Top Ten: Windows 7 Productivity Tips

Get max efficiency from libraries, Jump Lists, the Windows Explorer, and other features

Windows 7 has been out for a while, and by all accounts has found its way into many people's daily working lives. However, it's easy to just keep doing things the old way instead of learning about new features that can help you work more efficiently. In this column, I'll tell you about 10 handy Windows 7 productivity features that you might have overlooked.

10. Take advantage of libraries—Libraries in Windows 7 help you better organize the files and folders on your hard disks. Unlike folders, libraries don't actually contain any files. Libraries contain only pointers to file locations. To make a new library, open Windows Explorer, right-click the Libraries node in the left pane, and select New, Library. To point the library to existing folders, right-click the library, select Properties, then click Include a folder.

9. Quickly open recent documents using Jump Lists—Jump Lists are super handy when you run a lot of applications because they let you quickly bring up recent documents. To open a Jump List, right-click a program icon in the taskbar. Alternatively, you can use the Start menu and click the arrow to the right of each program name.

8. Display more items on your Jump List—If you get the hang of using Jump Lists, you'll probably find you want to display more than the default 10 items. To customize your Jump Lists, right-click the taskbar, click Properties, then select the Start Menu tab. Click the Customize button. At the bottom of the Customize Start Menu dialog box, you can adjust the number of items displayed by your Jump Lists.

7. Open a command prompt from Windows Explorer—Jumping into a command prompt from the current folder you're displaying in Windows Explorer is easier in Windows 7 than it was in any previous version. Hold down the Shift key, right click the folder name displayed in the left column of Windows Explorer, then select the Open command window here option.

6. Launch programs with elevated rights—In still too many instances, you need to run programs with administrative rights. To run a program from the Start menu with elevated rights, open the Start menu, then right-click the program icon and select Run as administrator. This option isn't available for Microsoft Office applications. It's not so obvious, but you can also launch Windows Explorer and taskbar programs with elevated rights by pressing Ctrl + Shift, then clicking the program.

5. Dictate speech using Windows Speech Recognition—Windows has the built-in ability to perform voice recognition for commands and dictation. To use Windows 7 voice recognition, click Start, All Programs, Accessories, Ease of Access, and select Windows Speech Recognition. After Windows Speech Recognition starts, you can click the microphone button to start voice commands. Ironically for an Ease of Access item, this is pretty difficult to use and the tutorial is a must.

4. Print from Windows Explorer—Another timesaving tip is the ability to print directly from Windows Explorer without first opening the target program. For instance, if you want to print a Word document or Excel spreadsheet, just navigate to the item in Windows Explorer, right-click it, and select Print from the context menu. The document will be printed on your default printer.

3. Post reminders with Sticky Notes—Tired of all those yellow Post-it notes everywhere around your monitor? You can use Windows 7 Sticky Notes to move them all to your computer desktop where you can organize them and page through them. Different notes can have different colors and fonts. To use Sticky Notes, click Start, All Programs, Accessories, Sticky Notes. Move the note where you want it and just type into it.

2. Pin programs to the Start menu—I probably use this too much, but the Start menu is a super handy place from which to launch frequently used programs without cluttering up your desktop. To pin a program to the Start menu, click All Programs and locate a frequently used program. Right-click the program and select Pin to Start Menu from the context menu.

1. Use MSConfig to clean up your startup programs—The inevitable curse of Windows is that, after you run it for a while, it becomes all junked up with all kinds of extraneous and unwanted programs—many of these running automatically every time your system starts. To clean up your startup items with MSConfig, go to the Start menu and enter msconfig in the search box. Select the Startup tab, then clear the check box for the programs you don't want to start automatically.

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