Thursday, 30 August 2007

Keyboard shortcut of the week: refreshing changes

Need to refresh or reload the web page you are looking at? Press the F5 key.

If the web page still doesn't appear or does not look right you could try Ctrl + F5 (hold down the Ctrl key and press F5). This keyboard shortcut bypasses any copy of the web page that may be stored on your PC. Web browsers will keep a copy of web pages you visit in something called a cache, which they will access first when you return to that page.

See the last post on Bloody Computer! for information about clearing this cache in Internet Explorer. If you use Firefox you can empty the cache by following these instructions:

  • In Firefox, go to the 'Tools' menu and select 'Options..'
  • Click on the 'Advanced' icon
  • Click on the 'Network' tab
  • There you will find a button labeled 'Clear now', pressing this will empty the cache.

Where has all my hard-drive space gone?

Just as you can never have enough cupboard space in your home, you can never have enough hard-drive space. Nevertheless, occasionally we all have to sort through our storage and throw out a few things to make some more room. This is often easier said than done when it comes to your PC as it is not always clear what is taking up all the space.

The free version of TreeSize provides a graphical representation of how much hard-drive space your folders are using. Simply right-click on a particularly bloated folder and click on 'Explore' from the menu. This will open up that folder so you can set about deleting any files that are surplus to requirement. Remember to empty the recycle bin when you are finished. I would suggests that you leave the 'Program Files' and 'Windows' folders alone unless you know what you are doing.

If you use Internet Explorer you may want to delete its cache of temporary files. From the 'Tools' menu select 'Internet Options' and click on the 'Delete Files' button. Also, the save files of many computer games can be quite large. You may want to delete a few of these and the best way to do so is within the game. Usually this facility is located on the 'load game' screen.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Keyboard shortcut of the week: windows hopping

Ever need to swap windows while you are using the keyboard? Need to jump quickly from that email you are composing to the report you are supposed to be writing? Then try holding down 'Alt' key and pressing the 'Tab' key. Select the window you want and release the 'Alt' key to bring that one to the front.

While we are on the subject of the 'Tab' key. Whenever you are filling in a form in a Windows program, the 'Tab' key will generally move the cursor to the next field or button. Hold down the 'Shift' key and press the 'Tab' key to move the cursor back to the previous field. Filling in a whole form from the keyboard means you get the job done more quickly and more easily, leaving more time available to 'alt-tab' back to that blog you were reading.

Try these shortcuts out on the following form. Click on the first field to select it, then tab between fields to your heart's content.

To change value press the space-bar when selected:
To change the value here use up and down cursor keys:

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Weekend website: Netvibes

It took me a while but at last I found it. The personal start-page that suits me best: Netvibes ( It may not be as quick as iGoogle, but it has all the features that I need: access to my emails, my web feeds; my bookmarks; and many useful widgets to add. To set up your own Netvibes start-page visit the site and click on the 'Register now' link.

Many of the websites that you regularly visit will have associated web feeds. Some of these may have a button that you can click to add the site's feed to Netvibes, like this one...
Add to netvibes
If not, you can ask Netvibes to check whether your favourite site has feeds.

  • Copy the URL (web address) of your favourite webpage, e.g. ''
  • If you don't see 'Browse content' bar on the left of your Netvibes page, click the 'Add content' link (top left hand of page).
  • Click 'Add a feed'.
  • Paste the URL into the space after 'Link' and click 'Add'.
  • Repeat this process for all your favourite pages.
You can then edit the settings for that feed, or for any of the widgets you have added, by hovering over the title bar of the widget and clicking 'Edit'. I tend to set my feeds to 'Open directly on the site', so that when I click on them, I am taken to the original article. Have a play around and see what you think. If you like Netvibes, set it as your start page and enjoy a personalised newspaper of the information you want.

If you find Netvibes to be too slow for your purposes try iGoogle. For advice on using it see Aidan Henry's excellent article iGoogle: The Epitome of Google Personalization.

There are many other personalised start pages on the web. If you want to learn more read 14 Personalized Homepages Compared, Feature by Feature on Mashable, which is the best source of social networking news and views - definitely worth adding to your Netvibes page.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Making Windows run faster: programs that run automatically

The more programs you have running on your computer the slower it is. So one way to squeeze better performance out of your PC is to run fewer programs. Many applications you have installed will run programs when you start up Windows. Not all of these programs are essential, although, some are - such as your virus checker and anti-spyware software. In this article we will look at the various ways that Windows runs these programs and how to remove the non-essential ones.

The safest way to stop these programs from running is to tell them not to run in the first place. If you look down by the time on your taskbar you will see a line of icons. Each of these icons indicates a program that is running. Hover the mouse over them to see what they are. Select one that you have decided is non-essential, for example, an icon for a media player update checker. Right-click on the icon to reveal a menu. From this menu select 'Options', 'Settings' or 'Preferences' (whichever appears). Look around these options and try to find one that says something along the lines of 'Run at start-up.' De-select this option and the next time you start Windows that icon should no longer appear.

You may find a few icons from applications that you installed and now never use. The best way to deal with these is to uninstall them. To do this go to 'Add/Remove Programs' in your Control Panel. (Comment to this article if you need help doing this. If there is enough interest I will write a beginners guide to removing applications).

Windows has a number of other ways to start programs: there is a Startup folder in the All Programs section of your Start Menu; there are settings in the mystical thing known as the Registry. To manage all these I use Mike Lin's excellent free Startup Control Panel. Follow the instructions on the Mike's website to install and run the program. A major advantage of Startup Control Panel is that you can remove the tick from the entries on the various tabs and see what the results are. If you then decide that you do need to run a program when Windows starts you can go back to Startup Control Panel and tick them again.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Keyboard shortcut of the week: minimise all windows

Ever wanted to quickly minimise all of your windows?
Hold the 'windows key' and press M.

The windows keys have this symbol on,
and are generally located near the Alt key.

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