Computer Tips & Tricks

These tips will cover a wide range of topics, mostly in the "wintel" environment at beginner to advanced levels of knowledge.

TIP #1

Knowledge level for this tip: Beginner

If you have a scroll wheel on your mouse, many application will allow you to zoom in and out byholding down the Control key and moving the wheel. Office applications like Excel and Word support this function as do some graphics programs. Most web browsers will increase and decrease the text size when you do this.

TIP #2

Knowledge level for this tip: Beginner

This tip is for Coreldraw. It also works for most other vector draw or page layout programs. When you want an eyeball center between two points, draw a box that extends between the two points then drag a guide line to intersect the centre x of the box. If you don't have a centre x then the middle control point will work just as well. Obviously, not absolutely precise but close enough in most cases without doing the math. You can zoom in for a more precise placement. Just delete the box after you have placed the guide.

TIP #3

Knowledge level for this tip: Beginner

Most programs allow you to resize graphic objects proportionally so that the graphic doesn't look stretched horizontally or vertically. In most programs, hold down the shift key then drag any corner control point with a mouse. Some programs will resize proportionally even if you drag a middle control point, changing the anchor to the opposite side instead of opposite corner. Coreldraw behaves a little differently. It will always resize proportionally if you drag a corner point. You need to drag a middle point to stretch the object horizontally or vertically. In creating a object you need to hold down control instead of shift to force it to be proportional. However you can change to use a shift key if you wish. Go to Tools, Options, Toolbox, Pick tool and you can change the behaviour of the shift and control keys. Note that it is not a direct swap.

TIP #4

Knowledge level for this tip: Beginner

When you drag and drop files between folders Windows will move the files if the folders are on the same drive and copy them if they are on different drives and will create a shortcut if the file is an executable. Watch the cursor when you drag, if you see a little plus sign then it will make a copy, if you see a small curved arrow then it will create a shortcut, otherwise it will move the file. To change the default behaviour, hold down the shift key to move the files, control to copy and control-shift to create a shortcut. Alternatively you can drag with the right mouse button. When you release the button a menu will pop up giving you the option to move, copy or create a shortcut

TIP #5

Knowledge level for this tip: Beginner

When entering a web address in the address box of explorer you can have Windows fill in the "http://www." and ".com" before and after what you type by pressing Control-Enter

TIP #6

Knowledge level for this tip: Beginner

When you select a range of cells in Excel the sum of those cells is displayed on the right side of the status line at the bottom. If you right click on the status line you get a popup menu that can change the function to average, count, maximum or minimum.

TIP #7

Knowledge level for this tip: Beginner

If you are using the "view details" mode on explorer you can re-sort the file list by clicking on any of the column headings. If you click the same column heading again, you reverse the direction of the sort. You can also drag the column headings to change their position or drag the column seperator to change their width. This works in many other programs including outlook express.

TIP #8

Knowledge level for this tip: Beginner

The windows key on your keyboard (the one on the bottom row of your keyboard between the alt and control keys that has a windows logo) can do a little bit more than just bringing up the start menu. If you hold it down and press e, it will bring up windows explorer.

Windows-d will show the desktop. Pressing it again will toggle back to your previous display.
Windows-f will bring up the find files dialog box. 
Windows-m will minimize all windows.
Windows-shift-m will undo the minimize.
Windows-r will bring up the run dialog box.
Windows-break will bring up system properties.
Windows-F1 will bring up Windows help.

Other shortcut keys:

Alt-F4 will generally close the current application.
Control-F4 will generally close the current document but leave the application open
Alt-Tab will allow you to switch applications
Alt-Shift-Tab will switch applications in the reverse direction
Tab will generally shift the focus to the next area of input
Shift-Tab will shift the focus backwards
That other key on the bottom row beside the Windows key will bring up a context sensitive menu (i.e. same as clicking the right mouse button)

Tip #9

Knowledge level for this tip: Beginner

Building on a previous tip on sort and sizing columns in outlook, you can sort on two columns by clicking on the first column header then holding down the shift key and click on the second column header. If you continue to hold down the shift key and click again on either header you will reverse the direction of sort for that column.

Besides dragging the column separator to resize columns, you can double click it to automatically resize to the largest entry.

Tip #10

Knowledge level for this tip: Beginner

When selecting multiple objects like files in explorer or cells in excel you can use the shift and control keys in combination with clicking and dragging. If you click the first object then hold down shift and click the second object everything between the two objects is selected. This is similar to dragging a rectagular marquee around the objects but is easier to control if you need to scroll the window to include all the objects.

If you hold down the control key with the second click, you will add the second object to the selection. You can continue to click more object to add them. You can also use this in combination with dragging to add multiple files.

Remember to let go of the shift or control key if appropriate to copy or move files in explorer. You will notice that if you click on a filename and drag you will move or copy the file whereas if you click on a space off the filename and drag you will select the file.

 Tip #11

Knowledge level for this tip: Beginner

Sometimes when you move an excel file from one machine to another, the differing display resolutions will cause some number to display as #### indicating the column is to narrow to show the whole number. Rather than changing the font size or column widths try changing the zoom percentage. Sometimes a change as small as 5% will allow you to see the numbers.

TIP #12

Knowledge level for this tip: Intermediate

If your start menu has so many items that they are scrolling off the top or bottom of your screen, it's time to organize your menu. Start off by using the categories you already have like games. Select a game that isn't on the games menu, click and drag to the games menu, wait for the menu to pop open then release the item you've dragged within that menu. If you want to create a new category, open the windows folder, then start menu then program and create a new folder. This will then show up as a new category on your programs menu into which you can drag any menu item.

If you wish to put an item under two or more categories simply hold down the control key when you drag and you will create a copy instead of moving the item.

The one problem with doing this is when you uninstall a program. The uninstaller may not find where you've put the menu item and not remove it. So after you've uninstalled a program check if the menu item is still there. If it is then simply right click on it and select delete.