People who migrate to Windows 7 from Windows XP often overlook one of the former's best features: the keyboard-friendly Start menu. Specifically, you can run any installed program with just a few keystrokes, no third-party launcher required. (Sorry, Launchy--you were one of my favorites, but you're no longer needed.)
There are, of course, several ways to run a program. You can minimize all open windows, find the program's icon on your desktop, and double-click it. Or you can click Start and navigate the All Programs menu until you find what you're after.
Both approaches are a bit time-consuming, and both require you to reach for the mouse. As a keyboard-shortcut junkie, I prefer the speed and ease of keeping my fingers on my keys.
All I have to do is press the Windows key, type the first 3-4 letters of the program I want to run, then press Enter when it appears. For example, I can type itu for iTunes, chr for Google Chrome, exc for Excel, or out for Outlook.
Very rarely will I have to go beyond three letters. And the only time I might need to reach for the mouse is for something like exp, which makes both Internet Explorer and Windows Explorer appear in the menu. (Actually, typing int solves that problem.)
This may only save you a few seconds here and there, but I think once you get in the habit of running programs this way, you won't go back to reaching for the mouse. It's arguably the fastest and easiest method to load an app--and I find it to be the least disruptive of my workflow.
Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at [email protected], or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums. Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.