On Computing

Little Tweaks to Make Windows Better

Joel Howell

Article by Joel Howell Newsletter Editorial Board


Even if you’ve been using Windows for a long time, it’s so sprawling that there are helpful, yet more obscure features that can still surprise you. Thanks to the usual internet resources, particularly PC World, these little-known Windows features that might just improve your efficiency, your comfort, or possibly even your fun while using your PC.

If you’re looking to go even further down this rabbit hole, check out our roundup of 10 truly helpful Windows tools you might not know about, how to tune Windows for laser-focused productivity, and how to fix Windows 11’s worst annoyances. Meanwhile, if you’re on Windows 11, a big new annual update just landed on your PC. Here are the 5 features you’ll want to check out first.

On initial installation, mouse hover window is not activated, but it’s easy to do so. This setting allows you to activate a window simply by moving your mouse cursor over it, instead of requiring an extra click before interacting with the program. It’s a tiny change, but one that makes a dramatic difference, especially on a laptop trackpad.

To activate this setting, go to Control Panel and click the Ease of Access Center. Click “Make the mouse easier to use.” Under “Make it easier to manage windows,” select “Activate a window by hovering over it with the mouse.” Click Okay to enable the setting.

With newer versions of Windows, it’s easy to move windows (sorry) around your screen. Hold down the Windows key on your keyboard, then press the arrow keys. Pressing left or right will instantly move the window to the corresponding half of the screen. Pressing up or down will alternate between halving the window in the upper or lower portion of the screen, maximizing it, or minimizing it to the toolbar.

These shortcuts even work across multiple monitors. It’s a terrific way to quickly arrange your windows across screens and monitors with minimal effort.

If you want to quickly manage windows, you probably pin your most-used programs and tools to the taskbar. If you want to get to them even faster hold down the Windows button and press the number on your keyboard that corresponds to their spot on the taskbar.

Speaking of the taskbar, the system tray (the little mini-icons on the right side) can often get crowded if you’re using a lot of software. That’s especially true when you run a lot of programs ats startup. To eliminate the clutter, click and drag any of the icons around to re-arrange them. You can put them in the drop-down menu to hide them (just click the arrow to show them again) or set them to the right to make them permanently visible.

If you haven’t done so yet, start using the official (but obscure)Windows Snipping Tool, which expands the operating system’s rather basic screenshot tool (tied to the Print Screen button) with all sorts of new goodies. Press Win + Shift + S simultaneously to see options to instantly screenshot your entire workspace, just one window, or a freeform selection drawn with your mouse. Your screenshot is then copied and ready to be pasted into a web form or image editor.

In a hurry? You can still access the old screenshot functionality (which saves a full image file in your Pictures>Screenshots folder) by pressing Win + Print Screen. Alternately, you can copy the full screenshot instead with Ctrl + Print Screen, or copy a selection of just your currently active program with Alt + Print Screen.

Questions or comments? Drop me an email: jwh3@mindspring.com