7 great productivity tips for Windows

Windows remains the most widely used operating system in the world. Millions of business owners and freelancers use Windows every day – and yet we all struggle with its notorious clunkiness.

If you, like those millions of others, spend much of your day tied to your computer, your productivity will be inextricably linked to your knowledge of Windows. Here are some tips to help boost your output – by improving your experience with the operating system we all love to hate.

1. Clean up your start-ups

Bored of spending what seems like hours waiting for your computer to boot up? This is a common complaint – but it is one that can be solved relatively easily.

You might well have dozens of programs all trying to start when you boot your computer. Many of these will be updaters that simply sit in the background waiting for a new version of software to become available. You can dramatically reduce boot times by reducing the number of start-up programs.

To do this, go to Start, and click Run. Type msconfig and hit return. Then click on the Startup tab – and simply uncheck the programs you don’t want to start.

2. Declutter your desktop

A cluttered desktop is a major productivity drain. Too many icons can make it difficult to find what you are looking for. Indeed, many computer users find that clutter on their PC causes them stress – and this is bad for productivity too.

Get rid of all but the most important icons on your desktop. You might want to just keep the icons for files and programs you would otherwise struggle to find.

You might also consider using a tool like Fences to help you organise your desktop. Fences is a free program that allows you to arrange icons into fields, and move these around the desktop independently.

3. Learn the shortcuts

The mouse is actually a pretty inefficient way of operating a computer. Instead, you can save a lot of time and effort by learning a few simple keyboard shortcuts.

Most people know things like Control + C and Control + V for copy and paste, but there is a plethora of other shortcuts hiding away within the programs you use every day. Memorise some of the most useful to reduce the amount of time you spend looking for icons or dragging and dropping.

4. Invest in a good monitor

Screen space is one of the most valuable commodities available to computer users. By investing in a decent monitor with a high resolution you can increase the amount of screen space available – and hopefully be a bit kinder to your eyes.

Go for as high a resolution as you can afford. This will help to ensure that you get as much information as possible on the screen in one go. A high refresh rate will also help to reduce the impact of extended screen use on your eyes.

5. Use the search function

Why bother wasting time searching through the All Programs list on the Start Menu? This is an inefficient way of finding what you are looking for – but thankfully, it is also made redundant by Windows’ search function.

From Vista onwards, Microsoft has incorporated a search box into the Start Menu. Simply type the first few letters of the program or document you are looking for, and the relevant icon will instantly appear.

6. Choose your browser carefully

Despite retaining its position as the world’s most-used web browser, it is generally accepted that Internet Explorer provides users with a less than stellar browsing experience. You can save yourself time (and stress) by ditching IE in favour of one of its competitors.

Many ‘power users’ swear by Firefox, which is significantly more customisable than Internet Explorer. Add-ons like Tab Kit and FireGestures can help to make your browser work in a more intuitive, personalised manner, meaning that you spend less time fighting IE and more time working.

7. Install an application dock

An application dock has long been a key feature of the Mac OS. This simple piece of kit can make it even easier for you to find and launch the programs you use most often.

Luckily, there are several application docks available for Windows. RocketDock and Object Dock are amongst the most popular.

Windows looks set to remain a cause of perennial annoyance amongst users. But, by taking a few simple steps, you can improve your experience of the much-maligned operating system, and boost your productivity at the same time.