673 – Where is my mouse?


The “mouse” was invented 60 years ago, as a means of moving a cursor around on-screen. Through many generations of hardware, it evolved from using wheels to rubbery balls, before eventually going sensor-based and even losing the tail that may have helped coin its original name

Since many people now use laptops with touchpads, they won’t even use an external meecely peripheral but the term “mouse” is still often used to refer to the pointer that it controls. Finding that pointer on your desktop can sometimes be a challenge, especially if you have multiple screens on your computer, and particularly if at least one of them is a snazzy ultrawide job.

mouseyThe free PowerToys addons to Windows 11 includes a section of Mouse utilities; install the full PowerToys suite and you can usually enable each feature individually, and set what mechanism you’d use to invoke it. Perhaps the most useful is the “Find my Mouse” keyboard shortcut – just press the CTRL key twice in quick succession, and the screen dims with a spotlight on where your pointer currently is. Press CTRL once again to remove it and go back to normal.

crosshairsThere are loads of settings to tweak how some of the utilities work – Find my Mouse could be enabled by shaking your mouse if you’d prefer. There’s also a highlighter feature that indicates if you’re pressing a left or right mouse button, or a crosshair view which, when turned on, sets a permanent crosshair display (again, configurable in numerous ways) that remains in place until you repeat the key combo to switch it off.

clip_image008Mice can jump high – who knew?

A new mousey feature in the latest release of PowerToys is called Mouse Jump – erstwhile known as FancyMouse – and lets you teleport your mouse pointer from one side of a potentially massive desktop to another.

This is particularly handy if clip_image010you have multiple screens set at different heights, and in order to traverse from one side of the desktop to the other would take you multiple swipes of a physical mouse or strokes of a touchpad.

Press the activation key and you’ll see a shrunken version of the desktop in a small window; click where you want the pointer to vamoose to on that depiction of the display and it will teleport to the other side of the desktop.


Tip o’ the Week #286 – Windows Explorer tweaks in Win10


Here’s a quick tip on navigating around Windows 10, courtesy of Stuart Leeks, concerning the File Explorer app (now, thanks to Internet Explorer being moved to the background in favour of the Microsoft Edge browser, maybe the name Explorer will be primarily known again as way to get to the file system).

The simplest way of getting the File Explorer running is either to click clip_image004on the icon that’s pinned to the taskbar by default, or else simply press the WindowsKey+e. Out of the box, you’ll see a couple of changes to simplify File Explorer when compared to Windows 8, namely to show recent files and folders and the Quick Access pane, as the main display of the Explorer window, rather than clip_image006just showing a list of drive letters or network locations.

If you prefer going back to seeing “My PC” as the default, click on the View menu > Options > Change folder and search options, and modify that behaviour. Quick Access is new in Windows 10, and replaces the previous Win8.x Explorer’s Favorites section.

The original feature that Stuart referredclip_image008 to has been found to partially exist in Windows 8.1 too, so maybe it’s a bit of a hidden gem – when in File Explorer, if you press ALT+d, the cursor & focus jumps to the address bar and you clip_image010can start typing the name of key folders and recent files, and you’ll see the name show up in autocomplete – so to get to Downloads, just start typing down and then with a single press of the down cursor key then enter, you’ll jump straight there. This may seem trivial but to hardened keyboardistas, any reason to not use the mouse without getting too obscure, is a good one.

clip_image012If you still like using the pointing doodah, you can click on the caret to the side of the icon that shows whatever folder you’re in (and it will change as you move around), and you’ll get a short cut menu that also includes regularly used folders.

clip_image014Another neat one, for some at least, is that if you select a folder within Explorer, and go to the File Menu, you’ll get the option of launching a command prompt or PowerShell window with the focus directly on that folder

Tip o’ the Week #218 – Have you got the touch?


Using “touch” in computing has evolved so much in just the last five years. First phones then tablets evolved a new UI around using your fingers rather than a pointer & mouse, and with Windows 8, touch really got mainstream on regular PCs too. How many times do you prod the screen of a laptop then realise it’s not touch-capable?

Well, more advanced means of using touch have sprung up in ways other than just the screen. Most laptops nowadays have ditched the “Pointing Stick(careful if you go searching online for the other terms one might use) and have adopted a touchpad of some sort. Originally, this was just an annoying way of moving your mouse around with repeated swipes, but as people are more used to them, and they’ve got more effective, it’s generally the preferred way of pointer movement on a laptop.

Unless you have a real external mouse, of course, which is always better.

clip_image004Microsoft’s been working with partners for a while now on a new generation of touchpad, called a “Precision Touchpad”. The idea with the Precision TP is that it replicates the gestures you might use on-screen – see more information here. Check if your machine has a PTP by looking under the Mouse and touchpad section in PC Settings. (sorry about that last link).

If you prefer using one of the growing band of touch-enabled meeces then you should make sure you have the Microsoft Mouse and Keyboard Center installed on your PC. If you’re equipped with an appropriate rodent, you can do all sorts of one, two and even three-fingered gestures and your machine will respond without fuss or complaint. Well, it will once you’ve practiced a bit…

The excellent Wedge Touch Mouse (essential equipment for anyone with a laptop not bristling with USB ports – ie most of them – since it doesn’t need a USB dongle to work, given that it uses Bluetooth) sadly doesn’t support the full gamut of multi-digit expressions, however it does allow you to scroll horizontally and vertically – useful for navigating the Windows 8.1 start screen or simply moving around in long documents.