Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
Top tips and tricks for Windows

May 4, 2008

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, The Post-Standard

   I like computers, but not because they're useful. Hey, shovels are useful. I like computers because they're unfinished.
   I know many of you feel the same way. Every time you use your PC or Mac, you get a chance to do something Microsoft, Dell and Apple didn't do. They didn't finish the job. They left it up to you.
   That;s OK. We like to tinker with the way our computers work. We like to add special little programs that do what the PC or Mac can't do on its own. We like to make our regular programs do unusual things. And we especially enjoy uncovering little tips and tricks we never knew before.
   This week and next, I'll pass along some of my favorites. Windows tips come first.
   DROP THE MOUSE: Use key combinations instead of the mouse for repetitive operations. This is the most important tip anyone can give you because it can help you avoid wrist injuries. Use Ctrl-S instead of the mouse to save a file, for example. There are so many keyboard shortcuts that they'd fill a bunch of newspaper columns. In fact, they already have. Here are some of those previous columns:
   FORGET THE ICONS: When you're looking at a file-and-folder window, change to a Details view (use the View menu or one of the toolbar buttons). You'll be able to see right away the size, type and date of files and folders. But here's the best part: Clicking once on the category header tells Windows to sort the window by that category. Clicking on the same header a second time reverses the sort order. Way cool.
   BE SHIFTY: When something goes wrong after new software is installed, reboot while holding down the shift key. That cancels extra startup programs for that session only, and Windows should behave again. That will give you time to diagnose the problem.
   TYPE FASTER: No, I'm not telling you to take typing lessons. I'm just saying you can add some snap to your typing by changing the slowpoke settings Microsoft built into Windows. Find them in the Control Panel under Keyboard. They'e called Repeat Delay and Repeat Rate. Slide them all the way to the right.
   CAPTURE IT: Want to show a buddy what something looks like on your screen? Capture it. Press the Print Screen key (it might be abbreviated on your keyboard) and start a new e-mail message. Click once inside the message and press Ctrl-V. That will paste your screen shot into the e-mail.
   KNOW HOW TO MOVE: When you are dragging files or folders to another location, hold down the Shift key while dragging to move things; hold Ctrl to copy. (Remember: "C" as in Ctrl means "Copy.")
   DO NOT PASS GO: If you organize your file lists alphabetically (see "Forget the Icons" above), you can instantly go to any item in a list by typing the first few characters of the name. (This actually works no matter how your files are sorted, but it does best with an alphabetical list.)
   CUT OFF ALL CONTACT: Windows PCs are vulnerable to infections, especially from "bots" that slip into PCs and turn them into nighttime spam relays. These invaders can literally turn your Windows PC on at their own command. To block them, use a switched power outlet for your PC and turn the outlet off when you go to bed.
   DIM THE LIGHTS: Most PCs haven't been adjusted for the best display, especially for brightness. Go to my main Web site (at www.technofileonline.com) and use the photo on the home page as a good benchmark. Adjust the screen's brightness downward until dark areas look almost black.
   START A HABIT: Put any program, folder or file into your Start Menu by dragging the item to the Start button and dropping it there.
   Next week: Tips for Macs.