5 Windows 7 tricks you had no idea were there

We’ve all been so inundated by the Windows 8.1 brouhaha that we’ve forgotten the enormous popularity of Windows 7.   According to TheVerge as of July 9th 2012, Microsoft has sold over 630 million licenses which amounts to over 50% of enterprise desktops running Windows 7.

Windows 7 was acclaimed by many as a massive leap forward and a tremendous improvement over Vista.  Critics lauded the new taskbar with its snappy, zippy feel.  And in my opinion, Windows 7 is still the best OS Microsoft ever released.

And that’s why I want to show you 5 tricks about Windows 7 that you probably never knew were there.

Let’s get right into it:

1. Problem Steps Recorder

The Problem Steps Recorder (PSR) is really a remarkable piece of software.  This little app automatically records your mouse clicks and keystrokes as screenshots and shows timestamps with annotations explaining your actions at each step.

Windows 7 Problem Step Recorder

When you stop the recording, it zips up the session as a pretty little .MHTML document which opens nicely in Internet Explorer.  The document will show you each event in the recording session as a commented screenshot.  For example, in the report below, you can see it chronicled all my problem steps and actually outlined a green box around active screen elements during the session.

Windows 7 Problem Step Recorder .MHTML results

I scrolled down the report a little so you can see the green highlighted rectangles.  I didn’t draw those boxes, the Problem Status Report did it automatically.

Windows 7 Problem Step Recorder .MHTML results 2

Near the end of the report, you get a compendium of the recording session with detail such as the operating system version and application versions.

Windows 7 Problem Step Recorder .MHTML results 3

To launch the Problem Status Report, click Start and enter this:

psr

2. Calculator

Why did I include such a mundane application as the calculator to my esteemed list of tricks?  Because the Calculator has undergone a complete metamorphosis in Windows 7 and most people don’t realize it.

The secret lies within the View menu.

Let’s start with Unit conversion.  There no need to recall esoteric formulas from high school or use Google to search for conversion tables.  Instead press Ctrl + u and a mysterious unit conversion window slides out the right side of the Calculator app.

Now you can convert almost any measurement unit you can think of into any other relevant equivalent.  For example, there are conversions for Angles, Area, Energy, Length, Power, Pressure, Temperature, Time, Velocity, Volume and Weight and each of these units has a myriad of subvalues you can play with.  For example, clicking Length reveals everything from Microns to Millimeters and Inches to Centimeters.

Windows 7 Unit Calculator

But that’s not all.  Check this out:

Press Ctrl + e to calculate the difference between any two days in years, months, weeks and days.  You can even add or subtract days from any date you specify.  Super spiffy.

Windows 7 Date Calculator

Or if you really want to have some fun you can use the built in MortgageVehicle Lease and Miles per Gallon calculators under View > Worksheets.

Windows 7 Calculator Worksheets

Click the Start button and enter the word calc to start your number crunching escapade.

3. View your Power Efficiency Report

This is actually a Windows command prompt trick that gives you the lowdown on your power configuration.  If you’re noticing problems when going into sleep mode or you can’t Hibernate your computer, try this trick:

Click Start and type this:

cmd

The Windows command prompt jumps into action awaiting your commands like a wise genie.

Windows 7 Command Prompt

Now type and enter this:

powercfg -energy

There’s a space between the g and the dash so make sure you include that.  Also, you have to be an administrator to do this, if you’re not, after you type cmd, right click it in the search results and choose Run as Administrator.

Windows 7 powercfg -energy command

After a few seconds the program spits out a file in:

C:\Users\USERNAME\energy-report.html

USERNAME will be the name of the user account you’re currently signed in as.

There’s everything from your computer name, manufacturer and BIOS date to power errors and warnings.  All these things can help you isolate power problems; however, I’ll be the first to admit that the report is a bit abstruse so if you’re feeling timid, call you favorite geek and promise to watch The Big Bang Theory with him in exchange for his brain.

Windows 7 Power Configuration Report

4. Pin folders to Windows Explorer

You might know that you can park a shortcut to the taskbar by dragging it there or right-clicking it and choosing Pin to taskbar; however, did you know that dragging folders over the Windows Explorer icon creates a jump list that displays a spiffy shortcut tray?  Let me show you what I mean:

I’ve got this folder for high-quality Vinyl rips from my favorite hip-hop producer: J-Dilla.

Windows 7 Pin to Explorer

When I drag it over the Windows Explorer icon in the taskbar, a little Pin to Windows Explorer tooltip appears.

Releasing the mouse drops the folder drops into an Explorer jump list.  You can see my J-Dilla folder pinned to the top of that list below.

Windows 7 Windows Explorer Jump List

You can conjure this jump list anytime by simply right-clicking the Windows Explorer icon in the taskbar.

5. Windows 7 Hot Corners is a Snap

This is by far my favorite and most useful Windows 7 trick (and people with wide screen monitors will appreciate it)

Windows 7 lets you snap windows to the left or right side of the monitor so you can instantly compare content.  With the Snap feature you easily display windows side-by-side.

Just select the window you wish to snap.  Then press the Windows Key + left arrow key to snap to the left half of the screen or the Windows Key + right arrow key to snap to the right half of the screen.  Or you can just hold the Windows key down and keep pressing any arrow to cycle through all the snap sides.

The snap feature is quick, fun way to organize your windows.

Windows 7 Snap Shortcut

Do you have any other Windows 7 tricks you use?  I covered my favorites but perhaps you have some that have worked for you?  Share your knowledge in the comments.

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