Some things in computing have been around for so long, that it’s hard to envisage or remember a time before them. Take the humble mouse – Mr Scott might not recognise what it’s for, but at least until touch and gestures take over the world, we are all familiar with its basic operation.
Doug Engelbart prototyped the original “mouse” (pictured left) and despite it being patented, never managed to really make anything of it – though Xerox did. Well, Xerox PARC boffins developed the idea, but it took a young Californian Hippy to really put it to the market. The mouse moved on from a couple of metal discs in Engelbart’s version, to a rubber coated ball then laser or LED variants, driven largely by Microsoft’s hardware designers evolving how the thing was being used.
Basic rodentry activity is pretty well understood, but there are a few Windows-oriented actions that a lot of people just don’t seem to realise they can do. In Windows 8, for example, the mouse is a central way of invoking a lot of the new UI capabilities – and it’s not about clicking on a specific place, but more about making gestures with it.
There are a few further actions that are as old as the hills, yet many people never discover them or get told about them. Everyone knows about drag & drop, right? You know, click on a file to select it, hold the button down to pick it up, then drag it and release to drop it somewhere else…?
Did you know if you have an Application open (in trad Desktop mode on Windows 8, or in many previous versions), and you drag a file onto its icon on the task bar, that will bring the application window to the foreground… and if you subsequently drop the file into the open window, it will open the file or do something else interesting with it?
What could “something else interesting” be? Well, if you’ve a file on your PC that you want to attach to an email, for example, then go Explorer or where the file is located, drag the file to the taskbar where your email is open, hold it over the Outlook application icon and you’ll see a list of open messages… drag and hold over the one you want and (even if you get a little “no way Jose icon”, meaning you can’t drop it yet) you’ll bring that message window to the front.
Simply now drop your file into the waiting window, and attach it to the message. Where this really works well if is if you want to send someone a document you already have in email – instead of saving it out of the original message then re-attaching it, or worse, dragging it to your desktop just so you can send it on, simply:
Of course, you could use SharePoint, or SkyDrive Pro, or any number of ways to do it properly. But who’s got time for all that?