11 handy tips for Windows 7

Don't you love it when you find a new shortcut to get across town or uncover a cool feature on your latest gadget? Windows 7 is full of "I didn't know you could do that" surprises. Among the many great enhancements in Windows 7, here are some of the small gems that you might not be aware of.

1. Surpass basic math

Calculator in Windows 7

Calculator has several dynamic new features—click the View menu to check them out. Unit conversion translates Celsius to Fahrenheit, kilometers to miles, meters to feet, grams to ounces, joules to BTUs, and more. You can use the new calculation worksheets to quickly compute everyday stuff like fuel economy and auto lease payments. The Programmer and Statistics modes handle the geekier tasks.

2. Send information to tech support

Problem Steps Recorder in Windows 7

The next time you find yourself trying to describe a complicated computer problem to a friend or tech support, give Problem Steps Recorder a try. You can record a series of screen shots, add notes, and email them directly to whoever is helping you. For tips on using Problem Steps Recorder, read this article.

3. Move your taskbar

The Windows 7 taskbar

Did you know that you can move the taskbar to the top, right, or left sides of your screen? Watch a quick video demo.

4. Customize your clocks

Customizing the clock gadget in Windows 7

Have friends, family, and colleagues in different time zones across the world? Add clocks to your taskbar to keep track of the time in their area. Or add a clock gadget to your desktop. You can even choose from eight different clock designs. Here's how to add and personalize gadgets.

5. Create and share themes

Personalization in Windows 7

Like a little variety? With Windows 7, you can design, save, and quickly change your computer's themes (desktop background, window border color, sounds, and screen saver). You can even create a new theme, like one that showcases a slide show of your favorite photos as your desktop background, and easily share that with friends and family. Learn more and watch a video about how to create a theme.

6. Drag files from Jump Lists

A Jump List in Windows 7

With Jump Lists, you get a quick-access list of your most frequently or recently used files. Just look for the right-pointing arrow next to programs on your Start menu or left-click a program on the taskbar. You can use Jump Lists to open files and programs in just a few clicks. Even better, you can drag items from Jump Lists into open folders or email.

7. Preview your files

The preview pane in Windows 7

Another great time saver is the file preview pane within a folder or library. Use it to see a file's contents without opening the file in a program. You can open the preview pane in a window by pressing Alt+P. Items such as photos and PDF files will be previewed in this area when you click them. Learn more about using files and folders, including the preview pane.

8. Help reduce eye strain with ClearType

ClearType in Windows 7

ClearType is a tool that improves the readability of the text on your LCD screen. So if you feel the text isn't displaying sharply, use ClearType. The tool will take you through a series of screens, much like an eye exam, to help you achieve the sharpest text possible.

9. Easily customize your Sticky Notes

Sticky Notes in Windows 7

Now you can make the Sticky Notes you keep on your desktop even handier. You can format the text and change its color, as well as resize, collapse, and flip through several Sticky Notes. If you have a Tablet PC or touchscreen, you can use multiple input (pen and touch) methods within a single note. Learn how.

10. Get to know the new Paint

Paint in Windows 7

This classic Windows software has been improved in Windows 7 with new brush effects such as watercolor, crayon, and calligraphy. Paint now comes with an easy-to-use ribbon for all the cool features that you use the most. And with a touchscreen you can finger-paint, including using two fingers to create separate brush strokes simultaneously.

11. Quickly find anything on your computer

Start menu search results in Windows 7
Windows Search is the fastest way to locate and open any file on your PC, including documents, email messages, music, photos, and more. To use Windows Search, click the Start button Picture of the Start button, type one or two keywords, and see search results appear almost instantly.