5 On-the-Fly Efficiency Tips When Using Windows & Apps


Windows, as well as the browsers that Windows users use, offer lots of under-the-hood productivity and efficiency boosts that you can deploy if you know about them. Here are five tips that I use all the time.

Quickly Go Back to the Desktop. Do you have so many applications and windows open that you don’t want to minimize them to go back to your desktop? Press Ctrl+Esc and then Alt+M to pop up the desktop.

Using Your Scroll Wheel with Productivity Applications. If your mouse has a scroll wheel, you’re probably familiar with scrolling up and down while scanning web pages. You can also use it without scrolling in Windows applications, though. In your word processor or spreadsheet, click the scroll wheel once until your cursor changes form, and you can move the mouse up and down for speed scrolling. In large spreadsheets, click the scroll wheel and move to the right and left to speed scroll horizontally.

Increase the Size of Web Page Text and Graphics.
On your keyboard, hold down the Ctrl key and move the scroll wheel on your mouse up and down to increase the size of elements on web pages.

Use Document Scraps. If you’re writing something in, say, Word and you want to quickly stick a small portion of it in a new document, select the text and drag it to your desktop. Windows will automatically create a scrap document.

Clean Your Windows Registry. It’s important to regularly clean out your Windows Registry, which improves boot time and more. I like to use Glary Utilities to do this quickly, and it lets you make a backup of your registry in case you eject anything you didn’t mean to. The application is freeware.

Do you have any good efficiency tips?



Some visual apps such as Axure and Visio (maybe the only ones..) allow for full navigation with the mouse wheel.

Wheel: Scroll up/down
Shift + Wheel: Scroll left/right
CTRL + Wheel: Zoom in/out

Using these in combination is ultra fast.
You’d also be surprised how many apps support CTRL + Wheel zooming… very handy.


From what I read – most PC EXPERTS are advising AGAINST touching the registry with cleaners. Boot time IS faster but only in micro seconds and if a reg cleaner makes an error – your computer is potentially dead.. not worth the risk nor the time. Thank You for the other tips.


@Samuel: After you are done playing with Ctrl + Scroll wheel, press Ctrl + 0 (that’s the number Zero) to restore the text back to it’s normal size ;-)


@theo–the scroll wheels on the mice are almost all set to work such that if you click on them you can navigate by moving the mouse only.
Regarding enlarging and shrinking web content with the scroll wheel, it’s very fast and useful to do so, and it’s far slower to go change the screen res every time you want to change the appearance of this or that web page. It works–worth trying, and changing the screen res is a multi-step, global change to how you view your display.


It’s worth noting that only a subset of the keyboards out there that Windows users use even have the Windows key. Lots of them don’t. Both keyboard shortcuts are valid, depending on what keyboard you have.

Jorge Diaz Tambley

You can reach the desktop with
windows key + M
and restore your windows with
windows key + shift + M



I generally don’t leave catty comments, but I have to be honest, these are fairly rotten efficiency tips.

As said: Windows+D is more effective for returning to the desktop. But you shouldn’t be using your desktop much anyway. Use Launchy to put all your applications and files at your fingertips quickly. I Win+D to clear my screen of clutter so I can focus on one window I want without distraction.

The Scroll-Wheel behavior is dependent on your mouse, drivers, and the behavior defined for it. I don’t believe the click-to-scroll behavior is the default for all mouses. This is also difficult to control. You’re better off finding a more efficient way to navigate your application. In web-pages, word, and excel the PgUp and PgDwn keys are faster and more efficient than the scroll-wheel or the awkward scroll-click-move-click technique. If you know what you’re looking for ctrl+f for find is probably even more efficient.

I know it’s a personal preference, but if you’re enlarging or shrinking text in your browser window, you’re using the wrong screen resolution. Most sites have fairly standardized text sizing. You shouldn’t need to zoom. Be careful with zooming, it can be hard to return to the default.

using scraps can be helpful, but it’s inefficient to litter your desktop with them. use templates or OneNote. I used to keep a notepad++ window minimized at all times for just this sort of copy-paste game. The document would be saved and available for use in the future. OneNote does the same more efficiently.

It is a good idea to clean your registry. (Disclosure: I haven’t tried Glary yet) You should be using something like Revo Uninstaller to uninstall applications. It will hunt down and remove extra registry keys for you. TweakUI is also a good aim for streamlining your system.


Windows + D is a good tip! I’m a creature of habit, but good tip.



Yes, I spotted that one too!!

Here’s a couple of bonus tips:

1. To jump into Windows Explorer, press Windows+E.

2. To Alt-tab in a much cooler way in Vista, try Windows+Tab.


To your first tip: you could also just hit the Windows key + D

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