New Users' SIG

Each month, the Madison PC-Users' Group New Users Special Interests Group meets before the General Meeting. Topics vary widely, but are designed to help PC users of all levels learn more about what PC Hardware and Software can do to make your lives better. At past meetings, tip sheets were passed out with lots of good tidbits of information showing how to get things done as quickly or as efficiently as possible. Often PC Users will know one or two ways to get a given job done on their computers. More often than not, there are many more ways that a job can be done. The following archive is a condensed version of these Tips and Tricks handouts to serve as a reference that will become invaluable as internal memory banks experience shifts, overloads, lapses, blanks, and short-circuits! They might show some of what you've been missing!


Tips and Tricks

Windows key shortcuts

If your keyboard has the Windows key (a key with the Windows logo on it usually found between the [Alt] and [Ctrl] keys), you have access to additional keyboard shortcuts in Windows.  Here are a few shortcuts you can use:

* Windows key by itself opens the Start menu.
* Windows+D or Windows+M minimizes all windows to show the desktop.
* Windows+E displays Windows Explorer.
* Windows+F helps locate files on your PC by opening the Find box.
* Shift+Windows+M will undo minimize all windows.
* Windows+L locks Windows (with password, if enabled).
* Windows+R opens the Run dialog box.
* Windows+Break displays the System Properties dialog box.
* Windows+Tab cycles through the taskbar icons.
* Windows+F1 opens the Windows Help and Support Center.

Antivirus software

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Adjust keyboard repeat delayHave you ever noticed that when you press an arrow key to move your cursor in one direction or another, the cursor thinks about it for a second and then goes? Hel-LO! Can we shake a leg here?

Light a fire under that cursor by adjusting your keyboard delay. Open the Control Panel (Start, Settings, Control Panel), double-click Keyboard, and on the Speed tab, move the Repeat Delay all the way right, to Short. While you're at it, adjust that Repeat Rate to Fast, if it isn't already. Now take your cursor for a test spin in the white text box.

That's more like it. Click OK to keep the change.
Mouse visibility

Can't keep your eye on that mouse pointer? If you want to know just where your mouse is at all times, trail it--literally--with pointer trails.

Open the Control Panel (Start, Settings, Control Panel) and double-click Mouse. Click the Motion tab, then select Show Pointer Trail. For a little trail, move the lever to Short, and for a big one, choose Long. Now click OK and try moving your mouse around a little. Can't miss it now!

For even more visibility, change the mouse scheme to have a large and/or inverted pointer.

Building characterWhether you want that little encircled "c" that means Copyright, or that lifted TM that means trademark or one of those funny accents from Spanish and French that are unknown to English: the Character Map is your tool.

1. Click on Start.
2. Open Programs + Accessories + System Tools + Character Map.
3. Click on the character you want. It will temporarily grow larger so you can see it up close.
4. If this is a character you want to use, click on Select.
5. Click on any other characters you'll be wanting, and after each, click on Select.
6. Click on Copy. Then click on Close.
All of those characters will be ready to paste into any Windows program.

Changing default file types

If you have installed QuickTime and have found that it has associated itself with various file types against your wishes, you can still change them back to your preferred settings. In Windows Explorer, click View, Folder Options. Select the File Types tab and make the appropriate changes. See your Windows documentation for more detailed instructions on how to do this. QuickTime will not re-associate itself after you make these manual changes.

Create a new document from the desktop

If you need to draft a letter or spreadsheet on the fly, there's no need to go the long route--open the application, start a new document, and so on. Windows 95 will do it all for you, right from the desktop.

Right-click a blank area of the desktop, select New, and in the resulting menu, select the file type you want to create. And there's your new file, right on the desktop. Give it a name, then double-click it to get inside. (Note: You can also create a new document by right-clicking the blank area of any window, selecting New, and so on.)

Print from the desktop

Need to print a file that's sitting on the desktop (or inside an open window)? Don't waste time opening the file and selecting the application's Print command. Windows will do all of that for you. Simply right-click the item you want to print and select Print in the resulting menu. Done.

(Note: If you don't see the Print command, no go--sorry. Certain file types don't support this feature.)

Right-mouse keyboard equivalent

Tired of having to reach for your mouse? You can do just about anything without it--even "click" something with the right-mouse button.  The next time you need to right-click the desktop, an active window, or a highlighted shortcut, press Shift-F10 instead. Magic. 

Shortcut to properties

When you want to know all about an icon--file, folder, whatever--you right-click the icon and select Properties. Getting tired of dragging your pointer all the way down to the bottom of that context menu to the Properties command? Next time, hold down the Alt key as you double-click the icon. Properties dialog box, at your service.

There's more than one way to close a window

Did you know there are two ways to close a window?  Use the one that's closer.  Without a doubt, you know about the "X" caption button, but now take a look at the icon in any open window's upper-left corner. It varies depending on the window you're in, but it always works the same--double-click it to close the window.

Using SitckyKeys Accessibility Option

Do you feel like you have to play finger-Twister to get all those fancy keyboard combinations to work? Windows offers an Accessibility option that makes the Ctrl, Alt, and Shift keys "stick." That way, you only have to press them one at a time.

Open the Control Panel (Start, Settings, Control Panel), double-click Accessibility Options, and in the Keyboard section, select Use StickyKeys. Click the Settings button on the same line, and in the resulting dialog box, select Use Shortcut. Click OK twice, and you'll see three little black boxes in the tray of the Taskbar indicating that StickyKeys are on.

Now to check out how sticky those keys really are: With one finger, press Ctrl, then Alt, then Delete. Up pops the End Task dialog box. To turn off StickyKeys, press the Shift key five times. To turn it back on, press Shift five times, then click OK to confirm.

What's on the clipboard

The "Clipboard" is a special area inside memory where Windows keeps track of information that's been cut or copied. The "Clipboard Viewer" is a program that lets you see the information that's currently on the Clipboard.

To see the Clipboard Viewer, click the Start button and choose Programs from the menu. Choose Accessories and then Systems Tools. Finally, choose Clipboard Viewer, which displays any information you've cut or copied recently.

Use Task Scheduler to open programs automatically

If you always open the same program every time you start Windows (such as your email application), you can designate that program to open automatically every time Windows starts simply by using Microsoft's Task Scheduler. First, open Task Scheduler by going to Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Scheduled Tasks. Then click the Add Scheduled Task icon. Click the Next button and select the application you want to open. Click Next and then choose When My Computer Starts. Click Next, then Finish, and your selected program will load every time you start Windows.

Decreasing disk fragmentation

If your hard disk seems to fragment rather quickly, a good portion of the fragmentation could be because of the location of your temporary Internet files. When you spend a lot of time surfing the Web, your hard disk is constantly writing and deleting files to its cache anywhere it can find room. These temporary files often bump up against existing files, so when those files change, portions may have to be written in another place on the hard disk. If you're fed up with fragmentation, and you have more than one hard disk or partition on your computer, try placing your temporary Internet files on their own partition or drive, where they won't interfere with other files.

To change the location for your temporary Internet files using Internet Explorer, go to Tools, Internet Options, and click Settings. Click the Move Folder button and select one of your extra drive partitions.
Screen to clipboardTo remember what you saw on-screen, capture the screen. Copy it to the Clipboard and from there, paste it to a document. Here's how:

1. Press PrintScreen (or PrtSc).
2. Open the program you want to use to display the screen capture and open a document.
3. Choose Edit, Paste. You see a bitmap of the entire Windows screen.
Press Alt or Shift -- it depends on the system -- while you press PrtSc and you only capture a bitmap of the active window.
Keyboard shortcutsShortcuts for Word, Excel, Internet Explorer and Windows.  See bottom section on this page.

Password protect your screen saver

Don't want nosy neighbors meddling in your business when you step away from your computer? A screen saver will stop the passers-by (unless they can get close enough to bump your mouse), but a password-protected screen saver is even better.

Right-click the desktop and select Properties to open the Display Properties dialog box. Click the Screen Saver tab, select Password Protected, then click the Change button and enter a password twice. Click OK and you'll see a dialog box telling you the password has been changed. Click OK two more times.

The next time your screen saver kicks in and anyone (including you) tries to get past it, it'll be a no go without the password. So make sure you don't forget your password!

Use Alt-Tab to switch among apps

In Windows 95, you're almost always multitasking. So what could be more important than getting from one open task to the next? For fast navigation from one window to the next, remember Alt-Tab.

Press Alt-Tab, and you'll see a box that holds a row of icons--one for every open application or window. Hold down Alt as you press Tab to rotate from one icon to the next. When the one you want is highlighted, let go and you'll jump directly to that window.
Change desktop resolutionWish you could fit more on your desktop? Less? You could go out and buy a new 19-, 21- or 24-inch monitor, but it's a lot cheaper to increase your desktop resolution. The greater your resolution, the more Windows squeezes on to the desktop at once. (It basically just makes everything smaller.)

Right-click the desktop, select Properties, and in the resulting Display Properties dialog box, click the Settings tab. In the Desktop control of the Display Area box, click and drag the lever closer to More, and watch as the numbers under the lever and the desktop preview change. (Note: Available resolutions will depend on your monitor and video card.) For starters, bump the resolution up one size. (Any more can be tough on the eyes.) Click OK, then click OK again and wait as Windows makes the necessary adjustments.

When the new look appears on your screen, click Yes to accept the change, or click No to go back to the Settings tab. The new look may seem strange at first, but you'd be surprised how quickly your eyes will adjust.

File recovery

Just delete a file, and now you need it back? Good thing Windows comes with a built-in Recycle Bin. As long as you haven't emptied the Recycle Bin since you deleted the file, you can put that file right back where it came from. Switch to the desktop and double-click the Recycle Bin icon. Locate the item you'd like to un-delete, right-click it and select Restore. Whew!

(Note: This tip assumes you have the Recycle Bin set to receive deleted items. To be sure, right-click the Recycle Bin icon, select Properties, and make sure Do Not Move Files To The Recycle Bin is not selected. Also, if you permanently delete a file the first time around, by pressing Shift-Delete and then clicking Yes, the Recycle Bin can't help you.)
Speed up your computer

The two quickest ways to speed up your computer is by adding memory and adding a video card, if you don't already have one.  There are several different kinds of memory (PC100/133, DDR, DDR2), depending on the age of your computer, and there are several different speeds.  The technical specifications of your computer/motherboard should tell you what kind and speed of memory it take.  In general, Windows XP should have 512MB minimum, preferably 1GB or more.  Vista needs at least 1GB of memory to run, preferably 2GB or more.

Video cards are also dependent on the motherboard, with several different kinds depending on the age of your computer.  PCI can be used in almost all computers, but is the slowest.  If your computer has an AGP slot, you need to know what version it is and the multiplier speed (1x, 2x, 4x or 8x).  New computers usually have PCI Express slots for video cards.

The Brass Ring

A search engine is a good way to track down information on the Web, but it's not the only way, nor is it always the best way. A Web ring is a group of related sites you can visit by jumping from one to another, either in random order or in a "circle." More than 40,000 rings are registered with the WebRing service, and Web rings have special appeal and usefulness to those with niche interests.

Say you like historical romances, for example. There are 43 sites in the Historical Romances ring, enough to keep you swooning for days on end. There are all of 250 sites in the All Things Ferrety ring for ferret enthusiasts, while the Ring of Turkish Anesthesiologists boasts 7 sites. You get the idea. The WebRing home page lists rings in categories, by subject. Go to

Choosing your wallpaper

Sometimes you come across an image on a Web page you like so much you want to see it every day. Why not wallpaper your desktop background with it? Right-click the image and select Set as Wallpaper from the context menu. That's it--you've just redecorated your desktop.

A clean PC is a happy PC

As your PC's fan draws in air to cool its components, it can also draw in dust--especially on and around the fan. The dust can damage system components and prevent the chips from cooling properly. Under normal conditions, about twice a year, take off your PC's cover and blow the dust away with a can of compressed air. In a dusty or dirty environment do more often (Be careful not to touch any components with the can, of course.) If you're uncomfortable opening up the PC, you can get a technician to do it.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Microsoft Word



Ctrl + A

Select all the text in a document

Ctrl + B

Bold the selected text

Ctrl + I

Italicize the selected text

Ctrl + U

Underline the selected text

Ctrl + N

Create a new document

Ctrl + O

Display the Open dialog box

Ctrl + P

Print the document

Ctrl + S

Save the document

Ctrl + W

Close the document

Ctrl + X

Cut the selected text or objects

Ctrl + C

Copy the selected text or objects

Ctrl + V

Paste the contents of the Clipboard

Ctrl + ]

Grow Font (increase the size of selected text by 1 point)

Ctrl + [

Shrink Font (decrease the size of selected text by 1 point)

Ctrl + Y

Repeat last action

Ctrl + Z

Undo last change

Ctrl + F6

Switch between open (non-minimized) documents

Ctrl + Backspace

Delete one word to the left

Shift + Ctrl + Home

Select all the text from the cursor up to the top of the document

Shift + Ctrl + Page Down

Select all the text from the cursor down to the bottom of the document

Shift + End

Select all the text from the cursor to the end of the current line

Shift + Left or Right arrow

Select text, one character at a time, from the cursor to the left or right

Shift + Up or Down arrow

Select text, one row at a time, from the cursor up or down

Ctrl + Home

Move to the top of the document

Ctrl + End

Move to the bottom of the document

Shift + F5

Move to the last point of editing (up to the last three locations stored)


Microsoft Excel



Ctrl + F12

Open a spreadsheet file

Ctrl + O

Open a spreadsheet file

Shift + F12

Save the spreadsheet

Ctrl + S

Save the spreadsheet

Ctrl + Shift + F12

Print the spreadsheet

Ctrl + P

Print the spreadsheet


Edit the active cell


Repeat the last action


Move to the next pane


Calculate all sheets in open workbooks


Create a chart

Ctrl + ;

Insert the current date

Shift + Ctrl + ;

Insert the current time

Ctrl + Y

Repeat the last action

Ctrl + Z

Undo the last change

Internet Explorer



Alt + Left Arrow

Previous page

Alt + Right Arrow

Next page

Down Arrow

Scroll down

Up Arrow

Scroll up


Display list of URLs in Address Bar


Refresh the current page

Ctrl + Enter

Add www. and .com to word to form a URL in the Address bar

Ctrl + D

Add to list of favorites

Ctrl + S

Save page


Windows 98



Ctrl + drag a file

Copy a file


Rename an item

Ctrl + Esc

Display the Start menu

Alt + Tab

Switch to the last-used window

Alt + F4

Close current window or close program

Alt + Tab

Display Task Manager so you can switch between open applications

Ctrl + Z


Shift + F10

Display context menu of selected item (same as right-clicking)


Display context menu of selected item

Alt + Enter

Display properties for selected item

Ctrl + Esc

Display Windows Startup menu


Display Start menu

Windows + D

Minimize/maximize all windows

Windows + M

Minimize all windows

Shift + Windows + M

Maximize all windows

Windows + E

Launch Windows Explorer

Windows + R

Open Run dialog box

Windows + F

Open Find all files dialog box

F3 (on desktop)

Open Find all files dialog box

F3 (at DOS command prompt)

Repeat last command entered

Ctrl + Windows + F

Open Find: Computer dialog box

Windows + Pause/Break

Display System Properties

Windows + Tab

Cycle through Taskbar buttons


Display Help

© Madison PC Users Group Online, 2009