Windows 7 is getting on a bit now and even its replacement is due for replacement later this year with the launch of Windows 10. Even so, it’s still the preferred operating system for many PC users, which makes it all the more surprising that it’s capable of some clever tricks that not everyone knows about. Here are 12 of our favourites.
Tip 1: Search the Start menu
Anyone who’s used Windows for several years will be used to clicking through several levels of Start menu to find what they want, but there’s a faster way to do things in Windows 7. Just type what you want in the Search box, but this isn’t just limited to applications — you can quickly access specific part of Control Panel and even individual files.
Tip 2: Make quick changes to your account
Speaking of the Start menu, if you need to make changes to a user account, there’s an even quicker way to access this Control Panel option. Just open the Start menu and click the image for your user account at its top-right to jump straight to Make changes to your user account.
Tip 3: Put your PC to sleep quickly
We’re not done with the Start menu yet. By default, the option on the Start menu’s Shut down button is, unsurprisingly, Shut down, with everything else hidden behind the button on its right-hand side.
If you want your PC to burst into life quickly when you switch it on, Sleep is a better option here, so you can change this to the default with ease. Just right-click the Start button, select Properties and choose Sleep from the power button action drop-down list.
Tip 4: Move open windows with the keyboard
Most monitors have a high enough resolution to work with windows side-by-side these days and Windows 7 has a few useful keyboard shortcuts to make multiple windows easier to manage. [Windows] + [Left arrow] or [Right arrow] tiles a window to the left or right of the screen, while [Windows] + [Up arrow] makes it full screen. Or to hide a window completely, press [Windows] + [Down arrow].
Tip 5: See something on the Desktop
There’s another useful keyboard shortcut for working with lots of open windows. Press [Windows] + [Space] and all open windows will become transparent until you release the [Windows] key, making it easier to find a file that’s on the Desktop. Or you can do the same thing with the mouse by hovering the pointer over the Show desktop button at the far right of the Taskbar.
Tip 6: Make Taskbar buttons more manageable
All open applications have a corresponding button the Taskbar, but the Taskbar can soon get crowded when you’re doing lots of things at once. Make things more manageable by right-clicking the Taskbar, selecting Properties and using the Taskbar buttons drop-down list on the Taskbar tab to change the way the buttons behave. Combine when taskbar is full is the best option.
Tip 7: Use Jump Lists to speed up applications
Taskbar buttons for some applications also offer a useful feature in the form of Jump Lists. Right-click the button for Windows Explorer (the program you use for viewing and browsing files), for example, and you can quickly open one of your most-frequently accessed folders and use the pin to fix these at the top of the list so that it’s always available for fast access. Try it with other Taskbar buttons, too.
Tip 8: Fine-tune the way Explorer works
Explorer is a little simplistic by default, so if you’ve like a more detailed view of you files, you can get it by changing a few settings. Open an Explorer window and select Folder and search options from the Organize menu. A dialog box will open with three tabs for changing various Explorer settings, including displaying filename extensions (.txt, .mp3, and so on) and how the navigation pane behaves. Use the Apply to Folders button on the View tab to make any changes apply Windows-wide.
Tip 9: Stop squinting
If you find small text difficult to read in Windows, there are two things to try. First type cleartype into the Start menu search box, then select Adjust ClearType text to check and change the way Windows ‘smoothes’ fonts — the default setting may not suit your monitor, or your eyes.
Second, use [Windows] + [+] or [-] to activate the Windows Magnifier tool — it’s much easier than squinting at the screen.
Tip 10: Redecorate the Desktop regularly
If you’re sick of staring at the same Windows wallpaper day in, day out, there’s a quick way to add more variety. Right-click the Desktop, select Properties, then click Desktop Background at the bottom of the window and you’ll see a Change picture every... option. Select two or more wallpapers from the section above and then use the drop-down list to set how often Windows switches between them.
Tip 11: Activate Expert mode
Use this tip with care. If you know Windows 7 inside and out, you can access all of its many configuration options from a single folder with a simple trick. Create a new folder on the Desktop (or anywhere else) and name it:
You’ll need to use that name exactly, so it’s best to copy the line above and paste it as the folder name — everything after the full stop will disappear when you press the Return key to name the folder. Open the folder to find options galore.
Tip 12: Help other Windows 7 users
You may be groaning at the simplicity of these Windows 7 tips, but not everyone is as adept as you. So why not put your knowledge to good use by creating some animated tutorials for your less knowledgeable friends?
Type psr in the Start menu search box to launch the Problem Steps Recorder and Windows will record everything you do once you click Record as a series of annotated screenshots. The tool is intended for troubleshooting purposes, but unzip the file it creates and you have an instant step-by-step guide for your own ‘technical support’ services.
Did we miss any of your favourite simple Windows 7 tips in our list? Let us know in the Comments section below.