The ultimate shortcut in Windows 7 is the Search field in the Start Menu. Although this function is by no means new in Windows 7, it has been significantly enhanced over previous versions, making it virtually omnipotent when it comes to finding programs, files, emails or just about anything else on your PC. Just click Start, type what you want in the Search field, and voila!
The search feature displays results instantly as you type, separated by file type -- programs, documents, emails, Control Panel, etc. When you see the result you want, just click on it to launch it.
The nice thing is that you don't have to remember the exact name of a file to find it. If you forget that the Command Prompt executable is named "cmd.exe," for example, you can just type "command prompt" in the search field and Windows 7 will take you there. You can also type in the file type, tags or keywords that are likely to appear in the content of the file, such as "project budget" to look for a budget spreadsheet you created last year and want to use as a template for a new project.
Windows Search explores all indexed locations -- including files stored in network folders that are included in libraries or marked for offline access. Program files and system files are not indexed by default. You can customize which files, folders and other content are indexed by Windows 7 using Indexing Options in the Control Panel.
If you hit Enter after typing your search term, Windows 7 will open a Windows Explorer window to display a more comprehensive list of results. If there are too many results for your search term, you can refine your search to narrow the options. Scroll to the bottom of the results in Windows Explorer and select Custom. A window will open to let you filter the results by date or file type, or select the folders to search so you can find what you are looking for faster.
Other options available at the bottom of the search results include limiting the search results to files in the Windows 7 libraries or opening the search to the whole computer -- including indexed, non-indexed, system and hidden files. You can even expand the search to the entire Internet.
Go forth and be efficient
There you have it. Many of these features take some getting used to, and most will save you only a minute here or there, but it all adds up to working more efficiently and being more productive if you take advantage of the features Microsoft has provided to you.
For more useful Windows 7 tips, see Windows 7 tricks: 20 top tips and tweaks.
Read more about Windows in Computerworld's Windows Topic Center.
This story, "7 ways to work faster in Windows 7" was originally published by Computerworld.