We thought we’d start out this week with a couple of simple tips that not many people seem to know about, but are pretty neat.

If you hit control-Z in most Windows programs, that will undo whatever you just did. If you change your mind about what you undid, hit control-Y, which will redo it.

This works especially well in Microsoft Word, and also works with many, but not all programs.

The reason it works is because it’s a programmer’s convention. As with many professions, certain ways of doing things tend to develop for recurring situations. A common one most computer users are familiar with is hitting the escape key to halt or exit a program. While this works often, it does not work all the time. Neither will control-Z or control-Y, but they’re fun shortcuts when they do.

Another trick we found recently was how to command a full screen in Windows. Opening a DOS window in Windows XP, for example, opens a small active window with very tiny type that’s hard to read and almost impossible to use. There is no enlargement button you can click that will make it bigger, either.

This one stumped even the geek experts we sometimes turn to, but the solution is simple: Hit alt-return (or enter) and the active window will enlarge to fill the whole screen. The type will be normal size, as well.

UNINSTALL, REINSTALL

We don’t think we have ever uninstalled a program without having it leave all manner of bits and pieces behind. It’s annoying or worse. You might need to reinstall a printer driver, which sometimes doesn’t install correctly if there are pieces left over from the last time you installed that driver. And so it goes.

Using the “”add/remove”” feature in Windows doesn’t help much; it still leaves lots of junk behind. You can right-click the “”start”” button and then select “”explore,”” to look for leftover pieces. Or you can select “”find files”” and type in the program name. But lots of times the leftover pieces don’t contain the name of the program you’re trying to delete. Instead they are named with something mysterious, like “”jxq1634,”” which made sense to the original programmer but no one else.

What you need is MyUninstaller, a free utility available from http://nirsoft.mirrorz.com. Click on “”utilities”” and scroll down almost to the bottom of the page. Titles are not in alphabetical order, so don’t give up easily. Once you get it, this program is great; it clears out all of a program’s flotsam and jetsam and your sinuses.

INTERNUTS

At http://education.yahoo.com you can click to see entrance requirements, major fields of study and other info on Canadian colleges and graduate schools. But, as they say on late-night TV, that’s not all you get. Find information about any primary or secondary school in the United States. Click on links to dictionaries, encyclopedias, mathematical conversions, Shakespeare, anatomy, etc.

This is oscar season and at www.cuadra.com/demos/moviestar.html you will find more than you ever wanted to know about the Oscars. Search and find the Oscar winners and nominees for any movie, any year, in any category. Best actor/actress is one thing, but what about sound editor? The sound editor for Citizen Kane was nominated nine times. (And he was always such a quiet man.)

ICON CHANGER

Who wants to put up with a boring yellow folder icon for a Windows file when you could have a rubber ducky instead? Icon Changer is a $20 program with hundreds of images that can be clicked to replace any icon in Windows.

At first glance, this is just sort of fun and charming, but you soon realize it can be used to provide quick visual organization of your files and documents. Love letters can have a heart icon. Business documents can have icons appropriate to their subject: hammer and saw for construction projects, piles of money for financial transactions, pointing fingers for tasks to do, a camera for pictures, and so on.

Favorite icons can be pulled aside into a special tool box, so you don’t have to go through hundreds again to find the one you liked. Selected icons can be applied one at a time or to whole groups of files, pictures or documents. If you go to the Web site (www.shelllabs.com) you’ll find a free trial version.

BOOKS

Osborne/McGraw-Hill has come out with a new series of profusely illustrated books on using Microsoft PowerPoint, Excel and Windows XP. Each book costs $17 and has about 200 pages with one to four illustrations per page.

I think highly illustrated books, whether this series or another, is the best way for most people to learn a program. Almost every step of the way there is a picture of what your computer screen should look like if you are following along. Plenty of tips and tricks for doing things faster and easier are placed throughout.

The new Osborne series by Martin Matthews is called “”QuickSteps,”” and you can get more information at the Web site: www.osborne.com.

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