How to get most from Windows 7


22 Mar 2011
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A mouse comes with every Windows-based PC. But that doesn't mean you have to use it.

In fact, Microsoft has been slowly sending that message with each new version of Windows that it produces. In Windows 7, in fact, keyboard shortcuts are everywhere. You just have to know them.

Of course, few people memorise keyboard shortcuts for everything. But concentrate a while on the shortcuts for areas of Windows 7 that you use the most, and you're likely to find a few that are so useful that you'll remember them quickly.

First, though, a word about the formatting of the shortcuts discussed below. The plus sign (+) is used to signify two or more keys that should be pressed in quick succession.

For Ctrl+B, for example, you would hold down the Ctrl key and tap the letter B on your keyboard. The abbreviation 'Win,' too stands for the Windows key found on most keyboards today.

It's the key that opens the Start menu, but it's now frequently used in conjunction with other keys to activate features or functions. Let's get started.

Windows Explorer

When you're working with files and folders - and consequently with the Windows Explorer file manager - you just want to get your work done, and fast. So it's great to know a few keystrokes to speed you on your way.

And there's good news in Windows 7 for Explorer lovers. For starters, you can now create a new folder simply by pressing Ctrl+Shift+N. When you do, a new folder appears in the current directory that you're in, and the words New Folder are automatically highlighted, ready for you to supply a more descriptive name.

Moving from one folder to another in Windows Explorer with keyboard shortcuts is faster than using the mouse, too. Press Alt in conjunction with the arrow keys to move left, right, and up a level. The same keyboard shortcuts (left and right) work in Internet Explorer to take you backward and forward one page at a time.

While you're inside a folder, looking at a bunch of files, press Alt+P to toggle the file preview window on and off. File preview displays a thumbnail of the file's contents in the right-hand pane.

Pressing Shift while right-clicking on a file in Windows Explorer uncovers some hidden gems on the resulting pop-up menu. For example, the 'copy as path' command, normally hidden, becomes part of the context-sensitive menu.

Click that, and both the pathname and the file name are copied to the clipboard. 'Pin to Start menu' also appears, allowing you to pin a file directly to the Start menu.

Similarly, pressing Shift while clicking on a folder unveils some otherwise hidden features relevant to folders, including 'Open command prompt here.' Previously available only with the PowerToys add-in, this command opens a command prompt at the location of the selected folder.

Windows desktop

The Windows key (Win) takes on new life under Windows 7. You can use it both to launch applications and to perform myriad desktop tricks.

You probably noticed that, by default, Windows 7 pins a few applications to the taskbar. You can pin more there just by dragging an application and dropping it on the taskbar.

The order in which those applications appears is important, however, primarily because tapping the Win key in conjunction with the numbers on either your number pad or atop your alphabet keys will launch those pinned applications automatically, in the order in which they appear from the Start menu.

For instance, Win+1 will launch the first program pinned to the taskbar. Win+2 launches the second, and so one.

Using Shift+Win+number or Ctrl+Win+number, and Alt+Win+number performs other tricks.

Shift+Win+number launches an additional instance of the corresponding application that's pinned to the taskbar, while Ctrl+Win+number cycles through the open instances of the corresponding application on the taskbar. Alt+Win+number opens the jump list for the corresponding taskbar application.

Jump lists display application options or lists of recently used documents.
Other Win combinations perform similarly interesting tricks. Win+T, for instance, scrolls through all applications minimised on your taskbar, one at a time, while Win+B shifts the focus to the system tray, where those tiny application or utility icons reside.

Once the focus is on system tray icons, just use the arrow keys to move from one to the next.

System shortcuts

There are some handy system-wide keyboard shortcuts built into Windows 7, too. Press Win+(+/-) - meaning the plus and minus keys on your numeric keypad - to zoom the entire display in or out.

Those who frequently hook their notebook computers up to a projector or who use multiple displays will want to memorise Win+P (for 'presentation'), which puts monitor configuration options at your fingertips.

And finally, if you're a notebook user, don't forget Win+X, which is a shortcut to the Windows Mobile Centre, providing quick access to tools and settings that notebook users need the most.
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