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Center for Faculty Excellence


Cool Tools and Tips
Please note...

Most of the tips below require administrative access to your computer and some of these tools are not approved for Army computers (please check with your DCO before installing them). You can, of course, use all of these tools and tips on personal machines.

New tools and tips are posted each month and are listed below in descending order.  Use the shortcut menu to the right to ease navigation.

April 2014
Tool Tip
Keepass Icon If you're used to friends and family asking for help with their computer problems and then having no idea how to clearly describe to you what's going on, Microsoft feels your pain, and Windows 7 includes an excellent new solution in the Problem Steps Recorder.
When any app starts misbehaving under Windows 7, all your friends, co-workers, parents, etc., need do is:
  • Click Start
  • Type PSR
  • Press Enter,
  • Click Start Record.
  • Then, work through whatever task is giving them trouble.
PSR Image
 
The Problem Steps Recorder will record every click and key press, take screen grabs, and package everything in a single zipped MHTML file when they're finished, ready for you on their desktop or for them to email to you. It's quick, easy and effective, and will save you hours of troubleshooting time.
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March 2014
Tool Tip
Auto Hotkey

We’ve all encountered this problem at one time or another. Perhaps a change of screen resolution caused it, or you disconnected a second monitor without paying attention to window placement, the problem is that you have one or more windows that are off the screen! The next time you find yourself in that situation, just try this:

  1. Make sure the misbehaving window has focus. Use Alt-Tab to select it, or just click anywhere on the visible part of that window.
  2. Right-click on that item in the task bar and select Move. Taskbar-rightclick (You could also just press Alt-Space and then hit M).
  3. Notice that your cursor now changed and looks like this:
    rightclick cursor

 

 

 

Now, simply press any of the arrow keys on your keyboard (Up, Down, Left, Right). Voila! The misbehaving window should automatically snap back into place on your desktop. All you have to do is drag the mouse to wherever you want the window and left-click to release it.

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February 2014
Tool Tip
Autohotkey

Windows offers a variety of options for organizing folders and files in the ways that work best for you.

For example, open a folder that contains several different sub folders and file types. Right-click any empty space on the window's contents pane, point to Group By, and then click your grouping choice.

Windows Vista 'Group By' Command 
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January 2014​
Tool​ Tip​
Virtual Dub Logo

The Windows 7 calculator offers powerful new Statistics and Programmer views. And, if you're clueless about bitwise manipulation, then try the Options menu instead. This offers many different unit conversions (length, weight, volume and more), date calculations (how many days between two dates?), and spreadsheet-type templates to help you calculate vehicle mileage, mortgage rates and more.

Don't take any Windows 7 applet at face value, then - there are some very powerful new features hidden in the background. Be sure to explore every option in all Windows applets to ensure you don't miss anything important.

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December 2013​
Tool​ Tip​
RSSOwl Logo

Troubleshooting is relatively easy in Windows 7. Microsoft has included an expanded troubleshooting interface that gives users the ability to eliminate problems at the source.

To access Windows 7’s troubleshooting tools, head over to the Control Panel and click on the ‘Find and Fix Problems’ button.

Under this menu, you’ll find troubleshooting wizards and other useful tools.

If you’re having any sort of PC problems, this should be one of the first places you check out.

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November 2013​
Tool​ Tip​
Audacity Logo

One of the nicest things about the taskbar is that when you hover your mouse over the icons in it, you can see thumbnail previews of all open windows for each of those applications.

When you do so, there is a slight delay before the thumbnail appears. But you can make the thumbnails display more quickly by using adjusting the delay time in the  Registry.

Important: Always create a Restore Point before editing the Windows Registry. If you don't know how to create a Restore Point or find your way around the Windows Registry, this is probably not a good tip to take advantage of...

1. Launch the Registry Editor by typing regedit in the Search box and pressing Enter.

2. Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Mouse.

3. Double-click MouseHoverTime. The default value you'll see is 400 -- which means 400 milliseconds. Type in a new, smaller value -- 150 is a good bet. Then click OK and exit the Registry Editor. You'll have to log off or restart your computer for the change to take effect

 

 

 

win7tips_taskbarthumb_230.jpg
 Windows 7 Taskbar

 

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October 2013​
Tool​ Tip​
Image Resizer Icon

With the introduction of Windows Vista, Microsoft decided to revamp the Control Panel. In Windows 7, it still can be difficult to find the options needed to make some simple adjustments. This tip provides you with some 250+ options, all located in one simple-to-open folder.

Here is how to set up a ‘Expanded Control Panel’:

  • Right click on your Desktop and select New Folder.
  • Name the folder with a name of your choosing like Expanded Control Panel, or something else you like.
  • After the name, put in a period and then the following string: {ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}
  • Your entry for the name should look like this: Expanded Control Panel.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}
  • Once you press the Enter key, you’re all set to go. Click on the folder and you will have some 250+ options right at your fingertips, which means no more hunting around looking for an option that is hidden or buried several layers down.

Deluxe-Control-Panel-001-300x225.jpg

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September 2013​
Tool​ Tip​
Image Resizer Icon

Windows 7 has a very useful new feature called a Search Connector that lets you search through a Web site from right inside Windows Explorer. With it, you type in a search term and select the Search Connector for the site you want to search; Explorer searches the Web site without having to open Internet Explorer, and the results appear inside Windows Explorer. Click any of the results to head there using your default Web browser.

Normally, you'll need to get each Search Connector from the Web site through which you want to search, and very few Connectors are available. Sites normally need to adhere to OpenSearch standards in order for their Connectors to work.
win7tips_addsearch_230.jpg

However, there's a work-around that will let you easily build your own Search Connector for any site, using Windows Live Search as a kind of go-between. Don't worry, you don't need to know any code to write a Connector. Just follow these steps:

1. Copy the following text and paste it into Notepad. The text you'll need to change is in bold, all-caps text:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>

<OpenSearchDescription xmlns="http://a9.com/-/spec/opensearch/1.1/" xmlns:ms-ose="http://schemas.microsoft.com/opensearchext/2009/">

<ShortName>NAME YOUR SEARCH</ShortName>

<Description>DESCRIPTION OF SEARCH</Description>

<Url type="application/rss+xml" template="http://api.bing.com/rss.aspx?source=web&query={searchTerms} site:SITENAME.COM&web.count=50"/>

<Url type="text/html" template="http://www.bing.com/search?q={searchTerms}+site:SITENAME.COM"/>

</OpenSearchDescription>

2. In place of NAME YOUR SEARCH, type in the name of the search as you want it to appear. In our case, we're going to build a Search Connector for Computerworld, so we'll just type in Computerworld.

3. In place of DESCRIPTION OF SEARCH, type in a longer description of the search. In our instance, it will be Search through Computerworld.

4. In the two SITENAME.COM entries, enter the Web site's domain. Don't use the http:// or www -- just the domain name. In our instance it will be computerworld.com.

5. To the right of "count=", type in the number or results you want to appear. In our instance, we'll keep it at 50.

6. In our example, here's what the code should look like (no bold necessary):

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>

<OpenSearchDescription xmlns="http://a9.com/-/spec/opensearch/1.1/" xmlns:ms-ose="http://schemas.microsoft.com/opensearchext/2009/">

<ShortName>Computerworld</ShortName>

<Description>Search through Computerworld</Description>

<Url type="application/rss+xml" template="http://api.bing.com/rss.aspx?source=web&query={searchTerms} site:computerworld.com&web.count=50"/>

<Url type="text/html" template="http://www.bing.com/search?q={searchTerms}+site:computerworld.com"/>

</OpenSearchDescription>

7. Save the file in Notepad, choose UTF-8 from the Encoding drop-down box near the bottom of the Save As screen, and give it an .osdx extension. In our instance, we'll call the file Computerworld.osdx.

8. In Windows Explorer, right-click the .osdx file and select Create Search Connector. The Search Connector will be created.

9. You can now use the Search Connector. To get to it, in Windows Explorer go to YourName --> Searches --> Connector, where YourName is your account name, and Connector is the name of the Connector.win7tips_searchresults_420.jpg

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August 2013
Tool​ Tip​
Image Resizer Icon

If you are interested in improving the battery life of your laptop, Windows 7 includes a hidden, built-in, tool that will examine your laptop's energy use and make recommendations on how to improve it.

To use it:

1. Run a command prompt as an administrator. To do this, type cmd in the search box, and when the cmd icon appears, right-click it and choose "Run as administrator."
 
2. At the command line, type in the following:
powercfg -energy -output \Folder\Energy_Report.html
where \Folder represents the folder where you want the report to be placed.
 
3. For about a minute, Windows 7 will examine the behavior of your laptop. It will then analyze it and create a report in HTML format in the folder you specified. Double-click the file, and you'll get a report -- follow its recommendations for ways to improve power performance.
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July 2013​
Tool​ Tip​
Image Resizer Icon Suppose you have two versions of a Word document open, one previous version and one new version. Maybe one has comments and edits in view, whereas the other is the final document as you would wish it to be viewed by the reader. Either way, you’ll want to see them both side-by-side for comparison. sidebyside.jpg

With Windows 7, you can snap to halves of the screen in a second. Drag your first document window to the left hand edge of the screen. A shadow highlight will appear on the left half of the screen. Release the mouse button, and the window auto-snaps to the left half. Repeat the process for the right window. Job done!

Win-LeftArrow and Win-RightArrow on your keyboard will do the same.

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June 2013​
Tool​ Tip​
Ditto Icon

The Windows Recycle Bin is a good safeguard against accidental file deletions. However, when you know you want to permanently delete a file, you can bypass it.Disable Recycle Bin

Instead of pressing the Del key, press Shift+Del, then Shift+Enter to confirm.

If you prefer, you can also permanently disable the Recycle Bin.

First, right-click on the Recycle Bin, then choose Properties. Click on the drive you want to disable the Recycle Bin for, then select "Don't move files to the Recycle Bin. Remove files immediately when deleted." Click the OK or Apply button to save the changes.

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May 2013
Tool Tip
BRLCAD Icon

Get to know Microsoft Paint: classic Windows software that has been improved in Windows 7 with new brush effects like watercolor, crayon, and calligraphy. Paint now comes with an easy-to-use, customizable ribbon for access to all the cool features that you use the most. And with a touchscreen, you can finger-paint, including using two fingers to create separate brush strokes simultaneously.

 

paint.jpg

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April 2013
Tool Tip
BRLCAD Icon To enable Internet Search from the Start Menu using your default browser:
 
Search Internet
  1. Run GPEDIT.MSC from the Start Menu search box to start the Group Policy Editor.
  2. In the left pane, go to User Configuration>Administrative Templates>Start Menu and Task bar.
  3. In the right pane, right-click to Edit and Enable Add Search Internet link to Start Menu.
Search internet
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