Windows is immensely versatile once you get past its security problems.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


Power user tips for Windows

September 24, 2012

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2012, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2012, The Post-Standard

As a Mac fan, sometimes I portray Windows as one of those necessary evils. You know -- death, taxes and Windows.

But in fact Windows is immensely versatile once you get past its security problems. Let's take a look at some much ignored features of Windows that can make you a power user. I use them myself when I have to switch back to my Acer PC now and then.

Let's begin at the beginning -- the Start Menu. Sure, everybody knows you click the Start button to open the menu. But not everybody knows how dumb that is. All you really have to do is press the Win key. It's much easier (and a lot better for your wrist, too).

The Win key, in case you've never checked it out, is the key with the Windows flag logo. It's got a companion oddball key. It's the Menu key, which simulates a right click. It looks like a tiny menu.

If you think right-clicking is cool, wait 'til you try the Next Big (and Shifty) Thing. Hold down the Shift key while you right click on items to see extra options not usually on the right-click menu. Sometimes they are super helpful.

Another helpful thing is the F11 key. On modern versions of Windows, it supersizes (not just maximizes) the display. Press F11 again to land back down on earth.

Speaking of function keys, my two favorite little-known features when you have a file-and-folder window open are instant renaming (select an item and press F2) and speedy refresh (F5). "Refresh" means taking a second look at the contents of a folder in case they've changed, but it also works with webpages -- and with the desktop. Click once on a blank area of the desktop and hit F5; your desktop icons should snap to attention.

If someone asks if you can make a special arrangement of files in a folder, tell them "iCon"! Why? Because getting rid of icons works wonders. Just click one of the text arrangement buttons at the top of a folder window, then click the header label for the sorting method you want. Turn the sort upside down by clicking it again.

If other Windows users ask how old you are, make them think you're ancient by using this trick straight out of the '80s: Switch to another running program by pressing Alt and the Tab key at the same time.

And if you're facing a zillion image files from your last big family outing and they're all named something bizarre like "DSC0592765120," get out your decoder ring and rename them quickly. Select all the photo files, right click and choose "Rename." Type some sort of common activity related to all the photos, such as "Jones Family Picnic 2012," and hit Enter. Watch as Windows renames them all using that phrase, writing incremented numbers to individualize each file.