives, and more.
  • Process management
    • Your OS has to allocate resources to different processes on the machine, enable the processes to share information, protect them, and synchronize them.
  • Device controlling
    • Your OS will allow you to open or block access to devices like removable devices, CDs/DVDs, data transfer devices, printers, USBs, and others.
  • Print controlling
    • Simply put, your OS takes control of the printers that are connected to the computer and the materials that need to be printed.
  • User interface
    • A user interface or UI refers to the part of the OS that allows an interface between the user and the computer. The user can communicate with the computer by typing, clicking the mouse, or using any other input devices, such as a pen, joystick, microphone, or camera. The computer responds to the user by displaying information on the screen, by executing a program, by playing a movie or song, or by printing a file.

Common operating systems are

      • Microsoft Windows
      • Linux
      • Apple iOS
      • Google Android

Mobile vs. computer

Guy wearing headphones while playing on a cell phone in front of a laptop

All computing devices use an operating system. Mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, may use different operating systems than computers or laptops. Computer and mobile OSs are different because they are developed for different uses. Computer systems will have to store lots of complex data, have a different user interface, and be prepared for printing, removable disks, a mouse, and a keyboard. They feature a desktop and a control panel for users to manage all of their information. Computer operating systems have been around longer and therefore are more familiar.

Mobile devices also feature a desktop and control panel but are different from a computer desktop and control panel. Their user interface is much more about simple moves, things you can do with your fingers or voice, and a simple interface. However, with the rapid advancements in computing technology, such distinctions are diminishing. Mobile OSs also allow the user to watch movies, browse the web, manage calendars, and play games. Examples of mobile operating systems include Apple iOS and Google Android. Touchscreen interfaces, like those used on smartphones and mobile devices, are becoming increasingly popular and newer operating systems are touchscreen compatible.

Since Microsoft Windows holds the vast majority of the business market share, we will primarily focus on Microsoft going forward.

Windows 10

Windows 10 is an operating system developed by Microsoft Corporation that works with mobile computing devices as well as with traditional desktop and laptop PCs.

The major tasks of Windows 10 are to

  • Manage your computer’s hardware—the printers, scanners, disk drives, monitors, and other hardware attached to it.
  • Manage the application software installed on your computer—programs like those in Microsoft Office and other programs you might install to edit photos and videos, play games, and so on.
  • Manage the data generated from your application software. Data refers to the documents, worksheets, pictures, songs, and so on that you create and store during the day-to-day use of your computer.
  • Most importantly, provide an interface between the user and the computer.

The Windows 10 operating system continues to perform these three tasks and additionally is optimized for touchscreens: for example, tablets of all sizes and convertible laptop computers. Windows 10 works equally well with any input device, including a mouse, keyboard, touchscreen, and pen—a pen-shaped stylus that you tap on a computer screen.

Windows 10 operating system manages programs and applications that run on a computer. A program is a finite sequence of instructions that a computer uses to accomplish a task. A computer program that helps you perform a task for a specific purpose is referred to as an application. As examples, there are applications to create a document using word processing software, to play a game, to view the latest weather report, to edit photos or videos, or to manage financial information.

As we learned earlier, an operating system is a specific type of computer program that manages the other programs on a computing device such as a desktop computer, a laptop computer, a smartphone, a tablet computer, or a game console. You need an operating system to

  • Use application programs.
  • Coordinate the use of your computer hardware such as a keyboard, mouse, touchpad, touchscreen, game controller, or printer.
  • Organize data that you store on your computer and access data that you store on your own computer and in other locations.

Windows 10, uses a graphical user interface—abbreviated as GUI. A graphical user interface uses graphics such as an image of a file folder that you click to activate the item represented. A GUI commonly includes the following:

  • A pointer—any symbol that displays on your screen in response to moving your mouse and with which you can select objects and commands.
  • An insertion point—a blinking vertical line that indicates where text will be inserted when you type or where an action will take place.
  • A pointing device, such as a mouse or touchpad, to control the pointer.
  • Icons—small images that represent commands, files, applications, or other windows.
  • A desktop—a simulation of a real desk that represents your work area; here you can arrange icons such as shortcuts to programs, files, folders, and various types of documents in the same manner you would arrange physical objects on top of a desk.

In Windows 10, you also have a Start menu with tiles that display when you click the Start button in the lower-left corner of your screen. The tiles serve as an inter-connected dashboard for all of your important programs, sites, and services. On the Start menu, your view is tailored to your information and activities. The Windows 10 Start menu is a table of contents for all the apps (programs), folders, and contacts you use often. In Desktop mode, all the app icons appear in an alphabetical list on the left side of the screen, and they can be made to appear on the right side as tiles. To open the Start menu—which contains all your apps, settings, and files—do either of the following:

  • On the left end of the taskbar, select the Start icon.
  • Press the Windows logo key on your keyboard.


hands typing on a keyboard

Depending on your desktop configuration, you may see a search box with “Type here to search.” This is one way to access Cortana. Cortana is a voice-enabled virtual assistant developed by Microsoft to help Windows 10 users initiate requests, complete tasks and anticipate future needs by surfacing relevant data in a personal context.

The hardware of your computer such as the central processing unit (CPU), memory, and any attached devices such as a printer are collectively known as resources. The Windows operating system keeps track of the status of each resource and decides when a resource needs attention and for how long. Application programs enable you to use your computer. Examples of application programs are programs such as Word and Excel found in the Microsoft Office suite of products, Adobe Photoshop, and computer games. The operating system ensures all of these programs work together in the most efficient way possible and without conflict.

One of the most often used functions of the operating system is data management, or the managing of your files and folders. Much like the importance of keeping your paper documents and file folders organized so that you can find information when you need it, organizing your computer files and folders groups your files so that you can find information easily. This is a critical computing skill. After all, are files useful if you cannot find them?

Lady siting at a table with food using a laptop

On a single computer, Windows 10 can have multiple user accounts. This is useful because you can share a computer with other people in your family or organization and each person can have his or her own information and settings—none of which others can see. Each user on a single computer is referred to as a user account. Take a moment to think about the user account you will be using for this class. If you are working from campus, what will your user account be? Compare that to your user account on your personal computer.

In addition to your user account, the Windows 10 display may look different depending on the computer you are using. Windows 10 displays are configurable. For example, your college may choose to use its school colors or logo on the display. The basic functions and structure of Windows 10 are not changed by such variations in the display. You can be confident that the skills you will practice in this instruction apply to Windows 10 regardless of available functionality or differences between the figures shown and your screen. Therefore, it is important to not let visual differences in the display distract you. Moreover, the skills learned here will also assist you in using future versions such as Windows 11. Using a different (updated) version of software is akin to driving a different car. Once you learn to drive a particular car, you can also drive any other car. It is simply a matter of familiarizing yourself with new controls.

Your screen will more closely match the computers on campus, and your instructors, if you set your screen resolution to 1280 × 768. At other resolutions, your screen will closely resemble, but not match exactly. To view your screen’s resolution, on the desktop, right-click in a blank area, click Display settings, and then click the Resolution arrow. To adjust the resolution, select the desired setting, and then click OK.

As mentioned earlier, Windows 10 allows you to create a Microsoft account and then use that account to sign in to any Windows 10 computer on which you have, or create, a user account. By signing in with a Microsoft account you can:

  • Download apps from the Microsoft Store
  • Get your online content—email, social network updates, updated news—automatically displayed in an app when you sign in

Get your internet favorite settings

To enjoy and get the full benefit of Windows 10, Microsoft Office, Skype, and free OneDrive cloud storage, if you have not already done so, create a Microsoft account. This can be completed with the link provided by your instructor.

A primary function of any operating system is managing the location of files and folders. A location is any disk drive, folder, or other place in which you can store files and folders. A file is information stored on a computer under a single name. A folder is a container in which you store files. Where you store your files depends on how and where you use your data. For example, for your class, you might decide to store your work on a removable USB flash drive so that you can carry your files to different locations and access your files on different computers. A USB flash drive is also referred to as a pen drive.

If you do most of your work on a single computer, for example, your home desktop system or your laptop computer that you take with you to school or work, then you can store your files in one of the folders on your hard drive provided by your Windows operating system—Documents, Music, Pictures, or Videos. If you use multiple computers, a flash drive might be a better option to store your files.

OneDrive is Microsoft’s free cloud storage for anyone with a free Microsoft account. Cloud storage refers to the online storage of data so that you can access your data from different places and devices. Cloud computing refers to applications and services that are accessed over the internet, rather than to applications that are installed on your local computer. The internet is a vast network of computers spread worldwide. Besides being able to access your documents from any device or location, OneDrive also offers AutoSave, which saves your document every few seconds, so you do not have to. On a Windows system, AutoSave is available in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for Office 365 subscribers. Changes to your document are saved to the cloud as you are working, and if other people are working on the same file—referred to as real-time co-authoring—AutoSave lets them see your changes in a matter of seconds.

Office 365 is the cloud version of stand-alone Microsoft Office 2016/2019. If you have an Office 365 subscription—one of the versions of Microsoft Office to which you subscribe for an annual fee or download for free with your college.edu address—your storage capacity on OneDrive is a terabyte or more, which is more than most individuals would ever require. Students at many colleges and universities can download Office 365 for free.

Because many people now have multiple computing devices—desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone—it is common to store data in the cloud so that it is always available. Synchronization, also called syncing (pronounced SINK-ing) is the process of updating computer files that are in two or more locations according to specific rules. So, if you create and save a Word document on your OneDrive using your laptop, you can open and edit that document on your tablet in OneDrive. When you close the document again, the file is properly updated to reflect your changes. Your OneDrive account will guide you in setting options for syncing files to your specifications. You can open and edit Office files by using Office apps available on a variety of device platforms, including in iOS, in Android, in a web browser, and in Windows.

lady sitting using a laptop with someone standing on side of her

It is important to note that if you are using a computer issued by your college (either on campus or a checked-out laptop), or a computer issued by your employer, you may not be able to sign in using your personal Microsoft account. This is because sign-in requirements will vary, because those computers are controlled by the organization’s IT (Information Technology) professionals who are responsible for maintaining a secure computing environment for the entire organization.

Microsoft Office runs efficiently on Microsoft Windows. Which makes sense because they are both Microsoft!

As of April of 2020, Office 365 became known as Microsoft 365. According to Microsoft, it is “an evolution of Office 365 that builds on the foundation of Office by infusing new artificial intelligence and more cloud-powered experiences.” Microsoft Office 365 is available for free to students at many colleges and universities.

Office 365 is a cloud-based subscription service that receives continuous updates. Due to this, you may encounter some variations between what appears on your screen and what is shown in this text. Microsoft Office 365 is fully installed on your PC or Mac; no internet access is necessary to create or edit documents. When you are connected to the internet, you will receive monthly upgrades and new features, so you always have the latest versions of Office apps as soon as they are available. Your subscription gives you continuous free access to the latest innovations and refinements. It is important to note that Microsoft Access and Publisher do not run on a Mac. However, you can install Windows on Mac and then run Microsoft Access and Publisher on Windows.

The programs in Office 365 and in Microsoft Office 2019 are considered to be desktop applications. A desktop application is a computer program that is installed on your PC and that requires a computer operating system such as Microsoft Windows to run. A desktop app typically has hundreds of features and takes time to learn. We will focus on apps for Windows 10 and higher, as that is the recommended configuration going forward.


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Prefer to watch and learn? Check out this video tutorial:

Complete the following Practice Activity and submit your completed project.

  • If you already have Microsoft Office installed, you can skip these steps:
    • To set up your Microsoft Account, follow the link provided by your instructor.
    • Sign into Microsoft Office. If you already sign in to a Windows PC or tablet, or you sign in to Xbox Live, Outlook.com, or OneDrive, use that account to sign in to Office. To create a new Microsoft account, in your browser, search for “sign up for a Microsoft account.”

NOTE: This Activity is for Windows PC users. Mac users refer to the document Creating a Folder for File Storage on a Mac. Mac users can refer to the document Creating a Folder for File Storage on a Mac available in Canvas, or your instructor can provide this document to you.

  • In this Activity, you will create a File and store it in a Folder. This example will use the Documents folder on the PC at which you are working. If you prefer to store it on your OneDrive or on a USB flash drive, you can use similar steps. It is a good idea to have a conversation with your instructor on the pros and cons of storage locations. Take a moment to decide where you want to store your files for this course. If necessary, insert your flash drive or other removable storage device.
  • Launch Microsoft Word and choose a new blank document. This can be done in any of the following ways:Microsoft Word Logo
    1. In the “Type here to search” box, enter “Word”
    2. Look for a tray icon with a blue W
    3. Look for a desktop shortcut for Word
  • At the top of your screen, in the title bar, notice that Document1—Word displays. The Blank option on the opening screen of an Office program displays a new unsaved file with a default name—Document1, Presentation1, and so on. As you create your file, your work is temporarily stored in the computer’s memory until you initiate a Save command, at which time you must choose a file name and a location in which to save your file.
  • In the upper left corner of your screen, click the File tab to display Backstage view, and then on the left, if necessary, click Info.

Backstage view is a centralized space that groups commands related to file management; that is why the tab is labeled File. File management commands include opening, saving, printing, or sharing a file. The Backstage tabs—Info, New, Open, Save, Save As, Print, Share, Export, and Close—display along the left side. The tabs group file-related tasks together. Here, the Info tab displays information—info—about the current file, and file management commands display under Info. For example, if you click the Protect Document button, a list of options that you can set for this file that relate to who can open or edit the document displays. On the right, you can also examine the document properties. Document properties, also known as metadata, are details about a file that describe or identify it, such as the title, author name, subject, and keywords that identify the document’s topic or contents.

On the left, click Save As, and notice that, if you are signed into Office with a Microsoft account, one option for storing your files is your OneDrive. You have to be signed in to your Microsoft account to see OneDrive.

  • When you are saving something for the first time—for example, a new Word document—the Save and Save As commands are identical. That is, the Save As command will display if you click Save or if you click Save As.

NOTE: After you name and save a file, the Save command on the Quick Access Toolbar saves any changes you make to the file without displaying Backstage view. The Save As command enables you to name and save a new file based on the current one in a location that you choose. After you name and save the new document, the original document closes, and the new document—based on the original one—displays.

  • To store your Word file in the Documents folder on your PC, click Browse to display the Save As dialog box. On the left, in the navigation pane, scroll down; if necessary click > to expand This PC, and then click Documents.
  • In the Save As dialog box, you must indicate the name you want for the file and the location where you want to save the file. When working with your own data, it is good practice to pause at this point and determine the logical name and location for your file. Your instructor will provide additional guidance on where to save your files and the file name. For this assignment, name your file your lastname_firstname.
  • In the Save As dialog box, a toolbar displays, which is a row, column, or block of buttons or icons, that displays across the top of a window and that contains commands for tasks you perform with a single click.
  • On the toolbar, click New folder. In the file list, Windows creates a new folder, and the text New folder is selected.
  • Practice changing a course ID by typing OFTEC 108 instead of BPC110 and press Enter. In Windows-based programs, the Enter key confirms an action. In the file list, double-click the name of your new folder to open it and display its name in the address bar.
  • A screenshot window depicts the Save As dialog box with the new folder name displayed in the Address bar.
  • In the lower right corner of the Save As dialog box, click Cancel. In the upper left corner of the Backstage view, click the Back arrow.
  • In the upper right corner of the Word window, click Close. If prompted to save your changes, click Don’t Save. Close any other open windows or programs.


Colorful computer monitor logo with the words practice it

Prefer to watch and learn? Check out this video tutorial:

Complete the following Practice Activity and submit your completed project.

  • In this activity, we will use Windows to create a folder structure to store your files for class. It is important to keep your files organized so that you can find them when you need them. Saving, accessing, and uploading files is critical to your success in this course. This assignment will assist you in keeping your files organized throughout this course.
  • Using Windows, create the file structure on your flash drive as indicated by your instructor. Your top folder should be OFTEC 108.
  • There are a few different ways to create a new folder in Windows.
    • In File Explorer, click the new folder icon in the upper left-hand corner
    • Use the shortcut key CTRL+Shift+N
    • Right-click the white area of the File Explorer Window, and select New, Folder
  • Your completed file structure should look something like this:

List of computer files starting with operating system and ending with data files

Note: Some students like to put a number in front of the folders so that they display in chronological order. Other students like to abbreviate the chapter names. The file structure is for you, so use names and logic that make sense to you.

Helpful Hints:

  • After you type the name of the folder, press enter.
  • Use the File Explorer Navigation Pane to expand each file folder. If the arrow, or carrot, is pointing down, the file is expanded. This will allow you to see the folder contents.
  • To rename a folder, right-click on the folder. In the shortcut menu, choose Rename. Start typing the new name, and then hit Enter on your keyboard.
  • To delete a folder, right-click on the folder. In the shortcut menu, choose Delete.


Trophy with the words master it next to it

Complete the following Master Activity and submit your completed project.

man sitting in front of a laptop

Using Windows 10, explore data management options such as files and folders and cloud storage. Practice safely saving and moving your files. In a Word document, explain the following:

Which data management tool works best for you and why?

How did you organize your files and why did you choose this organization?


Trophy with the words master it next to it

Complete the following Master Activity and submit your completed project.

Using Windows 10, explore each of the following:

  • A pointer—any symbol that displays on your screen in response to moving your mouse and with which you can select objects and commands.
  • An insertion point—a blinking vertical line that indicates where text will be inserted when you type or where an action will take place.
  • A pointing device, such as a mouse or touchpad, to control the pointer.
  • Icons—small images that represent commands, files, applications, or other windows.
  • A desktop—a simulation of a real desk that represents your work area; here you can arrange icons such as shortcuts to programs, files, folders, and various types of documents in the same manner you would arrange physical objects on top of a desk.

Using the snipping tool or any other screen-capturing tool, take a snip of each of the above and paste it into a Word document with a label. Take care to not include any personal or confidential information.

Note: To take a screenshot using Windows 10, press PrtScn on your keyboard. This copies the entire screen to the clipboard. You can also press Alt + PrtScn. This copies the active window to the clipboard, which you can paste into another program. If you do not have PrtScn on your keyboard, press the Windows key + Shift + S. You can also use the “Type here to search” box to search for Snipping Tool. This is an App that is free with Windows 10 and allows you to capture any image on your screen.


Trophy with the words master it next to it

Complete the following Master Activity and submit your completed project.

lady smiling at the camera with a laptop in front of herUsing Cortana or the Windows “Type here to search” box, locate the following apps on your computer:

  • Word
  • Excel
  • Access
  • PowerPoint
  • Snipping Tool

Launch each app and explore.


Rubik’s cube with the words challenge it next to it

Complete the following Challenge and submit your completed project.

Using the Windows 10 search box, explore Windows’ settings. Take care not to change a configuration you do not want to change. Take note of what might be configurable on a campus or work computer versus your personal computer. Why might this be? Is there another way to get to these settings?

Windows settings to explore might be:

  • Display settings, including brightness
  • Focus Assist
  • Power and Sleep
  • Tablet Mode
  • Devices, such as Bluetooth
  • USB

lady adjusting a phone on a tripod



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Computer Applications Copyright © 2022 by LOUIS: The Louisiana Library Network is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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