Quick Tips for Microsoft Word, Cool Windows Tools

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Regular Hassle-Free PC readers know of my fondness for keyboard shortcuts. But let's not overlook the mouse, which is just as capable of saving you precious seconds while you work.

For example, suppose you're working on a document and want to italicize a word. Most people reach for the mouse, click and hold the left button, then drag to select that word. That gets the job done, but it's slow and imprecise.

The faster, easier way? Just double-click the word (like I did in the example to the left). Presto! It's instantly highlighted, and ready for italicizing, copying, or whatever.

Want to work the same magic on an entire paragraph? Just triple-click anywhere inside it. Again, presto: the whole thing is instantly selected.

By the way, these click-tricks work in lots of places: word processors, Web browsers, e-mail programs, and so on. Once you get in the habit, I guarantee you'll never go back to the old click-and-drag method.

Use Thumbnails to Navigate Your Microsoft Word Documents

I've been a Microsoft Word user for as long as I can remember, but every now and then I discover a feature I didn't know existed--and come to find totally indispensable.

For example, do you routinely work with lengthy documents? Then you know what a hassle it can be to jump between pages. Wouldn't it be great if Word had a thumbnail view like PowerPoint's, a way to instantly switch to another page just like you switch slides?

As it happens, Word offers the very same option--and it's fantastic for navigating long documents. In Word 2007 and 2010, click the View tab, then check the Thumbnails box. In Word 2003, click the View menu, then Thumbnails. Presto! Now you have a scrolling list of thumbnails, just like in PowerPoint. Click one to immediately jump to that page. How crazy-handy is that!

Force a Window to Stay on Top of Other Windows

Reader Shug49 wrote in with this question: "I use a password storage program that works great, but has one flaw: When it's in use it won't stay on top of other open windows. How can I keep it visible at all times?"

You'd think Windows would have a "stay on top" option, but, alas, it doesn't. That leaves you with two options: Resize your other windows to create an always-visible "opening" for your password manager, or find a utility that forces selected windows to stay on top.

Always On Top forces selected windows to stay on top. It's free, it's easy, and it works. I tested it on my Windows 7 x64 machine. Just run the utility, click the window you want to keep on top, then press Ctrl-Space. Presto! Repeat as necessary with any other windows you want to keep on top. To turn off the function, click the window again and press Ctrl-Space again.

Interestingly, this program was created by Amit Agarwal using Autohotkey and a single line of code. Clever!

Remove Duplicate Files

A couple months back I wrote about Fast Duplicate File Finder, a free utility that scans selected folders on your hard drive, locates any duplicate files, then gives you the option of removing them.

Reader Steve just wrote in to tell me about a similar program he likes even better. It's DigitalVolcano's free Duplicate Cleaner 2.0, though I'm not sure I agree it's the better of the two. (Be sure to click the Download link on the left side of the page, not the big inviting Download button in the main pane.)

I do think Duplicate Cleaner has a friendlier interface (though the way it presents its "found" duplicates is a little confusing, which is why I went into the settings and chose a different background color for one of the groups). It also seems to have more parameters for finding duplicates and choosing what to do with them after they've been found.

However, FDFF does a better job showing previews of duplicate images (so you can make sure they are indeed duplicates). Duplicate Cleaner forces you to open a selected image in a separate window, which is a minor hassle.

Ultimately, I just wanted to point you to another program that can do the very important, very useful job of finding and eliminating duplicates. It's up to you to decide which one you like best.

One final note: Always exercise extreme caution when using any program like this, making sure to have a current backup available just in case. Another reader recently informed me that he made a mistake while using Fast Duplicate File Finder, and lost a big chunk of his photo library.

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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