Favorite Windows 7 Features

Now that I've finally finished migrating to Windows 7, I'm enjoying it. This week I'll talk about three new features that I find really useful: Aero Snap, Sticky Notes, and thumbnail previews--and I'll tell you how to get the most from them.

Use Aero Snap to Simplify File Management

In my early computing days (I'm talking Commodore Amiga here), I grew accustomed to file managers that used a side-by-side approach: Your complete file system was represented in two adjoining windows. That made it very easy to move or copy files and folders.

Consequently, I've never liked Windows Explorer, which uses a single file-tree structure. To me that complicates something as simple as moving a file from one folder to another. It's not intuitive.

If you're a Windows 7 user, you can take advantage of two new additions to make file management much easier: addition #1: Windows Explorer's new home on the taskbar; addition #2: Aero Snap.

See where I'm going with this? All you have to do is open two instances of Explorer, then drag one to the left edge of the screen and the other to the right. Aero Snap will "dock" them on the left and right halves of the screen, respectively.

Now you've got a side-by-side file manager! By the way, if you're not sure how to open that second instance of Explorer, right-click its icon in the taskbar, then click Windows Explorer.

Create Sticky Notes in Windows 7

Forget pasting paper sticky notes to the sides of your monitor. They look terrible there, and they always fall off anyway. Instead, paste digital stickies to your Windows desktop. If you're a Windows 7 user, it's a snap: Just run the new Sticky Notes app.

You might recognize it from the ol' Vista Sidebar. In Windows 7, Microsoft ditched the Sidebar but kept the gadgets, allowing the latter to reside anywhere on your desktop.

To run the app, just click Start, type sticky, and press Enter. You'll immediately see a new note; just start typing whatever it is you need to remember.

Need another note? Click the plus sign on the first one. Want to delete it? Click the x in the opposite corner. Prefer a different color. Right-click in the body of the note and choose from six options.

Remember that Sticky Notes is an app, so your notes will stay on your desktop only as long as the app is running. If you close it (by right-clicking the taskbar icon and choosing Close window), Sticky Notes will restore your notes the next time you run it.

This is a decidedly barebones program. You can't change the font size, adjust transparency, or force notes to stay on top of other programs. If you want that kind of functionality, try Stickies for Windows.

Still, Sticky Notes can really come in handy when you need, well, a note that sticks to your desktop.

Control iTunes from the Windows 7 Taskbar

One of my favorite Windows 7 amenities is thumbnail previews, which appear when you mouse over any running program in the taskbar.

In fact, each thumbnail has a little red x in the upper-right corner, meaning you can close that program without first having to maximize it.

Apple's iTunes takes this a step further by adding player controls. The thumbnail sports three little icons: Previous Track, Play/Pause, and Next Track.

These buttons work just like the controls in iTunes proper, but they save you from having to actually switch to the program whenever you want to, say, skip to the next song or temporarily pause playback.

Of course, savvy users know that you can add an entire iTunes toolbar to the taskbar in both Windows 7 and Vista, but that just adds clutter. Here you get basic playback controls without consuming extra space. Nice!

Rick Broida writes PC World's Hassle-Free PC blog. Sign up to have Rick's newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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