When you need -- really need -- to turn off an uncooperative computer, you'll find that pressing the power button won't do a thing.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


A simple manual for your new PC or Mac, Part 2

Jan. 3, 2010

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2010, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2010, The Post-Standard

   No pain, no gain. That must be the mantra of the folks who make our computers. They run us through an obstacle course every time we want to do something more complicated than turning things on.
   So this week I'm offering an instruction manual for the software side of computing. Last week I looked at the hardware side of things. (For that column, see www.technofileonline/texts/tec122709.html.)
   "Turning things on" seems simple enough, but there's a software "gotcha" that makes mumblers out of proud PC users every day. When you need -- really need -- to turn off an uncooperative computer, you'll find that pressing the power button won't do a thing.
   The secret to turning it off is hidden in the software that directs the power supply. It waits for you to hold the on/off button down for at least seven seconds before it will turn off the computer.
   I see eyes lighting up all over town. At long last you know your PC or Mac isn't defective just because it won't shut down the way you thought it should. Just remember to hold that button down.
   Speaking of buttons, every desktop computer has a mouse with at least three buttons these days. Yep, THREE buttons. Where's the third one? It's that roller wheel on top. It's actually a button, too. Check your mouse software (via the Control Panel in Windows or System Preferences on a Mac) to see if you can assign a special function to it. You might be able to get it to do a double click -- a cool finger-saver for sure.
   A special note while we're mousing: Apple still keeps some Mac users from realizing they have a right click just like Windows users do. Check the mouse software (in System Preferences) to make sure what Apple calls the "alternate" click is active.
   But no software missive would be complete without picking on PC users, too. If one of your windows gets stuck partway underneath the top of your screen, you can get it back easily with this semi-secret method: Hold down the Alt key and press the Spacebar. Then let go of those two keys and press M. Let up on the M key and press the Down Arrow key repeatedly until the window comes back down. Finish this sequence by pressing Enter.
   (Here's another software secret for many of you: Windows 7, the latest version of Microsoft's operating system, won't let your windows go up under the top. If you have Windows 7, try it; it can't be done. Macs can't do it, either. See? These warring camps have something in common.)
   Finally, did you know that you can give your wrist a break and skip the chore of dragging whatever you want to delete to the trash can? In Windows, just press the Del key. On a Mac, press Cmd-Delete. To delete something forever (by skipping the trash can), press Shift-Del in Windows. The Mac won't let you skip the trash, but you can automatically delete-and-empty-the-trash with two combinations: Cmd-Delete, then Cmd-Shift-Delete.