Underused tools in Windows 7 (Feature)
By Jay Dougherty Jan 14, 2011, 2:06 GMT
Washington - Think you know what's in Windows 7 by now? Microsoft's latest operating system comes with a lot more tools and utilities than most people realise. Most of them haven't been advertised as much as the headline features - which means they're well hidden. But you don't have to remain in the dark. Read on to learn more.
--- Security gems
Security is a big deal these days, and Windows 7 comes equipped with a host of tools to make your PC more secure.
First, biometric (fingerprint) authentication is built in. If you have a fingerprint reader in your desktop or notebook keyboard, Windows 7 supports it. If you want to add fingerprint logon capability, get yourself a USB fingerprint reader from an electronics retailer. They range in price from 15 to 35 dollars.
Once the reader is installed, you can use Windows 7's Biometric Devices dialog box, in the Control Panel, to configure your reader and enable it for logging on to your PC. It beats typing passwords - and it's a lot more secure.
The Credential Manager is another welcome security enhancement. You can use it to store passwords for other computers you access over a network as well as for websites. You can even back up your 'credential vault' so that you can take your credentials to another PC. Open the Start menu, type 'credential manager,' and check it out.
--- ISO burner
Burning ISO images - which are essentially single-file replications of entire CDs or DVDs - used to be the exclusive province of special add-on tools such as UltraISO or PowerISO. While those tools are still highly recommended, you can save your money if all you ever need to do is burn the occasional disk from an ISO file.
Windows 7's built-in Burn Disc Image tool does the job. To use it, simply double-click an ISO image that you've downloaded or acquired, and the Burn Disc Image dialog box appears. Insert a blank disk, make your selections, and go. If you want to create an ISO image from a CD or DVD, however, you'll still need a third-party tool.
WordPad - the free word processor that has been around for several iterations of Windows - is not exactly new. But Windows 7's WordPad is worth re-discovering, for a lot has been improved.
The tool is friendlier, first of all, thanks to the interface overhaul that puts Microsoft's now-ubiquitous ribbon toolbar at the top of the screen. While the ribbon bar is reviled by many Office users who buck at having to relearn familiar commands, it makes sense in WordPad, in part because it exposes just how powerful the tool is.
Most people who use a word processor rarely need more than the basics: tabs, picture insertion, font manipulation, bullets, and a powerful search and replace. WordPad has all of those features - now easily displayed thanks to the ribbon - and can be used to open the docx files produced by the 2007 and later versions of Office. It might be the only word processor you really need.
--- Sticky notes
Who doesn't need to be reminded to make a doctor's appointment, buy flowers for a special occasion, or pick up the dry cleaning? If you're like many people, your own list of chores probably gets written down somewhere - and then promptly lost.
For those at the computer frequently, there's help. The Sticky Notes applet included with Windows 7 works just like its real-world namesake: it puts a yellow sticky note on your computer deskop. You can write on it, change its colour, move it around. Restart your computer, and it's still there, with your notes intact. Open the Start menu, type 'sticky,' and you're on your way.
--- System repair
There are all kinds of tools on the market that supposedly help your computer avoid catastrophic meltdowns. But what do you do if you install some driver or attract some virus that prevents you from even getting to the Windows logon screen? That's where Windows 7's System Repair tool comes. With this little application - along with your Windows installation disk - you can create a CD or DVD that you can use to repair your computer in the event of a serious malfunction. Create the system repair disk now, while your PC is working properly.
Some big computer makers like HP have long provided their own system repair tools. Now the rest of us have one as well. Open the Start menu, type 'system repair,' and click 'Create a system repair disk.'
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