Three savvy Windows shortcuts

I just keep running across more cool Windows tips. Rather than limit myself to last week’s collection, I’ve decided to just keep going. So read on for more tips that’ll make you a savvy Windows user.

Capture screenshots in a Flash with Windows’ Snipping Tool

Want to save an image of what’s on your computer screen? That’s called a screenshot, and savvy users know that one tap of the Prt Scr key will copy the entire screen to the clipboard, where you can then paste it into the image editor of choice. (Even savvier users press Alt-Prt Scr to capture just the active window.)

That gets the job done, but I think there’s a better way: the Snipping Tool. Built into Windows 7 (and some versions of Vista), it lets you capture a custom chunk of the screen, then mark up, save, and share that image. It’s fast, simple, and free. How can you go wrong?

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To get started, click the Start button, type snip, and then click Snipping Tool.

The program will start “activated,” meaning it’s immediately ready for you to start snipping. (This dims your screen somewhat, which is normal, so don’t freak out.) If you’re not quite ready to “snip” yet, just click Cancel until you are.

Snipping involves clicking and dragging a box (which you’ll see outlined in red) around the area of the screen you want to save. The moment you release the mouse button, that captured area will appear in the Snipping Tool window.

From there you can save the snip (in your choice of GIF, JPEG, PNG, or HTML formats), copy it to the clipboard, e-mail it, or add some basic notations using a pen and highlighter.

Pin Windows’ Character Map (or anything else) to the Quick Launch Toolbar

Reader Mark is a frequent user of Windows’ Character Map utility, which is helpful for finding and copying to the clipboard various special characters. He wants to know how he can pin it to the Quick Launch toolbar for fast and easy access.

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Well, for starters, Mark, you made my life a little harder by not telling me which version of Windows you’re running. (Yep, you flunked “How to Ask for Tech Help.”) However, because I’m gooood, I’ve determined that it’s Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 3. (Now, now, a magician never reveals his secrets.)

Actually, it doesn’t really matter, because the process is pretty much the same in all versions of Windows. But because you’re an XP man, that’s the how-to I’ll give you:

Click Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools. You’ll see Character Map in that menu. Right-click (yes, right-click) and hold the icon, then drag it down to the Quick Launch toolbar and release it. Choose Copy here from the menu that appears.

That’s all there is to it. You could have left-clicked and dragged the icon, but that would have moved it out of the System Tools menu. This way, you’ve got a copy of the shortcut in both places.

You can follow this same approach for just about any program or Windows tool. In Windows 7, it’s even easier: click Start, start typing the word character, and when Character Map appears in the menu, drag it down to the Taskbar.

Rename a printer

In my house, we have two different printers connected to our network–a laser and an all-in-one inkjet. I know which model is which, but my wife has a harder time. When she goes to print something, she’s not sure whether to choose “Brother HL-2170W” or “Brother MFC-490CW.”

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I have to agree: those are pretty cryptic names. Ideally, one would say, “black-and-white printer”; the other, “colour printer.”

Thankfully, in Windows 7, it’s a pretty simple matter to rename a printer. (It may be equally simple in earlier versions of the OS, but you’ll have to let me know: mine is now exclusively a Win7 household.) Here’s how:

Click Start, Devices and Printers. Right-click the printer you want to rename, then click Printer properties. The field showing the current printer name should be highlighted. Press Delete, then type in the new name you want. Click OK and you’re done.

If you’re working with a shared printer, you’ll see a warning indicating that other users will need to disconnect from and re-add the printer–a potential hassle, but hardly insurmountable.

If you’ve got a hassle that needs solving, send it my way. I can’t promise a response, but I’ll definitely read every e-mail I et–and do my best to address at least some of them in thePCWorld Hassle-Free PC blog. My 411: hasslefree@pcworld.com. You can also sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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