When Microsoft first launched Windows, it was a revelation.
Not only did it bring together the disparate parts of the operating system (OS) in a way that made it navigable, but it added basic tools for communication and productivity. Over the years, Windows has been refined and extended – not always for the better – while PC
users have found themselves using third-party programs and tools to supplement those found in Windows itself.
The result is that we now have multiple ways of achieving different tasks – and far too many means of communicating or being contacted. It’s therefore more important than ever to have Windows set up the way that works best for our particular needs and to be able to
easily access the tools we need, when we need them.
With an ever-growing number of distractions that are fighting for your attention throughout the day, it’s important to be as productive as possible. With that in mind, we’ve dug up the best Windows tricks and talked to several productivity experts to find 51 tips sure to help you get more work done with your PC in less time.
Although these tips apply primarily to Windows 7, most also work in Vista and many apply to XP as well.
Minimise all windows
When your desktop becomes so cluttered that you can’t find anything, a good way to regain focus is to minimise all the windows except the one you’re working on. Grab the title bar of the window you want to use and shake your mouse a little. All other windows will vanish into the Taskbar. Shake again to restore the windows. Ctrl, Home also works.
Use folders in your email client
Letting email accumulate in your inbox makes it difficult to quickly find important messages. It also increases the odds that you’ll overlook a message that requires urgent attention. Right-click to delete the junk and file non-actionable messages into clearly defined folders.
Be judicious with email folders
An email folder shouldn’t be so narrow of purpose that it’s never used, but neither should it be so broad that it becomes overstuffed with messages – unless you use it for archiving. Use a descriptive name and keep it short enough that it doesn’t require scrolling within the Mail Folders pane. Folders can usually be nested, too.
Use rules to route messages
When your personal involvement isn’t necessary, email rules can save time. For example, do newsletters from the same company arrive 10 times a day? Put them into a folder for ‘later review’. In Outlook, select Tools, Rules and Alerts. Other clients have a similar option.
Remap the Windows key
If you never use the Windows key or would rather swap its keyboard position with another button, download a keyboard remapper. Many cheap or free applications for this purpose are available, but Keyboard Remapper (tinyurl.com/38w8jk3) works well. Remap to your heart’s content, but keep in mind that, since it bypasses Windows, there’s no way to change or disable a laptop’s Fn key. You can also use the utility to check your computer’s Bios for any potential tweakability.
Choose your own search engine
Your computer maker probably preset Internet Explorer’s default search engine
to whichever company paid it. Otherwise, it’ll be set to Microsoft’s liking: Bing. Either way, it may not be the best choice.
Change the search default engine by clicking the drop-down arrow in the top-right corner of the Internet Explorer window (within the search box), and click Find More Providers. You won’t find Google without a hunt, so type Google into the ‘Find add-ons...’ search box and select the first result, Google Search Suggestions. Click ‘Add to Internet Explorer’ and, at the pop-up, click ‘Make this my default search provider’.
Improve Windows Search
If Windows Search isn’t finding everything that you know you’ve saved, check the Windows Indexing Options and the locations included in the search index. Type indexing options into the Start Menu search bar, then click Modify and navigate through the C drive to add more locations to index.
Rename files fast
If you need to rename several files in Windows Explorer, save time by selecting the first file in your list, pressing F2, and typing in the new name. When finished, press Tab instead of Enter. Explorer will jump you to the next file in the list and automatically select the entire file name so you can rename it without having to press the Backspace key. Continue pressing Tab, and you’ll zip through the list one file at a time.
Drag-and-drop items in Outlook
Outlook lets you drag any item to any other area of the program, where it will create a new item that includes the dragged information. Drag an email to the Contacts button to create a new contact for the sender, for example, with Outlook automatically populating the Name and Email fields, and putting the body of the message in the Notes field. Alternatively, drag a contact to the Calendar to create a Meeting Invitation for that person.
Don’t keep checking your email
Frequent checking breaks your concentration and interrupts what you’re doing, wasting time as you return your focus to the task at hand. Reduce how often your email client checks for new messages to something less distracting: every 10 minutes should give you time enough to focus without keeping people waiting too long for a response. In Outlook, click Ctrl, Alt, S and change the setting for ‘Schedule an automatic send/receive every X minutes’ (where X is the number of minutes).