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Got Windows?
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If you're a Microsoft Windows user, you're not alone. An estimated 80-85% of computer users around the world use the famous interface popularized by the now-gazillionaire Bill Gates. But while you and many others may be using this popular operating system on a daily basis, chances are you're not taking advantage of a few simple tricks that will optimize your working experience and save you precious time. Read on for some simple suggestions that can enhance your Windows experience.

Keyboard Shortcuts
You might be surprised to know that for just about every action you would perform with a mouse there is a keyboard shortcut equivalent. Knowing these shortcuts and using them often creates a level of dexterity and efficiency that can dramatically increase your ability to perform tasks quickly. They're also invaluable to know in the event your mouse dies in the middle of a session. Practice these shortcuts for the next few weeks and see what a difference it makes in your computing experience.

Control+Esc opens the start menu. Use your arrow keys to navigate the menu

Alt+Tab - an incredibly helpful and vastly underused shortcut, this combination cycles through your open programs. Tip: The free "Alt-Tab Replacement Power Toy" for Windows displays the icon of the application window you are switching to, in addition to a preview of the page. This is useful when multiple sessions of an application (Microsoft Word) are open. Get it at:

Have lots of shortcuts on your desktop? If your desktop is littered with random shortcuts it's a good idea to clean off some of the unused ones. But if you're still left searching for a particular one, simply type the first letter of the shortcut you're seeking and the focus will automatically jump to that item. Hit Enter to launch the item.

To create a shortcut of any file - press and hold down CTRL+SHIFT while you drag the file to the desktop or a folder.

Alt+F4 quits a program immediately

Shift+Delete delete an item permanently. (Be careful with this one!)

Shift+F10 opens the shortcut menu for the selected item (this is the same as right-clicking on an item)

Alt+the underlined letter in a menu item opens the menu

Windows key + M minimizes all windows

Windows key + D toggles the minimize/maximize all windows feature

Windows key + L immediately locks the computer without having to press Ctrl+Alt+Del (Windows XP only)

.and our favorite: Ctrl-Z undo the last command!

For a complete list of Windows keyboard shortcuts, including shortcuts for special Windows style keyboards, check out;en-us;q126449

What About the Keyboard? A variety of keyboards on the market today do much more than allow you to type and perform shortcuts. Many of them have user programmable keys, and pre-programmed keys which allow the user to do a variety of things with the press of a button, such as launch your email client, internet connection, or audio player. With additional features such as scroll wheels and trackpads embedded in the design, these keyboards make multi-tasking a snap. The trend towards wireless keyboard/mice combinations continues, freeing up desk space from the usual tangle of cords.

Alternative Keyboards The keyboard world gets a shot of adrenaline with the many new alternative keyboards on the market. The new flexible keyboard is one you can literally "roll up" and take with you! Made out of a soft rubber material, these keyboards are waterproof and totally sealed. Type "flexible keyboard" into any search engine to have a look. Some people may find the keyboard a bit tacky and soft to the touch, however. This could result in the user making harder keystrokes when typing, which may ultimately lead to hand fatigue. Be sure to test out any keyboard yourself before purchasing.

Want to create some music along with your documents? Try the Creative Prodikeys keyboard, a fully functioning keyboard with the snappy addition of 37 touch sensitive music keys resembling a music keyboard. Complete with an audiocard and accompanying sound files to play along with, this keyboard promises never a dull moment.

See in the dark with one of the new illuminated keyboards. Coming in a variety of price ranges and styles, these keyboards light up when the lights go down, enabling easy visual keyboard navigation.

Check out this resource for alternative keyboards:

Then start practicing those shortcuts!


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