Dan's strategy for how to do everything in Windows - 01 Nov 2007

This strategy has been enormously successful at taking users to the 'next level.' If you live and breathe this way of working, you will get to the point that you can accomplish 95% of what you're trying to do even if you've never done it before. The steps themselves are not rocket science--it's how they're put together that makes magic.

The premise: Windows applications are set up to give you what you need, about 95% of the time, as long as you know where to look and how to ask for it.

1) Select

  • Select efficiently, using the shortcuts discussed elsewhere

2) Right-click

  • When performing an unfamiliar task, when no shortcut is ‘obvious’… RIGHT-CLICK!
    Trying to find and interpret commands in menus is inefficient, confusing and, often, unsuccessful. Luckily, there’s an answer: popup menus (also known as shortcut or context menus). Right-click on your selection and the popup menu will contain the commands you are most likely to need to work with that selection.
    You can often skip the ‘select' step. Right-clicking will select the object under your mouse pointer and give you a popup menu, all in one step!

3) Look for options

Once you’ve right-clicked, Microsoft has designed a path that will guide you to exactly what you need… most of the time, anyway!

The options you are looking for will appear, magically, if you know the three clues:

  • Tabs: Many dialog boxes have tabbed “cards” of options and settings. Click each tab to learn what it contains.
  • “…” When you see commands and buttons with ellipses, the command or button will lead you to additional options. “Follow the dots.”
  • Drop-down lists: Drop-down lists always contain options. Click a drop-down arrow to reveal the list it contains.
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