I thought we might take a break from the heavy security news and discuss something to make our everyday work easier: basic computer usability.
Do you sometimes feel like you’re fighting with your computer to get things done? Your computer might not be set up optimally for you, like a car’s driver seat that is not in the right position. Fortunately, Windows has built-in tools you can use to make your computer easier to interact with. To start, let’s answer a basic question:
- What version of Windows are you running? – Answer this question, and it will help you access the rest of the information in this article. Go to the Start Menu ball or bar in the lower-left corner of your screen, right-click on Computer, and select Properties. The window that pops up will tell you what version of Windows you’re running–XP, Vista, or 7. If you don’t have a Start Menu ball or bar, and clicking in the lower left corner of your screen brings up a panel of squares, you’re running Windows 8.
Now that that housekeeping is out of the way, here are some tips for easier computer use:
- Screen Resolution – This computer setting affects how large icons, text, and buttons appear on your screen. Does your screen feel claustrophobic, with a very large task bar and icons, and it feels like you can’t fit everything you need to into the space you have? You might need to increase your screen resolution. Are you having trouble reading text, and your icons are tiny? You might want to try decreasing your screen resolution. How-To: Windows 7 and 8 | Windows XP
- Text Size – The size of text that is displayed on your screen can be adjusted independently of the screen resolution. If you use reading glasses for paper, you might like this option for your computer. You can increase your text size to 125% or even 150% of the standard. Sometimes things can get cramped with 150%, so try 125% first. How-To: Windows 7 | Windows 8 | Windows XP
- Mouse Adjustments – If your mouse is hard to handle, you can adjust its behavior in Windows. You can slow down how much the cursor (arrow) moves for every movement of the physical mouse, and you can adjust how fast you must move your finger to double-click. You can even make the cursor bigger on the screen, or a different color. How-To: Windows 7 | Windows 8 | Windows XP
- Control-Scroll – In a web browser such as Internet Explorer, Chrome, or Firefox, you can resize text for easier reading. Hold down the control (Ctrl) key and simultaneously roll the mouse wheel.
And a bonus, if you feel daring…
- Just what is that file? – Windows gives you the option of displaying file extensions so that you know what kinds of files you have. File extensions are 3 or 4 letter suffixes that clearly denote what a file is. For example, Word documents (.doc), Acrobat documents (.pdf), and… watch out if you get these through email… executable program files (.exe) and zipped archives (.zip). With file extensions turned off, a mysterious file might be called “openme”, but with file extensions on, you would see that it’s actually called “openme.exe” In such a case, knowledge is golden! How-To: All Windows
These tips are just the “tip” of the iceberg of computer settings, but they can go a long way toward helping you feel more comfortable with your computer. There’s a lot of wiggle room here–find what feels comfortable to you and try it for a while. If you don’t like something, change it. You might find that you and your computer start getting along better.