Wednesday, April 15, 2009

10 Important Tweaks for windows 7

By Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MVP (Enterprise Security)

Windows 7 hasn’t even been released yet, but many people (yes, I’m one of them) are already running it on their production computers despite Microsoft’s advice not to do that with beta software. Regardless of Windows 7's incomplete status, many techies will tell you that it’s more stable and reliable than Vista. According to a recent ZDNet poll of IT pros , they are four times more likely to be happy with the new OS than early users of Vista.

Still, as good as Windows 7 is, it’s not perfect out of the box. Here are a few tweaks and tricks you can use to make this excellent OS even better.

1: Get Quick Launch back

I liked the new Windows 7 taskbar a lot -- but something was missing. Yes, you can pin programs to the Start menu now, and I do. But I also liked the Quick Launch bar, where I could put icons for programs I use a little less frequently but often enough that I don’t want to have to open the Start menu to get to them. Quick Launch is missing in Windows 7, but there is a way to bring it back. You’ll find step by step instructions with screenshots in this tutorial . Once you have the Quick Launch bar on your taskbar, you can drag programs to it as you did in Vista.

2: Bring back the Vista taskbar look and behavior

Even though I like the new taskbar, I know some people don’t. They’d prefer to have the old Vista/XP look and behavior, where the taskbar uses less screen space. If you’re in that camp, it’s easy to change the taskbar so it will be similar to the old look:

1. Right click the Start button and select Properties.

2. Click the taskbar tab.

3. Check the box that says “Use small icons” and click Apply.

If you don’t like the way Windows 7 combines icons for all instances of an application, you can change that, too. On the same tab, click the down arrow on the Taskbar Buttons box and select Combine When Taskbar Is Full.

This dialog box also allows you to select the taskbar location on the screen (bottom, top, left, or right), customize which icons appear in the notification area (system tray), and decide whether to temporarily minimize all open windows when you place your mouse on the far end (or bottom) of the taskbar (Desktop Preview).

3: Put different wallpapers on multiple monitors

If you’re using Windows 7 with two or more monitors, you’ll be pleased to find that multi-monitor support has been improved. One thing I really like about Windows 7 is that when I connect to it via Remote Desktop from another computer, it doesn’t rearrange all my icons as Vista often did with multiple monitors. However, one thing Microsoft didn’t build into Win 7 that some of us were hoping for is the ability to set different wallpapers on different monitors.

In XP and Vista, I used UltraMon to do that, but it costs $40. In a tough economy, many people don’t want to spend that much for a program of that kind. Besides, based on what I read in the forums, it doesn’t yet work reliably on Windows 7. Luckily, I was able to hunt down another application called DisplayFusion . The free version gives you multiple wallpaper support, and the paid version, which costs $20 less than UltraMon, gives you multiple taskbars and window management features. I’ve installed it on two Windows 7 computers and it works great. As you can see in Figure A, you can configure a variety of settings.

4: Turn off Aero Snap

A new feature in Windows 7 is Aero Snap, which causes your application windows to automatically snap into a preconfigured place when you move them to the edges of the screen. Drag a window to the far right, and it will size itself to fill exactly half the screen. Drag it to the top corner and it will maximize to fill the whole screen. This can be handy, but it can also be annoying if you prefer that your windows stay the size you made them. Luckily, you can easily turn Snap off. Here’s how:

1. Click Start and select Control Panel.

2. Click Ease of Access Center.

3. Click Make the Mouse Easier to Use.

4. Select the Prevent Windows From Being Automatically Arranged When Moved To The Edge Of The Screen check box.

5. Click OK.

5: Display Control Panel applets with small icons

By default, the Windows 7 Control Panel shows the Category view (Figure B), similar to the default in Windows Vista.

Figure A

Figure B

You can easily change to a more classic view by clicking All Control Panel Items at the bottom of the categories list, but that gives you a list of the items represented by large icons, as shown in Figure C.

What if you’d like to display the items with small icons so more of them will fit in the same space? Your first thought might be to click the View menu on the taskbar, but at least in the public beta (build 7000), the icon size choices are all grayed out. However, there’s a little trick: Right-click on an empty space in the window, and you’ll get a context menu from which you can pick View Small Icons. Selecting this command will allow you to display many more items in the same size window, as shown in Figure D.

6: Format the text in sticky notes

Another new feature in Windows 7 is the built-in Sticky Notes application. You’ll find it on the Start menu. You’ve probably already discovered that you can change the color of notes by right-clicking and selecting a new color. You may also have figured out that you can use the Ctrl + B and Ctrl + I shortcuts to format the text as bold or italic. But did you know that you can make bulleted and numbered lists in your sticky notes, and increase or decrease the text size? Here are some more handy keyboard shortcuts that work within sticky notes:

• Ctrl + Shift + L (once): Bulleted list

• Ctrl + Shift + L (twice): Numbered list

• Ctrl + Shift + >: Increase text size

• Ctrl + Shift + <: Decrease text size

• Ctrl + U: Underline

• Ctrl + T: Strikethrough

Figure C

Figure D Figure D

Figure E shows an example of how the shortcuts can be used to format text in sticky notes.

7: Turn off Windows features

Microsoft gives you much more flexibility with Windows 7, allowing you to turn off Windows components -- such as Internet Explorer, Windows Search, the Gadget platform, and media features -- that you couldn’t disable in earlier versions of Windows. Here’s how:

1. Click Start | Control Panel and select Programs And Features.

2. In the left pane, click Turn Windows Features On Or Off.

3. Simply select or deselect the check boxes to enable or disable the various Windows features, as shown in Figure F, then click OK.

8: Make Adobe Reader display PDFs properly

If you’ve installed Adobe Reader in Windows 7, you may notice that sometimes when you try to open a PDF file, you get an error message and the file doesn’t open. It seems Adobe doesn’t play well with IE 8 in Windows 7 and won’t open the files (or at least won’t open some of them) in the browser.

If you set Adobe not to display PDFs in the browser, it will open them without any problems. Here’s how to configure that:

1. Open Adobe Reader.

2. Click Edit | Preferences.

3. Click Internet in the left Categories pane.

4. Under Web Browser Options, deselect the Display PDF In Browser check box and click OK.

9: Start Windows 7 with multiple cores

If you have a dual- or quad-core processor (or if you’re really lucky and have dual quad-core processors), you can configure Windows 7 to boot using more than one core for faster startup. Here’s how:

1. Click Start and type msconfig.exe in the Search box.

2. Click it in the list to open it.

3. In the System Configuration dialog box, click the Boot tab.

4. Click the Advanced Options button.

5. Select the Number of processors check box and choose the number of processors you want to use, as shown in Figure G.

6. Click OK in both dialog boxes to close them.

Figure E

Figure F

10: Install Windows 7 from a USB thumb drive

If you’re so impressed with Windows 7 on your desktop computer that you want to install it on your laptop, what do you do if the laptop is an ultra compact that doesn’t have a DVD drive? Of course, you could connect a USB DVD drive, if you have one. Or you could put the installation files on a network drive and connect to it over the network.

But here's another option that works surprisingly well: Copy the contents of the Windows 7 ISO image to a 4 GB or larger USB thumb drive (or a flash memory card, if the laptop has a built-in reader). Installing the OS this way is likely to be faster than using a DVD.

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