Back in the first days of the computer, the only way to interface with a terminal was through a keyboard, no mouse. Of course, back then, most operating systems ran on a command line interface so a mouse wasn’t really necessary. But nowadays, when we have mice available, a question is raised – are you using your mouse productively?
The mouse gives us a great deal of control in two dimensions – selecting, dragging, tapping, double-tapping, and more. However, what if you could improve your Windows mouse usage efficiency by a significant factor? If you streamline mouse control into as few actions as possible, you can really ramp up your productivity. Here’s how.
Note: Everything in this article has been tested and confirmed for Windows 7. These may or may not work in prior or future versions (e.g., XP and 8).
Streamline Mouse Shortcuts
If you’ve ever used a Windows computer, you likely know what the left and right mouse buttons do: the left click is a selection tool that allows you to drag items around while the right click opens up a context menu for more advanced actions. But did you know that Windows comes equipped with a number of other useful mouse shortcuts?
- Ctrl + Left Click. If left clicking lets you select an item, then holding down Ctrl lets you select multiple items one at a time. This is extremely useful when you need to cut or copy a specific group of files but they’re scattered around in a huge folder of documents.
- Shift + Left Click. If Ctrl lets you select multiple files one at a time, then Shift lets you select multiple consecutive files all at once. Basically, you left click on one file, then Shift + left click on another file, and every file between those two files will be selected as a group.
- Shift + Left Click, again. The great thing about Shift clicking is that it works for text, too. Whether you’re in Firefox, Chrome, Microsoft Word, or wherever else, if you click somewhere and then Shift + click elsewhere, all of the text between those two points will be highlighted.
- Ctrl + Drag. When you have a file (or multiple files) selected, you can hold Ctrl while dragging them and Windows will copy those files to the new destination.
- Shift + Drag. When you have a file (or multiple files) selected, you can hold Ctrl while dragging them and Windows will move those files to the new destination, i.e., cut and paste.
- Ctrl + Scrollwheel. If your mouse has a scrollwheel, then you probably only use it to scroll through folders and webpages. If you hold down Ctrl while scrolling, though, you’ll zoom in and out. This is great for webpages that are hard to read (the text will become bigger). In Windows Explorer, the icons will become bigger.
Do you find yourself altering your sound levels often? I don’t suppose that it’s a very common problem, but I suffer from it and I’m sure there are a few of you out there who suffer similarly. Here’s the essence of the problem: it’s a pain to click on that tiny icon in the corner whenever you want to change up your Windows volume.
I know that there are multimedia keyboards out there that can incrementally change volume on the fly with a simple key press. Most laptops can do it, too. But if you want to do it quickly and easily using just your mouse, Volumouse is what you want.
With Volumouse, all you have to do is scroll up or scroll down (using the mouse scrollwheel) and the volume will change accordingly. You can configure the program to only change volume when scrolling under specific conditions, like when Alt is held down. Volumouse is configurable enough that you can set it to work on a per-application basis, too. On top of all that, it’s free!
Check out Erez’s deeper review of Volumouse.
Here’s a great little program that cuts out a small step in your daily computer use: instead of having to focus a window before you can interact with it, AlwaysMouseWheel lets you use the mousewheel on any window that your mouse hovers over, even if it’s not in focus. This might be a niche program, but for those who can find uses for it, it’s actually pretty neat.
Optionally, you can set it so that AlwaysMouseWheel brings the window into focus when you use the scrollwheel. It might not seem like a huge savings in time or effort, but my personal experience says that this is one of those features where you don’t realize just how great it is until it’s gone.
AlwaysMouseWheel is entirely free and requires no installation (e.g., it’s portable).
For what seems like quite a while now, mouse gestures have become a feature that many recognize as the future of mouse control. I suppose the influence came from touchscreen devices that now rely on swiping and squeezing and all sorts of shenanigans to perform a great number of actions. I was never really a fan of mouse gestures.
But StrokeIt offers a mouse gesture solution that can really amp up your Windows experience. With StrokeIt, you can associate a specific mouse gesture with a particular computer command (e.g., Ctrl + Alt + K) and every time you perform that gesture, the command is executed. Gestures are performed when your hold down the right click button.
StrokeIt has some customization, too. Certain gestures can be used globally while others are only used when certain programs are in focus. You can set all of these in the preferences. Though StrokeIt comes with dozens of preset gesture motions, you can create your own as well. Highly recommended.
StrokeIt is free for personal use. For commercial users, there is a 10-day trial before you must purchase a license for $10 USD.
For the most part, a mouse isn’t really necessary for proper computer usage. I mean, if your mouse died, you’d still be able to do 90% of what you normally do on your computer with just your keyboard: browsing, editing, shutting off, etc. But the mouse makes it all so much easier and less time consuming. If you want to ramp up your mouse efficiency, consider the tips and programs above. They’re all great and highly useful.
Have any other suggestions to streamline mouse usage in Windows? Please share them with us in the comments. I’d be delighted to hear them.
Image Credits: Mouse in Hand Via Shutterstock