Anyone can sit down at a Windows PC and get along fine, but with the right tips and tricks, you can get around much faster. Here’s a handful of clever tricks to boost your Windows skills (and show off to friends).
You might recognise a few of these tips (we’ve covered most of them here before), but chances are good there’s something new in the list for just about everybody. And if you know all of them already? Pat yourself on the back for your masterful geek skills.
(Note: This list far from exhausts Windows’ full slate of shortcuts and tricks; instead, I aimed for lesser-known tips. To round out your Windows 7 master class, be sure to check out our complete guide to Windows 7, the master list of Windows 7 shortcuts, and the power user’s guide to Windows 7.)
Use the Secret Send To Menu Items
All you have to do is hold down the Shift key, then right-click on a file and access the Send To folder-you’ll see a whole bunch of new items in the list, like special folders, and even an item for each one of your drives. It’s a really useful tip for quickly sending a file to the flash drive you just plugged into the PC, without having to do anything else.
Open a Command Prompt from Any Folder
This tip only works in Windows 7 or Vista, for Windows XP you’ll need to use a registry hack to accomplish the same thing. We can’t mention this tip without telling you how to do the opposite-you can open a file browser from your current command prompt directory as well.
Hide Secret Data Inside Any File
The special filename with the colon and second filename tells NTFS to actually store the data in an alternate stream, instead of the regular file. You can put whatever you want into the file, and nobody will be able to access it unless they know the command to retrieve it.
Tile or Cascade Specific Windows
Back in the XP and Vista days this was relatively simple—you could hold down the Ctrl key while selecting multiple windows on the taskbar, and then right-click on any of them to tile or cascade them. For Windows 7, you can do the same thing, but you’ll need to open up Task Manager instead, hold Ctrl, select the open windows, and then you can cascade them from there.
Undo an Accidental File Move or Deletion With the Keyboard
Readers will probably point out that you can also do this from the context menu in Windows 7, but it’s surprising how many people don’t realise the keyboard shortcut works.
Navigate the Open / Save Dialogs With the Keyboard
You can use “..” without the quotes to go up a folder, use shell:desktop to change to the desktop folder, or just start typing in the full path to a file.
Use the Secret Trick to Close Windows Explorer
Hold down the Ctrl and Shift keys, then open up the start menu, and right-click anywhere on the blank space. You’ll see a new menu with an Exit Explorer item on it, which will immediately terminate the desktop shell-keep in mind to reopen it you’ll need to use Ctrl+Shift+Esc to open Task Manager, and then File –> Run and type in explorer.exe.
That’s not the only right-click menu trick you can do here, however-if you want to open up the Start Menu folder in Windows 7, you can right-click on the All Programs menu item to access the old Start Menu context menu from previous versions of Windows.
Create a Zip File with the Same Name as a Selected File
For instance, if we had right-clicked on the Readme.txt file in the screenshot and used the Send To –> Compressed feature, the resulting file would have been called Readme.zip. Since that’s not very helpful, it’s better to right-click on one of the selected HTGBack.x files, which will give us HTGBack.zip instead.
Show the XP Alt-Tab Prompt in Windows 7
Pin a Folder to the Start Menu
Bonus tip: You might notice in the screenshot that there’s something different below the Downloads button-and you can easily add My Dropbox to your own Windows 7 Start Menu too.
Shrink the XP Volume Control
Sure, it could be useful if you wanted to keep the dialog up on the screen without wasting space, but it’s mostly just a fun trick to show off your skills.
Stupid Geek Tricks: Shrink the XP Volume Control [How-To Geek]
Remove Old Drivers by Showing Hidden Devices in Device Manager
Once you’ve done that, type in devmgmt.msc to open up Device Manager, and then you can use View –> Show hidden devices to show all the devices you couldn’t see before.
Remove Old Drivers After Upgrading to New Hardware [How-To Geek]
Find Secret Messages in Web Site Headers
Watch Movies in Your Linux Terminal Window
mplayer -vo caca MovieName.avi
It’s not really suitable for watching movies, but it’s a fun tip that you can show off to your friends and spark a conversation about the upcoming return of Futurama.
So how did you do? Did you already know them all? Do you have an even better geek trick to show off? Share your skills with your fellow readers in the comments.