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Make Windows easier to use
Make Windows easier to use
Windows doesn’t always arrive set up for fuss-free use. Discover how to configure things to make life easier
Your computer is a flexible piece of machinery, which is obviously a good thing but sometimes its versatility can leave you floundering in frustration, struggling to find the right option or bewildered by the sheer number of features on offer. In this guide, we’ll show you how to regain control of your PC, making your computing experience more pleasurable and less frustrating.
Let’s kick things off with the desktop. It is user-friendly and pretty much self-explanatory but there are plenty of ways it can be tweaked to be even friendlier. For example, take the taskbar , which sits at the bottom of the screen. It’s often overlooked but it’s a key component of your desktop because it’s always in view, giving you quick access to key parts of your system.
First, examine all the program icons shown – highlighted icons are those you’ve already opened – and roll your mouse over each one to see a pop-up preview of its window. This allows you take a peek without having to close or switch from the currently selected window. If more than one window is open in that app, roll your mouse over it for a full-screen preview, or click it to switch to that window.
Roll a mouse over a program’s taskbar icon for a thumbnail preview
Pin shortcuts to the taskbar
You can also pin programs that you use regularly to the taskbar , so their icon is always present, making it easy to launch them with a single click. If the program is already open, simply right-click its taskbar button and choose Pin this program to Taskbar . You can do the same with any desktop shortcuts too. If they're not in the order you find easiest to use, just click and drag each program icon into the position you want.
Pin programs to the Taskbar for one-click access from any program
Open recent documents quickly
That's not all that Taskbar buttons can do to make life easier. Right-click a program taskbar icon that you frequently use and you’ll see a Jump List appear, which is a list of the most recent documents or files opened in that program.
Jump Lists enable you to get back to these items quickly just by selecting them. In Windows 7 (or Windows 8 with Classic Shell installed), you can also access Jump Lists from the Start menu – click the > button next to a program’s entry in the left-hand pane to access its Jump List.
Speed up folder navigation
If Jump Lists don't help you find the file you need, you can browse for it directly by opening Windows Explorer (renamed File Explorer in Windows 8). Click the folder icon at the bottom left of the Taskbar and select one of the places in the left-hand pane.
If there’s a folder you use often, it's a good idea to add it to your favourites. Navigate to the folder and drag it into the Favourites list at the top of the left-hand pane (make sure you hold the folder until you see a Create link shortcut appear underneath it). This adds a shortcut to the folder to this list, enabling you to return to it at any time simply by clicking the shortcut.
Below Favourites is a set of libraries. These provide a way of grouping similar content in one area, even if it's spread out over a number of different places. Select a library like Music, right-click and choose Properties to see which folders are currently included. Add other related folders to the library by clicking the Add button, browsing to the desired folder and clicking Include Folder. In this way you can group related items like pictures or documents together so they’re easy to find.
Locate folders more easily by grouping similar content together
Use the search tools
If you find yourself looking for a file or folder for more than a moment or two, it's probably time to use a search instead. Click the search bar to the top right of the current Windows Explorer window. Enter a search term that's either in the file name or the content of the file you want to find. Windows searches as you type and provides suggestions. If you have no luck in the current folder or library, try selecting Computer in the left-hand pane and trying again. This widens the search to your whole machine.
Make Windows more accessible
Some of the accessibility options can be very useful. Open Control Panel and choose Ease of Access. Select Change how your mouse works. Here you can change the size of the mouse pointer and ensure it's easy to see by using contrasting colours. You can also modify keyboard settings in the Ease of Access centre by tweaking the repeat rate or enabling tools like sticky keys that overcome the need to hold down multiple keys at the same time.
The Ease of Access Centre provides options for improving visibility of the mouse pointer so you'll never lose it again
Shortcuts to success
Creating custom shortcuts can make life a lot easier. To make a shortcut to a program, file, folder or even a web address, right-click anywhere on the desktop and choose New, then Shortcut. Now follow the wizard that pops up, to either select the folder or file (click Browse) or type the web address. Complete the wizard to leave the shortcut on the desktop.
You can also add keyboard shortcuts to your shortcuts. Right click it and choose Properties. Click the Shortcut key box and press the key you want to use. It will be set up as [Ctrl] + [Alt] + your key. Now you can launch your shortcut using this combination of keys.
It doesn't take much to make your computer simpler to use and configured to suit your needs. Any time invested will be repaid many times over in time saved.