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Windows Desktop Tips

The windows desktop has been around 18 years, but if it is new to you, here is how to get to grips with it.
Many people keep program? shortcuts on their desktop, but open windows can block your view of the desktop. The Quick Launch toolbar solves this problem because it is on the taskbar, which is visible even when you have windows open.

  • When you start your computer, by default it will take you to the Start Screen. There is a way to start your computer and go straight to the Desktop instead. Right-click on the desktop toolbar, select Properties and go to the Navigation tab. Under the Start Screen options, enable the box "When I sign in or close all applications on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start".

  • Windows 7 comes with some very attractive new wallpapers, and it's not always easy to decide which one you like the best. So why not let choose a few, and let Windows display them all in a desktop slideshow? Right-click an empty part of the desktop, select Personalise → Desktop Background, then hold down Ctrl as you click on the images you like. Choose how often you'd like the images to be changed (anything from daily to once every 10 seconds), select Shuffle if you'd like the backgrounds to appear in a random order, then click Save Changes and enjoy the show.

  • Right-click the Taskbar (the area at the bottom of the desktop, with your running programs on it) and untick 'Lock the Taskbar' to open it up for further experimentation.

  • Once you have unblocked the Taskbar, you can make it bigger to give yourself more space for icons. Just hover your mouse over the top edge until it turns into an arrow cursor, then click and drag to expand or contract the size of the Taskbar.

  • If the Taskbar is unblocked, clock an empty bit of it, then hold and drag it to the screen edge you want it to sit on. If it is locked, use the Taskbar Properties menu to select its location.

  • Go back to the Taskbar Properties menu. The 'Use Taskbar icons' checkbox enables you to choose how big app icons appear on your desktop.

  • Use the 'Taskbar buttons' menu in Taskbar Properties to choose how icons on your Taskbar are displayed; if you have used Windows XP, try 'Combine when Taskbar is full' for a familiar view.

  • Clicking the up arrow icon on the left of the notification area displays anything that is hidden. You can then click 'Customize' to show and hide more notifications and running programs.

  • Set windows to cascade, and they are arranged on top of each other, with space to click each one and switch between them. Right-click the Taskbar and choose 'Cascade windows'.

  • Stacking and side-by-side are useful options for windows arrangement right-click the Taskbar and select the appropriate option. You can also drag your windows to each side of the screen to snap them in place.

  • Did you know you can launch a new window of any running program by holding [Shift] and clicking its icon on the Taskbar? Well, you can.

  • Right-click the Taskbar and select 'Properties'. There is an option there to 'Auto-hide the Taskbar' - this means you can make the Taskbar roll up out of the way until you move your mouse to the edge of the screen it is sitting on.

  • Need to get your hands on the touch keyboard, the Internet Explorer address bar, and more? Right-click the Taskbar and add the appropriate toolbar from, yes, the Toolbars menu.

  • Right-click the Taskbar, highlight 'Toolbars' and select 'New Toolbar'. Choose a folder on your computer and you get a new icon on the Taskbar that links you straight to its contents.

  • Right-click the Taskbar and open the Properties menu. Check the box next to the sentence that begins 'Use Peek....', click 'Apply', and from now on you get a quick glance at the contents of your desktop when you hover your mouse in te bottom-right corner.

  • Task Manager is super-useful program that enables you to keep tabs on exactly what is going on with your PC. There are two quick ways to access it: press [Ctrl] + [Shift] + [Esc] together; or right-click the Taskbar and choose the appropriate option. While it is open, you see a new icon in your notification area that gives you an at-a-glance view of your device's performance.

  • The desktop tends to be a dumping ground for files - files you are just temporarily storing, files you want to access quickly, files you have just downloaded - which means it can quickly get cluttered. Right-click the desktop and select 'View → Small Icons' to shrink them down a bit, enabling you to fit more on.

  • The standard grid for icons keeps everything neat and tidy, but you might want to arrange your icons with more precision. Right-click the desktop, select 'View' and uncheck 'Align icons to grid', Then you can click and drag to drop them wherever you like.

  • Don't want icon-arranging precision? Would you prefer Windows 8 to do the job for you? Fine! Checking the option that says 'Auto Arrange Icons' under the Desktop View menu forces your icons to a grid. You can still drag them around to rearrange their order, but they automatically snap into place, going from top-left to bottom-right.

  • Right-click the desktop, go to the 'View' menu, and uncheck the option that says 'Show Desktop Icons'. All the icons on your desktop disappear, leaving your unsullied desktop wallpaper. Don't panic, though; your files and folders still exist. There are just hidden. Open an Explorer window and visit the Desktop folder from there, and you will see all your hidden files.

  • Check out the menu that appears if you right-click the desktop and hover over 'Sort-by' - it automatically swishes your icons around based on whatever option you choose. This is not a permanent change, but bear in mind that it does mess up any nifty arrangement you have made previously.

  • Your desktop is essentially just a folder, and as such you can treat it the same as any other folder on your computer. That means you can create new documents, shortcuts and folders by right-clicking, hovering over 'New', and choosing the appropriate option.

  • Would you like more information about the time? By left-clicking on the clock on the Taskbar, you can bring up a more detail timepiece.

  • Right-click on the clock, choose 'Adjust Date/Time', and then use the 'Additional clocks' tab to add world time to the expanded view you get.

  • If you move the mouse over to the right-hand side of your screen (or swipe in from the right) you will be able to see the Modern Ul digital clock.

  • By default, the clock is set automatically, but you can change it manually if you would prefer by right-clicking, selecting 'Adjust Date/Time', and clicking the appropriate button.

  • You can change the source clock that sets your time for you in 'Adjust Date/Time'; use the 'Internet Time' tab, and click the button there.

  • To improve your computer's performance and find files more easily, it's best to store files in the Documents folder rather than on the desktop.
    To access files from your desktop, create a desktop shortcut instead.

  • Shake your desktop free of clutter: If you frequently run multiple programs simultaneously, your desktop can get extremely cluttered. This can get annoying if you're working on one program and want to minimize all the other windows -- in previous versions of Windows you had to minimize them individually.
    With Windows 7's "shake" feature, though, you can minimize every window except the one in which you're currently working - in a single step. Click and hold the title bar of the window you want to keep on the desktop; while still holding the title bar, shake it quickly back and forth until all of the other windows minimize to the taskbar. Then let go. To make them return, shake the title bar again.
    You can accomplish the same thing by pressing the Window key-Home key combination - although doing that is not nearly as much fun.