Windows 7 may just be the most keyboard-friendly operating system yet. Without ever laying a finger on your mouse, you can dock windows, quick-launch your favorite apps, enable external displays, and much more. Sure, you have to memorize a few new key-combos, but once you’ve integrated them into your daily routine, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without them.
Start-Menu searches: Windows key
This carryover from Vista is arguably one of Windows’ must underused and undervalued features. A simple tap of the Windows key activates the Start menu, where you can type the first few letters of a program name, Control Panel setting, Word document, or whatever and then hit Enter to launch it. Why reach for the mouse?
Minimize (almost) all windows: Win + Home
This combo lets you send all open windows packing — except the one that’s currently active. Sure beats clicking Minimize on a bunch of individual windows. When you tap the shortcut a second time, it restores all previously open windows.
Make windows transparent: Win + Space
This is the keyboard equivalent of mousing over the transparency tool in the right corner of the System Tray — great for those times when you need to something on the desktop (like a gadget) but don’t want to minimize all your windows. After tapping Win-Space, your windows will stay see-through until you let go of the Windows key.
Quick-launch taskbar apps: Win + (1-9)
As you know, Windows 7 makes it a snap to “pin” frequently used programs to the taskbar. But did you also know that these programs are automatically assigned a number and corresponding Windows-key shortcut? Just press Windows-1 to launch the first pinned program (the one closest to the Start button), Windows-2 to launch the next one, and so on. Fastest app-launching known to man! Except, of course, for this …
Quick-launch any app: Hotkey
Like Vista before it, Windows 7 lets you assign a quick-launch hotkey to any installed program. Just right-click the program’s icon, choose Properties, and then click the Shortcut tab. Click once in the Shortcut key field, then press the hotkey combo you want to assign (Ctrl-Shift-H, for instance). Click OK and you’re done! Assuming you have a good memory, app launching doesn’t get any faster than this.
Dock active windows: Win + Left or Right Arrow
A great shortcut for users with widescreen monitors, this combo docks the active window to the left or right half of the screen (depending on which arrow you tap), at the same time maximizing it top-to-bottom.
Magnify your view: Win + (+)
Windows 7’s built-in magnifier lets you zoom in wherever you place your cursor. Just tap Win-plus (that’s the Windows key and the plus key) to enable the magnifier and set a 200 percent zoom level. When you mouse to any edge of the screen, your view scrolls accordingly. The more you tap the keys, the higher the zoom. Of course, you can just as easily zoom out again with Win-minus.
Open presentation settings: Win + P
Good news for business users constantly struggling to get Windows to cooperate with projectors: A quick tap of Win-P activates a monitor-settings panel. Click Duplicate or Projector only to send your display to the big screen, or Extend if you’ve connected a second monitor and want extra screen real estate.
Create a new folder: Ctrl + Shift + N
Forget the old way of creating new folders. In Windows 7, all it takes is a tap of Ctrl-Shift-N. This works in any open Explorer window, but also on the desktop. After the new folder appears, just type in a name as usual and hit Enter.
Bring gadgets to the fore: Win + G
Now that Windows’ gadgets are no longer relegated to the Sidebar, they’re free to sit anywhere on your desktop. Of course, that means they can get obscured by other windows. As you now know, a tap of Win-Space makes those windows temporarily see-through, but what if you want to put the gadgets on top of your windows? No problem: Just tap Win-G.
Okay, shortcut junkies, get tapping! And be sure to check out the Hassle-Free PC Blog, where you’ll find more keyboard-driven time-savers and a wealth of other helpful advice.