Get A Faster, Safer PC (Part 3) - Make text easier to read, Disable a laptop touchpad

4/3/2012 5:34:58 PM

Get A Faster, Safer PC (Part 3)


Make text easier to read

Description: Make text easier to read

It’s easy to fix your Windows and monitor settings to make documents, spreadsheets and photo editing programs more readable.

One simple way to make onscreen content larger in all versions of Windows is to reduce the monitor’s resolution. Although images, text and icons on the display will be sharper at the recommended resolution, they’ll be larger at a slightly lower resolution. Experiment with the available resolutions (you can find them via the Control Panel or by right clicking your system’s desktop).

Windows 7 offers additional handy options to make your display more readable. First, you can change the size of everything onscreen from 100 to 125 or 150 percent by adjusting the display settings. Right click your screen, choose Personalization, Display, and then go big, bigger or biggest. Windows 7 also lets you establish a custom size for text in these setting, while the ClearType Text Tuner can make text on LCDs sharper.

Another feature that promotes easy  reading in Windows 7 is the Magnifier tool (you can reach it through a link in the text describing the Display options under Personalization). Although having this tool on all the time can be somewhat annoying, the Magnifier is useful when you need to see just one thing a little larger. You may want to rely on it occasionally instead of enlarging all your text or your entire screen.

Disable a laptop touchpad

Description: Disable a laptop touchpad

Whether you love touchpad or just tolerate them, they get in the way at times. If your laptop lacks a physical switch or keyboard shortcut to turn off the touchpad, you may be able to disable the feature through software.

Look for a touchpad icon in the notification area; double click or right click that icon to view the options and disable the touchpad if possible.

If no icon is present, click Start, Control Panel, ‘Hardware and Sound’. Click Mouse under ‘Devices and Printers’ (in Vista, click Start, Control Panel, ‘Hardware and Sound’, Mouse). Mouse properties might have a tab where you can disable the touchpad.

Still no luck? Look for a touchpad software entry in the Start menu.

One other option is to click Start, type device manager in the Search box, and click the Device Manager result. Expand ‘Mice and other pointing devices’, then right click the touchpad’s entry. In the pop up menu, click Disable. Confirm your choice.

Finally, if you have touchpad software on your laptop, you may be able to adjust the touchpad’s behaviour without disabling it. For example, you might change its sensitivity.

Make a bigger point

Still in the Mouse menu, you’ll see a variety of options to enable faster scrolling and pointer customisation. Perhaps the most useful is the option in the Scheme drop down menu to change from the default large pointer option to ‘extra large’. This nearly doubles the onscreen pointer size.

There’s a wealth of pointer and input customisation options within the Mouse driver menus to change colour schemes, responsiveness and behaviour.

Tag it to find it

Tagging photos and files that are stored locally on your own computer can make them much easier to find. Being able to search by subject, location or quality rating speeds things up.

Ensure all the photos from a set are in the correct folder. The menu at the top right allows you to select large thumbnails so you can more easily view your images. When you’re ready to tag your photos, right click on one of the images and choose Properties. Click the appropriate number of starts to rate it. Now click in the blank space next to the Tag label. Type in keywords as identifying tags. Click Apply to save your changes.

To add the same tags to all the photos in the folder, click on the tag text, press Ctrl, A to select all the words, then Ctrl, C to copy it. Now click the Up or Back button to view the whole photo folder. Select All, right click as before and choose properties. Now paste the tags into the field and click Apply. All the photos will now be tagged.

The same technique applies to Word and Excel documents as well as other sorts of life.

Quick locator

Description: Windows 7 Search

Windows Search is now pretty sophisticated (at least by comparison with that found in XP). You can refine searches easily without the distracting digidog assistant and see at a glance where the located items have been found. We also like the option to open a file’s location from the search results.

Preview your work

Still in the explorer menu, there’s a very nifty little icon just to the right of the thumbnail size menu that lets you toggle on and off the Preview for documents. It’s useful if you need to quickly see what a document contains or to view its contents without interfering with what you’re typing into word.

Make use of news feeds

Should you need to keep abreast of developments about a particular subject, setting up a news alert can help a lot. Try tools such as iCurrent and Summly. For the latest tech news, of course, you can always turn to the PC Advisor website.

Preserve browser tabs

Description: Preserve browser tabs

If, like us, you often leave browser tabs open so you can come back and read them later, you’ll probably appreciate a way of keeping these tabs ‘live’ without having to make bookmarks for them all. Chrome and Firefox each offer an easy way to keep tabs open from one session to the next, without the need for plug-ins or extensions.

To enable the option in Chrome, click the spanner icon in the upper-right corner. Select Option then, in the Basics section, enable ‘Reopen the pages that were open last.’

The process is very similar in Firefox. Click the orange Firefox button, hold the mouse over Options, then click Options. (if your version of Firefox doesn’t have the orange button, click Tools, Options.) in the General tab, click the drop down menu next to “When Firefox starts’ and choose ‘Show my windows and tabs from lat time’. Click Ok.

In both browsers, the change goes into effect immediately, meaning that when you close the browser whatever tabs you have open will reappear when you run it again.

Stick it in the calendar

A calendar is no longer just a glorified poster with a series of photos of pretty landscapes or the latest pop star pin ups. It’s a proper reminder mechanism, intended to help you keep track of appointments and appear more organised than you may actually be. Email and onscreen alerts as well as ones that can pop up on your smartphone are the saviour of the routinely flustered office worker.

Take a break

You’ll be more efficient and won’t tire so easily if you take regular breaks from your PC. Your eyes will appreciate it, too. If you find it hard to regulate your breaks, use an onscreen prompt such as Screen Break to remind you to do so. Opticians recommend that every 20 to 30 minutes you turn away from the screen and instead focus elsewhere in the room, preferably somewhere distant.

Set your clock ahead

It’s a well known fact that tasks expand to fill whatever time slot you give them (and often overspill beyond it). Set your watch and PC clock a few minutes fast and you’ll buy yourself a bit of time. This psychological trick works well. Note, though, that Windows has a habit of losing a few minutes all by itself, so check first that you’re not already behind the times. Click on the time in the notification area to bring up the options to adjust the current time.

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