Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tim Sneath's Bumper List of Windows 7 Secrets

So, I was reading up on the MSDN blog, and found an article about all sorts of windows 7 tips and tricks (here: and I thought I should outline a few that stood out to me.

Windows Management. By now, you’ve probably seen that Windows 7 does a lot to make window management easier: you can “dock” a window to the left or right half of the screen by simply dragging it to the edge; similarly, you can drag the window to the top of the screen to maximize it, and double-click the window top / bottom border to maximize it vertically with the same horizontal width. What you might not know is that all these actions are also available with keyboard shortcuts:
Win+Left Arrow and Win+Right Arrow dock;
Win+Up Arrow and Win+Down Arrow maximizes and restores / minimizes;
Win+Shift+Up Arrow and Win+Shift+Down Arrow maximizes and restores the vertical size.

I think this would be very useful for people with dual monitors, I have dual monitors at my house, and after trying out these shortcuts I found that I can use them to move windows to other monitors.

Display Projection. Had enough of messing around with weird and wonderful OEM display driver utilities to get your notebook display onto an external projector? In that case, you’ll be pleased to know that projection is really quick and simple with Windows 7. Just hit Win+P, and you’ll be rewarded by the following pop-up window:

Use the arrow keys (or keep hitting Win+P) to switch to “clone”, “extend” or “external only” display settings. You can also access the application as displayswitch.exe.

If you want broader control over presentation settings, you can also press Win+X to open the Windows Mobility Center, which allows you to turn on a presentation “mode” that switches IM clients to do not disturb, disables screensavers, sets a neutral wallpaper etc. (Note that this feature is also available in Windows Vista.)

After installing the windows 7 beta this was one of the things that I noticed first. I actually stumbled upon the popup by accident while messing around in the mobility center and I thought it would be extremely useful for many users. I also like the presentation mode check box in the mobility center because you can use it to disable the screensaver in case your watching a movie or something.

Cut Out The Clutter. Working on a document in a window and want to get rid of all the extraneous background noise? Simply hit Win+Home to minimize all the non-active background windows, keeping the window you’re using in its current position. When you’re ready, simply press Win+Home again to restore the background windows to their original locations.

This, along with the Win+Space shortcut (show desktop) are very nice additions to the windows OS.

The Black Box Recorder. Every developer wishes there was a way that an end-users could quickly and simply record a repro for the problem that they’re running into that is unique to their machine. Windows 7 comes to the rescue! Part of the in-built diagnostic tools that we use internally to send feedback on the product, the Problem Steps Recorder provides a simple screen capture tool that enables you to record a series of actions. Once you hit “record”, it tracks your mouse and keyboard and captures screenshots with any comments you choose to associate alongside them. Once you stop recording, it saves the whole thing to a ZIP file, containing an HTML-based “slide show” of the steps. It’s a really neat little tool and I can’t wait for it to become ubiquitous on every desktop! The program is called psr.exe; you can also search for it from Control Panel under “Record steps to reproduce a problem”.

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