Tip o’ the Week #39 – Multi-monitor with Win7

clip_image002If you sit at a shared desk with a monitor on it, but are content to just use your laptop screen, then this tip is for you. Also, if you use your laptop and display the same image on both its internal panel and an attached external screen, listen up.

Multi-mon in Windows 7 – the ability to extend your desktop to cover multiple screens – is quite possibly its killer feature. Seriously. I bought a 2nd widescreen monitor for my home PC, just because it’s so useful.

Using multiple monitors couldn’t be simpler – plug in to your laptop (or plug a 2nd monitor into your desktop if you have one – many desktop PCs now have a VGA and a DVI connector, so you could drive one of each), and press WindowsKey-P to bring up the display selector, if necessary (since windows 7 does a good job of remembering your previous settings, you should only have to do this once).

(If you’re running a laptop with Windows 7, you do not need to do Fn-F7 or whatever to send the display to a projector. Same thing goes with managing an external display – Win-P does most of what you’ll need).

Shortcut keys are indispensible when managing multiple monitors – here are a few:

  • WndKey+SHIFT+ Left / Right arrow – switches the current window between the screens*
  • WndKey+Left / Right arrow – docks the current window to the left of the screen it’s on
    • (flick a window to the 2nd display with Wnd+Shift+Left then press Wnd+Left to dock)
  • WndKey+Home – minimises / maximises all windows other than the active one

clip_image004*actually, it’s possible to have an array of screens – these key combinations merely move the window one along the array.
Here’s someone taking things to extreme, I feel…

clip_image005Now, sometimes you won’t have monitors side-by-side – but that’s OK. Right-click on your desktop and choose Screen Resolution and you can move things around a bit…

In the example above, the 2nd display is offset to the top left and has a different resolution (1440×900 vs 1400×1050) and aspect ratio (16:9 widescreen vs 4:3 standard) to the main laptop screen. This happens to be my 2nd monitor when working at home. You can drag & drop the position of the 2nd monitor in relation to the primary one, and it gets saved for future – so your mouse moves appropriately between the two, or you can drag windows between (and even span) the two screens.

In the office, I use a 4:3 monitor (pictured below). The screen size/resolution can make for some interesting effects in comparison with the laptop panel, but here I have it set to stack the two screens vertically. Really handy when working on a couple of different things at once, or even when showing something to another user – far easier for them to see it on the big screen than squint at the laptop.


Most obscure tip of the week – WndKey+SHIFT+Up arrow –stretches a window’s height to span both monitors if they’re stacked vertically as shown above. Nope, I can’t think of too many uses for it either.

Tip o’ the Week #37 – Quickly create a new task

clip_image002If you’re super-efficient and use Outlook’s tasks functionality a lot, here’s a tip that might help you create a new task in double-quick time.

Obviously, you can create tasks directly from Outlook itself (clicking on the New Items ribbon menu option, by pressing CTRL-N when you’re in the Tasks view itself, or by pressing CTRL-SHIFT-K if you’re anywhere else in Outlook).

If you’re in OneNote, position the cursor next to the action item or other text that you want to make a task from, and either click the giant Tasks flag on the Ribbon, or else use the keyboard shortcuts that are displayed on the menu.

Pretty useful so far, eh?clip_image004

Well, here’s a final method for creating new Outlook tasks that is accessible from anywhere – if you’re reading a web page or a Word doc, it can help you immediately fire up a new Outlook task without having to navigate into Outlook to do it.

The tip uses a Shortcut for an application – a technology that was introduced with Windows 95 and even has its roots in the old Win3.x “Program Manager”.

The simplest way to create a shortcut is to look at your desktop (WinKey+D will instantly minimise all windows).
Actually you might want to minimise everything, then ALT-TAB back to this email, then
use WindowsKey+LeftArrow to dock it to one side, leaving an area of exposed desktop.

Now, right-click on the desktop and select New -> Shortcut then start typing in \Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office14\Outlook.exe (you’ll see as you type, that the full names of each directory get auto-completed for you, so you could just use the up/down keys to select the right one, and by pressing “\” again, you’ll be able to carry on typing the name of the next folder…).

clip_image005Once you’ve got OUTLOOK.EXE, hit Next, then give the shortcut a meaningful name (like New Task). Now, right-click on the shortcut, change the icon if you like (to be less generic Outlook and more Task-clip_image007oriented), and add /c ipm.task to the end of the command line. This tells Outlook that you want to start directly in a new item window – you could later create  other shortcuts with other types if you like (ipm.note for email, ipm.contact, ipm.appointment, ipm.stickynotes etc…).

Now click on the “Shortcut Key” box in the properties dialog and press whatever combination of shortcut keys you can remember: CTRL-ALT-T might be a good place to start. Press OK to finish, and Robert’s your father’s brother. Now press that key combo from anywhere and it should fire up a new Task window to the fore.

Other Outlook command line switches are available… if you’re feeling brave.

Tip o’ the Week #36 – Using bookmarks in long emails

clip_image002[4]“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”  ~Thomas Jefferson

Brevity. That’s one, important, word.
Better to write a short, thorough email, than to overwhelm with info no-one will ever read (something a few folks in Redmond have yet to appreciate, perhaps). As Blaise Pascal noted, it takes longer to create a short letter than to write a long one.

If, however, you find you do need to write lenghty emails, especially ones with lots of information, you might find it worthwhile looking into Bookmarks. Just like in long documents in Word, it’s possible to create reference points within an email, then provide links to jump directly to those places.

  • Start by selecting a place in your email you want to bookmark (by selecting a piece of text, or just putting the cursor in the approprite place)
  • Now, on the Insert tab in the Ribbon, Look in Links | Bookmark
  • Type a name for the bookmark you want to add, then press “Add” (note – if you already have existing bookmarks and you just hit Add, it will actually replace the one you currently have selected … not ideal but worth keeping an eye on when you’re adding 2nd, 3rd etc bookmarks)
  • When you’ve finished adding the bookmarks to places in the document, you can link to them and the reader will jump straight there – you may want to add a list of headines at the top, or a line of short links such as…

clip_image002brevity | join & leave | history

Simply select the text you want to link from, go to Insert | Hyperlink and instead of linking to a URL, choose the “Place in this Document” option, then pick the appropriate bookmark.

Tip o’ the Week #31 – the lost art of the .EXE name

As has been mentioned in a couple of earlier ToW’s, it’s often quicker to use the keyboard to do things, than to take your hands off the keyboard and fish about for a mouse or other means of pointer manipulation. In the vast majority of cases, for example, whenever there’s a box that lets you type some text and an “OK” button to accept it, pressing ENTER will have the same effect as finding your pointer and clicking on the button, and will save you precious seconds in so doing.

An easy way of shaving more seconds from the daily grind is to remember the old names of executable files, rather than relying on finding an icon in the Start menu and clicking on it. Remember the days of DOS-style “8.3” filenames, where programs would have a .EXE (or even a .COM) extension? If you entered the bit preceding the “.” in a command prompt, then DOS or Windows clip_image001would just run the program (without needing to add the .EXE bit).

Well, some things never change. Windows preserves the same ability to run an executable by entering its name, and in many cases, the “path” to where that executable lives (in the file system) will be included in the locations that Windows will look for appropriate files.

Maybe this is easier to “do” than to explain – try pressing WndKey-R, which will bring up the “Run” prompt that used to be on the Start menu but is no longer. At this point, you can ENTER the names of any of your favourite programs…

  • CALC
  • COMMUNICATOR (note that all of the above have their legacy in pre-Win95 days of 8.3 file names, so their main executable file name was <=8 chars in length… well, Office Communicator being a more modern app has no such history – some internal Windows commands still preserve the 8.3 format even though there’s been no need to do so for 15 years)
  • OUTLOOK (you can sometimes add command-line switches to alter the behaviour of the app you’re looking to run – Outlook has a myriad, normally used for troubleshooting purposes)

All of the above are mainstream productivity apps, but there are hunders of Windows system applications that could be occasionally useful, too:

  • CMD

clip_image002In fact, you can launch all of these by just pressing the WindowsKey to bring up the start menu, and type in the name of the program and hit enter… but you don’t get the history of previous commands entered, which can be handy (eg to open a Remote Desktop session to another machine, you could enter “MSTSC /V <machinename>” and all of the recent entries will be recalled in the Most Recently Used list, and can be selected with a deft down-arrow or two, followed by ENTER.