Windows 7: Top 5 Under-the-Radar Tweaks

Windows 7, it's here! Well, it's actually been here since PDC 2008 in some form or fashion, but Windows 7 has reached its official launch day. You've heard about the new taskbar, you've heard it's more stable and faster than Windows V(ista) (I don't want to say the V word anymore.) Windows 7 starts up, shuts down and sleeps faster, it doesn’t have all the junk loaded in it Windows V had, and Microsoft's finally tamed UAC enough that it stays out of the way.

But now that Windows 7 has officially launched and everyone can have the real thing, what are the coolest and most beneficial things about it. What should you try first as you take Windows 7 out for a spin? Here are some of the more useful, and not as well known, enhancements in Windows 7 I think you'll enjoy.

Aero Snap - One of the ways Windows 7 makes it easier to manage windows on your desktop is with Aero Snap. With Aero Snap you can resize an application window (like Word, Firefox, etc.) by dragging top or bottom edge of a window to the top (or bottom, respectively) of your screen and Windows 7 maximizes the window vertically. (Keyboard shortcut: WinKey+Shift+Up Arrow). If you look carefully you'll actually see a little snap animation as you touch the window against the screen's edge.

Maximize the window to take the full screen by dragging the window title bar to the screen's top edge. (Keyboard shortcut: WinKey+Up Arrow). Make a window take half the left or right side of the screen by dragging window against the left or right screen edge (cursor must touch the edge). (Keyboard cuts: WinKey+Left Arrow and WinKey+Right Arrow). Do this with two windows when you want to work in two windows side-by-side.

Aero Shake - This is probably the least known of the new Windows 7 UI enhancements. Click and hold the title bar of the a window and rapidly "shake it" by moving your mouse left and right. All of the other windows minimize, leaving your window as the sole window occupying the desktop. It's fun to watch too as the other Windows run and hide. Do it again and the other windows will return. (Keyboard shortcut: WinKey+Home).

Task Bar Window Preview - Obviously the Task Bar is one of the newest and probably most well-known features of Windows 7. One aspect of it I find extremely useful is the Window Preview that's show when you mouse over the thumbnail of a running app on the taskbar. It's a two-step process: Mouse over the running application's icon in the task bar which will display thumbnails of that app's open windows, the move the mouse down and hover over one of the thumbnails. Poof, you can see the full window of the app below you without selecting it and moving it to the top of your desktop. Great for checking out some info from another window, like a phone number, while you're busy working on another document.

Moving your mouse off the window thumbnail returns the desktop as it was. You didn't have to rearrange your desktop just to check out another window. If you do want to select the window you were previewing, just click on the thumbnail you mouse were hovering over and that window will be brought to the front of your desktop. The windowing preview technique is also great for closing specific windows as there's a closed box displayed on each window's thumbnail. These two Windows 7 enhancements have eliminated a lot of extra mouse clicks for me.

File Explorer Enhancements - There are lots of changes to the file Explorer window, too many to mention here, but here are a few highlights of what I've really come to enjoy about the new Explorer. Group By: In addition to sorting by column, you can now let Explorer group files together, such as by name (0-9, A-H, I-P, Q-Z), date modified (Earlier this week, Last week, etc.), file type, and size. You could of course sort the column headings, but Group By does the work of breaking up and categorizing sorted lists of files and folders, and it works with all the View options (details, large icons, small icons, etc.).

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