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Windows XP may be gone, but all is not lost. Windows 7 may replace it as the legacy Windows OS of choice, especially considering the little-known features hidden away in Windows 7 that may make you realize just how much you love the OS.

Hidden features you say? Absolutely. They include keyboard shortcuts, secret tricks and other interesting features that most long-term Windows 7 users never realized existed, and a few features that amazingly were added as late as the last year or two – evidence by the fact that they were just recently added to the Windows 7 New Features download provided by Microsoft.

I highly recommend that download, but if you don’t have time to sift through it, the following are a few highlights of the more impressive, little-known features that could boost your productivity Use 10 Virtual Desktops To Boost Productivity With Just One Screen [Windows] Use 10 Virtual Desktops To Boost Productivity With Just One Screen [Windows] Ever since I started using a second monitor, I realized that I just can't get enough screen space. Every task seems to require so much display real estate. When I'm editing, I like to have... Read More and deepen your love for Windows 7.

Playing With Open Windows

Most people who’ve used Windows 7 long enough accidentally stumble upon some of the more useful features that it offers, such as the convenient enhanced taskbar where you can hover over program icons and see a small graphic thumbnail of the actual application window without opening it.

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This greatly enhances the speed with which you can find the right application to open, but that enhanced taskbar also includes a few interesting keyboard shortcuts not a lot of people know about:

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  • Pressing Shift before clicking on the icon opens up a new instance, even if existing windows are open.
  • Holding Shift+Ctrl does the same, except it opens the new instance with administrator permissions!
  • Holding Ctrl before clicking an icon will open the window instance that you most recently used in a group of open windows.

You might have already known you could maximize an open window by sliding it over to the top of the screen, or resizing it to fill half the desktop by sliding the window over to the side. Did you know that you could do the same thing without even touching your mouse? Yup – with the active Window open, the following shortcuts to the same thing.

  • Hold the Windows Logo Key + UP arrow to maximize the window.
  • Hold the Windows Logo Key + RIGHT or LEFT to dock to to either side of the screen.

 Searching Beyond Your Desktop

Windows Explorer has an embedded search tool that lets you search your entire computer for files, documents and more. But, did you know you can expand that Windows Explorer search out to web sources by creating search connectors?

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To do this, you just need to download and install the search connector for any server compatible with the OpenSearch standard. This is also known as a “federated search”. You can google for search connectors for Windows 7 or SharePoint Servers – and download the OSDX file.  When you run the .osdx file, you’ll see a prompt for permission to add the search connector to your system.

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Once this is installed and you open up Windows Explorer, you’ll see the Search Connector show up in the left navigation pane. Select it, and now your searches in the search bar will directly query that connector. Select one of those search results and see a preview of the website in the preview pane.

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Many people have discovered the magic of search connectors early on and use them religiously in their Windows 7 installation, but a surprising number of people have spent their entire lives using Windows 7 not knowing about this capability to expand Windows Explorer search functionality in this way.

Explaining Problems to Others

One of the most frustrating things as an IT technician is trying to help a friend or family member troubleshoot a problem without being able to see their screen. Well, did you know there’s a quick tool they can use to capture a snapshot of their desktop automatically every time they click on the screen?  It’s called the Problems Step Recorder, and you can access it by clicking on the Start menu, and typing in “Problem Record” in the search box. Click on Record steps to reproduce a problem.

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This will launch the Problem Steps Recorder tool. You just have to press Start Record to begin recording all of your actions on the desktop.

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This isn’t a screencast tool. It simply takes a snapshot of the screen every time the user clicks on something. It then automatically lays all of those clicks out into a series of “problem steps” that walk you through the problem that the person is having. When the user is done recording, they’ll be prompted to save the recording as a ZIP file.

They can send that ZIP file to you, and you can view the MHTML file in IE (or with other browsers with the appropriate add-ons).

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Unfortunately, even many IT technicians don’t know about this Windows 7 tool. If they did, it would make their lives a lot easier when working with users over the phone.

3 More Windows 7 Easter Eggs

Here are a few Windows 7 easter eggs 5 Weird Windows Bugs & Easter Eggs You Have To See 5 Weird Windows Bugs & Easter Eggs You Have To See We all know that Windows isn't perfect. I will take a leap and say that no program is. The thing is, Windows errors, more than anything, can drive people crazy. But apart from plain old... Read More and hidden features that’ll really blow your mind.

God Mode

Create a new folder on your desktop and name it “GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}” and get instant access to all 270 configurable options in Windows 7 right at your fingertips.

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If that doesn’t make you feel like God, nothing will…

Reliability History

Is your system acting really horrible and you’d like to see whether the stability of your system has changed recently (indicating a virus or malware)? Easy. Click the Start menu, and type “View reliability history” in the run field. This will show you a detailed report of everything that’s happened to your system and how stable it’s been over the past few weeks.

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Coincidentally, I just patched my Windows 7 system with the latest Updates, and this report showed my system became more unstable than it’s been in weeks!

Cipher

So, here’s one for the privacy and safety enthusiasts. Let’s say you just got notified by the FBI that a couple of agents will be dropping by your house to confiscate your computer because you’ve been identified as an avid Tor user.

You’ve deleted all of those incriminating files, but then you remembered what we’ve often told readers at MakeUseOf that you must use certain tools or methods to truly delete data How To Completely & Securely Erase Your Hard Drive How To Completely & Securely Erase Your Hard Drive Read More from your hard drive. Well guess what – Windows 7 has a feature built into it that lets you completely wipe all free space on a drive by overwriting that space, ensuring that all of those deleted files are actually deleted.

How do you do it? Just open a command prompt, and type in “cipher /w:C” – or whatever drive you want to clean.

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The process can take some time, but when it’s done, even those crafty federal agents won’t be able to extract the data you consider none of their business!

 Crazy and Useful Windows 7 Shortcuts

In addition to the Windows 7 features and tools above that a lot of people are unaware of, there are also a whole slew of extremely useful little-known Windows 7 shortcuts that could boost your productivity if you started using them.

If you think these are cool, be sure to check out Tina’s list of 25 cool Windows 7 shortcuts 25 Cool Windows 7 Keyboard Tricks That Will Impress Your Friends 25 Cool Windows 7 Keyboard Tricks That Will Impress Your Friends Read More and tricks sure to impress your friends.

So these were ways that you can enhance your use of Windows 7, and make your time much more efficient and productive. Do you know of any other cool shortcuts and easter eggs on Windows 7? What are some of the cool Windows 7 features that you like to share with your friends? Share them with fellow MUO readers in the comments section below!

 

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