Absolute Beginner's HTML; Computer jargon dictionary; Ultraspace; Jon Storm.

Windows tricks and tips

Flick quickly between different windows. If you have more than one program running at a time in Windows, you can quickly flick from one window to another with ALT-TAB. Hold down the ALT key (to the left of the spacebar) and press TAB, then release both. The last window you used before the current one will flick into the foreground. If instead of releasing both you continue to hold down the ALT key, you will see a small panel in the middle of the screen, with an icon and name for each program which is running, and a dark blue box drawn around the second one. Keep tapping the TAB key while holding down ALT and the box will move from icon to icon. When you let go of the ALT key, the application whose icon was last marked by the blue box will flick to the foreground. NB if you only have one window open pressing ALT-TAB has no effect.

Particularly useful for : flicking between your browser's view of a webpage and the page's source code; flicking between two documents, especially if you are copying text from one to another; finding and closing down those annoying extra browser windows some websites keep opening, usually with adverts in them.


Cut and paste. You can quickly and easily pick up text in a document and move or copy it elsewhere, either in the same document or a different one. Highlight some text, by placing the mouse cursor at the beginning of the piece of text you want, holding down the left mouse button and drag the cursor to the end of the piece of text, and then releasing the button. Your text is now highlighted. Choose Cut or Copy from the Edit menu, and your text is copied into a holding area called the clipboard. If you chose Cut, the text will disappear from its original location; if you chose Copy the original text will be left untouched. Move the cursor to the area you want the text to appear in, choose Paste from the Edit menu, and the text will be copied from the Clipboard to the new location.

You can make this process faster by using the keyboard instead of the Edit menu. Hold down the CTRL key and press X to Cut (copy to the clipboard and remove from present location), C to Copy (copy to clipboard and leave original untouched), or V to Paste from the clipboard to the current location of the cursor. To remember which is which : X is a pair of scissors; C stands for Copy; think of V as a cake-icing dispenser.

Bear in mind that you can only have one thing in the clipboard at a time : if you cut one piece of text, and then a second without pasting the first one somewhere else, the first piece of text will be lost.

This trick doesn't only work on text. You can use it on practically anything in Windows. You can cut and paste files in Windows Explorer; pictures and bits of pictures in graphics packages like Paint, Photoshop or Paintshop Pro; or in practically any other program where you need to move things around.


Select multiple items from a list (usually of files, to move or copy them all together). Click on the first file to select (highlight) it. Then hold down CTRL and click on a second file : both files will be selected. Keep holding down CTRL and click on as many files as you like : all will be highlighted. Release CTRL when you have selected all the files you want. If you click on an extra one by mistake, click on it again (still holding down CTRL) and it will be deselected.

If you want to select all of group of files in a list, click on the first one as before, then hold down SHIFT (instead of CTRL) and click on the last one. All the files between the first and last will be highlighted.

This is particularly useful when you are reorganising your files, for example, going through old documents and removing ones you don't need any more, or moving them elsewhere. If you click on on one of a group of selected files and drag it somewhere (a different folder or the Recycle Bin for example), all the other selected files will come too.


Put shortcuts on your desktop. It's useful to have shortcuts to programs you use a lot on your desktop, readily available. To create a shortcut find its Start menu entry, right-click on the entry and choose Copy from the menu that pops up. Then right click on the desktop, and choose Paste Shortcut from the menu which appears.

Practically the first thing I do when I get a new computer is put a shortcut to Windows Explorer on the desktop.

Another way to create a shortcut is to find the actual program with Windows Explorer or My Computer, click on it to highlight it, then press CTRL-C or choose Copy from the Edit menu. Paste as before, by right-clicking on the desktop and choosing Paste.

You can also use this technique to move files. Select the file to move and right-click as before, but this time choose Cut instead of Copy. The file won't disappear immedately, but its icon will become much fainter : when you paste it into its new location the original will disappear.


Absolute Beginner's HTML; Computer jargon dictionary; Ultraspace; Jon Storm.