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Tame your computer – pick out your pointer

5 Mar

If you want to add some text in, say, a Word document or an Outlook email message, you must move the insertion point to the location where the change is to be made. The pointer usually appears as a vertical bar, but what if you struggle to spot it? If so, you’re not alone… Many users don’t like the standard mouse pointer. So why not change it?

Here’s how:

  1. Press the Windows (WIN) key and type pointer. (No need to first click in the Search box; your cursor is already there – even though you might not spot it.)
  2. Click on Change how the mouse pointer looks.
  3. Use your down and up arrows to flick through the various schemes and select the one of your choice. (Mine is Windows Black (extra large).)
  4. Press ENTER.

Your cursor will now be easier to find when “at rest”. You can also change how the mouse pointer looks when it’s moving, but let’s leave that for another tip.

Related tips:
Tip # 287: Hide the arrow pointer during a slide show

Unless stated otherwise, these tips were written for Microsoft Office 2010.

Tame your computer – rapid closure

29 Sep

If a program on your computer stops responding, Windows will try to find the problem and fix it automatically. If you don’t have any unsaved work it’s sometimes faster to force the program to stop, using the Task Manager. I assume most of you use CTRL + ALT + DEL to access it? Or perhaps you right-click the taskbar and start it from the drop-down list?

Well, until recently I didn’t know that there is a direct way to launch the Task Manager.

Here’s how:

  • Press CTRL + SHIFT + ESC.

Simply select the program that isn’t responding and click End Task.

Thanks for the tip, Dominic.  I’ve added it to the shortcut archive (available by clicking on the orange Shortcut of the week link on our home page) so the bragging rights will last a lifetime!

Tame your computer – the only way is up!

1 Sep

Since Windows Vista the Up button is no longer there. Instead, you can use the breadcrumb trail (from the story of Hansel and Gretel – or “Hans and Grietje” for our Dutch speakers) at the top of every folder to go up one level in your directory. The trail shows you exactly where you are and allows you to go directly to the location you click on. Alternatively, you can use the Back and Forward buttons to navigate through locations you’ve recently visited, like you would using an internet browser.

But what if you were a great fan of the Up button to view the folder one level up? Well, simply use a keyboard shortcut.

Here’s how:

  • Hold down the ALT key (next to your spacebar) and press the UP ARROW. (On a standard keyboard the arrow keys are located between the bit where you type and the numeric pad.)

By the way, I just want to sound a note of caution as Microsoft Windows 10 is being offered to Windows users free of charge. Over the years I have run a lot of Microsoft Windows training sessions and recently quite a few people have asked me whether or not to upgrade to Windows 10. As you may be aware, Windows 10 was launched on 29 July 2015 and is offered as a free upgrade to Windows 7 and Windows 8 users. Apparently more than 75 million PCs were upgraded to Windows 10 in the first month alone!  But if you upgrade immediately you are a guinea pig, so perhaps you might want to wait some time for any teething problems to be sorted out. You have a full year to decide whether or not to upgrade for free.  I’m investigating whether or not it is worth upgrading to Windows 10. I’ll report back when I’ve looked into the changes and know more.

Tame your computer – In a hurry? Take a shortcut!

16 May

You’re not still moving the mouse pointer all the way to the bottom right-hand corner of your screen to have a look at your desktop, do you? Perhaps you know that WIN + D can be used as a toggle to minimize and maximize all windows? But what if you just want to have a quick peek at something on your desktop? Check out the preview shortcut!

Here’s how:

  1. Press and hold down the WIN key (the one next to your spacebar) and press the spacebar.
  2. Release the WIN key to return to your last used window.

Interested in other shortcuts involving the spacebar? How about pressing the spacebar to scroll down or SHIFT + spacebar to scroll up? You can use this in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome – and even in a PDF file. Or why not press CTRL + spacebar to remove character formatting in MS Word? Remember, in an effort to help you work faster (and healthier) we launched a ‘shortcut of the week’ feature on our website back in March 2013. Those that I’ve published can be found in my shortcut archive (see shortcut_archive.pdf). OK, keyboard shortcuts can sometimes be unintuitive or hard to remember, but I will drip feed a new shortcut weekly, to help you to boost productivity without reaching for your mouse. In a hurry? Take a shortcut!

Tame your computer – jump to it!

19 Apr

Anybody who ever attended one of my courses (or is an astute reader of my regular tips) knows I absolutely love keyboard shortcuts and I’m always on the lookout for new ones, especially if they are intuitive. Well, thanks to Ramón I can share a new way of jumping to a specific application on your taskbar and flicking through its open windows, if any. (Thanks, Ramón!)

Here’s how:  

1.       Press WIN + the number of the application you want to jump to.

2.       Press WIN + the number again to flick through its open windows.

For example, press WIN+3 if the application you want to jump to is the third icon from the Start button. Press WIN+3 again (and again, and again…) to flick through the open windows of the running application.

By the way, WIN+0 will open the 10th application on the taskbar. And no, there isn’t a way to open the 11th.

And before anybody asks…yes, I do know about WIN+TAB, see Tip number 419 here.

Tame your computer – picture this!

1 Feb

As some of you may know, I offer a month free support after my training sessions. Following a recent course I got a question about how to print a jpeg attachment and make it fit on one page.

Well, you can obviously copy the picture and resize it in an application such as Word, but why not download a free image viewer, such as IrfanView, and adjust the picture’s print size “on the fly” when sending it to the printer? If you make IrfanView your default program for opening pictures, you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration – and time.

Here’s how:

  1. If necessary, download IrfanView from
  2. Click on Windows’ Start button (or press the WIN key) and type default.
  3. Click on the Default Programs link.
  4. Click on the Set your default programs link.
  5. Click on IrfanView.
  6. Click on Set this program as default.
  7. Click OK.

In future, pictures will automatically open in IrfanView and when you press CTRL+P to print it, a dialogue box will open from where you can select the Best fit to page radio button.