Windows Tips

This post was inspired by a recent article over at LifeHacker. But before I get into the tips, I’m going to bore you with a slight digression.

LifeHacker is one of the very few blogs that I actually check daily for new content. And I’m not talking about using an agregator, I will actually pop up a webbrowser to hit them up. I read their site so often it wasn’t until today that I realized my portal page didn’t1 link to them. As a general rule, the articles there are interesting and/or useful. I don’t have a Mac, so some articles don’t always help me, but overall they have a really good mix. I suppose given how much use I’ve gotten out of their site, I should be a bit nicer about this…. But the tip posted today was so shockingly lame that I feel the need to compile my own list of tips for windows users. Sorry, justrick but this one shouldn’t have made it past the editor’s desk!

Right that’s more than enough complaints, here’s my favorite Windows tips (in no particular order)

  • Reformat your drives and load your favorite linux distro (I suggest either Kubuntu or OpenSuSE).2
  • Use the Windows Key shortcuts:
    • Win + E: Launches Windows Explorer
    • Win + D: Pressed once, shows your desktop. Pressed twice, restores your windows to their prior positions. The same effect can be achieved with Win+M and Win+SHIFT-M, but Win+D takes less effort.
    • Win + R: Launches the Windows Run Box. True, this isn’t as powerful as the Linux cli but you can do some good tricks with it (I’ll cover some of those later).
    • Win + L: Locks your computer, good for corporate environments.
    • Win + BREAK: Launches the System Properties window.
    • Win + F: Launches the Windows Explorer Searach function, useful in locating files3. Of course, if what you’re really looking for are other computers on the network then you could use Crtl+Win+F.
  • If you use the Windows Command Prompt frequently, then setting up some aliases for your most commonly used commands is helpful. the one I like to do on evey Windows machine I use is to create C:\Windows\X.BAT. This batch file contains only one command and that’s EXIT. Since the batch file is in the Windows directory, it’s in the system path on a default configuration. When I’m ready to close any command prompt, I just hit “x” (minus the quotes) and I’m out.
  • If you don’t have a fancy keyboard with extra keys for macros or launching other programs, you might want to use things like:
    1. Press Win+R
    2. Type in “notepad” (minus the quotes)
    3. Press enter or click ok. This will launch the Windows Notepad accessory, great for editing small text files or making quick notes to yourself. the other app I frequentally launch this way is the Windows Calculator (use “calc” instead of “notepad”).
  • If your Quick Launch bar is overflowing but you still need quick access to more programs and you don’t have a fancy macroing keyboard, then you can setup shortcut keys for your programs by right-clicking on their icon/shortcut, selecting Properties, clicking in the Shortcut Key field and pressing the key combo you want to launch the program. For example…
    1. Go into Start -> Accessories.
    2. Right-click on Paint and select Properties.
    3. Click in the Shortcut Key field and press Crtl+Alt+P
    4. Now whenever you press Crtl+Alt+P Microsoft Paint will launch. Keep in mind that this can cause problems with other programs if you try overwriting a keyboard shortcut that the other program already uses (e.g. Ctrl+C).

Those are all of the Windows tips that immediately come to mind. If any of my readers have additional ones they like, please post them in the comments.

1 As soon as I realized this, I added the link.
2 If this tip offends, I’d apologize but you should know by now from reading this blog, that I vastly prefer Linux.
3 Though installing Google Desktop and using hitting Crtl twice is easier overall and GD does a better job searching.


Comments are closed.

Thanks for the tips. I have tried and failed at installing Linux in the past, so I’m sort of turned-off to that idea. On the other hand, I didn’t know about the ‘Shortcut Key’ property field, which has suddenly become my favorite new tool!

I once had to go without a mouse for two weeks, during which I learned a couple of handy keyboard controls. Some of my favorite tips:

– Holding down ‘Alt’, while repeatedly pressing the ‘Tab’ key, rapidly cycles you through the available windows, and tells you (with a caption) which window you’re about to open.

– While in the common two-frame Windows Explorer, the ‘Tab’ key cycles the cursor focus through left-side (folders), right-side (files), and top (Address Bar).

– While in the right-side of Windows Explorer, typing the first letter or two of a file or folder jumps you quickly to the correct file. This true of the left-side as well, and in addition, the four arrow-keys are astoundingly quick for jumping to, collapsing, and expanding, the desired folders.

– In most browsers (including Windows Explorer), Alt-D will place the focus in the Address Bar, and highlight the entire address.

When was the last time you tired installing Linux? If it was more than a year ago, then things have changed considerably and you might want to give it another shot. If ou like, I’ve got some CD/DVDs of various Linux dsstros you can try out. Some are Live discs and allow you to run the distro without installing, some are normal installers and some are a combination of the two.

Oh and I just ran across this link List of the keyboard shortcuts that are available in Windows XP which might have a few more that you’re not familiar with.

I haven’t tried Linux for four years, anyway. Do you still have to know your computer inside-out (or have all the manuals for all your equipment) to install it? If so, I’d better just wait until I get my next computer.

I’ve always liked the idea of Linux, I just haven’t heard of a benefit that applies to *me* enough to motivate me.

Nope, the hardware detection routines on most modern distrobutions are quite excellent. The types of hardware linux still has some trouble with tend to be Winmodems (aka soft modems)1, wireless networking2, 3D video cards3 and latest cutting edge hardware.

If you’d like, I can provide you with a copy of Ubuntu that can both run and/or install off the same CD.

1 These are internal modems where the manufacturer has off-loaded all the functions of the hardware into their software and/or drivers. They do this to reduce the cost of their modem.
2 This has gotten a lot better in the last year or so. But depending on what chipset is used in your wireless network card , this can be hit-or-miss.
3 Both NVidia and ATI produce binary drivers for Linux which work for most users, but again it depends on your exact hardware/distrobution.

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