Most Useful, Under-Used Features on Your Computer

By Galtime

By Andrea Eldridge

The route you take to work is probably so familiar that they could build a bridge directly from your street to your parking lot, and you’d likely drive right past it for at least a few weeks. We get used to navigating around the computer in much the same way. Taking a few minutes to explore, however, can unearth some handy tools hidden in the Windows 7 framework that you’ve likely never used or known existed. Here are just a few of the most useful, under-utilized tools built into Windows 7.

Upgrade Your Security:

Windows 7 supports biometric (fingerprint) authentication, allowing you to restrict access to your laptop and/or login to websites with your finger.  Anything that saves me the arduous task of memorizing a bunch of complicated usernames and passwords is a boon. Add the cool, James Bond feel of using your fingerprint to unlock your system and I’m in. If you don’t have a fingerprint scanner built-in to your laptop or keyboard, USB fingerprint readers are available through retailers like Amazon or Newegg and start at around $20.  

Even if a fingertip scanner doesn’t appeal to you (really? James Bond doesn’t sell you?), Windows Credential Manager will securely store usernames and/or passwords on your PC. Just go to Control Panel – User Accounts and Family Safety – User Accounts and choose “Manage your credentials” from the menu on the left. Add “credentials” for websites or other computers on a network, and Credential Manager supplies the information automatically upon visiting a recognized site. Your credential “vaults” are more secure than storing logins in your browser, and they can be transferred to a disk or thumb drive if you need to transfer them to another PC.

Windows Logo Key Shortcuts:

You’re probably familiar with popular Ctrl key shortcut functions, such as Ctrl+C to copy, Ctrl+P to print, etc. The Windows logo key (likely located on the bottom left of your keyboard, next to your Alt key) allows for even more nifty keyboard-driven functionality. 

Win Logo Key (Win) opens or closes the Start menu.

Win+F opens the search function, allowing you to quickly search names and contents of all files on your system for a keyword.

Win+ Arrows allows you to resize or dock program windows. I often operate multiple programs at once, using the split screen function to view and move between programs simultaneously. Set up usually involves a frustrating minute of moving and re-sizing minimized program windows to get them lined up with the edges of my screen, on the correct side, and expanded to the maximum horizontal and vertical dimensions to fit the viewing area. Using the Windows key does all the resizing automatically:

Win+ Up Arrow to maximize current application.

Win+ Down Arrow to minimize current application.

Win+ Left Arrow to send a minimized application to the left side, and expand to the edges of the left ½ of the screen. Win+ Right Arrow to send to the right side.

Win+ D minimizes all running windows to instantly return you to your desktop. Press again to re-launch.

Super-Charged Calculator:

Like Superman hiding his super-suit under his average looking shirt and tie, the Windows 7 calculator is a powerhouse masked behind the guise of a basic function default shell. To see its secrets, click on the View drop-down menu. In addition to Scientific, Programmer and Statistics calculators, you can convert units of measurement and calculate dates (for example, it can tell you the number of days or years between two dates). The Worksheet option lets you calculate mortgage or lease payments or terms, even your vehicle’s fuel efficiency. I wouldn’t be surprised if you found a function to make julienne fries.

Remotely Access Another PC:

If you’ve ever tried to walk someone through a computer function over the phone, you’ve likely gained a new respect for phone support technicians. It may be easy for you to show someone how to attach a photo to an email, but walking a frustrated loved one through the process without knowing what they’re seeing on their screen is challenging. The next time Aunt Bea can’t get photos transferred from her SIM card, have her use Windows Remote Access to give you the ability to login to her system from yours, see everything on her screen and navigate her cursor in order to quickly and easily walk her through the steps. Just remember not to make it look too easy, you smarty-pants you.

For details of how to grant and/or get access, check out Windows Remote Assistance info page, and review links to “Get help with your computer using Windows Remote Assistance” and “Help someone with a computer problem using Windows Remote Assistance.”

Just like finding that new-to-you shortcut to work, these hidden tools can make your life easier, no additional software required.

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