Streamline Your Computer

Streamlining means different things. It might mean making something more aerodynamic (or just look more aerodynamic, like the ’59 Cadillac), or it could mean making something more efficient. You could put tailfins on your computer, but all that would do is make it look cooler. Cool is important, but getting work done is important, too. Today I present for your consideration some random tips for improving your efficiency when using the computer.


Looks really cool, but does it run?

1. Help is closer than you think: Most programs, including Windows itself, have help files. These range in usefulness from very bad to very good, with most being decent. To use the help in Windows, press the F1 key when there are no programs open, or click Help, Help and Support Center from any folder menu. To use the help in other programs, press F1 when the program is open, or click the Help menu.

2. You don’t know the power of the right click: The right button on your mouse (or the other button if you’re left-handed) can give you an amazing range of options almost anywhere. Right-Click on a file or selected text, and you’ll get a menu of options including Cut, Copy, Delete, Rename, and others. Right-Click inside a folder, and you’ll get View options, arrangement options, and selection options. Right-Click on the Desktop, and you’ll get the folder options, plus display properties. Right-Click on My Computer or Recycle Bin, and you’ll get menus appropriate to those places. Try right-clicking on just about anything to get a list of things you can do with these items.

3. One name to rule them all: Many files, especially digital pictures, do not have very intuitive file names. Windows has a multiple renaming feature. To use it, select a group of files, either by lassoing them with the mouse (hold the left mouse button and drag to make a box around all the files you want to select), or clicking them individually while holding down the (Ctrl) key. (Hold Ctrl and press A to select all contents of a folder.) Right-click and select Rename. Type the new name. All your files will have the same name with sequential numbers. This will make your favorite photos much easier to find.

4. At the tone, the exact time will be…. Windows also comes with a utility that will keep your computer set to the exact time. To access this tool, double-click on the clock in the lower right corner of your screen. Click the Internet Time tab and check the box labeled “Automatically synchronize with an Internet time server”. Windows will synchronize your computer time with National Bureau of Standards time periodically. If your Internet connection is active, you can also click “Update now” to set the clock immediately. Now, you have an extremely accurate clock where you need it most!

5. Save that expensive printer ink: Most, if not all, printers give you the option of printing in “Draft” mode. For documents that don’t need to look really pretty, draft mode will save you a lot of ink. When you print a document from the File menu, you’ll get a dialog box that will give you print quality options. Selecting Draft mode will give a lighter, faster print, with lower ink usage per page. If you want to use draft mode as the default option, click Start, Control Panel, Printers and faxes (Start, Settings, Printers in earlier versions of Windows), select your printer, right-click and select Properties. This will set default options for all printing on that printer. The exact options and their layout will vary from printer to printer, so you may need to explore the print dialog box to find Print quality.


This post has been adapted from my new book, “Deciphering the 21st Century,” Available now!

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