5 Ways to Improve Windows Productivity

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Windows computers are often the choice for business applications and offer extreme customization. Microsoft includes many features that help you get work done quickly

At the end of the day, a computer is a computer, Mac or PC– they’re the same thing in a different package. Different packages mean different tools, so we’re going to run through some tools that can help you speed up your productivity on a Windows PC.

1. Speed up boot times by disabling unnecessary startup programs 

Computers work just like your brain does. The more things the computer has to do, the longer it’s going to take. Startup time on a computer mostly depends on two things: The speed of your hard drive and the number of programs have to launch on startup.

The the most effective way to improve startup times requires buying a faster hard drive (see our guide on fast SSD’s here). If you don’t want to spend money on a whole new drive, you can simply trim down the number of startup programs your computer has to deal with. Here’s how to do this:

1. Press Ctrl+Shift+Esc to bring up the Task Manager. You should see this  window (I’m on Windows 8.1, but it will be similar for older machines):

Wow, Chrome likes to take up resources

Wow, Chrome likes to take up resources

2. Click on the “Startup” tab at the top of the window. Now you’ll see this:

Ah, a nice clean startup profile. Nothing is better

Ah, a nice clean startup profile. Nothing is better

3. Disable anything that you don’t want to be running when you start up the computer. For example, I didn’t think the “Send to OneNote Tool” is very helpful, so I disabled it. Trimming this list down to critical programs will help your computer start and restart much more quickly.

2. Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts will help you perform small tasks more quickly on your computer. The more shortcuts you can learn, the more time you’ll save in the long run. Here are some important ones to get you started:

Windows

Ctrl+C – Copy text

Ctrl+V- Paste text

Ctrl+X- Cut text

Ctrl+Z – Undo

Alt+ F4 – Close current program

Ctrl+Backspace – Deletes the previous word instead of the previous letter when editing text. Very helpful if you’re writing often.

Web Browsers (Works in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome)

Ctrl+T – Opens a new Tab

Ctrl+W- Closes the current tab

Ctrl+Shift+T – Opens the tab that was last closed– Super helpful if you accidentally close something and don’t want to lose it.

Learning these looks like a daunting task, but once they become second nature you’re going to speed up your workflow significantly. These are just scratching the surface– There are many more shortcuts within Windows. You’re speeding up your workflow  every time you save yourself the half second it takes to transfer a hand to the mouse. This doesn’t sound like much, but it makes a difference in the long run.

3. Use the Windows Snap feature to organize your workspace

Microsoft introduced the “Snap” feature in Windows 7 and it’s continued into Windows 8. It’s a great way to organize various windows, and allows you to view pages side by side. Snap is one of the “Aero” features introduced in Windows 7, so make sure Aero is enabled in order to use this feature.

To do this: “Grab” the top of the window with your mouse and bring it to the left or right edge of your screen. The page will fill that half of your screen. This means that you can have two different windows side-by-side and see two times the information at once. You can also Snap the window to the top of the screen in order to maximize it. It’ll look like this:

Super helpful for research projects.

Super helpful for research projects.

You can also use keyboard shortcuts to activate Snap if you don’t want to use the mouse. Pressing (Windows+An arrow key) will snap the window to the right of left half of the screen when using the left or right arrow, fill the screen if you press the up arrow, and minimize it if you use the down arrow.

4. Always have your files with cloud storage

Using cloud storage means that you will no longer have to worry about losing files if a computer or hard drive dies. You can also sync up files between multiple computers, tablets, and phones.

It’s super easy to get started. You set up an account with Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, or another cloud storage service. Downloading any of these clients will set up a folder that automatically syncs your files to the service. Then you just use your computer as usual, but put anything you want to back up into this specific folder. Simple. Easy.

I’ve almost lost files on multiple occasions, but my copy saved on Dropbox came in and saved the day. That makes the service worthwhile in and of itself.

There’s no need to email things to yourself. Just put them on Dropbox.

5. Pin important programs to the taskbar

You’re going to use some programs more often than not– why not always have access to them? For example, here’s my taskbar:

taskbar

pinThese programs are easily my most used ones, and always having access to them is very helpful. I’m a college student, so most of my work goes through these programs. You can pin anything to the taskbar by either selecting its desktop icon (example on the left), right clicking on its taskbar icon once it’s open, or right clicking on the start menu icon. You can pin and unpin whatever you want to the taskbar, and you can change your choices over time depending on your current needs.

 

 

 

Conclusion

We want your computing experience to be as productive and enjoyable as possible. I hope these tips can help you speed up your workflow and get things done much more quickly. Look out for a similar guide for Mac productivitycoming tomorrow.

About the Author
Brian Galloway is an unabashed tech geek based in Nashville, Tennessee. When he's not obsessively searching for the next computer upgrade, he's probably curled up on the couch with a book and the day's third cup of coffee.

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