Power User: A simple formula sets shortcuts for Windows apps

John McCormick

Omnipresent computer mice have made many users forget that the keyboard can control Microsoft Windows programs all by itself. That's handy when, for example, your mouse breaks or you're working on an airline tray table.

The easiest and most useful shortcuts are the three-key combinations that open programs without a mouse or the Start menu. Press Ctrl-Esc if your keyboard lacks the Start key.

With the Ctrl-Alt-key combo'and using the mouse to set up the keyboard shortcut'you choose your own mnemonic favorite. Right-click on a desktop icon for Microsoft Word or Excel, Adobe Acrobat or whatever, then click on the Properties tag. You'll probably see the word None in the Shortcut Key dialog box.

Click on None, but don't be surprised when you can't enter a shortcut; that's not how you set it. Instead, hold down the Ctrl or Alt key, then press another key and your shortcut appears. Press OK, and it instantly becomes active.

This doesn't work with the taskbar or desktop icons that aren't themselves shortcuts. For example, to make an Internet Explorer shortcut, first right-click on the Explorer desktop icon and choose Create Shortcut, then open the new icon.

A shortcut for the desktop itself is already built in. Just press the Windows key plus D to switch to the desktop view. A key you may not have noticed, just to the right of the second Windows key, is the Application key. It displays a shortcut menu.

Have you ever sat down at a screen with such tiny fonts and high resolution you can barely tell it's running Windows? If your eyesight is getting older, as mine is, remember the other three-finger salute.
Left Shift-left Alt-Print Scrn toggles between normal view and a high-resolution view that even an old codger like me can read.

My last column described a Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition upgrade from hell. Now I call the operating system XP Hope because I hope it will keep working.

Although XP Home comes installed on many notebook PCs, users who take their own XP notebooks to work are in the same boat as college freshmen who head to campus with new XP notebooks, only to learn that they can't link to campus networks.

It's possible to network an XP Home system, but the user can't join a Windows NT domain. Connecting to Novell NetWare is difficult'you'll be lucky to get access to a Web server. Unlike XP Professional, XP Home doesn't support the hyperthreading that Intel Corp. is building into all its CPUs to speed up application processing.

John McCormick is a free-lance writer and computer consultant. E-mail him at powerusr@yahoo.com.

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