Windows Vista Tips & Tricks, Part 1

Whether you've already made the move to Windows Vista or are about to, here's an insider's guide to Vista that may help ease the transition.


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In this week's edition of our new Vista Tips series, we'll tackle tips, tricks, and tools for more effectively utilizing the new user interface to your advantage and efficiently managing file and application performance. Next week we'll delve into Vista performance and security tips.

Vista User Interface

» Find Applications Easily Through the Start Menu

Finding applications within the many layers of the XP Start Menu could be a huge hassle, but Vista's Start Menu greatly simplifies the task with a built-in search function. Just type an application name into the Start Search field, and as you type, matching programs ? as well as files ? will be displayed above. (Hint: you can take advantage of this feature to quickly find most of the Vista features and built-in programs mentioned in this story, as well as to launch command-line programs.)

» Show Clocks for Multiple Time Zones

If you frequently travel between time zones or work with people in different time zones, it can be a challenge to keep the different times straight. Vista can make things a little easier by displaying clocks for extra time zones in the system tray.

To take advantage of this feature, right-click the clock and choose Adjust Date/Time, and then click the Additional Clocks tab. Here you'll be able to set up and provide labels for up to two additional clocks. To view the extra clocks, move your cursor over the time display ? this will display the extra clocks digitally. (If you click on the time display instead, you'll see them in analog mode.)

» Get Some Data on the Side

Getting your info fix from Web pages is so 1999. With Vista's Sidebar feature, you can fill your desktop with "gadgets," mini applications that can deliver info on news, stocks, weather, or just about anything else you might want, right to your desktop. There are even gadgets that will help you keep tabs on system diagnostics like CPU or RAM utilization, and you can configure the transparency of any gadget so you can still see what's behind it. Although Vista only comes with a handful of built-in gadgets, you can download hundreds more gadgets at Microsoft's Windows Vista Sidebar site.

» Bring Back My Text Menus, Please

When you use Vista's built-in features and applications you may have noticed that most of them no longer display the traditional text menu (File, Edit, etc...). Although these menus have been hidden to streamline and improve the look of the UI, if you want a text menu back for a particular window, just press Alt and it will appear. Of course, once you make a menu choice or click anywhere on the window, the menu will go back into hiding.

» Select Multiple Files or Folders Without Using the Keyboard

Almost everyone knows that you can use the Ctrl and Shift keys in conjunction with a mouse to select more than one file or folder. Vista offers a convenient alternative, though it's not enabled by default.

From an open folder, click the Organize button, then choose Folder and Search Options. Then click the View tab and scroll down nearly to the end and add a check next to Use check boxes to select items. Now, you'll be able to select multiple files without using the keyboard, even when working with files directly on the Desktop.

» Show Expanded Context Menus

As has always been the case in Windows, right-clicking on an item will bring up a context menu of tasks that can be performed on it. But in Vista, holding down the Shift key while right-clicking will present some additional options, including the ability to Pin an item to the Start Menu or add it to your Quick Launch toolbar. Another particularly handy option this exposes is Copy as Path, which will put the path to the item in the Clipboard rather than the file itself ? a convenient way to copy the location of a file into a document.

» Quick Keyboard Access to Quick Launch Apps

The Quick Launch toolbar that was first introduced in Windows XP has a handy new feature in Windows Vista that allows you to access the various application shortcuts in the toolbar using keyboard shortcuts. The first shortcut listed in the Quick Launch toolbar can be launched with the WINKEY + 1 key combination, the second with WINKEY + 2, and so on. If you don't know which key on your keyboard is the WINKEY, it's the one (most keyboards actually have two of these keys) that has the Windows icon on it and that, when pressed by itself, launches the Windows Start menu.

Next Page: Multiple WIndows Open, File and App Management

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