Windows 7 beta tips, tricks and tweaks

Testing out the Windows 7 beta? Here are a handful of ways to get around the interface and make it act the way you want.

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Run multiple copies of applications from the taskbar

The Windows 7 taskbar serves a dual purpose, which can get confusing at times. It's used to launch programs, and also to switch between programs that are running. So you launch a program by clicking its icon, and also switch to that program after it's running by clicking its icon.

But what if you want to launch a second instance of the program? Once the program is running, it seems there's no way to launch a second instance, because when you click its icon, you only switch to the running instance.

There's a simple fix: If a program is already running and you want to launch a second instance from the taskbar, hold down the Shift key and click the icon. A second instance will launch. You can keep launching new instances this way.

Run multiple copies of Windows Explorer from the taskbar

There are times when you'll want to run multiple instances of Windows Explorer -- for example, doing that can make it easier to copy and move between different PCs on your network. Unfortunately, though, you can't launch multiple instances of Windows Explorer from the Windows 7 taskbar using the Shift-click technique. When you try it, you'll only switch to the already running instance of Windows Explorer; a new instance won't launch.

There's a simple way to enable multiple Explorer instances from the taskbar. Right-click the Windows Explorer icon in the taskbar, then right-click the Windows Explorer icon near the bottom of the context menu that appears. Select Properties. Enter this text in the Target box and click OK:

%SystemRoot%\explorer.exe /root,::{031E4825-7B94-4dc3-B131-E946B44C8DD5}

Now you're ready to launch multiple instances of Windows Explorer. Click the Windows Explorer icon as you would normally to launch a first instance. To launch a second one, hold down the Shift key and click the Windows Explorer icon. A second instance will appear. You can keep launching new instances using this same technique.

More nifty taskbar tips

Want some quick tips about the Windows 7 taskbar? Here are a few:

First, you may not realize that it's easy to rearrange the icons across the bottom of the screen -- simply drag an icon to where you want it to live. You can also add icons to the taskbar by dragging them from an application, and delete the icons by highlighting them and pressing the Delete key.

If you're a fan of using the keyboard rather than your mouse whenever possible, you can launch any program on the taskbar without the mouse. Press the Windows key and the number that corresponds to the position of the application on the taskbar -- for example, Windows key-1 to launch the left-most application on the taskbar, Windows key-2 to launch the second left-most application and so on.

taskbar in thumbnail view

The taskbar in thumbnail view.

Click to view larger image.

One of the nicest things about the taskbar is that when you move your cursor from icon to icon, you can see thumbnails of all open windows for each of those applications. If you're a keyboard-centric person, you can do this without a mouse. Press the Windows key-T, and you'll move the focus to the left-most icon on the taskbar. Then use your arrow keys change the focus to other icons.

More Windows tips from Computerworld:

Preston Gralla is a Computerworld contributing editor.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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