Like a lot of people, I tend to switch back and forth among the same programs all the time. When I'm developing Web sites, for example, I generally run Dreamweaver and Photoshop. These programs benefit from as much screen real estate as you can give them. I have a 21-inch monitor, but with all those cute little toolbars and palettes, I often run my windows maximized so I can see everything I need to see.
Yes, you can click the Taskbar buttons to switch among programs, but it's even faster to use a keyboard shortcut. As most people know, the little icons on your desktop are called shortcuts. They point to a program or other file on your hard disk. But here's a cool trick I just rediscovered. You can create a keyboard shortcut for a shortcut.
If you add shortcuts to your shortcuts, when you press the key combination, Windows opens the program if it's not running, or switch to it if it is. So for example, I could create a keyboard shortcut for Photoshop of Ctrl+Shift+P and one for Dreamweaver that's Ctrl+Shift+D.
One thing you want to avoid is creating keyboard shortcuts that conflict with built-in Windows ones or those you use a lot in particular programs. For example, you'll want to stay away from such standards as Ctrl+S (save), Ctrl+P (print), Ctrl+C (copy), Ctrl+X (cut) and Ctrl+V (paste).
In any case, with that in mind, you can add a keyboard shortcut to a shortcut by following these steps:
1. Right-click the shortcut on your desktop.
2. Select Properties from the pop-up menu that appears.
3. Click in the Shortcut key box (it says None if you have no shortcut key assigned).
4. Press the key combination you want to use to access your shortcut. You can use letters or numbers in conjunction with the Ctrl, Alt, or Shift keys. Or you can use the function keys at the top of your keyboard.
5. Click OK.
When you're done, try out your new function key and see how it works. I discovered for example that my old copy of Microsoft Word 2000 insists on starting a new document, rather than switching to an open document, so you may find that keyboard combinations are more useful for some software programs than others.