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Chapter 4. Using The Windows Xp Interfac... > Tips from the Windows Pros: Working ...

Tips from the Windows Pros: Working Efficiently

The interface is your portal into the operating system and therefore into your computer. You're likely to be using it every day, so it behooves you to “work the system” as effectively and efficiently as possible. As a writer and programmer on deadlines, I use my computer at breakneck speed most of the time. Cutting corners on how you control the system interface saves you literally hundreds of miles of mousing around your desktop over the course of a few years. Here are our top timesaving and motion-saving tips for using Windows XP:

  • To get to the desktop (minimize all open windows), press the Windows key and M at the same time. To reverse the effect, press Shift+Windows+M. This is a real timesaver. If you prefer the mouse, use the Desktop button in the Quick Launch bar. It does the same thing.

  • Change between apps with Alt+Tab. Aiming for an application's little button on the taskbar is a hassle. You'll get tendonitis doing that all day.

  • Buy an ergonomic keyboard, split in the middle. Try not to rest your wrists on a hard surface. Cut a mouse pad in half and use Velcro, tape, or glue to affix it to the palm rest in front of the keys, if you're a “leaner.”

  • Double-click a window's title bar to make it go full screen. Editing in little windows on the screen is a hassle and requires unnecessary scrolling.

  • To close the foreground program or window, press Alt+F4. It's that easy. Alternatively, right-click its button on the taskbar and choose Close. Aiming for that little X in the upper-right corner takes too much mouse movement.

  • Put all your favorite applications, dialup connections, folders, and documents on the Quick Launch bar. Forget about the Start button. You can put about 20 things down there on the Quick Launch bar, for easy, one-click access. Use it. When an item falls out of use, erase it. They're only shortcuts, so it doesn't matter if you erase them.


    On Windows XP Home, the Quick Launch bar is disabled by default. To turn it on, right-click over an empty area on the taskbar, then from the pop-up menu that appears select Toolbars, Quick Launch.

  • If there are too many items within the Quick Launch bar to be displayed within the current area, two little arrows (>>) are displayed. This indicates that other Quick Launch icons are present but are currently hidden from view. To see the hidden icons, click on the double arrow to see a pop-up menu or click and drag the edge of the main toolbar area (just to the right of the Quick Launch bar) to expand the space available for the Quick Launch bar.

  • Those little double arrows appear in many locations throughout the user experience. They're on the Quick Launch bar, the system tray, the WebView details pane, ends of toolbars, and more. They simply indicate that more data is available but it's currently hidden from view. Or they can mean that all data is currently displayed but it can be hidden or reduced in size. In some cases, the double arrows are a toggle between minimum and expanded views. At other times, the double arrows display the hidden items when clicked but return to their previous display when you make a selection or click somewhere else.

  • Use Standby and Hibernate! Don't boot up every time you turn on your computer. It's a waste of valuable time. Keep you favorite programs open: email, word processor, picture viewer, Web browser, spreadsheet, whatever. Do save your work, maybe even close your document, but leave the apps open and keep the machine in standby or hibernate mode.

  • If you use a laptop in the office, get a good external keyboard to work with it. Your hands will probably be happier, and you'll type faster. Also, get a pointing device that works best for you. Those “pointing stick” mouse devices found on many laptops are not for everyone. Try a few different pointing devices and come up with one that works best for you.

  • Discover and use right-click shortcuts whenever possible. For example, in Outlook Express, you can easily copy the name and email address of someone from the Address Book and paste them into an email. People are always asking me for email addresses of mutual friends or colleagues. I click on a person's entry in the Address Book and press Ctrl+C (for copy); then I switch back to the email I'm writing and press Ctrl+V (paste). Then I just press Ctrl+Enter, and the email is sent.

  • Also in Outlook Express, you can reply to an email with Ctrl+R. Forward one with Ctrl+F. Send a message you've just written by pressing Ctrl+Enter. Send and Receive all mail with Ctrl+M.

  • In Internet Explorer, use the F11 toggle to go full screen. This gets all the other junk off the screen. Also, use the Search panel to do your Web searches (opened by clicking the magnifying glass search toolbar button). You can easily check search results without having to use the Back button. And speaking of the Back button, don't bother moving the mouse up there to click Back. Just press Alt+left arrow. The left- and right-arrow buttons with Alt are the same as the Back and Forward buttons.

  • In most Microsoft applications, including Outlook Express and Internet Explorer, F5 is the “refresh” key. In OE, for example, pressing F5 sends and receives all your mail, as long as the Inbox is highlighted. In IE, it refreshes the page. In Windows Explorer, it updates the listing in a window (to reflect the results of a file move, for example). Remember F5!

  • In Word, Excel, and many other apps, Ctrl+F6 is the key that switches between open windows within the same app. No need to click on the Window menu in the app and choose the document in question. Just cycle through them with Ctrl+F6.

  • In the apps you use most, look for shortcut keys or macros you can use or create to avoid unnecessary repetitious work. Most of us type the same words again and again. (See, there I go.) As a writer, for example, I have macros programmed in MS Word for common words such as Windows XP Home, Control Panel, Desktop, Folders, and so on. Bob has created a slew of editing macros that perform tasks such as “delete to the end of line” (Ctrl+P), “delete line” (Ctrl+Y), and so on. In Word, press Alt+T+A and check out the AutoCorrect and AutoText features.



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