By Jay Dougherty in Washington - Who’s in control of your Windows 7 desktop — you or the operating system? With applications and icons scattered all over the place, constant pop-up notifications, and programs hidden deep within the Start menu, you might feel like Microsoft has done its best to hinder your productivity rather than enhance it. But with a little know-how and a few free tools, you can take charge of your desktop like never before.
It’s inevitable: use your Windows computer long enough, and sometime during the day you’ll find you have a plethora of open applications. Getting back to a clean desktop within nothing running can involve dozens of clicks — and lots of wasted time. There has to be a better way, right? There is, but Microsoft didn’t provide it. Ntwind Software’s free tool CloseAll does pretty much what its name implies: with one click, it closes every application running on youristracting pop-up from the system tray, telling you of some software update that can certainly wait. You can get rid of those pop-ups for good in Windows 7, or you can customise the desktop to show only those pop-ups that you deem worthy.
First, visit the Action Centre by opening the Start menu and typing “Action.” Click the first entry that appears, which should be Action Centre. From the left-hand panel of the Action Centre, click “Change Action Centre settings,” and you’ll be taken to a dialog box in which you can ds of system messages, including Windows Update notices, back-up reminders, or Internet security settings. Turn them all off if you want to be left in peace.
Click OK to make your selections stick.
That will take care of notifications from Windows, but to control notifications from installed applications, you’ll need to open the Start menu and type “Notifications.” Click the resulting Notification Area Icons entry, which will open a dialog box of the same name.
There, you can see and control the “behaviours” of each of the system tray icons currently installed on your PC. Use the Behaviours drop-down to tell Windows wheing your mouse cursor over the icons in the taskbar.
Hold down the Windows key and tap the plus key on your number pad to magnify the open documents on your desktop. This is a great trick for reading fine print. The Windows key plus the minus key on your keypad zooms you back out.
There are times, too, when you’ll need to shut down a misbehaving application, and for that people typically turn to the Windows task manager. Most people invoke this by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del and then selecting Task Manager from the huge blue screen that results.
There’s a quicker way, though. Just press Ctrl+Shift+Esc to bypass the big blue screen and bring up the Task Manager directly. From there, you can terminate any misbehaving application or process.
Sometimes controlling your desktop is about finding ways to call up applications quickly or power through ones that are already running. For these jobs, it’s tough to find better tools than Hotkeyz (http:”www.skynergy.com) and Switcher (http:”insentient.net).
Hotkeyz lets you start an application or execute a series of commands with a key combination of your choice. Switcher displays large thumb. — DPA