Turn Off Unwanted Windows Features
If you're running Windows on a netbook or on an older PC, you no doubt want to keep it lean and fit. Like Vista, Windows 7 makes it easy to turn off unwanted features that might slow down the OS. Unlike Vista, Windows 7 also lets you disable high-profile apps such as Internet Explorer 8, Windows Media Center, and Windows Search.
To make changes, click Start, type Features, and then click Turn Windows features on or off. Wait a few seconds for the menu to appear; when it does, clear the checkbox for any feature you want to disable. (Netbook users, for example, might want to send Windows DVD Maker packing, and there's no sense keeping Tablet PC Components around if you're not using a tablet or other touchscreen PC. Click OK when you're done, and wait (a minute or several) while Windows reconfigures itself.
Add Internet Search Shortcuts
One of the great things about Windows Vista is the way that search capabilities permeate the OS. From the Start menu to Windows Explorer to the Control Panel, search is everywhere. The same is true of Windows 7, of course, but in addition you can install so-called "search connectors" that let you search various Web sites directly from Windows Explorer.
If you've ever added search engines to Internet Explorer 7 or 8, you've encountered a similar idea. In Windows 7, click the type of search you want--Amazon, eBay, Flickr, or whatever--and then okay the addition in a few confirmation dialog boxes. When you're done, you'll see the new option in the Favorites section of Windows Explorer. Start typing in the search field and watch as results appear dynamically (that is, as you type).
You can find a bunch of these connectors over at Seven Forums, where you'll also find instructions for creating connectors of your own (to reach them, scroll down to the section titled 'Create Your Own Standard Basic Search Provider'). So if you're handy with the copy/paste commands, you can make a connector for just about any site--say, PC World.
Copy the XML code into Notepad, replace the bolded bits with the appropriate info (for instance, Sevenforums becomes PC World, and the URLs become pcworld.com); then save the file with an OSDX extension. When you double-click the new file, it will install itself in Explorer's navigation pane.
Show More (or Fewer) Items in Your Jump Lists
Jump Lists function like a souped-up Recent Documents menu, providing quick access to application-specific documents and/or options. For example, right-clicking the Internet Explorer taskbar icon reveals a list of frequently visited Web sites and available tasks (such as New Tab and InPrivate). Once you get started using Jump Lists, you'll wonder how you ever got along without them.
Want to change the number of items that appear in your Jump Lists? It's 10 by default, but that may be too many or too few for your liking. Fortunately, modifying the number is a snap:
1. Right-click the Start button, and then click Properties.
2. Click the Customize button.
3. Just below the options window, you'll see 'Number of recent programs to display in Jump Lists'. Use the arrows to adjust the setting, or just type the number you want into the box. (Zero is an option!)
4. Click OK, OK, and you're done.
Tell Action Center to Keep Quiet(er)
Microsoft promised to make Windows 7 less annoying than Vista, starting with issuing fewer User Account Control warnings and pop-up system messages. Windows 7's new Action Center rides herd on the latter and lets you specify which messages you want to see. Here's how to tweak the settings:
1. Click Start, type Action, and click Action Center.
2. Click Change Action Center settings.
3. Clear the checkbox next to one or more of the security or maintenance options.
4. Click OK and you're done.
Bear in mind that the purpose of these system messages is to keep your PC running safely and smoothly. If you disable them, you may miss an important warning.
Move the Taskbar to the Side of the Screen
Widescreen monitors are great for watching movies and for organizing windows, but a lot of time the space goes to waste. So why not free up some vertical space by moving the Windows Taskbar to the side of the screen? Windows 7 makes this option particularly attractive option because it adopts label-free icons. Windows veterans may hate this at first, but it's a nice way to gain extra screen estate in your Web browser, word processor, and other apps.
1. Right-click an empty area of the Taskbar, and clear the checkmark next to Lock the Taskbar.
2. Left-click and hold an empty area of the Taskbar, and then drag it to the left side of the screen. Once you get close, you'll see it lock in, at which point you can release the mouse button.
That's all there is to it! Give it a try for a few days, and if you don't like it, you can always drag the Taskbar back to the bottom of the screen.
For comprehensive, straightforward advice and tips that can help you get the most out of the new operating system, order PC World's Windows 7 Superguide, on CD-ROM or in a convenient, downloadable PDF file.