I love to watch experts using a PC as I often pick up some nifty tricks just by observing the way they work.
By contrast watching beginners (or even average users) can be painful as they often do things so inefficiently that it makes me wince. Not wince because they are doing something wrong but rather because they are making life so much harder for themselves by not making good use of Windows inbuilt productivity features.
Here are the five of the most common inefficient Windows practices and how some tips how to avoid them.
1. Don’t use the <Delete> key when writing over text.
If you want to replace a highlighted section of text you don’t need to hit the <Delete> key. Instead just type in your new text and the old text will be automatically deleted.
Try it now. Click in your browser address bar and the current web page address it is showing will be selected. Now, type in a new address like www.google.com. Notice you didn’t have to delete the current address as Windows did it for you as soon as you started typing.
It’s quicker and simpler with no downsides. Definitely something you should put into practice.
2. Don’t clear form fields using <Backspace> or <Delete>
My wife does this all the time. When filling a form on a webpage she will erase the existing contents of a field one character at a time using the <Backspace> or <Delete> keys instead of selecting the whole field using Ctrl A and then either:
- Hitting <Delete> to blank out the entire field with a single keystroke.
- Start typing if she needs to replace the field contents (see tip above)
It’s not only faster it’s more effective as you are assured every character is deleted not just the ones you can see. (BTW, “Ctrl A” means you hold down both the Ctrl key and A key at the same time then release them together)
In the computer world the Ctrl A key combination means “select everything.” It is one of the most important Windows shortcut keys and one you simply must know how to use.
Try it now, press CtrA and select everything on this page. Click anywhere blank to remove the selection.
3. Don’t minimize open windows just to get to the desktop
If you want to get to your desktop you don’t need to minimize or close any open windows as there are several ways to get to do this in Windows without closing or minimizing anything.
The simplest way is to press the Windows key and the D key together. This will minimize all open windows immediately. Even better you can restore them again by hitting Windows D again
There are several alternative methods but Windows D is the simplest and best. It’s also easy to remember – just think “Windows Desktop”
Try Windows D now to go to the desktop. Press it again to return.
4. Don’t double click task bar icons
On your desktop you normally double click an icon to start the corresponding program but on your Windows Task Bar it usually requires only a single click. If you do double click a task bar icon you run the real risk of starting the program twice.
If you are thinking “So what” let me tell you a story.
My neighbour recently asked me to look at her PC as it was running slow. A quick look showed she had 18 copies of her Genealogy program running! All these copies had consumed most of her PC's memory and a good part of its processing power. That’s why it was running like a dog.
Impressed by this feat I asked her how she started family tree program when she needed it.
She took the mouse and made a slow deliberate double click on the Genealogy program icon in the Quick Launch section of her Windows XP Task Bar thus launching two more copies of the program. She now had 20 copies running :)
Now I know it is an inconsistency in Windows that in different places you use double clicks and single clicks to do the same thing but that’s the way it is. You can adjust your Windows settings to change this behavior but it’s is much better simply to learn to single click Task Bar icons. It takes less effort, it’s a little quicker and most importantly, is far less likely to cause you problems.
5. Don’t manually delete accidentally copied or moved files
Almost everyone occasionally copies files by accident particularly when selecting group of files where an inadvertent movement of the mouse can result in a bunch of unwanted copies.
Most beginners delete these files one at a time but there is a far easier way – use Ctrl Z the inbuilt Windows undo function. Next time you accidentally copy or move a file just hit Ctrl Z and the unwanted copies will disappear before your eyes. It works for a single file or a whole batch of accidental copies.
Ctrl Z also has a lot of other uses. For example if you ever accidentally delete a file, use Ctrl Z immediately and the file will be restored. Or if you accidentally delete a section of text in an email or word document just Ctrl Z it and the deleted section will reappear.
Ctrl Z doesn’t work everywhere and for all things but it works in most places for many things. So next time you make a boo-boo try Ctrl Z and there’s a good chance your error will be fully reversed.