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The Best Computer Tips and Tricks: Windows Vista

Advanced Screen Captures with the Snipping Tool

imageLeave the Prt Scrn key in the 1980s where it belongs. In the Accessories folder on the Start menu, you’ll find Vista’s Snipping Tool, which lets you capture just the part of the screen you want. Start it up, click and drag the mouse to outline the area you want to preserve, and release the mouse button. After you’ve snipped, you can draw on the image with a pen tool, highlight or erase certain portions, or save it to a file.

Display Multiple Clocks

If you’re a frequent traveler or have friends or family in another time zone, you can set up Vista to display multiple clocks at once. Click on the clock in the Start bar, then click “Change date and time settings”¦,” and then the Additional Clocks tab. Check the box next to “Show this clock” for each additional clock you want to add, then specify the time zone and display name for each clock. After you apply your changes by clicking OK, clicking on the clock in the Start bar will show you the clocks for every time zone you’ve selected.

Improve Program Access with Quick Launch


The Quick Launch toolbar doesn’t get a lot of respect, but it’s a great way to launch your regular apps faster. If the toolbar isn’t visible, right-click on the Start bar, select Toolbars, click on Quick Launch to add it, and then drag programs or shortcuts to it. You can start programs instantly just by clicking or, better yet, use the Windows key. Windows key+1 will open the leftmost program, Windows key+2 the next one, and so on, up to 10 (the 10th opens with Windows key+0).

Windows Mobility Center


Sorry, desktop users, this one’s just for the notebook folks. The Windows Mobility Center, which you access by pressing Windows key+X, gives you the opportunity to tweak all sorts of settings on your laptop, all in one convenient place. You can change your display brightness, adjust the volume, check your battery status, turn off wireless connectivity, switch your screen orientation, set up an external display, and more.

Change Preinstalled Vista Features

If you don’t think you’ll ever use preset features like Remote Differential Compression, the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0 XPS Viewer, or Windows Meeting Space—or if you really need a simple telnet client—it’s easy to remove or add them. Go to the Control Panel, click on “Uninstall a program,” and select “Turn Windows features on our off.” Then just click on the checkboxes to add elements you need—and lose those you don’t.

Find things now with Instant Search

You don’t have to open up a special window to find the files or programs you’re looking for. Just hit the Windows key or click the Start button and start typing—Vista will present you organized lists of the top files and programs that match the text you’ve entered. (If you want to see Vista’s full findings, click on the “See all results” link at the bottom of the Instant Search window.)

Maximize Performance

Not sure if your computer is operating at maximum efficiency? Vista can let you know for sure. Just check out the Reliability and Performance Monitor, which you’ll find at Control Panel > System and Maintenance > Performance Information and Tools > Advanced Tools > Generate a system health report. Windows will check your disk drives, drivers, services, software and hardware configuration, and more to give you a full accounting of what might be causing you trouble. If it finds a problem, it will explain it to you in detail and suggest how to resolve it.

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