Win­dows time­savers

Re­think how you use Win­dows 10 to speed things up.

Windows 7 Help & Advice - - WINDOWS HELP & ADVICE - By Nick Peers

Su­per-short­cuts and other tricks that can make us­ing any PC eas­ier and faster

We all want our PCs to run faster, but that doesn’t sim­ply in­volve fit­ting a new pro­ces­sor, dou­bling the amount of RAM, or tweak­ing sys­tem set­tings in an ef­fort to boost Win­dows’ raw speed (turn to page 11 for more). It also in­volves reap­prais­ing the way you use your com­puter, find­ing new short­cuts, and ba­si­cally forc­ing your­self to work in a more ef­fi­cient way. There are dozens of hid­den tips and short­cuts that can rev­o­lu­tionise the way you in­ter­act with both Win­dows and your favourite pro­grams, sav­ing you a huge amount of time in a rel­a­tively short pe­riod. How much time can you save? Taken in iso­la­tion, each tip we re­veal over the fol­low­ing five pages will prob­a­bly shave a few sec­onds off here and there, but when you start us­ing them reg­u­larly, things soon start to add up. Imag­ine: One tip that saves you five sec­onds, used 12 times a day, will save you a sin­gle minute, but over the course of a year, that adds up to six hours – from one tip. That means you don’t have to ap­ply that many of our rec­om­mended key­board short­cuts and tweaks be­fore your an­nual sav­ings stretch into days, or even weeks, sim­ply by fa­mil­iaris­ing your­self with the con­tents of this fea­ture.

We’ve fo­cused pri­mar­ily on Win­dows 10 here, although many of the tweaks and tips also work with Win­dows 7 and 8.1. We op­ti­mise the way you use the desk­top, Start menu (and its lit­tle brother, the Quick Ac­cess menu), and the Taskbar, and we re­veal which Set­tings tweaks can stream­line the way you work.

We also take you on a tour of time-sav­ing key­board short­cuts, in­ves­ti­gate ways of us­ing the right-click menu more ef­fi­ciently, and un­lock ways to search faster us­ing File Ex­plorer. There’s even time to look at cre­at­ing your own cus­tom Jump List com­mands, reac­quaint your­self with the Run di­a­log box, and speed up the way you use Mi­crosoft Of­fice (along with other apps).

Start im­ple­ment­ing these tips now, and dis­cover how to make your Win­dows PC even more pro­duc­tive.

Let’s be­gin our ef­fi­ciency drive by stream­lin­ing your desk­top and mak­ing things more ac­ces­si­ble. If you’re not al­ready do­ing so, start by plac­ing short­cuts to your favourite apps on the Taskbar. This puts them a sin­gle click away – if you need to open a sec­ond in­stance of a pro­gram along­side the first, sim­ply hold the [Shift] key as you click on the Taskbar icon to do so.

The sim­plest way to do this is to open the app in ques­tion – you’ll see its icon ap­pear in the Taskbar, so just right-click it, and choose ‘Pin to taskbar’, then drag it into place. You might, for ex­am­ple, want to group re­lated apps to­gether, so of­fice apps in one part, web apps in an­other, and so on.

An­other ad­van­tage of run­ning apps from the Taskbar is that many use Jump Lists to give you two-click ac­cess to re­cently opened doc­u­ments – right-click the Taskbar icon to ac­cess them all. To per­ma­nently at­tach an item to this list, roll your mouse over it, then click the Pin but­ton that ap­pears.

If you run out of space for items on the Taskbar, cre­ate a folder in­side which you place all your short­cuts, then right-click the Taskbar and choose New > Tool­bars > New Tool­bar. Point it to this folder, then you can click the ‘>>’ next to the newly cre­ated tool­bar to ac­cess your short­cuts. Or go fur­ther, and cre­ate your own cus­tom Jump Lists (see be­low).

Start menu short­cuts

The Win­dows 10 Start menu en­ables you to pin favourite items from the main list into the right-hand pane – just rightclick the item in ques­tion, and choose ‘Pin to Start menu’ (you can also pin the

item to the Taskbar from here via the More sub-menu). Once it ap­pears in the list, you can then drag and drop re­lated items to­gether, change icon sizes (reg­u­lar pro­gram short­cuts can be small or medium), then name the group for easy iden­ti­fi­ca­tion (click the ‘=’ but­ton next to a group to re­name it). Also, click and drag the ti­tle bar via its ‘=’ but­ton to re­order groups, plac­ing your more fre­quently ac­cessed groups at the top of the list.

You’ll also no­tice some handy short­cuts down the left side of the panel – click your user photo to quickly ac­cess ac­count set­tings via the ‘Change ac­count set­tings’ op­tion that ap­pears (you can also switch users with­out log­ging out from here, too, and lock your PC). Other short­cuts – in­clud­ing Set­tings and File Ex­plorer – can also be found here. You have a lim­ited choice over what you can dis­play, in­clud­ing a se­lec­tion of user fold­ers (and in­deed a link to the par­ent folder it­self), plus Homegroup, and Net­work. To change these, go to Set­tings > Per­son­al­i­sa­tion > Start, and then click ‘Choose which fold­ers ap­pear on Start’.

Use Quick Ac­cess

The Start menu has been stream­lined slightly in the Cre­ators Up­date, but it’s still no sub­sti­tute for the Quick Ac­cess menu that ap­pears when you rightclick the Start but­ton or press [Win] + [X]. This con­tains many use­ful short­cuts to var­i­ous sys­tem set­tings and tools, but why stop with the op­tions pro­vided? You can add your own with the help of Win+X Menu Ed­i­tor ( This por­ta­ble ap­pli­ca­tion en­ables you to edit what’s there, re­ar­range items, and – cru­cially – add your own.

Once you launch Win+X Menu Ed­i­tor, click ‘Add a pro­gram’ to add your choice of pro­grams, Con­trol Panel items, or Ad­min­is­tra­tive Tools. Se­lect ‘Add pre­set’ and you’ll find some handy short­cuts to hid­den tools and power op­tions as well. You can also or­gan­ise your items into groups to keep re­lated items to­gether, and make things eas­ier to find.

More Set­tings tweaks

The fol­low­ing tweaks all help save on clicks and un­nec­es­sary nav­i­ga­tion, and can be found un­der Start > Set­tings (or use [Win] + [I] for even faster ac­cess). Start by head­ing over to De­vices > Mouse, and – if nec­es­sary – flick­ing the ‘Scroll in­ac­tive win­dows when I hover over them’ switch to on. You can now roll your mouse over any open win­dow and scroll it, with­out first se­lect­ing the win­dow in ques­tion. If you’re a track­pad user, click ‘Ad­di­tional mouse op­tions’, and look for a tab that gives you ac­cess to spe­cific ges­tures and other track­pad-only set­tings that can speed up how you use your PC.

If you reg­u­larly switch be­tween print­ers, head to De­vices > Printer, and en­able ‘Let Win­dows man­age my de­fault printer’ – this makes whichever printer you used last the de­fault. Se­lect ‘Typ­ing’ if you want to dis­able au­to­cor­rect and re­move text sug­ges­tions, although in most cases these are wel­come time­savers. Fi­nally, se­lect Au­toPlay if you want to pick a de­fault op­tion when you plug in ex­ter­nal de­vices such as DVDs, USB drives or flash mem­ory cards.

Go to Sys­tem > ‘No­ti­fi­ca­tions & ac­tions’ to tweak which Quick Ac­tions ap­pear in the Ac­tion Cen­tre – use­ful short­cuts in­clude tog­gling quiet hours and tweak­ing net­work set­tings. Then se­lect ‘Multi-task­ing’ to change how vir­tual desk­tops be­have – you can show open win­dows from all desk­tops on the Taskbar to speed things up if you fre­quently switch desk­tops, and con­fig­ure [Alt] + [Tab] to show all open win­dows – not just those open on the cur­rent desk­top. There’ll be more vir­tual desk­top tweaks later.

Go to Ac­counts > ‘Sign-in op­tions’ and set a de­vice-spe­cific PIN to save you time when­ever you’re asked for your Mi­crosoft ac­count pass­word. Fi­nally, it’s also worth ex­plor­ing the ‘Ease of Ac­cess’ sec­tion to see if any of the ac­ces­si­bil­ity op­tions on of­fer can im­prove your Win­dows ex­pe­ri­ence to make things eas­ier (and quicker) to use.

“If you run out of space for items on the Taskbar, cre­ate a folder in­side which you place all your short­cuts”

Master the key­board

Point-and-click is con­ve­nient, but it’s no sub­sti­tute for fast key­board ac­tion. Luck­ily, you can as­sign key­board short­cuts to your favourite pro­grams to quickly launch them – sav­ing you pre­cious time. First, let’s ex­am­ine the Taskbar: The first 10 en­tries to the right of the Task View but­ton can be trig­gered us­ing the short­cuts [Win] + [1] through to [Win] + [0] (left to right). Al­ter­na­tively, right-click a pro­gram short­cut (or right-click its Taskbar en­try, then right-click the pro­gram en­try in the Jump List), and choose Prop­er­ties. From here, click in­side the ‘Short­cut key’ box, then hold down your choice of key com­bi­na­tion to launch the app – pos­si­ble com­bi­na­tions in­clude [Ctrl] + [Alt], [Shift] + [Alt], or [Ctrl] + [Shift] + [Alt] plus your choice of key.

The [Win] key is also gate­way to many use­ful tools: [Win] + [Pause/ Break] opens the old Sys­tem Con­trol Panel, for ex­am­ple, while [Win] + [A] opens the Ac­tion Cen­tre. If you would like to pair the [Win] key with [Ctrl] and [Alt] for more key­board short­cuts, down­load WinHotKey from www. di­rect­­tent/winhotkey, which works fine in Win­dows 10.

It’s also worth ex­plor­ing your favourite apps and pro­grams for use­ful key­board short­cuts. There are some use­ful short­cuts uni­ver­sal to all apps (and Win­dows it­self), such as the [Ctrl] +[C], [X], and [V] short­cuts for copy­ing, cut­ting, and past­ing to and from the clip­board. [Ctrl] + [Z] un­does the last ac­tion (in­clud­ing file op­er­a­tions in

“Most key­board short­cuts are clearly la­beled within a pro­gram’s menu, but where no short­cut is forth­com­ing, al­ways re­mem­ber the [Alt] trick”

Win­dows), while [Ctrl] + [Y] re­does or re­peats the last ac­tion.

Most key­board short­cuts are clearly la­beled within a pro­gram’s menus, but where no short­cut is forth­com­ing, al­ways re­mem­ber the [Alt] trick – press [Alt] and the high­lighted let­ter of a menu, and you open the menu. Com­bine this with the un­der­lined let­ter of a spe­cific menu op­tion – [Alt] +[F] + [O] for File > Open, for ex­am­ple – and you trig­ger that menu op­tion.

Of­fice 365 users should press [Alt] once – you’ll see a list of let­ters ap­pear above the var­i­ous Rib­bon and Quick Ac­cess tool­bar op­tions. Hold [Alt] as you press the cor­re­spond­ing key to ac­cess that op­tion – if it’s a Rib­bon tab, more let­ters ap­pear next to var­i­ous Rib­bon op­tions, en­abling you to se­lect those op­tions quickly. For more Of­fice tips, see the ‘Speed up Mi­crosoft Of­fice’ box­out on page 58.

Use right-click­ing

The right-click menu – also ac­ces­si­ble by press­ing [Shift] + [F10] to trig­ger it at the cur­rent cur­sor point – is packed with use­ful, con­text-sen­si­tive op­tions, par­tic­u­larly in File Ex­plorer. Hold down [Shift] as you right-click, and you of­ten re­veal hid­den op­tions – for ex­am­ple, ’Copy as path’ for a se­lected file or folder, or to load more des­ti­na­tions un­der the ‘Send to’ sub-menu.

To add your own cus­tom apps and lo­ca­tions to the ‘Send:to’ menu, open the Run di­a­log, type ‘shell:sendto’ and hit [En­ter]. Place your short­cuts in here, or use Send To Toys (www. gabriele­­ware) to add more op­tions, such as the clip­board, Com­mand Prompt, and so on.

The right-click menus can be­come clut­tered by third-party apps adding their own op­tions, which can slow nav­i­ga­tion down. If there’s no op­tion to dis­able these within the ap­pli­ca­tion it­self, there are a few third-party tools that can help clear the clut­ter for you. If you’re us­ing CCleaner (www.pir­i­form. com), then go to Tools > Startup > Con­text Menu tab. If you want more con­trol – in­clud­ing op­tions for adding more en­tries to the menu – then use the por­ta­ble Con­text Menu tool (http:// www.sor­ in­stead. Choose File > Con­tex­tMenuCleaner to re­view and scrub un­wanted en­tries.

“You can cus­tomise the Rib­bon, too, with your favourite com­mands, plac­ing them un­der a tab”

Speed Up File Ex­plorer

File Ex­plorer is packed with time­sav­ing tips and tools. Here are some of the best. First, make use of the Quick Ac­cess menu in the Nav­i­ga­tion pane – drag fre­quently ac­cessed fold­ers here for quick and easy ac­cess.

If you’re still us­ing [Ctrl] or [Shift] to se­lect mul­ti­ple fold­ers or files, switch to the View tab of File Ex­plorer’s Rib­bon in­stead, and se­lect ‘Item check boxes’ – now you can se­lect each file or folder by us­ing its check­box.

File Ex­plorer’s search box is still the go-to lo­ca­tion for file and folder searches – learn to make the most of its fil­ters to find what you need. The Search tab on the Rib­bon pro­vides you with two-click ac­cess to these, but you can in­put your own fil­ters di­rectly into the search box, in­clud­ing ‘type:’ (file­type), ‘kind:’ (type of file, such as doc­u­ment), ‘date:’ (date or date range), ‘size:’ (file size), and even ‘tag:’ (tags).

The Search box also sup­ports all stan­dard Boolean op­er­a­tors, so en­close ex­act phrases in­side dou­ble quo­ta­tion marks, pre­cede un­wanted terms with a dash (-), and use AND, OR, or NOT. Visit https://msdn.mi­crosoft. com/aa965711 for a com­pre­hen­sive guide. If you store key files out­side of your user fold­ers, it’s worth get­ting Win­dows to index those lo­ca­tions to speed up fu­ture searches. On the Search tab, choose Ad­vanced Op­tions > ‘Change in­dexed lo­ca­tions’ to do so.

Win­dows desk­top

Let’s fin­ish with some handy key­board short­cuts for nav­i­gat­ing your desk­top. Aero Snap en­ables you to pin two win­dows side-by-side by drag­ging them to ei­ther edge of the desk­top. You can also snap win­dows via the key­board: Hold [Win] and press the left or right cur­sor keys re­spec­tively. Once there, press [Win] + [Up] to move the win­dow to the top cor­ner, or [Win] + [Down] to move it down to the bot­tom cor­ner, al­low­ing up to four win­dows to be on screen at once.

Fi­nally, start mak­ing good use of Win­dows’ task- and desk­top-switch­ing tools with the help of some [Tab] key com­bos. The new vis­ual Task View may not be to ev­ery­one’s tastes, but you can eas­ily in­voke it with [Win] + [Tab]. Once open, use your key­board’s cur­sor keys to se­lect your de­sired win­dow, and hit [En­ter]. If you pre­fer the old-school view, then hold down [Alt] and press [Tab] in­stead – you can cy­cle left and right us­ing [Tab] (right) and [Shift] + [Tab] (left), all the while con­tin­u­ing to hold down the [Alt] key.

[Alt] + [Tab] only dis­plays win­dows from the cur­rent vir­tual desk­top, while you can con­fig­ure Task View (see ear­lier) to dis­play win­dows from all desk­tops, mak­ing it quicker to switch. Speak­ing of which, hold [Win] + [Ctrl] + [D] to cre­ate a new vir­tual desk­top, and [Win] + [Ctrl] + [F4] to close the cur­rent one. You can also move be­tween vir­tual desk­tops us­ing [Win] + [Ctrl] and then the left or right cur­sor keys.

As an aside, if you’re nav­i­gat­ing a multi-tabbed ap­pli­ca­tion, such as your web browser, then use [Ctrl] + [Tab] and [Ctrl] + [Shift] + [Tab] to cy­cle back­ward and for­ward through the tabs.

Ac­cess your en­tire PC’s con­tents from the Taskbar.

You can cus­tomise what ap­pears on the Quick Ac­cess menu.

If you want to save time en­ter­ing your pass­word, use a PIN in­stead.

The [Alt] key ac­cesses menus and Rib­bons alike.

As­sign a key­board short­cut to launch favourite apps.

Switch open apps quickly with the old-school [Alt] + [Tab] combo.

Send To Toys is a free app that gives you many more ‘Send:to’ op­tions.

You can pin two win­dows side by side-by-side us­ing [Win] + the left or right cur­sor keys.

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