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55 ways to work smarter in Windows

Great productivity tricks from efficiency experts

We've dug up the best Windows tricks in our arsenal and talked to some of the best minds in productivity to find 55 tips sure to help you get more work done with your PC in less time.

With an ever-growing number of distractions that are fighting for your attention throughout the day, it's more important than ever to be as productive as possible when you're actually on the job.

With that in mind, we've dug up the best Windows tricks in our arsenal and talked to some of the best minds in productivity to find 55 tips sure to help you get more work done with your PC in less time.

(Please note: These tips apply primarily to Microsoft Windows 7, though most also work in Microsoft Windows Vista and many apply to XP as well.)

Let's get down to it.

Minimise all windows (except the one that you're working on)
When your desktop becomes so cluttered that you can't find anything, this step is a good way to re­­gain focus. Grab the title bar of the window you want, and shake your mouse a little. All other windows will vanish into the taskbar. Repeat to undo and restore all of your hidden windows.

Use folders in your email client
Letting your email accumulate in a monolithic inbox makes it nearly impossible for you to find important messages without a la­­borious hunt, as well as greatly increasing the odds that you'll forget or simply overlook email that re­­quires urgent attention. Delete the junk, and file non-actionable email messages into clearly defined folders. Getting into the habit of sorting incoming mail in this way is critical for most users looking to enhance their productivity.

Be judicious with email folders
An email folder should not be so narrow of purpose that it's never used, but neither should it be so broad that it be­­comes overstuffed with messages, unless you use that folder strictly for archiving and don't need to refer to its contents regularly. Use a descriptive name for each folder and keep it short enough that it doesn't require scrolling within the Mail Folders pane. Remember that folders can usually be nested, too.

Use rules to route messages automatically
When your personal involvement isn't necessary, email rules can save lots of time. For example, do corporate newsletters from the same address arrive ten times a day? Stuff them into a folder for 'later review'. In Outlook, look for a simple rules wizard that walks you through creating your rules; to find it, select Tools, then Rules and Alerts. Most other email clients have a similar option for establishing automated rules.

Remap the Windows key
Don't ever use the Windows key? Or dislike where it's located and want to swap it with or ? Download a keyboard remapper. Many cheap or free apps for this purpose are readily available, but Keyboard Re­­mapper,$10 (£6.31) works well. Remap to your heart's content, but keep in mind that there's no way to change or disable a laptop's Fn key, since it bypasses Windows. (You can also check your computer's BIOS for any potential tweakability)

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