Top 16 Windows time-saving tips

This article is excerpted from Special Edition Using Microsoft Windows Vista, to be published Dec. 27 by Que Publishing. Reprinted by permission, all rights reserved.

Tips from the Windows Pros: Working Efficiently

The interface is your portal into the operating system and, therefore, into your computer. You'll likely be using it every day, so it behooves you to "work the system" as effectively and efficiently as possible. As writers and programmers on deadlines, we're using our computers at breakneck speed most of the time. Cutting corners on how you control the system interface saves you literally hundreds of miles of mousing around on your desktop over the course of a few years. Here are our top time-saving and motion-saving tips for using Windows Vista:

  •  To get to the desktop (minimize all open windows), press the Windows key and M at the same time. To reverse the effect, press Shift+Windows+M. This is a real time-saver. If you prefer the mouse, click the Show Desktop button in the Quick Launch bar; it does the same thing.

  •  Change between applications by pressing Alt+Tab. Aiming for an application's little button on the taskbar is a hassle. You'll get tendonitis doing that all day. If you're using the Aero interface, you can also use Flip 3D to change between applications by pressing Windows+Tab.

Figure 1: Flipping between applications using Flip 3D

Figure 1: Flipping between applications using Flip 3D

  •  Buy an ergonomic keyboard, split in the middle. Try not to rest your wrists on a hard surface. Cut a mouse pad in half and use Velcro, tape or glue to affix it to the palm rest in front of the keys, if you're a "leaner."

  •  Double-click a window's title bar to make it go full screen. Editing in little windows on the screen is a hassle and requires unnecessary scrolling.

  •  To close a foreground program or window, press Alt+F4. It's that easy. Alternatively, right-click its button on the taskbar and choose Close. Aiming for that little X in the upper-right corner takes too much mouse movement.

  •  Put all your favorite applications, dial-up connections, folders and documents on the Quick Launch bar. Forget about the Start button. You can put about 20 things on the Quick Launch bar for easy one-click access. Use it. When an item falls out of use, erase the shortcut. They're only shortcuts, so it doesn't matter if you erase them.

  •  If there are too many items within the Quick Launch bar to be displayed within the current area, two little arrows(>>) are displayed. This indicates that other Quick Launch icons are present but are currently hidden from view. To see the hidden icons, click on the double arrow to see a pop-up menu, or click and drag the edge of the main toolbar area (just to the right of the Quick Launch bar) to expand the space available for the Quick Launch bar.

  •  Those little double arrows appear in many locations throughout the user experience. You'll see them on the Quick Launch bar, the notification area, ends of toolbars and more. They simply indicate that either more data is available but it's currently hidden from view, or all data is currently displayed but it can be hidden or reduced in size. In some cases, the double arrows are a toggle between minimum and expanded views; other times, the double arrows display the hidden items when clicked but return to their previous display after you make a selection or click somewhere else.

  •  Use Sleep and Hibernate. Don't boot up every time you turn on your computer; it's a waste of valuable time. Keep your favorite programs open: e-mail, word processor, picture viewer, Web browser, spreadsheet, whatever. Yes, do save your work and maybe even close your document, but leave the apps open and keep the machine in Sleep or Hibernate mode.

  •  If you use a laptop in the office, get a good external keyboard to work with it. Your hands will probably be happier, and you'll type faster. Also get a pointing device that works best for you. Those "pointing stick" mice are not for everyone. Try a few different pointing devices and come up with one that works best for you.

  •  Discover and use right-click shortcuts whenever possible. For example, in Windows Mail, you can easily copy the name and e-mail address of someone from the Address Book and paste them into an e-mail. People are always asking me for e-mail addresses of mutual friends or colleagues. I click on a person's entry in the Address Book and press Ctrl+C (for copy); then I switch back to the e-mail I'm writing and press Ctrl+V (paste). Then I press Ctrl+Enter, and the e-mail is sent.

  •  Also in Windows Mail, you can reply to an e-mail with Ctrl+R. Forward one with Ctrl+F. Send a message you've just written by pressing Ctrl+Enter. Send and receive all mail with Ctrl+M.

  •  In Internet Explorer, use the F11 toggle to go full screen. This gets all the other junk off the screen. Also, use the Search panel to do your Web searches (opened by clicking the magnifying glass search toolbar button). You can easily check search results without having to use the Back button. And speaking of the Back button, don't bother moving the mouse up there to click Back. Just press Alt+left arrow. The left- and right-arrow buttons with Alt are the same as the Back and Forward buttons.

  •  In most Microsoft applications, including Windows Mail and Internet Explorer, F5 is the "refresh" key. In Windows Mail, for example, pressing F5 sends and receives all your mail, as long as the Inbox is highlighted. In IE, it refreshes the page. In Windows Explorer, it updates the listing in a window (to reflect the results of a file move, for example). Remember F5!

  •  In Word, Excel and many other applications, Ctrl+F6 is the key that switches between open windows within the same app. No need to click on the Window menu in the application and choose the document in question. Just cycle through them with Ctrl+F6.

  •  In whatever applications you use most, look for shortcut keys or macros you can use or create to avoid unnecessary repetitious work. Most of us type the same words again and again. (See, there I go.) As writers, for example, we have macros programmed in Microsoft Word for common words such as Windows Vista, Control Panel, desktop, folders and so on. Bob has created a slew of editing macros that perform tasks such as "delete to the end of line" (Ctrl+P), "delete line" (Ctrl+Y), and so on. In Word, press Alt+T+A and check out the AutoCorrect and AutoText features.

Have your own favorite Windows tricks you'd like to share? Have reactions to these? Post your comments on our Windows blog and see what other readers suggest.

Find reviews, analyses, how-tos, visual tours, hot issues and predictions about Microsoft's new OS on our Windows Vista A to Z resource center.

This article is excerpted from Special Edition Using Microsoft Windows Vista, to be published Dec. 27 by Que Publishing. Reprinted by permission, all rights reserved.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon