3 Windows tools for snipping, pasting, and previewing

Windows includes a bunch of often-overlooked utilities that can boost your productivity.

Even people who consider themselves Windows experts might be surprised by the number of tools built into the operating system. These utilities often go unnoticed, but they can save you time, improve your work flow, and maybe even make you look like a wizard. Let's look at the three big hitters.

Cut and paste without formatting annoyances

You know about Ctrl-V to paste text, but do you know about Ctrl-Shift-V?

If you frequently paste text from the Web into an email or a Word document, you have to wrangle with the original typeface and font size. If you dig through Word's settings, you'll find the option to ignore the original look of the text, but most applications don't have this feature baked in.

However, most applications do accept Ctrl-Shift-V: this command pastes (just like Ctrl-V) but also strips formatting, so your clipboard contents look exactly like the rest of the text in your document.

cutting and pasting with ctrl-shift-v

Bonus tip: Shift also works as a modifier when right-clicking in Windows Explorer. It allows you to open a command line window at that folder location.

Use the Snipping Tool to make better screenshots

Microsoft made a big deal about the Edge browser's tool for capturing sections of a webpage, letting you annotate with handwritten notes, and emailing the image. But Edge's tool is just an evolution of the Snipping Tool that we've had since Windows Vista came out in 2006.

Don't believe me? Smack that Windows key, type "Snipping Tool" (without the quotes), press Enter, and behold. Click the New button, choose what you want to capture, and you'll be presented with a simple tool to annotate, save as a PNG image, and email it -- just like you can with a webpage in Edge.

windows snipping utility

Use Microsoft Snip as an alternative to the Snipping Tool

The advantage of the Snipping Tool is that it works across the entire operating system, at any time. What isn't so great is that you have to open it every time you want to use it -- it doesn't stay loaded in the background. If you don't mind looking beyond built-in system utilities, there's Microsoft Snip, an officially approved capture tool that will park itself at the top of your screen and get triggered when you press your Print Screen key.

microsoft snip image editor

When you do that, red crosshairs will show up on screen, and you click and drag them to decide which section of the screen you want to turn into a screenshot. Finishing your selection will open a basic image-editing tool, with your captured screen section already loaded. Snip retains all the functions of the built-in Snipping Tool, but it adds voice recording.

If you don't want Snip to take up any space on your screen, click the little up arrow in the lower right-hand corner of the desktop, right-click the Snip icon (a pair of scissors), click Settings, and tap the slider labeled "Show toolbar on the desktop." This change will take place immediately.

Preview fonts in Windows

If you're designing a webpage or a newsletter, or if you just want to see what a particular font* looks like, your first instinct may be to search the Internet or dig through Microsoft Word. But skip the search: Windows already has a simple tool for previewing a large number of fonts.

Simply press the Windows key, type "Fonts," (without the quotes), and press Enter. This will open up a window containing your system fonts, listed alphabetically. Entries that look like a stack of papers contain variant fonts -- double-click those stacks to see the variants (such as bold, italic, condensed, or light).

Double-click one of these variants to open the font preview tool. Here you will see the font at different sizes (the number on the left shows the number that you need in Word to get the same size). They all use the phrase "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog," because this contains every letter in the alphabet.

windows built-in font preview utility

If it's a TrueType font, then it's designed to look the same on paper as it does on the screen.

If it's tagged as OpenType, then it's designed to look and print the same in both Windows and OS X. OpenType also requires less disk space, which is important when you're designing a webpage that needs to load quickly.

*Technically, a font is an individual character, and a typeface is the family of characters that all use that look, but even Word doesn't pay attention to this distinction. Pretty much everyone refers to a typeface as a font.

About Tom McNamara

Tom is the senior editor covering Windows at Download.com.