Five secret features in Windows 7

Windows 7 has launched, but it's already in the hands of many people across the UK thanks to a postal strike sparking Microsoft to begin deliveries early. If you've already installed your brand new operating system then you might be interested to hear about a few features that haven't been well-documented, but could prove useful.

If, on the other hand, you haven't had a chance to get everything backed up for the install process yet, you might want to bookmark this page so you can have a butchers at it over the weekend once everything is up and running again. But without further ado, let's take a look at the top 5 secret Windows 7 features.

Shakin' Windows


One handy little user interface improvement that Microsoft has added to the mix allows you to drag windows to the edges of your screen to anchor them there, or to the top to maximise something. However, there's another neat little trick in a similar vein that you can use.

If you grab a title bar of a window and shake it around with the mouse, you'll find that everything flies out of the way and leaves you with a pristine desktop and the window you were holding. Much more Zen, no?

Problem Steps Recorder

Once you've convinced your parents that they need to upgrade to Windows 7, and they've bought it and you popped round to install it for them, they'll invariably find something that doesn't work - something that you can't fix over the phone and have to actually be there to sort out.

Well, instead of trying to talk them through installing a remote desktop viewer like VNC, you can now just ask them to press the Windows key, tap in "PSR", hit enter, and then hit record before trying to do whatever it is they're trying to do. Once they're done, the recording is saved as a zipped MHTML file that they can email to you so you can see exactly where they're going wrong.

Resource Monitor

Seasoned Windows fans will know that when the system locks up, the first thing you want to check is the Task Manager. You can still do that, but there's now a better option instead, called the Resource Monitor. This lets you take a look in considerably more detail about exactly what's going on with your CPU, RAM, disk and network.

To access it, just hit the Windows key and type "resmon" before hitting enter. It'll bring up an overview of all the processes that are currently active on your computer, and exactly what they're doing. You can then do something about that irritating program that won't stop crashing.

So what do you do? Well, you can force quit something like you would in Task Manager, but you can also right-click a process and hit "Analyze Wait Chain" to see more info about why it isn't doing anything - it could be waiting for a response from another process, for example. With Resource Monitor you'll hopefully be able to track down the issue more quickly.

Desktop slideshows

So you've seen that most of the default themes that comes with Windows have auto-changing backgrounds, and you'd like to get in on that action. How do you do it? Well, it's actually pretty simple. All you have to do is right-click an empty part of the desktop and hit "personalize". From there, hit "desktop background" near the bottom and pick a folder full of pictures that you'd like to rotate through, and select how often you'd like to rotate.

How would you like a desktop wallpaper that automatically updates from an RSS feed? That functionality appeared in the beta, though it was buggy and seemed to have been removed from the final version. However - there's a way round the limitation.

Visit the feed you want to get pictures from in Internet Explorer, and then subscribe to it. On the right-hand-side you should have a "View feed properties..." option. Hit that and then enable the "Automatically download attached files" option. Close the window, and re-open it, then hit "View files" and use that folder as your rotating background folder as above. Voila!

Colour and ClearType Calibration

Lastly, if you view a lot of images, movies or play games a lot on your computer - and doesn't everyone? - then you might want to make sure that your monitor is calibrated to display colours correctly. You can do this very easily with a wizard included in Windows 7 called the Display Colour Calibration Wizard.

To access it, all you have to do is hit the Windows key, type DCCW and hit enter, and the wizard will appear and take you through all the steps necessary to make sure your display has its gamma, brightness and contrast set correctly. After that, you'll have the option to view the ClearType calibration wizard.

Conclusions

So there you go. Five features that Microsoft hadn't told you about, but are still incredibly useful. Have you discovered anything else that's noteworthy and relatively undocumented in Windows 7? Be sure to share it with us in the comments, just down below.



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