Work Smarter In Windows: 55 Great Productivity Tricks

Use Outlook’s Search Folders. Though it has somewhat less utility now that PC indexing and document search are commonplace, the Search Folders feature in Outlook still has a function. Essentially, these folders store copies of messages on the basis of predefined rules that you set—such as messages that have a keyword in the subject line or that are sent to or from a certain contact—and the folders update themselves as new messages arrive. If you need to constantly refer to a topic or to a particular person’s messages (such as those from your boss or a key client), but organizing them individually into folders doesn’t work for you, Search Folders can be a great time-saver. You can set one up under New•Search Folder.

Alter Windows Explorer’s ‘Favorites’. Drag folders to the top left of the screen from within Explorer and then organize them however you like. Right-click and select Remove to get rid of anything you don’t want. (Click here for more on folders in Ex­­plorer.)

Install a good spam filter. If your e-mail client doesn’t already have one, you can find many spam filters in PCWorld.com’s Downloads library. One good choice is Cloudmark DesktopOne.

Use the Windows 7 Calculator. You don’t need to hunt for a special Website or a pocket gadget to do complicated math. The Calculator utility in Windows 7 is far more powerful than it appears at first glance. Click the View button to pull up Scientific, Programmer, and Statistics calculators as well as a date calculator, a unit converter, and even a mortgage calculator. Useful, non?

Ratchet down User Account Control’s intrusiveness. This is an instant way to save time. In the ‘User Accounts and Family Safety’ control panel, first click User Accounts, followed by Change User Account Control settings. If you’re paranoid (and a power user), you can probably safely turn UAC down either to Never notify me, or to the option that’s one notch above that, Notify me only when programs try to make changes to my computer (do not dim my desktop).

Turn your iPad into a second monitor. All it takes is Air Display, a utility now available for the PC. It’s $10 from the iTunes Store.

De fault to the Documents Library. In Windows 7, when you launch Windows Explorer, the view automatically de­­faults to the Libraries Folder, which for many users is not very useful. Busy types will typically drill straight to the Documents Library from there. Save a click by instructing Explorer to default to the Documents Library. To do this, right-click on the Windows Explorer shortcut (the taskbar shortcut won’t work). In the Target field, type or paste:

%windir%\explorer.exe ::{450D8FBA-AD25-11D0-98A8-0800361B1103}

Finally, replace the icon in the taskbar with your tweaked shortcut.

Windows 7’s Jump Lists are packed with useful shortcuts to common actions. Getting to know them can save you hundreds of clicks per day.
Liberally use Windows 7’s Jump Lists. You can access the Jump Lists by right-clicking on any icon in the taskbar. You’ll find recently used documents, along with certain app-specific functions (such as setting your IM client to ‘Away’). One little time-saver: You can pin a Web URL to your browser’s Jump List by dragging that URL to the browser icon in the taskbar (do this by clicking on the mini icon in the URL bar).

Use Outlook 2010’s Conversations view. This view can make your inbox much more manageable by compressing related messages into groups and showing only the most recent message in the thread—similar to the way that Gmail works. To give this view a try, click the Arrange By tab in the message list pane and then select Conversation. Outlook will display only the most recent message in a thread. Use the spinner next to each headline to see previous messages in the thread.

Use Outlook’s Clean Up button. Is your inbox still out of control? In Outlook 2010, click the Clean Up button (it’s in the ribbon), and Outlook will sweep the inbox’s redundant messages into the trash for you with a single click.

Shorten your tech support calls by using Windows’ Problem Steps Recorder to capture each step of a PC problem as it happens.
Use Windows’ Problem Steps Recorder. Tech support calls are a pain. If you’re having computer problems, don’t get stuck on an endless phone call trying to explain the difficulty. Run Windows’ Problem Steps Recorder to save a step-by-step history of what you’re doing so you can share it with a friend or tech support pro. Type PSR in the Start menu search box to find and run the recorder. Then go through the steps that lead to your problem; PSR will record a screenshot of each step, logging everything you type and click. When you’re finished, click the Stop button and save the file. E-mail the archive to someone who’s better informed for a solution. (Note: This resource can also be used to make quick-and-dirty tutorials.)

Give yourself more screen real estate. You can shrink Windows 7’s oversize taskbar icons by right-clicking the taskbar, choosing Properties, and selecting Use small icons. This option shrinks the size of the taskbar by half, giving you a few extra millimeters of vertical screen space.

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