A friend recently asked me how I use Windows 7 for work. That’s too long a conversation for one lunch. So I decided to hit the highlights, focusing on what I think helps me finish my work more quickly. That’s where I came up with this list of 7 Windows 7 features to help people work faster. And as an added bonus, I’ve included helpful hints on how to use these features.

1. Windows XP Mode
If you’ve ever been afraid of losing all that is good about Windows XP, you’re not alone. That’s why with Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate, you can download Windows XP Mode. With Windows XP Mode you can run many Windows XP productivity applications on your Windows 7-based computer. It’s a great way of making old new.

2. Device compatibility
I don’t have the time to tinker around figuring out how to make my devices talk to each other. Fortunately, with Windows 7, my devices work together without a lot of fuss. My phone, printer, and other PCs on my network connect and synch easily so I don’t get stuck spending a lot of time adjusting settings and troubleshooting connections.

If you’re not sure about compatibility, you can visit the Windows Compatibility Center (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/compatibility/windows-7/en-us/default.aspx) to learn if your devices meet the criteria.
3. Location-aware printing

My laptop makes me king of the road, until I want to print something: then I feel like a pawn on the highway. I think that’s why they designed Windows 7 with simplified printer settings. My Windows 7 laptop offers the ability to automatically switch the default printer when I move from one network to another—so my computer automatically prints to my home printer when I’m at home, and my work printer when I’m at work. This feature, called <span class=”class10″>location-aware printing</span>, is only available in Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate.

4. Desktop enhancements
I hate closing all my windows to get back to a file that’s on my desktop. With Windows 7 I don’t have to anymore. The new Peek feature is kind of like Superman x-ray vision. I can use it to peer through all my windows to my desktop without closing or minimizing them. Point to the Show desktop button at the end of the taskbar; the open windows fade from view, revealing the desktop. The windows reappear when I move the pointer away from the Show desktop button.

5. Improved Power Management
If you asked me what the Achilles heel is for laptops, I’d probably say it’s how the power seems to drain out at in-opportune moments. To help me work longer on my laptop, Windows 7 runs with fewer background activities that use less power. Windows 7 also offers default power plan settings that control how your laptop manages power. To access this Power Management feature, all you need to do is click the battery icon in the task tray and choose the option you want.

  • Balanced. Offers full performance and display brightness when you need it, but conserves power when the computer is idle.
  • Power saver. The best choice for extending battery life. On the downside, you get slower performance and lower display brightness.

You can also elect the High performance power plan, which keeps the brightness, sleeps less frequently, and keeps the display on longer.  This setting uses more energy than the others.
6. Sleep and Resume
Windows developers understand that you want what you want, when you want it.  When work is calling, you don’t want to spend time waiting for your computer to wake up.  To this end, improvements in Windows 7 are designed to help your PC go to sleep and resume more quickly.

7. BitLocker Data Encryption

Although I’ve never been the victim of computer theft (knock on wood), I often worry that my time will come. That’s why I’m glad that Windows 7 helps protect my information against hackers and the like.  BitLocker data encryption keeps everything from documents to passwords safer by scrambling the contents of the entire drive that Windows and your data reside on. In addition, BitLocker To Go—a new feature of Windows 7—gives the lockdown treatment to portable storage devices like USB flash drives and external hard drives. BitLocker is available only in Windows 7 Ultimate and Enterprise.

Written By Marc Freeman—Reprinted with permission from Microsoft