Working at home isn't all that different from working in an office—there are just far fewer people around. In either place, having the right tools makes the difference. So it's really no surprise that I'm pretty happy with Windows 7 and Office 2010. They don't get the actual writing done for me, but they sure help me with everything else. Want to see how? Here we go!
For me, it's all about Word. I've pinned the Word icon to the Windows 7 taskbar, so it's always easily accessible. But what's really cool is that I no longer have to hunt through my file folders to find the last documents I've been working on. Instead, I can right-click my Word icon on the taskbar and see the last ten Word documents I've opened. These Jump Lists mean I can open any recent document with just two clicks: right-click the icon, and click the document. You'll find Jump Lists for all your Office programs, as well as other items you open regularly, such as websites, songs, and photos.
Jump Lists make emailing a document easier too. Instead of hunting around for the right file to attach to an Outlook message, I simply create the message, then right-click my Word icon to display the Jump List. From there, I can drag the document into my message. That's it!
Like a lot of writers, I'm pretty good at procrastination. Sure, I can schedule time to work on something in Outlook. But now, I take that one step further by dragging the document itself onto my calendar. That way, I don't just get a reminder of when I've scheduled some work time because the document I need to work on is right there, too. No more excuses!
I usually have multiple documents open at any given time—which used to be confusing when I toggled between them to verify information or when I copied and pasted from one to another. Thumbnail previews have really streamlined how I work. Now, all I do is rest my mouse pointer over the Word icon on my taskbar to see a thumbnail preview of each open document. To view one of them in its actual size, I just point to the thumbnail preview for the document I want to see—and magically, everything else fades out, so I get an uncluttered view.
Do you ever get frustrated by how long it takes to perfectly resize two windows so you can see them side by side? Snap takes care of this for you automatically. Just drag one window to one edge of the screen and then drag the other window to the opposite edge of the screen. Or you can use the shortcut: When you're in a document, press the Windows logo key and then press the Right Arrow key or Left Arrow key to snap your document to one side. Go to your second doc and repeat. As far as I'm concerned, it's the most wonderful thing ever.
To get my work done, I sometimes have to log on to a client's network, or work at their site. Windows 7 makes it easy to manage the details, so I don't have to waste time changing settings depending on where I am. For example, Connect Now guides me through setting up a new connection. Do it once and forget about it—you're automatically connected if the wireless connection is detected. Similarly, I don't worry about printing documents to the wrong printer anymore either, because location-aware printing remembers which printer I use in my home office, and which I use at each client's. So whenever I move from one place to another, Windows automatically connects me to the printer I need. And the best thing is that it's simple to verify which network I'm on, just by clicking the connection icon on my taskbar.
As a writer, I don't spend much time in front of an audience. But on the rare occasions that I have to make a presentation, setup is so speedy that there's less time for stage fright. First of all, sleep and resume is just, well, fast. I open my laptop, click, and boom—I'm where I need to be. Even my connections are automatically taken care of. When I'm done, I close the lid. That's it.
The other way Windows 7 makes presentations painless is that I don't have to fumble around with different settings. Windows Mobility Center makes sure my PC won't go to sleep or display notifications mid-talk. When you open it up you'll see all the settings you might need to change when you're on the go. First, on the Presentation Settings* tile, I click Turn on. Then, I plug in the projector, and on the External Display tile, I click Connect display to change my display settings. That's it! I'm connected to the projector.
*You'll need Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Ultimate to change presentation settings.
And speaking of presentations, Broadcast Slide Show lets you broadcast them over the web. Let's say you're giving a presentation with PowerPoint 2010, but your audience isn't in one room. Here's what you do: On the Slide Show tab, in the Start Slide Show group, click Broadcast Slide Show. This way, you create a link to send to your audience through email or instant message. When you're ready, give them a call or set up a conference call. They click the link—and it's like everyone is there in person.
Backup and Restore in Windows 7 makes backing up easy because you can set it up and forget about it. I set up my PC to back up once a week to my external hard drive. Plus, when I'm working at a client site, I can back up specific files to their network. This way, everyone has a backup, and there's no guesswork.
And speaking of backups, there's a great way to back up documents in Office. It's saved my bacon on those occasions when I've been working so fast that I've made changes to a document and forgotten to save it—or made too many changes and wanted to revert to a previous draft. With AutoRecover and AutoSave, you can specify how often your PC saves a document automatically, access previous versions of a file, and sometimes even recover a document that wasn't saved in the first place! Learn more about automatically saving and recovering Office files.
It's never a bad thing to have more than one backup. For example, my laptop was stolen a couple of years ago, and a novel I had been working on for three years was on it. When I went to my backup, the file was damaged. I cried for days. Now I use OneDrive to store additional copies of my really important files.
What's really handy is that I can now save files straight from Word—or any Office 2010 program—to my OneDrive account. Here's how: Click the File tab, click Save & Send, and then click Save to Web. Then, enter your Microsoft account email address and password. This is a quick and easy way to share files with other people, too. It's super handy when I'm working on really big documents and don't want to stuff my client's inbox. And with web versions of the programs, I can even work in those documents on a PC that doesn't have Office installed.
Zia Munshi is a freelance writer and copywriter who has written for a wide variety of publications and companies, including Microsoft and MSN. She especially loves writing about technology because it gives her an excuse to buy all the latest gadgetry and software. She lives in Seattle with her husband and her dog.
Do more with Windows 7 features
What you need to get started
New to PCs? Check out Windows 7 basics