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It has been well-established that multi-tasking is bad news. However, in the regular course of day to day computer activities, it is necessary to have multiple applications running. Shortcuts to apps and documents are a great time saver. Sure, this is a very basic concept, one that has been in Windows since the beginning, and even back to DOS if you think of the BAT file, but still worth mentioning as a workflow improvement.

This is where the Windows Quick Launch toolbar comes into play. This is by no means a new feature, but I find that the ability to have instant push button access to frequently used tools saves seconds at a time - and those seconds add up. Maybe I have gotten a bit carried away, as the task bar keeps growing.

Whenever I think of a shortcut, I think of those great Family Circus cartoons from the Sunday Funnies, where Billy takes a circuitous route around the neighborhood when he is called inside for dinner.

Trying to find something in Windows can have the same feeling.

So here is my laptop quick launch toolbar, with explanations to follow:

(click image to enlarge)

1 - Desktop - this is obvious - sometimes you have so many windows open you either need to clear your plate (clear your mind) or find something on the desktop, without opening yet another window. You can always hit Windows-D.

2 - Internet Explorer. The only time I use this is when checking a new website or update to make sure it is compatible. Occasionally javascript behaves differently in IE. And some client websites only work in IE. Thankfully, Netflix streaming movies now work in Firefox. Oddly it took the adoption of Microsoft SIlverlight to make a non-Microsoft browser compatible.

3 - Word - this is obvious and perhaps the most used feature on a computer.

4 - Excel - another frequent flyer. What better way to track assets, timelines or money.

5 - Nero Quick start. While I generally only use Nero to burn a DVD ISO, occasionally a regular data backup fits the bill.

6 - My Documents. I make sure to use the same icon on all computers, so I always know where My Docs can be accessed.

7 - Photoshop - easy access

8 - In-Box - I like the movie screen icon, reminds me of viewing home movies in Grandpa's living room. I keep a shared read/write In-Box on my computer. This is where my colleagues place WMV or FLV files of edit versions for review. This folder tends to fill up fast, so periodic clean-ups and backups are in order.

9 - Video Inspector. A handy little free app that tries to identify the details of codecs in video files. Sometimes it does not identify the codec but it does tell you the audio sample rate, which can sometimes be the culprit if a video does not play back in Premiere.

10 - Firefox. I'm using it now.

11 - Audacity. Not the best audio editor, but for recording a quick pickup for a temp narration track or a simple cut or paste edit, it works. And it's free.

12 - FileZilla. While Fire FTP is a plug-in for Firefox, I have had better happiness with FileZilla for FTP transfers. We do a lot of FTP transfers, even within the office, but often around the country and the world. Still waiting on the FTP login for the Hubble.

13 - My Computer - a quick way to get a bird's eye view of everything. Windows+E does it too.

14 - Calculator. Windows has this normally buried in the accessories folder - most inconvenient. While I can do many normal functions in me head, thanks to many happy Tuesdays watching Danica McKellar on tv - a calculator is much easier.

15 - Adobe Encore.

16 - Pigdin. We don't use IM too much anymore, aside from the occasional Skype chat, but this is a AOL-free way of accessing any of the popular IM services. is even better.

17 - Premiere.

18 - Sorenson Squeeze. Since I use Premiere CS3 on my laptop, Squeeze is necessary for any batch encoding. It is also a fast way to make an MP3 file, since Premiere CS3 does not offer MP3 export. Back in the early 2000's we used Sorenson 3 QT files for all multimedia projects.

19 - Slip art and DVD labels - this is a shortcut to a file server. Every new pice of artwork for a package design goes in there for safe keeping and access from anywhere on the network.

20 - In-Box on a colleague's computer - same purpose as described above.

21 - CD Label software. On the odd occasion when we have a free CD label printer floating around the office, it is handy to be able to use.

22 - I found a set of Star Wars icons, which help to differentiate apps from docs in a fun way. This Jawa links to an Excel file that tracks assets for an ongoing project.

23 - This FX7 Medical Droid links to an online video library.

24 - Finally, Cloud City goes to our home page.

25 - This next icon is for some piece of software I don't use, and I think I'll delete that right now!

26 - This bull's eye is the icon from the CD currently in the computer. Normally it is, in fact, a CD icon.

27 - Network Places.

28 - Links to my other computer.

29 - Links to a colleague's computer.

30 - Nero Burning ROM - this goes right to the dialog to burn a ISO file to a DVD. Very handy for Encore DVD projects.

31 - This Word doc icon links to...a Word doc that I refer to a lot. Sure I could print it out, but it is updated regularly.

32 - This Excel icon links to...oh you know.

33 - Another frequently used and updated document.

34 - Flash Media encoder. This came before Media Encoder CS4 - batch encoding for FLV files only. Handy for works in progress.

35 - Hmm, a repeat of the previous icon like this. Better delete it.

36 - Link to the In Box on my editing computer.

37 - Link to the normal CD printing computer.

38 - Thunderbird for e-mail.

39 - Outbox on another computer - like an inbox but for files to retrieve.

40 - MPEG Streamclip. A handy little utility for playback and conversion of odd video files.

41 - You guessed it.

41 - Mobi Pocket Reader - a reader for E-Books. Some free, some not.

42 + 43 - Two more computers on the network - these should be changed to unique icons - darth vader and princess leia ought to do the trick.

44 + 45 - two more frequently used doc.

On all of these, the mouse-over tells you what it is. The unique icons, especially the ones with - visual mnemonics if you will - are easy to click without waiting.

And that is what this effort is all about - reducing the extra little fragments of time spent waiting, looking or trying to remember where you put things.

In other words, increasing efficiency.

Thanks for reading. Gotta go update my Jawa.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Sep 19, 2009 at 11:00:27 am workflow, windows, efficiency

I have a passion for my job, which entails training for medical professionals such as surgeons, nurses and administrators, not to mention various industries.

Technology is great, but how you apply your skills is what pays the bills.

Years ago I canceled my Media 100 support contract upon discovering what a treasure trove of helpful advice can be found on the Creative COW website. I am proud to be a part of this fantastic community.

In my blog I talk a little about media production, a lot about travel and workflow, and occasionally about cooking, nature and my four-legged friends.

Follow me on Twitter: med_ed_mike

I'm also on LinkedIn if you can't get enough of me!


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