TechieTalk: Tweak and Improve Your Workflow in Windows

By Roy Mathur, on 2012-09-03, for The Independent Daily, Mauritius (in which an edited version appeared)

This week we'll try and make Windows more bearable with a few simple tweaks.

Classic Shell: The Start Menu is Going, Going, Gone...

Since Windows 7, Microsoft have been dismantling the Start Menu. The Windows 7 Start Menu looks horrible and Windows 8 dispenses with it completely.

Some manufacturers though, notably Samsung, are bundling their own version of the Start Menu called S Launcher with new Windows 8 PCs, but for non-Samsung PCs and users who prefer to stay old school, you can use a free application called Classic Shell. This will reset the Windows Start Menu to something familiar from the good old days of XP.

ASuite and Other Custom Program Launchers

Even the old Start Menu was, at best, a merely adequate program launcher, so maybe you would consider building your own completely personalised program launcher.

There are a number of free third party launchers around, like PStart and QSel to name but a couple, however I favour the excellent ASuite. I have used this for years and the beauty of it is that if you use it in conjunction with "portable" software on an external drive, you need never again worry about reinstalling applications each time you change to a new PC.

Black Viper Services Tweaks in Windows Vista/7/8

When I used the excellent Windows XP, I found the Black Viper tweaking website particularly useful for discovering which resource hogging background services I could safely disable.

Later, when I graduated to Vista (briefly) and then Windows 7 last year, I tried doing the same thing. Although using the Black Viper guide reduced my memory usage, it seemed to do nothing to speed up my PC. My advice for running modern Windows OSs faster is to just disable all the GUI bling by using the Classic Windows Theme.

VirtuaWin: Virtual Desktop Manager and Wallpapers

Getting rid of all the bling from Windows might leave you feeling a bit down with the drab default Windows wallpapers.

VirtuaWin tweaks your desktop in two ways. First, it is a virtual desktop manager that lets you use up to nine separate desktops at the same time and easily switch between them so that you can regain some valuable screen real-estate. Secondly, it also allows you to use a different wallpaper for each desktop.

Ubuntu: Ditch Windows Altogether... Maybe

This might just be possible, at home at least, if not in the office.

Windows seems to be getting less like Windows and more like the uber locked-down Mac OS X. The Windows Store, the Metro desktop, no Start Menu, complicated and draconian licence restrictions has made Windows a real pain to use.

Maybe you should consider dumping Windows altogether and going over to Linux. Unless you have a special reason for using Windows like iTunes, PhotoShop, AutoCAD or MS Office etc... there is no real reason for not switching to Linux if your hardware supports it. You can check your hardware compatibility by using the link below. (Unfortunately, I use the first three of the aforementioned applications, so for me it's Windows or Mac OS X for the foreseeable future).

Classic Shell, Start Menu

ASuite, Program Launcher

Black Viper Windows Services

VirtuaWin, Virtual Desktop Manager

Ubuntu, Linux Hardware Compatibility