Simple Tips Banish Computing Hassles

About a year ago I introduced some of PCWorld's less tech-savvy readers to the Undo function, which can be lifesaver when you need to reverse whatever unintended (and/or unwanted) action you just took.

Most often, that's something like an accidental paragraph deletion in Word, or clicking the wrong option in a pull-down menu.

Earlier this morning I was reminded that Undo--by way of its universal keyboard shortcut, Ctrl-Z--can do more than just fix typos and reverse errant clicks.

For example, let's say you just deleted a file you didn't mean to delete. Instead of opening up the Recycle Bin and poking around until you find the file, a simple press of Ctrl-Z should restore it to the folder window from which you deleted it. The same applies to batches of deleted files.

Also, a very common boo-boo is when you inadvertently rename a file. Can't remember the old filename? No problem: Just press Ctrl-Z (before you close the folder containing the file) and presto, it reverts to the original name.

Needless to say, Undo is your go-to function for undoing unwanted actions and changes. Once you start using Ctrl-Z on a regular basis, you'll wonder how you got along without it.

Use Text Messaging to Add Events to Google Calendar

Google Calendar is the single best cloud service I've used. It's been around for years, but I know plenty of people who still don't see the point of a calendar that lives on the Web.

Trust me: Once you start using it, especially for things like keeping tabs on family members' hectic schedules, you'll wonder how you got along without it. And talk about convenient: You don't need to be sitting at your PC to do things like adding new events. All you need is your mobile phone and a few seconds to tap out a text message.

In other words, Google Calendar lets you add events via SMS. (Standard messaging rates apply, natch.) All you do is compose a plain-English message (see below), then send it to GVENT (48368).

For example:

Lunch with Bob at Crunchy's 12:30pm tomorrow.

Brendan Benson concert at Blind Pig 9pm June 3.

Send a text like that and presto, Google Calendar creates a new appointment with all the pertinent details.

Before you can take advantage of this slick feature, however, you have to configure Google Calendar to work with your phone. Here's how:

  1. Sign in to your Google Calendar account and click Settings.
  2. Click the Mobile Setup tab.
  3. Enter your phone number, click Send Verification Code, and wait for a message to arrive on your phone. It should get there in just a few seconds.
  4. Find the verification code within the message, then type it into the corresponding field and click Finish setup.

That's all there is to it. Now you can add stuff to your calendar just by texting the details to GVENT. Neat, huh?

Work Around Windows 7's Wide Taskbar Icons

Reader Keith has a bone to pick with the pinned icons on Windows 7's taskbar. He says they're too far apart, and he's looking for a way to close the gap between them.

I can understand that. The taskbar does leave a fair amount of empty space on either side of each icon. If you have a netbook or run your monitor at a relatively low resolution, you may find yourself running out of space down there.

Surely there's a way to change the width of those buttons so that the icons sit closer together? Sadly, no--not that I've found, anyway--but there are several workarounds worth considering.

For starters, I did find a Registry hack for changing the button width, but it narrowed them only when the programs were running. Plus, the icons themselves got clipped or disappeared altogether. Not a good solution.

Here's a better one: Move your taskbar to the side of the screen. That not only frees up valuable vertical space, but also puts your icons a bit closer together. (Each button is wider than it is high.)

Alternately, switch to Windows' small-icons view, which you can do by right-clicking an empty area of the taskbar, choosing Properties, and then checking the Use small icons box. Click Apply to implement the change immediately--and see if you like it. If not, you can always uncheck the box and go back to the previous size.

Finally, considering ditching those taskbar icons altogether (some of them, anyway) and using a keyboard-powered launcher like Launchy. Granted, you'll miss out on Windows 7 perks like Jump Lists, but you'll also free up more space on the taskbar.

If you've got a hassle that needs solving, send it my way. I can't promise a response, but I'll definitely read every e-mail I get--and do my best to address at least some of them in the PCWorld Hassle-Free PC blog. My 411: hasslefree@pcworld.com. You can also sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week .

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