We live in the Digital Era. We have fast cars, fast food and fast computers. Since their conception 30 years ago, the performance of personal computers has skyrocketed. In fact, they are so fast that we are actually slowing them down.
Despite all this speed, not much has changed in the way we interact with our personal computers. We still use a keyboard for commands and typing text and we still use a mouse for navigation and controlling applications.
Now, the mouse and keyboard are wonderful input devices, and they do a great job providing precise and complete control over the computer. It’s just that sometimes you may want an extra bit of speed or an easier time wrangling the Windows user interface.
Here are three different ways to control your PC faster and speed up your workflow:
Just start typing
Old school DOS users and Linux users know that the fastest way to navigate and issue commands to a computer is to use a command prompt. The problem with using a command prompt is that it’s not user friendly at all.
You must go through a steep learning curve and memorize hundreds of commands to achieve any real control over your PC this way. This is why although Windows has a console command for every possible action; most users just use the graphical interface.
Launchy is a free, easy to use application capable of combining the speed of using typed commands with the ease of using a graphical interface. It allows you to access any applications or files on your computer by typing their name in a search box.
While it won’t replace the command prompt, Launchy is versatile and offers the possibility to create your own custom commands and search the internet.
You can download Launchy from: http://sourceforge.net/projects/launchy/files/
Click on the big green Download now button and save it to your Desktop (or your default download folder).
Double-click the Launchy setup file, accept the license and click Next until you reach the end of the setup (to install with the default values).
After the installation, open Launchy either from the desktop shortcut or with the Alt + Space key combination.
Using Launchy is extremely easy. Just start typing the names of the programs you want to open.
You don’t even have to type the whole name of the program you want. Just type the first two or three letters and Launchy will fetch you a list of the programs (you have on your computer) that start with those letters.
Then scroll down the list (with the arrow keys or the mouse), find your program and press Enter from the keyboard to open it.
Launchy has a very minimalistic interface. However, don’t let that fool you, everything is customizable, you can change the skin and even install plug-ins that add new features.
To access the options panel click the sprocket icon on the top left corner. Here you’ll be able to change how Launchy looks and performs.
In the Catalog tab you’ll be able to index the files on your computer by extension so that they become searchable with Launchy.
In addition, within the Plugins tab you can customize advanced commands such as Google search, calculator functions and a custom command editor.
Launchy is a well-designed and easy to use application that can drastically reduce your time spent on the computer if you use it intelligently. It may even replace the Start menu altogether!
Draw it a map
If you find typing too tiresome, you can control your PC by drawing symbols. gMote is a freeware application that allows you to create custom commands and assign them to various mouse gestures.
Imagine drawing a right to left line instead of clicking the Back button in Windows Explorer. Or drawing a triangle to open the Control Panel. Or an F to open Firefox. The possibilities are endless.
It’s also friendly to novice users, providing a well-designed tutorial and an intuitive interface.
gMote is compatible with almost any applications and Windows OS’s and you can draw anything from simple shapes and lines to complex symbols. In addition, to make sure you don’t accidentally trigger a command with your mouse you can use a key combination as you draw gestures.
Here’s how to use gMote:
First, download the setup file from: http://www.handform.net/gmote.php
Then unpack the gmote-full.zip file with Windows or your favorite compression program.
Next, double-click gmote.exe to start the installation wizard and choose your language.
That’s it, gMote is now installed on your computer.
You can open it by clicking on the lowercase g icon in the notification area (next to the clock).
The interface is divided into two areas. On the left, you have the list of gestures and their assigned commands. On the right, you have a blank space where you draw the actual gestures and where you can preview them.
To create a gesture, start by clicking on New set. This will clear out the old list of gestures.
Then click Create gesture and a new blank gesture numbered 1 will show up in the left area.
Click the [Do nothing] label and an Assign action dialog window appears.
In the default action (all programs) entry, click on [Do nothing] and select a program or command from the list that you want to execute. Then click OK.
With the command assigned to the gesture, go to the right area, left-click on a blank space and begin to draw your gesture.
Don’t worry if your drawing skills are not that great, you don’t have to be precise, just sketch a simple rough shape and gMote will transform your drawing into a symbol.
If you get it wrong or if it says unrecognized, click the Record again button and try again.
To save your gesture, click the Save set button. Then click the hide button in the top left corner to minimize gMote and right-click then drag to draw your chosen gesture.
Feel free to try out your new gesture and experiment with new commands and features in gMote.
gMote is very easy to use and will appeal to novice users and expert users alike in their quest to speed up their workflow and increase productivity.
Have a chat with Vista
If using the keyboard or mouse seems too old-fashioned for you, you can use Vista’s built in speech recognition to control your PC. All you need is a microphone and a few hours of training and you’ll be zipping through files and folders without laying a hand on your mouse.
Windows Speech Recognition Macros is a tool that extends the speech recognition feature integrated in Windows Vista. It allows users to assign complex commands to words or phrases giving you the ability to control the computer with your voice.
The only other requirement to use the Windows Speech Recognition Macros tool besides a valid copy of Windows Vista is a microphone.
You can find the tool at the following web address: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=fad62198-220c-4717-b044-829ae4f7c125&displaylang=en
Double-click the setup file, accept the license and click Install.
When the installation ends, click the Finish button.
Plug in a microphone into your computer and click the Start button.
Click on All Programs and you should see a shortcut to the Windows Speech Recognition Macros tool highlighted in yellow. Click it to open the configuration wizard.
If this is the first time you’ve used a microphone in your computer the Set up microphone wizard will show up. Go through the steps and calibrate the microphone to get the best accuracy possible from speech recognition.
Now double-click the blue Windows Speech Recognition Macros icon in the notification area (next to the clock) to open it. Then select the type of macro you want to create from the list.
For example, let’s say you want to create a macro to open Internet Explorer.
Select the Run a program option from the list. Enter the phrase you want to use. Click browse and select the program’s executable file. Then click Next and finally click Create.
Voila! Your new macro is created and you can use it to open Internet Explorer whenever you say your chosen phrase.
Note: You have the option to digitally sign your macro commands. This option is only available to users with administrator rights.