To aid their development of Windows 7 beta versions, the Microsoft engineers built in a diagnostic tool called Problem Steps Recorder that combines screen captures with mouse tracking to record your actions. You can launch this program from the Start Menu by typing psr.exe in the search field. Hit the Record button and the applet tracks your mouse and keyboard input while taking screenshots that correspond with each new action. When you stop recording, your session is saved to an HTML slide show recreating your steps, to which you can add comments and annotations. This tool is insanely useful if you need to create a tutorial for a computer-illiterate relative. Hi Mom, hi Dad!
Burn a Spittin' Image
You can quit messing around with ostensibly free, malware-infected burning software, because Windows 7 comes loaded with a DVD and CD ISO burning application. Just double-click your image file and Windows will start a tiny program window to help burn your disc. It's a bare-bones app, but it works!
Take Control of UAC
Despite good intentions, User Account Control pop-ups were one of the most annoying aspects of Vista, and thus UAC became a feature that most of us immediately disabled after a clean install. UAC in Windows 7 displays fewer warnings, but you can also fine-tune its notification habits by launching the UAC Settings dialog from the Start Menu. Just type UAC in the Start Menu search field and click the result. We find that setting the bar to just one tick above "Never notify" provides a comfortable balance between mindful security and incessant, Alice Kramden–caliber nagging.
Use Devices and Printers to Quickly Dig into Hardware
Tired of switching between Device Manager, Properties menus for your devices, and the Start Menu to manage and use printers, digital cameras, mice, and other peripherals? Windows 7 comes to your rescue with its Devices and Printers dialog. Open Control Panel and select View Devices and Printers from the Hardware and Sound category. Right-click a device icon in Devices and Printers to configure the hardware, create shortcuts, troubleshoot, view properties, and run programs. Devices and Printers can save you a lot of effort. For example, when you use it to manage your computer, you have one-touch access to 12 different Control Panel and Explorer interfaces. And when you use a Windows 7–specific driver that supports Device Stage, Devices and Printers uses thumbnail art of the actual device, as shown.
Calibrate Your Notebook's Text and Color
After doing a clean install of Windows 7 on a notebook, the first thing you should do is tune and calibrate ClearType text and Display Color. Windows 7 includes two built-in wizards that run you through the entire process, pain-free. Launch ClearType Text Tuning by typing cttune in the Start Menu search field and opening the search result. You'll go through a brief series of steps that ask you to identify the best-looking text-rendering method. For Display Color Calibration-useful if you're using Windows 7 with a projector or large-screen LCD-search and launch dccw from the Start Menu. It'll run you through a series of pages where you can adjust the gamma, brightness, contrast, and color of the screen to make images look their best.
Command Windows 7 to Generate an Energy Report
As a power user, you may be concerned with power consumption, making the command-line utility powercfg.exe a must-see. To create a report on your PC's energy appetite, press the Windows key and type cmd in the search box. Right-click cmd and select Run as Administrator. Now, select the box and type powercfg –energy at the command-line prompt, and hit Enter. Powercfg will run for about 60 seconds, then generate a report called energy-report.html in C:\Windows\system32. This report will notify you of anything in your computer that is keeping the CPU cycling, thus burning power and sucking notebook batteries dry. After you run the report, you'll likely find that USB devices never entered Suspend state. While you might think the power consumption of a USB key is pretty insignificant, if it prevents the CPU from cycling off, that device can really hit where it hurts-in your battery's nards.
Exile Programs to the System Tray
All active programs show up as icons on the Taskbar, whether you want them to or not. While this is useful for web browsing or word processing, your taskbar can get cluttered with icons you would normally expect to be hidden away, like those for Steam or a chat client. You can, however, keep active instances of these programs hidden away in the System Tray/Notification Area by right-clicking their shortcuts, navigating to the Compatibility tab, and selecting Windows Vista under the Compatibility Mode drop-down menu. Just be aware that this only works for programs that would previously hide away from the Taskbar in Vista.
Manage Your Jump Lists
The Jump List, a list of shortcuts to files or tasks for a particular Start Menu or Taskbar item, is one of the most significant improvements in Windows 7. Each time you open a file or website, or run a task with a program that supports Jump Lists, Windows 7 stores the shortcut to the file, website, or task for reuse. Unlike Windows XP, however, Windows 7 doesn't group these shortcuts into a single location. Instead, it stores shortcuts for each program's files, websites, or tasks in a separate shortcut list-aka the Jump List. To see the Jump List for a program in the Start Menu, simply click the right-arrow icon. To see the Jump List for a program icon on the Taskbar, right-click the icon. Windows eventually removes items from the Jump List when it runs out of space, but you can override this. To make any Jump List item a permanent entry, highlight it and click the pushpin icon (reverse this process to unpin it). And if the idea of leaving an icon trail of all your recent history disturbs you, you can disable Jump Lists entirely: Right-click the Start Menu, choose Properties, and uncheck the two boxes under Privacy.