Make Your Tech Life Easier: Load Apps and Docs at Startup, Chrome Tips

On any given day, reader Stephen works with several different files in several different programs, and he wrote to me for advice streamlining his day. (I answer reader questions every now and then, so feel free to send me email describing your dilemma. But please, read "How to Ask for Tech Help" first.)

Stephen's hassle is having to restart these programs and reload these documents every time he boots his PC: "I would like to be able to shut my PC down and then start up the next day with the same programs and files open on my desktop--just like if I had a REAL desk with all the hard-copy documents neatly laid out ready for me to jump right into work the next day."

Makes sense to me. For example, I typically run Word, Chrome, and Outlook every day, so why I am loading them manually like a sucker?

Although you can't quite "snapshot" your desktop, Stephen, Windows actually makes it pretty easy to auto-load both programs and documents. But keep in mind there's a reason most people don't take advantage of it: the more stuff you load during startup, the longer it takes your machine to, well, start up. Indeed, many users go out of their way to reduce the number of programs that run during the boot process, precisely so that Windows starts faster.

But if you prize convenience over speed (personally, I like using Windows' lengthy boot to, say, straighten my desk or go refill my coffee cup), here's how to make programs and/or documents start when Windows does.

(By the way, readers, obviously you can use Windows' hibernate option to restore your workspace exactly as you left it, but Stephen reported that this was causing problems on his system.)

  1. Click Start, All Programs.
  2. Find the Startup folder. Right-click it, then choose Open.
  3. Find the icon for the program or document you want to run at startup. Right-click it, then choose Create shortcut. (Note: If it's a document for, say, Word, you don't need a shortcut for Word as well. Any given document will automatically run the program it's associated with.)
  4. Drag that shortcut into the Startup folder.
  5. Close the Startup folder.

Presto! The next time you reboot, your Startup shortcuts will load automatically. If you want to make changes, just open the Startup folder again and delete any shortcuts--they're shortucts, not the actual documents/programs, so there's no harm in deleting them.

Troubleshoot Google Chrome Bookmark Syncing

My personal jury is still out on Google Chrome. I made the switch from Firefox a couple months ago, and while I like Chrome’s speed, features, and overall stability, I do encounter occasional glitches.

For example, I recently discovered that my bookmarks weren’t syncing between my primary desktop (the one I use at home) and my laptop (the one I use everywhere else, natch). And Chrome’s baked-in bookmark-syncing capability is, in my opinion, one of its best features. Needless to say, this was mighty annoying.

I doubled-checked both PCs to make sure syncing was properly enabled. It was. This feature is accessible by clicking the little wrench in the upper-right corner of the Chrome window, then clicking Options, then Personal Stuff.

Just to clarify, the non-syncing bookmarks in question were those in my bookmarks bar, which spans the top of the screen, just below the address bar. I use that religiously for my most frequently visited sites.

The solution here proved to be a quick and easy one, and not unlike rebooting a glitchy PC. Basically, I just needed to disable syncing, then re-enable it.

On my laptop--the system that wasn’t pulling in the updated bookmarks--I opened the Options tab, then clicked Personal Stuff as described above.

Next, I selected Stop syncing this account. After Chrome disabled that feature, the button changed to Set up sync. I clicked that, followed by OK, sync everything. It took a few minutes, but when all was said and done, my laptop’s bookmarks were up-to-date.

I can’t promise this fix will work for you, but it’s definitely the first thing I’d try.

If you've got a hassle that needs solving, send it my way. I can't promise a response, but I'll definitely read every e-mail I get--and do my best to address at least some of them in the PCWorld Hassle-Free PC blog. My 411: hasslefree@pcworld.com. You can also sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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