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Mon, Sept. 23

Force-quit shortcut is different in Windows 7

Q: I used Windows XP for years until I had to replace it with a Windows 7 machine. I find that I like Win7 a lot. However, one thing vexes me. I used to use the "Three-finger Salute" (CTRL+ALT+DEL) whenever a program or Windows locked up. This brought up the task manager where I could close down the offending program. In Win7, however, this just brings up a menu that offers task manager as an option, but I don't like having to click that many times. Any suggestions?

A: I agree that is one of the annoying things about Windows 7. I quickly learned a new "Three-finger Salute" to quickly access the all-important Task Manager. Instead of the old CTRL+ALT+DEL combination, I now use CTRL+SHIFT+ESC, which takes me directly to the task manager without delay. Then click on the Applications tab where all running programs are listed. Simply click once on the offending program to select it (it will usually be marked as Not Responding) and click the End Task button near the bottom of the box.

Note the information displayed on the status bar at the bottom of the task manager screen. It tells you about how much of your CPU (computer brainpower) is in use at the moment and, more importantly, how much of your RAM (the computer's memory) is in use. If this is a high percentage - 60-70 percent or more - it means your computer is working hard with little RAM to spare and it would be a good idea to shut down some of the programs in use to lessen the load. Some programs will not release RAM that they have been using until you shut down the program and restart it, which clears the RAM and restores more computing power to your machine.

Q: I'm in the market for a new keyboard. What should I be looking for?

A: Buying a new keyboard can be a very confusing experience because there are many different styles and manufacturers from which to choose. The first suggestion is to go to a local office supply or big-box store and see what they have on display for you to investigate. All modern keyboards use a USB interface, so technology-wise the replacement of a keyboard is a very simple procedure. The problem is choosing which one to buy.

By now, you probably have a good handle on how you use a keyboard and perhaps what you would like to see in a new one. But in all likelihood, you won't be aware of all the new features currently available. Look at all the keyboards on display with an open mind. Some will have features you know you will never use as well as other features that might be of limited usefulness to you.

For instance, you will find keyboards that claim to be internet- or media player-compatible or -optimized. Often all this means is they have extra buttons (at an additional price) that you may never actually use or might do nothing more than confuse you. As an example, if you really want a dedicated key that will take you to your home page whenever you press it, then that's probably the keyboard for you. Others might very well find this feature useless to them.

As another example, some people prefer the tactile and audio feedback provided by the old-style "click-and-clack" keyboards while others want a quiet and softer membrane-type keyboard. Also, some people prefer black-on-white keys which may make the keyboard easier to read, but if you're a touch-typist, that distinction is immaterial.

If you don't see anything that looks and feels right for you, go to another store and see what they have to offer. There is such a large number of available choices that no store can have a full inventory of keyboards for you to inspect.

The Prescott Computer Society (PCS) is a PC-based users group located in Prescott. We hold several entertaining and educational meetings each month to show you how to get the most out of your computer. For further information, visit www.PCS4me.com. Email questions for future columns to PCSquestions@gmail.com.

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