A Couple Of Productivity Tips For Microsoft Windows

| Created: August 2nd, 2008
General 28 Comments

Okay, so this isn’t directly related to what I normally write about (WordPress, websites and web development), but if you use Microsoft Windows, these tips may increase your productivity, giving you more time for other things. For me, that’s more time for WordPress, websites and web development!

I should point out that I’m just passing these tips on. They are things I’ve read recently, that have helped me. I decided to put them into a post in case it helps others, and also to remind me what they are, in case I forget!

Tip 1 – Keyboard ShortCuts For Windows

I recently read IntelliAdmin’s Windows keyboard shortcuts you never knew existed! article. It’s two and a half years old, but it’s still well worth it. The tips should work for Vista, although I’m using XP. Let me know if they don’t!

I’ve been using Microsoft Windows for 17 years and have even taught how to use Windows, but there were some shortcut gems in here that even I didn’t know! The really useful ones, that I wasn’t aware of, are:

  • Alt+Esc (Cycle through windows in the order they were opened): Faster than Alt+Tab, because it doesn’t display the icons, it just changes the window.
  • Windows+Shift+M (Restore all minimised windows): I often use Win+D to bring up the desktop and minimise all windows. I restore them manually, one by one, as needed. This shortcut restores all of them at once.
  • Shift+F10 (Brings up the context menu): I use the context menu all the time. I’m always right clicking! This will save me from having to leave the keyboard to go to the mouse.
  • Windows+L (Locks the computer): Probably my favourite. I lock my computer at work every time I leave my desk. I use Ctrl+Alt+Del, wait for the dialogue, then press Enter. The problem is waiting for the dialogue as my computer is slow and there’s often a lag. This gives me an instant lock.
  • Windows+Pause (Opens System Properties): A neat alternative to right-clicking on My Computer, but I guess it’s not something that would be used very often.

I found the IntelliAdmin article through @comment.net’s Essential Shortcuts for Geeks: Over 21 Software & Web Services post. It has links to many shortcut lists for most operating systems, web browsers and several other applications. It’s worth checking out – it might save you some time.

Tip 2 – Taskbar Shuffle Utility

I also recently learnt of the Taskbar Shuffle utility through Sergio Pereira’s Software I can’t work without article. Taskbar Shuffle is a free Windows utility, which allows you to drag and drop the items on your taskbar.

Why would you want to do this? Well, I use it to reorder the taskbar items so that related windows are next to each other. I often work on many different tasks, each of which has several windows open. If I open a new window, I want it to appear with the other taskbar items related to that task, not at the end of the taskbar.

I did without this functionality for years. In the last two years however, it’s become a real pain. Why? I have the same issue with a huge number of tabs in Firefox and I can drag the tabs around so they are grouped logically. Now I’m used to that, it drives me crazy that I can’t do it with taskbar items.

I’m very surprised that this hasn’t made it’s way into Windows core functionality. As more and more people get used to tabbed browsing, this is a logical extension for Windows.

Don’t Ask Why I’m Using Windows!

I know there will be some people out there asking why I don’t move to Linux or even a Mac. I have considered switching to Linux. The idea appeals to me because I’m a fan of open source software. However, I have some pretty good reasons not to (for me):

  • Satisfaction: I’m happy with Windows XP SP2! Windows XP wasn’t so good in it’s early days, just like Vista isn’t so good at the moment, but it’s now a good operating system.
  • Work: I use Windows at work and have done so for the last 14 years (apart from about a year on OS/2). Yes, I could use a different operating system at home, but it’s just added complexity. I like to have a standard desktop environment wherever I’m working.
  • Choice: When it comes to choice of applications to use, Windows has it over the other operating systems. Although they have decent software for most situations, there is greater depth of applications for Windows.
  • Experience: Because I’ve been using Windows for so long, I can pretty much bend it to my needs. I can’t think of anything I need a computer to do that I can’t make Windows do.

I’m not likely to switch any time soon. I won’t rule out experimenting with Linux (I’m thinking about getting an Eee PC for the train), but that’s purely because I like the idea of Linux. For practicality and productivity, I’ll be sticking with Windows XP for the moment.

Final Thoughts

I hope some of you out there find these tips useful. They are certainly making my life easier and giving me that little bit of extra time to spend on what I really want to do.

28 responses on “A Couple Of Productivity Tips For Microsoft Windows

  1. sam@Graphics Cards

    I never knew about win + D for the desktop – how cool is that – I hate it when people delete the show desktop icon – now I don’t mind!

    Incidentally – doesn’t pressing win + D again restore all minimised programs?

  2. olly@Guitar Tab Books

    These shortcut keys are really cool – I didn’t know about most of these listed and they will really help me in my work.

    The windows + pause is a great one

  3. peter@Peter Answers

    I can see the appeal of Alt-Esc but I usually have so many windows open that opening them sequentially is of no value to me. Still, always good to find new key strokes!

    As for Windows, I think you hit the nail on the head – if you are happy, why switch? I’m in the same boat – XP2 working just fine, thank you. I’ve played with Ubuntu but I am satisfied for now to just use it in VMware player.

  4. Jackson

    Knowing the tips of Microsoft Windows, really increase our productivity and gives us more time in other things. I think we can save lot of time in our other projects.

  5. James

    Thanks for sharing the taskbar shuffle! It’s annoying when the new window opens at the end when you need it next to another at the beginning. I am also used to drag and drop tabs in firefox so this is perfect for me to have 🙂

  6. Matty@MMA Gyms

    I’m going to come off sounding like a major fanboy, but whatever, here it goes:

    I switched to OS X late last year and my productivity went up. The OS is just so smooth. It is an absolute dream for web developers, and I mean that for every aspect of the game — graphics, coding, writing, surfing, email etc.

    I sold my last PC a few months ago, and now I rock out on two Macbook Pro’s. Part of the productivity increase is from a feature called ‘expose’ in OS X. Look it up in youtube to see how managing many windows at once is very easy.

  7. Latorraca@Personal Injury Attorneys California

    One great productivity improvements can be to just increase the RAM in the machine. When a machine is running a handful of programs or just has too little RAM, it can run quite slowly. Removing programs from Windows’ startup can help with the speed as well.

  8. John@St. Louis Wedding Photography

    Hey, these are some pretty helpful tips. I knew about alt+tab and alt+shift+tab as well as windows+L but I didn’t know about windows+pause. That is one I’ll be using a lot. One hotkey I use on my Apple all the time is Apple+m which minimizes the current window. I’d love to see that one on Windows. Another is Apple+shift+N which creates a new folder in the finder window on top. I hate having to right click and go to new and folder in Windows.

  9. Tony@LCD enclosures

    These shortcut will save lots of time for people who use computers every day, making us all more efficient, so we should at the end of the month have a day or so spare for fun!

  10. Social Networking Cartoons

    Just about the shifting to linux or mac thing. Though Linux might do well for some software or tech professionals, at the end of the day it is still a lot backing by standard from Windows. I have used Mac, and using Mac was really fun. However, I would still put XP SP2 as the winner.

    LINK REMOVED: because of failure to use KeywordLuv syntax (name@keywords)

  11. Vas@Weight Loss Management

    I am so angry with windows right now and their OEM lic structure. I changed the motherboard on my PC and now my lic is dead. And they want to charge $59 for a service call to get the lic key. arrgh!!

  12. ComputerBlog@awebus

    Though Linux might do well for some software or tech professionals, at the end of the day it is still a lot backing by standard from Windows. I have used Mac, and using Mac was really fun.One great productivity improvements can be to just increase the RAM in the machine. When a machine is running a handful of programs or just has too little RAM, it can run quite slowly.

  13. Henny @ taux pret hypothecaire

    I am so happy to stumble on this page. This really are handy tips, as well as the links given – very helpful. =)

  14. latif@debt management

    Thank you for the tips. Although looking small but makes life quite easy 🙂 i most like window + M to minimize all windows to see desktop.

  15. Dom@computerhelp

    Great article. I am a huge fan of keyboard shortcuts. I will watch other coworkers or friends who dont’ use them and they just seem so slow on the computer. With my job, I can get a lot more done using the basic shortcuts.

  16. Milo@Conservatory blinds

    Keyboard shortcuts are usally somthing that drives me crazy in windows, when you need them most you have to look them up on the net. I wish they would become part of the qwerty keyboard setup..

  17. Brad@Best Christmas Gifts

    I like these Windows tips. But what I find is funny is the need to “defend” using Windows :). Your reasons for doing so make great sense. I use Windows too. But, it’s funny that when you “know tech”, you must defend your use of Windows 😉

  18. Neeraj

    Hi Bill, I can relate to what you are saying as I myself am using Windows XP for as long as I can remember. I tried switching to linux and even Apple’s OS but didn’t liked it the way I liked XP. I guess we’ve grown addicted to it and also the way we can customize and also the number of applications that are available in the market for XP is huge. Although I would recommend you to update your XP to service pack 3 as its much safer and less prone to crashes.

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