Get More Out Of Windows 7 (Part 1)

9/15/2012 3:04:19 PM

With Windows 7 about to be replaced, we ask how you can squeeze that little bit more out of it

Description: Windows 7

The imminent release of Windows 8 will have many of us looking at our current operating system and wondering whether it's time to upgrade, but there's still life left in Windows 7 yet. Indeed, if you're put off by the radical redesign of Windows 8, you might be wondering whether there's any way you can make Windows 7 feel new again.

That's why we've assembled this collection of tips, tricks and hidden features to help you get a little bit more out of Windows 7.

Interface tweaks and mods

Windows is full of shortcuts and options that don't seem to be documented anywhere, but which you might find useful in changing the behavior of your interface. Here are some of them!

1.    Put the 'Run' command back on the Start menu

Difficulty: 1 stars (out of three)

Easy access to the Windows command line via the 'Run' dialogue was a feature many of us miss, and although it's still there, it's now four whole clicks away (Start > All Programs > Accessories > Run) where, frankly, even the most experienced user could miss it. To put the Run option back on the start menu where it belongs, right-click the Start menu, select 'Properties', then 'Customize', and scroll down and check the box marked 'Run Command'.

Description: 1. Put the 'Run' command back on the Start menu

2.    Create a quick access control panel

Difficulty: 2 stars

Finding Control Panel options can still be quite difficult, so if you want to see everything in one place you can use a registry shortcut to display all of the options available to you in one place. Simply create a new folder on your desktop and call it something like 'Quick Access', then add '.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}' immediately after it. If you do it correctly, the extra code will disappear, leaving the initial name, and the icon will change. Inside you'll find almost 300 control panel options in an easy-to-browse list!

Description: 2. Create a quick access control panel

3.    Customize your login screen

Difficulty: 2 Stars

If you're sick of seeing the same, tired old wavy blue background, fire up the registry editor and browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\ CurrentVersion\Authentication\LogonUl\Background. If it exists, double-click the key called 'OEMBackground' and set the value to 1. If it doesn't exist, you can create it (it's a DWORD).

Now, find a background image. It has to be less than 256KB, and it'll be automatically stretched, so make sure the aspect ratio is correct for your current resolution. Copy the image into %windir%\system32\oobe\info\backgrounds (again, you can create this path manually if it doesn't exist) and rename the image to 'backgroundDefault.jpg'. Next time you reboot, the login screen will use your custom image.

5.    Use old-style taskbar menus

Difficulty: 1 Star

If you don't like the Windows 7-style jump lists and long for the old minimise/maximise/ move options, there's an easy way to get them back - just hold down Ctrl + Shift when you right-click, and the old menu will appear.

Description: 4. Use old-style taskbar menus

4.    Shrink the taskbar

Difficulty: 1 Star

Window 7's giant taskbar is a visual departure from earlier Windows versions, and it takes up a lot more screen space too. If you want something more discreet, simply right-click on the taskbar, select 'Properties' and then in the Taskbar tab, click 'Use small icons'. It'll shrink to something roughly equivalent to previous versions of Windows.

Description: 5. Shrink the taskbar

  1. Enable old-style taskbar buttons

Difficulty: 1 star

If you don't like Windows 7's habit of grouping instances of the same program beneath one icon, or that it doesn't display a window's label at a glance, you can quite easily go back to an old-style 'one button per application' style of taskbar. Again, right-click on the taskbar, select 'properties' and then in the Taskbar tab change the option marked 'Taskbar buttons' to 'never combine' or 'Combine when taskbar is full' depending on your preference. Combine with the previous tip to make things look even more retro!

  1. Bring back the quick launch bar

Difficulty: 1 star

The final tip in our tetralogy of taskbar-restoration instructions helps you put the quick launch area back where it belongs. Right-click the taskbar and select 'Toolbars', then 'New Toolbar'. When prompted, type ' % UserProf i le %\AppData\Roa m i ng\M icrosoft\ Internet Explorer\Quick Launch' into the

Folder box, then click 'Select Folder'. The toolbar will appear. Right-click on it and unlock it so that you can move it around, and right-click the divider to toggle text and title display. Finally, right-click it and select 'View', followed by 'Small Icons' to get something even closer to the old quick launch appearance.

Description: 7. Bring back the quick launch bar

  1. Turn off 'smart' windows (Aero Snap)

Difficulty: 2 Stars

If you don't like the new interface features which expand and snap your application windows to screen edges and expand them when you double-click, you can turn them off by opening Regedit, browsing to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ControlPanel\Desktop, finding the 'WindowArrangementActive' value and changing the value to 0. Next time you reboot, these smart interface features will be disabled and windows will only do what you tell them.

  1. Extend jump lists

Difficulty: 1 Star

By default, a Windows 7 jump list will display ten previous items, but by right-clicking on the Start menu and choosing 'Properties', then 'Customize', you can manually choose how many items a jump list shows by increasing (or indeed, decreasing) the number at the bottom of the dialogue box.

Description: 9. Extend jump lists

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