There’s much more to Windows than first meets the eye – you can be a power user for years and still not realise the full potential of the operating system.
Let’s run through some Windows features that aren’t highly advertised and which can help you be more productive. Remember to share your own in the comments below!
Shake It OffHave you got loads of windows open at once and find your screen too cluttered? In Windows 7 and up, click and hold on the title bar of the window you’re interested in and give it a shake back and forth with your mouse. All other windows will shrink to the taskbar, leaving the window you’ve made dizzy remaining open.
This feature is known as Aero Shake. You can get Aero features in Windows Vista or XP using third party applications.
Wallpaper SlideshowDeciding on a single wallpaper to showcase on your desktop is a tricky feat. There’s so many wallpapers to choose from, why settle for one? Instead, right click your desktop and navigate to Personalise > Desktop Background. This will open up a window that lets you set your wallpaper. Select multiple images by holding Ctrl as you click.
You can then customise how often you want the image to change and whether the order of the images should shuffle. No longer will you have to see the same image every time you go to your desktop.
See our guide to Windows Customisation for more tips like this.
Quick Taskbar OpenNo-one has time to move their mouse and click taskbar icons! Instead, hold down the Windows key and press the corresponding number to open up that program. For example, Windows + 1 will open the first icon from your taskbar, and so on.
Additionally, click and hold on the icons and then drag them to rearrange their position on the taskbar. As you do, their corresponding number will change too. Finally, hold down shift as you click an open window to load up a new instance of that program.If your system is running slower than usual then it’s worth checking out what is slowing it down. Do a system search for resource monitor and bring up the respective program. You can switch between different tabs, like CPU and Memory, to see what is hogging your resources.
There are also some Matrix-looking graphs that will offer a real-time look at the usage and strain that each part of your system is undergoing.
Restore Your DeletionsYou probably know about Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V for copy and pasting, but there’s also the lesser known Ctrl + Z. This will undo your last action, such as restoring something that you’ve just deleted on the active window.
For example, if you’ve sent a file to the Recycle Bin you can press Ctrl + Z to bring it back to where it once was. This keyboard shortcut also works elsewhere; like in text boxes online to bring back deleted words and the majority of software to revert actions (image editors, word processors, and so on).
Control User Account ControlSome people find User Account Control quite useful, but for others it is more hindrance than help. If you’re not aware, UAC is the feature that pops up every time you’re making an important change to your system.
This feature was introduced in order to better protect users and make them aware of their actions, but if you don’t need it then you can turn it off entirely. Perform a system search for user account control, select the result and the User Account Control Settings window will open. From here you can drag a slider to customise your notification settings.
The default option is the second highest, but drag the slider all the way to the bottom if you never want any notifications. The information section on the right-hand side will tell you what each notch represents in more detail.This one is for those of you using Windows 7 Ultimate/Enterprise or Windows 8 Pro/Enterprise. Those of you running a different Windows edition, try one of these disk encryption alternatives.
Data protection is crucially important and BitLocker is a utility that is on hand to help you encrypt your drives. Right click your drive, select Turn on BitLocker and then follow the instructions to get your files secure. It’s simple, quick and easy – no third-party tools required.
Please bear in mind that it is vital you never lose or forget the encryption key to your drive. If you lose this then there’s absolutely no way of getting your data back. Use this feature with great care.
Customise Start Menu ShutdownClick the Start menu and you’ll see that the default option on the bottom right is to Shut down, with the arrow next door allowing you to extend your options, like restart or log off. It’s possible to customise this if shutting down isn’t the choice you primarily use.
To do so, right click Shut down, select Properties and this will bring up a taskbar customisation window that will let you choose your own power button action. For example, you might want to default to sleep if that’s the choice you usually go for.
Launch Programs With Custom Keyboard ShortcutsIf you have programs that you’re constantly accessing then there’s another way to load them up quicker without clogging up your taskbar.
Right click on the program’s icon (often found from the Start menu or your desktop) and select Properties. This will open up the program’s properties and from here you should switch to the Shortcut tab. The field called Shortcut key is the one we care about.
Click in the field and press a key of your choice. This key, along with Ctrl + Altcombined, will now become your customised shortcut to opening this program in a flash.The word ‘toolbars’ has a slightly negative connotation in the tech world. It brings about images of third-party junk clogging up browsers, usually accidentally installed from other programs. But toolbars can also be great things, in the correct place.
Your taskbar, for example, can do more than just store program icons. Right click the taskbar, hover over Toolbars and then tick the ones you want appearing. The best inbuilt one is Address, which will give you a text field that allows you to navigate to any website through your browser or load any path or search in your system.
You might find that some programs offer their own toolbars, like iTunes – this will mean that when you minimise the music player it’ll provide a neat music control panel from your taskbar, saving you loading the window each time you want to pause or change track.