Top Ten: Windows 7 Magic Search Commands

Launch your favorite programs and utilities quickly with these keywords

In many ways, Windows's recent trend to use more commands is funny to anyone who remembers that the OS's graphical interface was always its strongest selling point: You didn't need to use commands because you could use the GUI to achieve all the things you wanted to do. Although the GUI is handy, it has become clear that the quick access and easily repeatable nature of commands make them equally as important. The Start menu search box introduced in Windows Vista and continued over to Windows 7 is one of the best examples of how Microsoft has integrated commands into the graphical Windows interface. In this column, I'll give you 10 handy commands you can type into the search box for easy access to some of the most needed Windows functions. All of these commands work under Windows 7 and most work with Vista as well. If you have your own favorite search commands, share them with me at [email protected].

10. ise—If you're into PowerShell scripting and you're running Windows 7, Vista SP1, or Windows Server 2008, then chances are you're using the Integrated Scripting Environment (ISE). Typing ise in the search bar quickly starts the ISE, which lets you develop, run, and debug PowerShell scripts.

9. displayswitch—If you do PowerPoint presentations, the displayswitch command can easily become one of your best friends. Entering displayswitch in the search box opens the Display Switch dialog box, which lets you redirect your laptop's video output to the monitor or projector or both.

8. snipping—Another handy tool available in Vista, Windows 7, and Server 2008 is the Snipping Tool, which lets you quickly capture screen shots or selected parts of the screen. There's also an option to email these screen captures, which makes this handy for Help desk support. Enter snipping in the search box to launch the Snipping Tool.

7. action—You can enter the action command in the Start menu search box to quickly display the new Windows Action Center. The Action Center lets you diagnose system and driver problems. You can also use it to change User Account Control settings as well as Windows Update settings.

6. network—Using the search command of network launches the Windows Network Explorer. Some commands present multiple results; for example, in this case you might need to look for the result titled Network at the top of the Start menu before hitting Enter. The Network Explorer displays all the systems that are connected to your LAN. Double-clicking an icon opens a Remote Desktop Connection to the system. Right-clicking an icon opens a Windows Explorer window to the networked system.

5. remote—Entering remote into the search box is a quick shortcut for starting the Remote Desktop Connection program. Remote Desktop Connection is incredibly useful for managing remote servers or performing end-user support. By default, the program prompts you to connect with the last system that you connected to.

4. uninstall a program—If you want to quickly jump to Windows's Programs and Features, you can enter uninstall a program in the Start menu search box. From the Programs and Features window, you can uninstall previously installed applications as well as install and uninstall Windows features.

3. word, excel, outlook, powerpoint, onenote—The search box can be used to quickly launch any of the Microsoft Office programs. Entering word starts Word at a blank document; excel runs Excel, which starts at a blank workbook; outlook launches Outlook at your Mail Folders page; powerpoint opens a blank PowerPoint presentation; and entering onenote starts OneNote up at a blank notebook.

2. msconfig—Another handy search box command is msconfig. Typing msconfig into the search box for Vista or Windows 7 starts the System Configuration utility, which lets you control your system's startup options. Probably the most important thing here is the Startup tab, which lets you disable programs that automatically start up when the system boots but aren't really needed.

1. resmon—Without a doubt, my favorite command to type into the Start menu search box is resmon, which starts the Resource Monitor. The Resource Monitor provides a graphical dashboard showing you the processes that are running as well as the CPU utilization for all of the cores in your system. You can also monitor memory, network, and disk utilization.

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