6 Things You Never Knew Your Computer Could Do

Man studying using a computer by himself

We all use our computers nearly the same way, whether it’s to listen to music, watch videos, or surf the web. Or maybe we’re a student and using it to write papers and do homework, or a businessman taking advantage of telecommuting to work from home.

There’s nothing wrong with these uses of a PC, but most don’t realize their computers can do far more in ways they might not have even thought of. After all, PCs are a pricey investment. Shouldn’t you be getting the most bang for your buck, and use your PC all the more efficiently?

We’ve assembled a list of six ways that you can start using your PC differently today.

1. Switch between and open windows quickly

Everyone knows about pressing alt+tab to switch quickly between apps. But did you know there’s an even faster way to get to exactly the window you need? First, hover your cursor over the application icon in your taskbar. A popup appears with small thumbnails of every window open for that specific program.

Don’t stop there: Press shift while you click the icon and it will open a new window for that application. If you need Administrator permissions, press shift+ctrl. If you need to get back to the most recently used window of a particular application, press ctrl while clicking. It makes alt+tab seem… archaic.

2. Make your PC repairman’s job easier

Trying to explain an error on your computer, but don’t know how to describe it? Windows can actually “record” your steps, which your smart friend or PC repair tech can access to recreate the problem themselves.

In the search bar, type “problem record.” You should see a result that says “Record steps to produce a problem.” Click it, and then “Start Record” on the window that opens up. Every time you click, Windows takes a screenshot. You’ll be prompted to save your screenshots to a zip file when you’re finished.

3. Do conversions easily

It seems like Windows’s calculator app has never changed, but it did take on some hidden new features in Windows 7 that you might have missed. In Windows 7 or 8, open Calculator and click View and then select the conversion option (in Windows 10, these options can be found by clicking the menu icon on the upper left). Several types of conversions are available including length, volume, weight, temperature, and area, among others.

4. Gauge your computer’s reliability

Windows running a bit flaky for you? Microsoft developed a “reliability index” to gauge just how unstable your computer is. To find it, type “reliability” in the search bar and click on the “view reliability history” result. An application called Reliability Monitor opens and displays the index as well as information on application, Windows, and miscellaneous failures, as well as warnings and information on computer actions like updates.

This application will be especially useful if you have no clue where an error is coming from, and might help you fix it a lot faster.

5. Create desktop sticky notes

Being a Mac user, one of my favorite apps was actually one of the simplest: a native app called Stickies. This allowed you to type up some quick notes that would essentially “stick” to your desktop. Windows now has the same feature.

To access it, look for “Sticky Notes” in your programs list or search for it. You can change the color by right clicking on the note and selecting the color you want, and create new notes by clicking the “+” symbol, and delete notes by clicking the “x” on the opposite corner of the note. These are great to use when you’re in need of a quick way to keep information on your screen.

6. Input complex mathematical equations

This one’s a great one for college students. Typing in formulas can be a real pain in the you-know-where, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Windows includes an application called “Math Input Tool” (called Math Input Panel in Windows 10). Opening this application will allow you to use your mouse, stylus, or finger to draw in complex mathematical equations. This can be a lifesaver especially if you’re trying to create study guides for calculus or other higher level math courses.

Follow Ed on Twitter @edoswald

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