Contest Winners: The 10 Best Windows Application Tips

Cody Cardarelli

10 Great Readers, 10 Great Tips

In our March issue’s cover story, we threw out a challenge: Send us your favorite application tips, and we’d grant the five best submissions Maximum PC coins. We got so many tips it’s taken us some time to go through them all. And so many of them were interesting, we decided to up the number of winners from 5 to 10. Hey, that’s a nice problem to have right.

So here are the winners, in all their glory.

1. Alexander Mentis: MS WORD EXTEND MODE

This tip is on MS Word’s “extend mode,” which can save you a lot of editing time. While not as powerful as <a href=>VI’s</a> command mode, VI users stuck using MS Word will probably appreciate some of this tip. Even people who are familiar with extend mode may not know all of the capabilities below, as I have found them to be rather poorly documented and have pulled this knowledge from experimentation and multiple web sources. This tip works in Word 97, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007, and 2010.

Enter extended selection mode: F8

While in extended selection mode, select from cursor to:

- next letter forward/back: [Right Arrow]/[Left Arrow]
multiple arrow presses will continue selecting/deselecting individual letters in the chosen direction

- end/beginning of current word: Ctrl-[Right Arrow]/Ctrl-[Left Arrow]
multiple Ctrl-[Arrow] presses will continue selecting/deselecting whole words in the chosen direction

- next occurrence of [character]: [character]
In the command above, [character] is some character on the keyboard and is case sensitive. It can also be applied repeatedly. So, for example, if the cursor was at the beginning of the sentence “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dOg”

F8 o

would select everything up to and including the ‘o’ in “brown”

F8 o o o

would select everything up to and including the ‘o’ in “over”

F8 O

would select everything up to and including the ‘O’ in “dOg”

Note that this is effectively cumulative, so if you typed:

F8 over

the end result would be that everything from the cursor position through the entire word “over” is highlighted.

- end/beginning of line: End/Home

- next line down/up: [Down Arrow]/[Up Arrow]
multiple arrow presses continue selecting/deselecting lines in the chosen direction

- end/beginning of paragraph: Ctrl-[Down Arrow]/Ctrl-[Up Arrow]
multiple arrow presses continue selecting/deselecting paragraphs in the chosen direction

- one page up/down: Page Up/Page Down
multiple page presses continue selecting/deselecting “pages” in the chosen direction (note, this does not go to page breaks – page size [the amount that will be highlighted] isn’t exactly clear)

- beginning/end of document: Ctrl-Home/Ctrl-End

- location of [mouse click]: [mouse click]

Exit extended selection mode: Esc or some other commands such as Ctrl-C, Ctrl-X, Delete

You can also just cycle through “magnitudes” of selection through repeated pressing of the F8 key:
one press: enter extend mode
two presses: select current word
three presses: select current line
four presses: select current paragraph
five presses: select entire document

Shift-F8 cycles through the magnitudes in reverse.


Here’s my new fave for Photoshop, which I now use on a daily basis: Image→Adjustments→Shadows/Highlights.

This tool conveniently brightens dark areas only, while leaving the lighter areas of the image intact and thus avoiding the washing-out that occurs when simply adjusting brightness. I’ve attached an example, and if you look in particular at the trees in the background, you can see how much of a difference this handy tool can make. In this series, I’ve adjusted the original image with Shadows/Highlights (second panel), and then I’ll usually also adjust the brightness and contrast a bit (third panel; Image→Adjustments→Brightness/Contrast, and I prefer Legacy mode). A slider in the Shadows/Highlights panel lets you adjust the level of brightening to the desired intensity. And if you do happen to have washed-out areas in the original image, the same panel allows you to darken only those areas to increase contrast and help your images “pop”. When I’m cleaning up photos, this is the tool I use most, and I have to credit my graphic-designing wife, the Fantastic Sandy, for clueing me in on this one. I hope my fellow readers will find it as helpful as I have.


I have started using Excel a good bit for budgeting and planning, and I hate the tabs at the bottom. If you have too many then you end up having to scroll – it’s annoying.

So what I started doing on big projects is on the first sheet, highlight column A, give it a color, and then freeze it. Label it the Index or Table of Contents on row 1, and then below that on row 2 or 3, I type out the title related to a tab or group of tabs, then below that I type out the subtitle which would be the actual tab and then continue with each additional tab related to a specific topic. An example would be Title: Baby, Subtitle: Diapers, Bottles, Wipes. Then I hyperlink each subtitle to its corresponding tab. Once this is complete in the first sheet, just copy and paste to the other sheets as needed.


I do a lot of data entry in Excel and how found that if you want to insert the date into a cell, here is what you press: CTRL combined with semicolon; so "CTRL"  +  ";"

If you need to enter the current time: "CTRL" + "SHIFT" + ";"


MS Excel is a great tool for generating .xml or SQL scripts, but can be a real pain when trying to quickly select sections of data in a row or column from one spot to the end of that particular field.  That's why I click on the first cell I want to copy and then press Shift + Ctrl + Down or Up key to select just the data to the top or bottom of that column.  Or Shift + Ctrl + Left or Right key to select just the data in the row.  Then I'm ready to easily copy and paste it into Notepad to save as an .xml or .sql file.


A couple of things I do to the settings on iTunes makes it a lot easier to make back-up copies of everything if you have a lot of music in your library. Also, it makes it easier to back up and share music between multiple users on the same computer.

Create a folder on a drive that is accessible to all users, name it iTunes, and then create a sub-folder named iTunes 1 Step 2: Go to Edit-> Preferences-> Advanced Tab, and in the iTunes Media Folder Location, browse to the drive and folder you just created and click OK. Now, any music you purchase or import will go to that folder.

Once that folder gets to 4 Gigs, or 8 Gigs in size (whichever you prefer), burn a DVD for back-up.

Once you have the DVD back-up made, create another sub-folder, iTunes 2. Then repeat Step 2, but browse to your new folder. Once that folder gets to 4 Gigs, or 8 Gigs in size (whichever you prefer), burn a DVD.

If you walk other users through these settings on iTunes, all music imported from all users goes to this central location.

Also, if one user adds music, it's easy to add that music to another users library without winding up with duplicate files all over your computer...

Simply go to File-> Add folder to Library, and browse to the current iTunes folder being used for storage (i.e. iTunes 2), and click Select Folder. iTunes will add all music not previously added.

I have a huge library of CDs, tapes and records I am working on digitizing/converting to MP3, and the above system is something I've found works really well for me in managing and backing up our music library. If you have a home server or computer that is always on and acts as a hub for your home, this system would work also.


To get really good skin tones quickly I use Levels with the ALT key. Pressing and holding the ALT key while you drag the little white/black sliders will show you where you are losing detail ( aka clipping) by turning the photo black (temporarily) and showing the clipping with colored pixels. By dragging the sliders just until you start to lose a tiny amount of detail in the skin, you can get a great skin tone in a matter of seconds, as well as helping the rest of the picture.


Paste Special – Values : When you have many rows data that is no longer dependent on a formula (you ran the formula and you got the result you needed), highlight the column that contains the results of the formula, right click Copy, right click Paste Special - Values. This takes the formula out and pastes only the result, which is a time saver if you are still manipulating the data. Formulas recalculate when moving data around and if you have a few hundred thousand lines, that can be frustrating.

VLOOKUP: I know this is only a formula that has been in Excel forever, but so many people do not use it or even know that it exists. When you need to merge data on two sheets and there are common data among them, VLOOKUP can pull in data from one sheet to the other using the common identifier (customer ID, order ID, etc). You need 4 things to make VLOOKUP work: a column of data to search off of, an array of data to search (your matching data must be the first column in this array), what column of values you want to return in the unified sheet, and whether you want an exact of fuzzy match. I have seen so many people print out the other sheet and manually reconcile the data.

ASAP Utilities: This is a free add-in at . There is a paid version for businesses. This beast has 21 different categories of things to make your life in Excel easier. Text to number, number padding, number to text, row selection, import data, export data, the list goes on. You have to see it to grasp how you can use it. Anyone who is in Excel a lot needs this. I'm not the developer, just a long-time user.

9. Michael Toellner: Excel Conversion

I read the excel tip “Why not numbers” and I appreciated the tip however I very frequently have the issue where I have a column of numbers and need them to be text, typically to use in a vlookup or “if” formula. The method I use to convert a column of numbers to text (or text to numbers) is the Text to Columns function. To do this, highlight the column, choose Data – Text to Columns, Delimited by nothing and then choose Text to convert to text or General to convert to numbers.

10. Richard Schonegg: Windows 7 God Mode

Having all the Admin capabilities in one window is great.  I ran across this searching for ways to automate Administration in Windows 7

It is called God Mode by some. Create a new folder and rename the folder to the following exactly as shown below:


Be sure to rename the folder as shown above from the G to the }

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