Windows XP was great, and none of us can ever deny that. It provided so many new features and improvements over any earlier version of Microsoft’s flagship product and was (and still is) the operating system of programmers and businesses alike. Capturing over 60% total market share, it is the most used operating system in the world.
But now it has some competition.
Yes, the long-rumored Windows 7 hit shelves this past October, promising to be the successor to Windows XP that Vista never was–promising more productivity, ease of use, and fun. If you happen to be running Windows 7 now (why not?) then you definitely don’t want to miss these 15 must-know Windows 7 features and tricks!
Yes, Libraries. Chances are that if you are running Windows 7 you’ve already come across this feature, nestled in the Taskbar holding the Documents, Music, and Pictures folders. But do you know what the point of this feature is? Basically, libraries are compilations of different folders housed across your computer. Why is this useful? Well, it’s not that much useful if you are running on a standalone computer, but on a network this could be a gold mine. Say you have multiple files stored across multiple computers in multiple folders, and you need them all in one easy-to-reach place? Libraries are there.
But how do you make a library? First you need to go to your libraries folder (located in the taskbar) and open it. Once in the libraries folder, right-click anywhere and go to “New”.
Once you do that, you’ll see that a new library has been created. Just name it whatever you want and hit “Enter”. Now to designate what folders go in your library, just right-click on the library in question and go to “properties”. In the properties window you will see something similar to the screenshot on your right. As you can see by the image, I’ve made a simple Library for my downloads. Just go down to and then select the folder(s) that you want to include (in my case, I included both my downloads directories) and hit “Ok”. That’s all there is to it!
Productivity wise, Windows 7 is packed with great features that can help speed everyday tasks up. One of these such features is the Jumplists feature. To access this feature, just right-click on any icon in your taskbar and you will be greeted with the jumplist for that particular program. For example, if you right-click on iTunes you get a jumplist showing your 10 most recently played songs (and giving you an option to play them) and tasks like opening the iTunes Store, Shuffling all your music, Starting Genius, and more. You also get generic tasks like pinning the program to the taskbar and closing the program (opens the program if it is closed). Jumplists work on many new programs like Google Chrome, iTunes, and more. As well as all the built-in programs on Windows 7.
The new Windows Taskbar (also called the “SuperBar”) is a productivity powerhouse; it features large icons for all the programs you currently have open, and also has a Quick Launch-like feature that allows you to pin any program or folder to the taskbar for quick access. I find that even though the older quick launch in Windows XP and Vista was pretty good (I used it every day), It lacked the ability to handle lots of programs without having to open a drop-down menu to find them. With Windows 7 you can put as many programs on the taskbar as you want, as long as you stay within the size constraints of the taskbar itself.
4. Aero Snap
There are some things that you never even think about needing throughout the course of your life, sometimes you may even think it is pointless and it shouldn’t even exist in the first place. However, once you try it out, you find yourself wondering how you survived without it. Aero Snap in Windows 7 is such a thing. What it it? Well, say that you are writing something in Word, but you need to do some research in your web browser at the same time. Normally you would have to constantly switch between the windows to read the web pages and then switch back to Word to write and so on.. I’m getting tired just thinking about it!
Fortunately, Windows 7 has a solution. With Aero Snap, you just drag one window to the far side of the screen (right or left) until a transparent box appears. Once you see the box, let go! Your window will then “snap” to that side of the screen and take up half of the screen. You can then drag the other window to the opposite side of the screen for a similar effect, then you have both your windows conveniently and quickly placed side-by-side!
5. Aero Peek
Aero peek is like Aero snaps’ little cousin. Except instead of being a feature you can’t live without, it’s just one of those nifty features that adds a little bit of extra productivity–but not a lot. Basically the idea is that if you hover over an icon in the taskbar it displays a thumbnail of the window. If you then hover over the thumbnail you get to see aero snap in action, the window that you have currently open fades out, and you get to see a real-time view of the other window in full size on your desktop. The same thing happens if you hover over the show desktop button in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, it “minimizes” all your windows and gives you a peek of the desktop.
6. Aero Shake
Completing the new line of Aero whatevers, aero shake is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You simply grab on to a window and shake it. Doing this will result in all other windows being minimized except for the one being shaken. Shake again and the windows come back!
7. God Mode
“God Mode” as it is called by the general public, is nothing more than a supersized control panel. Basically it houses every single Windows 7 command and/or modification (over 200 in total) in one single window. However, it’s not just a folder that comes preinstalled into the OS, you need to create it yourself. How? Just open a new folder on your desktop and name it this:
In this case, you can replace the “GodMode” part with anything you like, as that will become the visible name for the folder once you save it. Once you open it, it looks something like this:
This is one of those other features that I was talking about a while ago, one of those features that you can’t live without. The wallpaper rotation in Windows 7 is one of those such features. Basically, all it does is automatically change the wallpaper randomly after a set period of time (1 minute, 30 minutes, an hour, etc..). To access this feature, just go to your control panel and under Appearance and Personalization go to change desktop background. Then you will be met with a bunch of wallpapers. Just select the wallpapers that you want to have appear in your feed and go to the bottom of the page, which is where you can set how long each image stays on the screen. (See below image for reference)
Back in the past if you had an ISO image that you wanted to burn to a disk you needed to download software to do so, which was perfectly fine, but we all wished that we could just drag and drop into our disk drives and have Windows do the burning for us.
Then one day Windows 7 was released and made our dreams a reality.
That’s right, now in Windows 7 all you need to do if you want to burn an ISO to a disk is right-click on the ISO file, then go to “Send to” and then select the DVD or CD drive that you want to burn to. After that, Windows will do the work for you!
10. New Calculator Functionality
This one may come as a shock to you.
Chances are that you have already used the Windows 7 calculator and you might be thinking “There’s nothing new about it!”. That is true, nothing new until you venture on to the “View” menu in the calculator. There, you get several different modes that you can use. Want to calculate your vehicles mileage during a trip? Just go to . There you can punch in the distance traveled and how many gallons of fuel you used, and it will automatically calculate the miles per gallon of your vehicle! Neat, huh?
11. Quick Screen Resolution Change
Okay, so this one may not be a super cool new feature, but it is definitely a time saver. All you need to do is right-click anywhere on your desktop and a drop-down menu will appear, down below you will see a screen resolution option, click it and you will be brought to the screen resolution dialog! It may not seem like much, but it does save you a trip to the control panel!
12. Change The Functionality Of The Power Button
If you go to your Start menu right now, you’ll probably see in the right corner a button that says “Shut down”. Pretty self-explanatory. But what if you log off frequently but don’t shut down? In Windows 7 you can change the functionality of that button by right-clicking on the start menu and opening the properties dialog. In there, you see a drop down box for changing the power button functionality. Just change it to whatever you want and you’re ready to go!
13. Customize UAC
UAC (User Account Control) in Windows Vista was a nag. It seemed like pretty much every single thing that could ever happen to your system prompted a dialog, and it got old pretty fast. Of course, there were other free programs that could change the functionality of UAC (making it appear less often and training it to remember programs) but we wished that it was included straight with the system. Well, in Windows 7 you can do just this! All you have to do is head on down to “Control Panel,System and Security,User Account Control Settings”. Which will prompt this dialog:
As you can see, there are 4 different sensitivity settings that allow you to change how often UAC alerts you. This is definitely an improvement over Windows Vistas UAC settings of either “On” or “Off” but we wish it allowed us to choose which programs could do stuff without UAC prompting.
14. Run As
A simple feature. If you right-click on a program and choose “Run As” then you can choose which account to load the program under. Useful if you are on a limited account and want to do some changes using an Administrator account. This feature was in Windows XP and I used it heavily, but it mysteriously vanished in Vista, and I’m glad that Microsoft chose to include it in Windows 7.
15. Drag And Drop Command Line
Another feature that was omitted in Windows Vista but included in XP. Basically, instead of having to type long file names in Command Prompt just to go to a folder, you can just drag the folder into the command prompt window and the full path to that folder will appear in the command line, all you need to do is hit “Enter”.