Here's how to get Windows 7, Microsoft's upcoming PC operating system, to bend to your will.

We've got plenty of tips, hacks and secrets to keep you busy for a long time, including automatically opening Windows Explorer to a folder of your choice, bringing back the Quick Launch toolbar, forcing User Account Control to act the way you'd like, keeping your Explorer searches secret from others, and more.

So check out these tips. If you like them, we'll keep more coming.

Note: A few of these tips involve editing the Windows Registry. Before messing the Registry you should always create a Restore Point. Frankly, if you're not sure about this, you shouldn't go anywhere near your PC's Registry.

Windows 7: general tips

We'll start with a few nifty tips that can make it easier to get around and increase your computer's power efficiency.

1. Shake your desktop free of clutter

If you frequently run multiple programs simultaneously, your desktop can get extremely cluttered. This can get annoying if you're working on one program and want to minimize all the other windows - you'll have to minimise them individually.

With Windows 7's new "shake" feature, though, you can minimise every window except the one in which you're currently working in a single step. Click and hold the title bar of the window you want to remain on the desktop; while still holding the title bar, shake it quickly back and forth until all of the other windows minimise to the taskbar. Then let go. To make them return, shake the title bar again.

You can accomplish the same thing by pressing the Window key-Home key combination - although doing that is not nearly as much fun.

2. Kill the Send Feedback link

The beta of Windows 7 includes a "Send Feedback" link at various places throughout Windows 7, including at the top of Internet Explorer and on top of dialog boxes. Don't like the link? You can easily get rid of it, using a Registry hack.

(Important: always create a Restore Point before editing the Windows Registry.)

  1. Launch the Registry Editor by typing 'regedit' in the Search box and pressing Enter.
  2. Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop, and double-click the FeedbackToolEnabled entry.
  3. Change the value to 0, exit the Registry and restart your PC. The feedback link will now be gone. To turn the link back on again, change FeedbackToolEnabled to 3 and restart.

3. Get a power efficiency report

Have a laptop and want to get more battery life out of it? Windows 7 includes a hidden, built-in tool that will examine your laptop's energy use and make recommendations on how to improve it. To do it:

1. First, run a command prompt as an administrator. To do this, type cmd in the search box, and when the cmd icon appears, right-click it and choose "Run as administrator".

2. At the command line, type in the following:

powercfg -energy -output \Folder\En Energy_Report.html

where \Folder represents the folder where you want the report to be placed.

3. For the next minute, Windows 7 will examine the behaviour of your laptop, and will then analyse it and create a report in HTML format in the folder you specified. Double-click the file, and you'll get a report - follow its recommendations for ways to improve power performance.

NEXT PAGE: Windows Explorer tips

Index

  1. Windows 7: general tips
  2. Windows 7: Windows Explorer tips
  3. Windows 7: more Windows Explorer tips
  4. Windows 7: User Account Control tips
  5. Windows 7: Taskbar tips
  6. Windows 7: more nifty taskbar tips

Here's how to get Windows 7, Microsoft's upcoming PC operating system, to bend to your will.

Windows 7: Windows Explorer tips

Windows Explorer is the heart and soul of the Windows interface, and overall it works quite well. But you can make it better.

4. Set a new Windows Explorer launch folder

When you run Windows Explorer, it always opens to the Libraries folder. That's fine if you use Microsoft's default file organisation, which designates Libraries as the overall container for your folders. But what if you don't? You might prefer to have Windows Explorer open to Computer or any other folder you choose.

Here's how to do it:

1. Right-click the Windows Explorer icon on the taskbar (it's the one that looks like a folder), and then right-click the Windows Explorer icon from the context menu that appears and select Properties. The Windows Explorer Properties dialog box appears.

2. You'll have to edit the Target field on the Shortcut tab of this dialog box in order to change the default location at which Explorer opens. If you want Explorer to open to a specific folder, simply enter the name of the folder, substituting your folder name for Folder, below, like this:

%windir%\explorer.exe c:\Folder

So to open Explorer to the folder named Budget, you would type this in the Target field:

%windir%\explorer.exe c:\Budget

If you want Explorer to open to special, pre-set locations, such as Computer, you'll need to enter special syntax in the Target field. Following is a list of three common locations and the syntax to use, followed by the syntax for the Libraries folder in case you ever want to revert to the default.

* Computer: %windir%\explorer.exe ::{20D04FE0-3AEA-1069-A2D8-08002B30309D}
* Documents: %windir%\explorer.exe ::{450D8FBA-AD25-11D0-98A8-0800361B1103}
* Network: %windir%\explorer.exe ::{208D2C60-3AEA-1069-A2D7-08002B30309D}
* Libraries: %SystemRoot%\explorer.exe

3. After you've changed the Target field, click ok. Next time you launch Windows Explorer, it will open in the new location you've designated.

5. Show all your drives in Windows Explorer

Depending on your system settings, when you go to Computer in Windows Explorer, you may be in for a shock - you may not see all your drives such as memory card readers if those drives are empty. If this disconcerts you, there's a simple way for you to see them even if there's nothing there:

  1. Launch Windows Explorer and press the Alt button to reveal the top menu.
  2. Select Tools > Folder Options and click the View tab.
  3. Under "Advanced settings", uncheck the box next to "Hide empty drives in the Computer folder". Click ok. The drives will now always be visible.

NEXT PAGE: more Windows Explorer tips

Index

  1. Windows 7: general tips
  2. Windows 7: Windows Explorer tips
  3. Windows 7: more Windows Explorer tips
  4. Windows 7: User Account Control tips
  5. Windows 7: Taskbar tips
  6. Windows 7: more nifty taskbar tips

Here's how to get Windows 7, Microsoft's upcoming PC operating system, to bend to your will.

Windows 7: more Windows Explorer tips

6. Protect the privacy of your Explorer searches

When you search through your PC from Windows Explorer, you can see the most recent searches that have been performed. If you share a PC and don't want others to see what you've searched for, you can turn off the recent searches feature:

  1. In Explorer's Search box, type GPEDIT.MSC and press Enter to launch the Group Policy Editor.
  2. Go to User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Explorer.
  3. Double-click "Turn off display of recent search entries in the Windows Explorer search box" and select Enabled from the screen that appears. Then click ok. The recent searches feature will now be turned off.

7. Build your own Internet Search Connector

Windows 7 has a very useful new feature called a Search Connector that lets you search through a website from right inside Windows Explorer. With it, you type in a search term and select the Search Connector for the site you want to search; Explorer searches the website without having to open Internet Explorer, and the results appear inside Windows Explorer. Click any of the results to head there using your default web browser.

Normally, you'll need to get each Search Connector from the website through which you want to search, and very few Connectors are available. Sites normally need to adhere to OpenSearch standards in order for their Connectors to work.

However, there's a work-around that will let you easily build your own Search Connector for any site, using Windows Live Search as a kind of go-between. Don't worry, you don't need to know any code to write a Connector. Just follow these steps:

1. Copy the following text and paste it into Notepad. The text you'll need to change is in bold, all-caps text:

NAME YOUR SEARCH

DESCRIPTION OF SEARCH

2. In place of NAME YOUR SEARCH, type in the name of the search as you want it to appear. In our case, we're going to build a Search Connector for PC Advisor, so we'll just type in PC Advisor.

3. In place of DESCRIPTION OF SEARCH, type in a longer description of the search. In our instance, it will be Search through PC Advisor.

4. In the first SITENAME.COM entry, enter the website's domain. Don't use the http:// or www - just the domain name. In our instance it will be PCAdvisor.co.uk.

5. To the right of "count=", type in the number or results you want to appear. In our instance, we'll keep it at 50.

6. In our example, here's what the code should look like (no bold necessary):

PC Advisor

Search through PC Advisor

7. Save the file in Notepad, choose UTF-8 from the Encoding drop-down box near the bottom of the Save As screen, and give it an .osdx extension. In our instance, we'll call the file PC Advisor.osdx.

Congratulations! You've successfully installed a Search Connector.

8. In Windows Explorer, right-click the .osdx file and select Create Search Connector. The Search Connector will be created, and you'll see a screen like that shown to the right.

9. You can now use the Search Connector. To get to it, in Windows Explorer go to YourName > Searchers > Connector, where YourName is your account name, and Connector is the name of the Connector.

NEXT PAGE: UAC tips

Index

  1. Windows 7: general tips
  2. Windows 7: Windows Explorer tips
  3. Windows 7: more Windows Explorer tips
  4. Windows 7: User Account Control tips
  5. Windows 7: Taskbar tips
  6. Windows 7: more nifty taskbar tips

Here's how to get Windows 7, Microsoft's upcoming PC operating system, to bend to your will.

Windows 7: User Account Control tips

The User Account Control (UAC) security feature was one of the most reviled additions to Windows Vista, with good reason - its constant warning messages asking for permission to continue many operations drove users around the bend. UAC has been significantly improved in Windows 7 so that it's not as intrusive as in Windows Vista, but you can still tweak it if you like.

8. Modify UAC

Here's how to turn UAC on or off, and make it less or more intrusive than the default:

  1. Go to the Control Panel > User Accounts and Family Safety.
  2. Click User Accounts, then click Change User Account Control settings.
  3. From the screen that appears, use the slider to select the level of protection you want. Here are the four levels, and what they mean:

Always notify me. Think of this as UAC Classic. It works like Vista's UAC: when you make changes to your system, when software is installed or when a program tries to make a change to your system, an annoying prompt appears.

Notify me only when programs try to make changes to my computer. This is the default; make a change yourself and UAC leaves you alone. When a program makes a change, a prompt appears. Otherwise, UAC sits there silently.

Notify me only when programs try to make changes to my computer (do not dim my desktop). This setting is identical to the default setting, with one difference: it won't dim your desktop so that you only see the UAC prompt asking you to take action. This presents a slightly elevated security risk over the default setting, because theoretically a program could allow a malicious program to interfere with the UAC prompt.

Never notify. In this one, UAC is completely turned off. This is, of course, an insecure option and not recommended for most users.

After you make the selection, click ok. Depending on the selection you made, you may need to restart it for it to take effect.

9. Use gadgets without UAC

If you turn off UAC as described in the previous tip, you can't use gadgets, tiny applets that run on the desktop, because Microsoft deems them a potential security threat. However, if you feel comfortable enough with that potential threat, you can use gadgets even when you've turned off UAC by following these steps.

(Important: Always create a Restore Point before editing the Windows Registry.)

  1. In the Search bar, type regedit and press Enter. This will launch the Registry Editor.
  2. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\
    CurrentVersion\Sidebar\Settings.
  3. Create a new DWORD value called AllowElevatedProcess. To create the new DWORD, select Edit > New DWORD (32-bit) Value and give it the name AllowElevatedProcess.
  4. Set its value to 1.
  5. Close the Registry Editor, right-click the desktop and select Gadgets. You'll now be able to add gadgets as you would normally.

NEXT PAGE: Taskbar tips

Index

  1. Windows 7: general tips
  2. Windows 7: Windows Explorer tips
  3. Windows 7: more Windows Explorer tips
  4. Windows 7: User Account Control tips
  5. Windows 7: Taskbar tips
  6. Windows 7: more nifty taskbar tips

Here's how to get Windows 7, Microsoft's upcoming PC operating system, to bend to your will.

Windows 7: Taskbar tips

One of the most significant changes to the Windows 7 interface is its new taskbar, which acts more like the Mac OS X dock than the Windows taskbar of old. Here are a few tips for using the new taskbar and tweaks for taking charge of it.

10. Take control of the taskbar notification area

The notification area, at the far right of the taskbar, shows system messages and alerts, and displays the icons of programs and services that typically run in the background, such as Windows 7's wireless service. But what determines when, how and which icons show up there seems one of Windows' great mysteries.

There's a simple way to find out, and better yet, to customise it.

1. Right-click the taskbar, select Properties, and from the dialog box in the notification area section, click customise.

2. For each application, select from the drop-down box whether you want the icon and notifications to always be displayed, to never be displayed or to have an icon appear only when there's a notification of some kind. Click ok when you're done.

You can also customise the system icons and services that appear there, including the clock, volume, network, power and Action Center icons.

At the bottom of the same screen, click "Turn system icons on or off", and from the screen that appears, choose whether to turn on or off the icon and notifications. Click ok twice when you're done.

11. Get back the Quick Launch bar

Windows 7's new taskbar functions as a program launcher as well as task switcher, and so the old Quick Launch bar, an area on the left side of the taskbar that contained shortcuts for frequently used programs, has been banished. However, if you really miss the little applet, you can add it back. Here's how to do it:

1. Right-click the taskbar and choose Toolbars > New Toolbar.

2 . You'll be asked to select a folder for where the new toolbar should live. In the Folder text box at the bottom of the dialog box, enter this text:

%userprofile%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch

After you do that, click Select Folder. A link for the Quick Launch bar will be added to the taskbar. It will be on the right of the taskbar, just to the left of the Notification area.

It's not particularly useful docked all the way to the right with no application icons showing, so we're going to have to do a bit of work on it to make it useful. Right-click the taskbar and in the pop-up menu, remove the check next to "Lock the taskbar". Now right-click Quick Launch and remove the checks next to Show Text and Show Title.

Once you've done that, drag the vertical triple dotted line next to the Quick Launch bar to the left until you expose its icons. To prevent further changes, right-click the taskbar and check Lock the taskbar. You can now use the Quick Launch bar as you could in Windows XP and Vista, including adding and deleting icons to it.

12. Run multiple copies of applications from the taskbar

The Windows 7 taskbar serves a dual purpose, which can get confusing at times. It's used to launch programs, and also to switch between programs that are running. So you launch a program by clicking its icon, and also switch to that program after it's running by clicking its icon.

But what if you want to launch a second instance of the program? Once the program is running, it seems there's no way to launch a second instance, because when you click its icon, you only switch to the running instance.

There's a simple fix: if a program is already running and you want to launch a second instance from the taskbar, hold down the Shift key and click the icon. A second instance will launch. You can keep launching new instances this way.

There are times when you'll want to run multiple instances of Windows Explorer - for example, doing that can make it easier to copy and move between different PCs on your network. Unfortunately, though, you can't launch multiple instances of Windows Explorer from the Windows 7 taskbar using the Shift-click technique. When you try it, you'll only switch to the already running instance of Windows Explorer; a new instance won't launch.

There's a simple way to enable multiple Explorer instances from the taskbar. Right-click the Windows Explorer icon in the taskbar, then right-click the Windows Explorer icon near the bottom of the context menu that appears. Select Properties. Enter this text in the Target box and click ok:

%SystemRoot%\explorer.exe /root,::{031E4825-7B94-4dc3-B131-E946B44C8DD5}

Now you're ready to launch multiple instances of Windows Explorer. Click the Windows Explorer icon as you would normally to launch a first instance. To launch a second one, hold down the Shift key and click the Windows Explorer icon. A second instance will appear. You can keep launching new instances using this same technique.

NEXT PAGE: more nifty Taskbar tips

Index

  1. Windows 7: general tips
  2. Windows 7: Windows Explorer tips
  3. Windows 7: more Windows Explorer tips
  4. Windows 7: User Account Control tips
  5. Windows 7: Taskbar tips
  6. Windows 7: more nifty taskbar tips

Here's how to get Windows 7, Microsoft's upcoming PC operating system, to bend to your will.

Windows 7: More nifty taskbar tips

Want some quick tips about the Windows 7 taskbar? Here are a few:

13: First, you may not realize that it's easy to rearrange the icons across the bottom of the screen - simply drag an icon to where you want it to live. You can also add icons to the taskbar by dragging them from an application, and delete the icons by highlighting them and pressing the Delete key.

14: If you're a fan of using the keyboard rather than your mouse whenever possible, you can launch any program on the taskbar without the mouse. Press the Windows key and the number that corresponds to the position of the application on the taskbar - for example, Windows key-1 to launch the left-most application on the taskbar, Windows key-2 to launch the second left-most application and so on.

15: One of the nicest things about the taskbar is that when you move your cursor from icon to icon, you can see thumbnails of all open windows for each of those applications. If you're a keyboard-centric person, you can do this without a mouse. Press the Windows key-T, and you'll move the focus to the left-most icon on the taskbar. Then use your arrow keys change the focus to other icons.

Index

  1. Windows 7: general tips
  2. Windows 7: Windows Explorer tips
  3. Windows 7: more Windows Explorer tips
  4. Windows 7: User Account Control tips
  5. Windows 7: Taskbar tips
  6. Windows 7: more nifty taskbar tips