There are several ways to launch apps quickly, using either mouse or keyboard.

Direct method: You can assign keystrokes to launch any shortcut. Right-click the shortcut and choose Properties. On the Shortcut tab, click in the Shortcut key box and then press the keys you want to use to launch the shortcut. Click OK.

A word of warning: Be careful not to reassign other useful keyboard shortcuts you may have already assigned. Also, you can assign keyboard shortcuts only to icon shortcuts — not the actual icon of a document or application.

Search method: In Vista and Win 7, press the Windows key to open the Start menu. Then type a few letters until the search tool finds the program you want to launch; press Enter. The catch — if you have several programs starting with the same characters, you end up taking more time typing than if you simply mouse-clicked the application’s icon.

Menu method: For me, the “classic” Start menu provides a better solution. If you organize shortcuts into a hierarchy of menus, each starting with a unique character, you can navigate the menus quickly and launch most programs with only 3 or 4 keystrokes. More »

Microsoft is not only serving Critical security updates designed to patch vulnerabilities in pre-release versions of Windows 7, but also refreshes meant to boost the operating system’s compatibility level. With Win 7, the Redmond company placed a strong focus on delivering backwards compatibility with Vista-tailored software and hardware products, and even went as far as labeling the next iteration of the Windows client with version 6.1, while its precursor was just 6.0. Still, compatibility, just as security, is an ongoing effort, and Microsoft is ready to start improving Windows 7 as early as Beta Build 7000.

In this regard, the software giant made available for download the first compatibility update for Windows 7 Beta and Windows Server 2008 R2 Beta. “Install this update to resolve issues with non-compatible applications for Windows 7 Beta,” Microsoft informed, indicating that the bits were also delivered through Windows Update, even if also available via the Download Center. It is important to note that in Windows 7 refreshes aimed to improve compatibility will be delivered under the same model as in Windows Vista. More »

Following the same strategy that it applied with Windows Vista as the operating system was making its way through the development process, Microsoft is now releasing the developer tools and resources designed to permit building on top of the Windows Media Center component in Windows 7. Made previously available via Microsoft Connect, the Windows Media Center Software Development Kit 6.0.2009.0106 Beta for Windows 7 Beta Build 7000 can now be accessed by the general public.

It is important to note that as far as the actual application programming interface goes, the latest release of Windows Media Center SDK 6.0 for Windows 7 Beta is similar to what the company already delivered to developers for the Milestone 3, pre-Beta Build of Win 7.

Speaking on the Windows Media Center Software Development Kit for Windows 7 Beta, Charlie Owen, product manager on the Media Center team said: “This has been available for beta testers via Connect for a while now and we finally got it posted for everyone.” More »

In addition to the plain-vanilla Windows 7 Beta (7000.0.081212.1400) releases, Microsoft has also made available the checked builds for both the client and server flavors of the operating system. However, although meant for testing, the checked builds of Windows 7 client Beta and Windows Server 2008 R2 Beta (Windows 7 Server Beta) are designed with a specific target group in mind: device driver developers.

At the same time, the Redmond company is not serving the checked builds of Windows 7 client and server through its official Win 7 hotspot of via the Microsoft Download Center. The developer releases are only available through Microsoft Connect. The following Connect ID WIN7-3HQW-RF74 along with a Windows Live ID permits access to the downloads. Microsoft is offering 7000.0.081212-1400_server_unstaged_en-us-GB1SXCHK_EN_DVD.iso; 7000.0.081212-1400_client_unstaged_en-us-GB1CXCHK_EN_DVD.iso; 7000.0.081212-1400_server_unstaged_en-us-GB1SIAiCHK_EN_DVD.iso and 7000.0.081212-1400_client_unstaged_en-us-GB1CCHK_EN_DVD.iso. More »