Sure, you’re a Windows power user, but there’s always room for a few new Windows tricks, right? Here are some little-known ways to speed things up. These tips work in Windows 7 and Windows 8.
Many of these tricks use the Windows key. That’s the key on the physical keyboard to the left of the space bar, usually between Ctrl and Alt.
Open a new window for a program that’s already running
Hold Shift down and click on a program icon on the taskbar. You’ll open a new instance of a program, even if it’s already running. Best example: it’s a fast way to get multiple Outlook windows running, so you can have your Inbox, Calendar, and Contacts onscreen at the same time.
I was blindsided by this one when I ran across it last week. I’d never known this in all the years I’ve been using Windows. Now I use it all the time.
Maximize a window with a keystroke
You may know the mouse tricks to maximize a window or snap it to the left or right sides of the screen by dragging the title bar of a program until the mouse cursor touches the top or sides of the screen. If not, read this description of Windows Snap.
You don’t have to take your hands off the keyboard.
• Maximize the active window by holding the Windows key down and hitting the Up arrow.
• Snap the active window to the left or right side of the screen by holding the Windows key down and hitting the left or right arrow.
Dual monitor tricks
The Windows key + left or right arrow tip is particularly useful for dual monitors – repeatedly hitting the Windows key + left or right arrow will march a program across the screen from one monitor to the other. Try it!
Dual monitor users might want to keep one more trick in mind: Windows key + Shift + left or right arrow immediately moves a window to the same position on the other monitor.
I use DisplayFusion, a $25 utility that offers a wealth of options for dual monitor users. Its most obvious feature is access to stunning wallpaper images, including thousands that display in a panoramic view across both monitors. Among its many other options for taskbars and controls is one that I use all the time: when DisplayFusion is running, I can double-click anywhere on a program’s title bar to move it to the other monitor. (The multitude of options in DisplayFusion make it a little overwhelming – it’s best for true power users.)
Minimize all windows with a keystroke
Have you noticed that you can click in the little vertical sliver to the right of the time and date in the lower right corner and minimize all open windows? One click and you’re back to your desktop without closing any programs.
Much easier: you can also minimize all open windows by hitting Windows key + M (for “minimize”).
If you want to keep working and minimize clutter, hit Windows key + Home. You’ll minimize all open windows except the one you’re working in.
Lock your computer with a keystroke
Hit Windows key + L (for “Lock”) to lock your computer immediately. All programs are still running but your password is required to unlock the display. This is important basic security for offices when employees leave their desks, or anywhere you would rather not have your shared computer used by others when you’re away from it.
Cycle through open programs
Our old friend Alt-Tab has been around for eons. (Hold Alt down and hit Tab repeatedly to cycle through icons for each open program.) Have you ever tried Windows key + Tab? In Windows 7, it brings up an odd 3D view to cycle through open programs. In Windows 8, it slides out the program bar from the left and marches up and down it – but with only a single stop for all the programs running on “Desktop.” Neither one is very useful but it’s interesting to know that they exist.
Get new desktop wallpaper and themes from Microsoft
Microsoft has a large collection of free themes for Windows 7 and 8. When you click on “Personalize display”, look for the tiny words “Get more themes online” – or go directly to the themes page in the Windows Personalization Gallery. Each theme has a group of photos that will rotate as your desktop background every thirty minutes. Dual monitor users can pick “Panoramic” themes and get photos that span both monitors. The themes are gorgeous. You can download them at will and switch from one to another as often as you like.