Work Smarter In Windows: 55 Great Productivity Tricks

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Turn off Aero Snap. By now you certainly know that in Windows 7, dragging a window to the side of the screen will autoresize it to fill exactly half of your available space, and dragging it to the top will cause it to fill the entire display. This is great for some people; but if you don’t like Aero Snap, you’re stuck with having to undo the resizing, often dozens of times per day. You can turn off this behavior with a Registry hack: Run Regedit, and then browse to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop; there, set Window­ArrangementActive to 0. After completing this step, you’ll have to reboot.

Snap windows faster. But what if you like Aero Snap? Here is a faster way to snap windows right or left by using keyboard shortcuts instead of the mouse. Windows Key-Left Arrow snaps left, and Windows Key-Right Arrow snaps right. While we’re at it, Windows Key-Up Arrow will maximize your window, while Windows Key-Down Arrow will minimize it. (Note, however, that if you have done the Registry hack described in the preceding tip to turn off Aero Snap, that hack will have disabled these particular shortcuts, too.)

Lowercase all-capitals text in a trice. In Microsoft Office apps, convert the text to lowercase by selecting it and pressing Shift-F3. Press Shift-F3 a second time to convert the text to title case (Which Looks Like This).

Customize your system tray. Windows 7 helpfully decreases the amount of space dedicated to the Notification Area by putting all but the most essential notifications within a drop-down (or, in this case, drop-up) box. It looks nice, but you can burn lots of time with wasted clicks as you hunt for what you need. If you want regular, click-free access to some of these notifications, change the default layout. It’s easy to do. Just open the tray’s spillover window and drag the icons you want to the taskbar area. You can rearrange icons within the added window, too.

Pin almost anything to the taskbar. There is practically no limit to the things you can pin to the taskbar: often-used folders, the Control Panel, even a button to shut down your PC. (For the last option, find shutdown.exe in the System/Windows32 directory, create a shortcut to it, and then append this text to the target in Properties: /s /f /t 00).

Use the Manage Add-ons menu in Internet Explorer to eliminate browser plug-ins that are slowing down your launch times.
Make Internet Explorer load faster. When IE loads very slowly for no clear reason, it’s usually due to an add-on clogging the pipes. Fortunately, one of IE’s best features is that it allows you to see how long each add-on is taking to load. You can find this under Tools•Manage Add-ons. Check the ‘Load time’ column to see what has been weighing you down.

Work around a Jump List limitation. Jump Lists are great, but Windows 7 no longer offers a way for you to open a new instance of an application—a new Word document or a new browser window, for example—by right-clicking on the application’s icon in the taskbar. Instead of resorting to the File menu, hold down Shift and then left-click normally on the taskbar icon to open a new instance of the application, leaving your other open windows in place.

Get a quick peek at the desktop. Simply click Windows Key-Spacebar to hide all open windows. Keep the Windows Key held down, and then release that key to return to your former environment with all its open windows in place.

Save downloads to a different directory. The Windows 7 Downloads directory sounds convenient, but since few users ever go browsing there, downloaded files may be forgotten for days. Most browsers will default to downloading into this directory. Firefox and Chrome users can change this relatively easily, though, to something more convenient. In Firefox, click Tools•Options. Under the General tab, change the ‘Save files to’ setting to the directory of your choice. In Google Chrome, click the Tools icon (it looks like a wrench), then Options. Click the Minor Tweaks tab and change the ‘Download location’ setting there. IE users unfortunately have to hack the Registry to make this change (a step that only power users should consider taking).

Zoom faster. In Windows 7 and Vista, Ctrl-Mouse Wheel lets you zoom in and out in most applications. In Windows Explorer, this combo makes icons and thumbnails larger or smaller. In Web browsers and most graphics programs, it changes the font size or the zoom level up and down.

Control your postvacation time. Never schedule anything for the day after you come back from a long trip or vacation, since you’ll need this day to catch up on everything you’ve missed while you were out. If you use a shared calendar system, book the entire day of your re­­turn with “meetings” before you leave.

Save time with VoIP. You can save significant time—and possibly money, too—by using a VoIP system that allows you to click phone numbers in Web pages and in e-mail messages and dial them directly via your PC. Skype offers such an option, which works broadly in e-mail and on most Websites, and Google recently integrated its own VoIP offering, Google Voice, into Gmail. In addition, Google Voice saves call histories as they take place, integrating them into the Gmail contact management system.

Hate staring at splash screens while your programs load? Use GNag to kill splash screens and other annoying pop-ups.
Get rid of splash screens and daily nag pop-ups. Splash screens do nothing for productivity. GNag will get rid of many of them for you with a simple install. The application focuses on eliminating the vanity videos that play when you launch many video games, but it also suppresses, for example, the annoying pop-up message that you get daily with the free version of the popular Avira AntiVir Personal Edition Classic antivirus software.

Don’t get involved with FarmVille. This advice is obvious but crucial.

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