So you've purchased Windows 7, Microsoft's latest and greatest operating system, and found it to be fast, stable and full of features to support your small to mid-sized business.
Critics agree the Redmond, Wash. software giant have their mojo back, after delivering the much-maligned Windows Vista a few years back.
To get even more out of the leaner and meaner Windows 7 for your growing business, here we provide a handful of productivity-enhancing tips and tricks -- with some help from the experts.
Windows 7 lets you "pin" large icons to the taskbar for a one-click launch of your favorite applications or files. To do this, simply right mouse-click on a file or program icon and one of your options will be to "Pin to Taskbar." Run your mouse over these taskbar icons and you'll see a live preview of what's inside as a thumbnail image -- and even multiple websites open as "tabs" in your browser.
"A lot of people rave about this feature as it's a fast and easy way to manage and access documents and other files you need," says Microsoft's Sandrine Skinner, a director within the Windows 7 small business group. "I know a manager of a personal staffing company, for example, and she uses pinning to prepare the desktop for temp workers."
It's a snap
You've got a widescreen laptop or computer monitor, so why aren't you taking advantage of this added real estate?
Windows 7 makes it easy to do just that by letting you view multiple files or applications at the same time. Called "Snap," simply open a couple of programs -- such as Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer 8 -- and then hold down the Windows key (beside Alt) before using the right or left arrow keys to snap them beside each other. You can also drag and drop content from one to the other (such as a website photo into Paint or highlighted text into Word).
Lock it up
Your employees likely carry around a laptop, netbook, or USB thumbdrive with company data on it, but what happens if the computer or drive is lost or stolen? The Enterprise and Ultimate versions of Windows 7 include "BitLocker" protection that can encrypt files or folders -- preventing anyone from accessing them unless they know the password. Simply right-click on a drive letter (such as F:) in Windows Explorer to enable BitLocker protection.
"This reduces the risk in case the device goes missing, and makes up for the fact that employees, consciously or not, don't always put data security at the top of their to do list," says Carmi Levy, an independent technology analyst based in London, Ontario. "With the BitLocker To Go feature activated, however, nothing gets copied unless the target device is encrypted."
Kick it old school
It's not secret Windows Vista was plagued with software and hardware compatibility issues, therefore Microsoft made this one of the top priorities in Windows 7 -- including an optional "Windows XP mode" for those businesses who need it.
"We've heard companies tell us 'this software here is my bread and butter and if it's not compatible with Windows 7 I won't upgrade," explains Skinner. "We listened."
To serve and protect
No computer should ever be powered on unless it has at least some protection against malware -- such as viruses, spyware, rootkits and the like -- especially for computers used for business.
"While full-blown security suites from market leaders like McAfee and Symantec do a better job, the free Microsoft Security Essentials tools, along with Windows Defender and Windows Firewall, are more than adequate, and should be activated no matter what other solutions you have in place," advises Levy.
Get outta my way
If things get too cluttered because of multiple programs open at the same time -- such as a Web browser, word document, calculator, e-mail, and sticky notes -- simply grab hold of the program you want to see clearly, by clicking and holding on the top bar of the window, and give your mouse a shake left and right. This will automatically minimize everything else. Do it again and it brings back all the apps that were minimized.