The Windows Learning Center

Tips, tweaks, and tricks


All Windows systems have many possible configurations. Depending on individual usage patterns, there are a variety of ways to make a Windows 7 system easier and quicker to operate. Here are some tips to help you make better use of your computer.

Restore the Menu Bar to Windows Explorer

A noticeable change in Vista and Windows 7 is the new look for Windows Explorer. Navigation is different and the menu bar is gone. Most functions formerly found in the various menus like File, Edit, etc. can be found elsewhere but my first reaction was to get the Menu Bar back. Over time you get used to the new setup but I still like the Menu Bar sometimes. A temporary method is to press the Alt key. A more permanent display is enabled this way:

  1. Open "Computer" or a folder
  2. Open the "Organize" menu
  3. Click "Layout"
  4. Put a check by "Menu Bar"

Make file extensions visible

I have made this recommendation for every Windows version so far. Why Microsoft persists in the default policy of hiding file extensions is beyond me but they are easily made visible.

  1. Open "Computer" and press the "Alt" key to open the menu bar
  2. Click "Tools"
  3. Select "Folder Options"
  4. Select the "View" tab
  5. In the "Advanced settings"list, find "Hide File extensions for Known File Types" and uncheck it
  6. Click "OK".

Show hidden files and folders

Microsoft hides certain system folders to protect them. Personally, I want to be be able to see hidden these objects but you may feel that it's better to protect them by leaving them hidden. However, there are times when you may want to make them visible and it is worth knowing how to do it even if you generally want to keep these system objects out of sight and harm's way. Follow steps 1-4 of the procedure in the tip given above. In the "Advanced settings"list, select the button by "Show hidden files, folders, and drives". Click "OK".

Restore the Run line to the Start menu

One of the first things different in Vista and Windows 7 that I noticed was the missing Run line in the Start menu. Since I am a frequent user of the Run function, I restored it to the Start menu. Actually, the new search function in the Start menu basically supersedes Run but from habit I like Run anyway. You can get Run back temporarily by using the keyboard shortcut Windows key+R. To put Run permanently back in the Start menu :

  1. Right-click on the Start menu and choose "Properties"
  2. Select the "Start Menu" tab and click on the "Customize..." button
  3. Scroll down the list and find the entry "Run command"
  4. Check the "Run command" option
  5. Click "OK"
"Organize" menu
Windows 7 Explorer Organize menu

Using the "Organize" feature

As mentioned in a preceding tip, a new drop-down menu called "Organize" is present in the upper left of a Vista or Windows 7 Explorer window. A number of functions can be accessed there as shown in the graphic on the right.

The "Layout" and "Folder and Search Options" are often useful.

Go up one level in Windows Explorer

In XP, Windows Explorer has an "Up" button that will take you to the next-higher folder in the path. Vista and Windows 7 no longer have this function but have "bread-crumbs" and a "Back" button. However, you can go up one level by using the keyboard combination Alt + Up Arrow.