The fastest way to open a word processor

Writer online word processor, with a look mimicking DOS-based text editors running on a green-phosphor display, makes it easy to create and return to a text file, with no sign-in.

Dennis O'Reilly Former CNET contributor
Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.
Dennis O'Reilly
3 min read

Faster is almost always better, at least when it comes to computers. So what's the fastest way to open a word processor?

You can create a keyboard shortcut to open Notepad, WordPad, Word, or any other word processor on your PC by right-clicking the program's shortcut on the Start menu, choosing Properties > Shortcut > Shortcut key, entering your keystroke combination of choice (be sure not to overwrite one that's already in use), and pressing Enter. I described how to get fast access to all your keyboard shortcuts in a post from last week.

Now press the keystroke combination to open the program, and start typing (or navigate to an existing file you want to open). When you're done working in the file, press Ctrl-S, give the file a name (if it doesn't have one already), choose a location to store it (or accept the program's default storage folder), and press Enter. What could be simpler?

Well, skipping the file-naming and storage location-choosing steps, for one thing. And having access to the notes from any Internet-connected computer, for another.

Web word processors auto-save files
You can create a keyboard shortcut that opens Google Docs or any other Web word processor. Start by opening a new document in the service. Select the URL in the Address bar, and type Ctrl-C to copy it to the clipboard. Now open Windows Explorer to the Desktop or any other folder, right-click anywhere in the folder, choose New > Shortcut, paste the URL of the service into the location field, press Enter, give the shortcut a name, and press Enter again.

Next, right-click the shortcut you just created, click Properties > Shortcut > Shortcut key, type your preferred keystroke combination for opening the service, and press Enter. Now you can open the service ready to create a new file by pressing that keyboard shortcut.

Unfortunately, if you're not already logged in, you'll have to enter your username and password before you can open the blank file. You can avoid the login step by creating the shortcut to the Writer online word processor that mimics the look of old DOS-based text editors running on a green-phosphor display. (The service's bare-bones look is itself modeled after the free Dark Room word processor, which, in turn, is the Windows version of the WriteRoom word processor for Mac OS X.)

Since Writer doesn't require you to log in--or even to create an account--you need not give your files a name. Just stick with the default, and when you want to reopen the file, select it from your list of documents, which appears just below the text window.

BigHugeLabs.com's Writer online word processor
Use the Writer online word processor for instant--and universal-access to your notes. John Watson/BigHugeLabs.com

Writer remembers your files by leaving a cookie with the identifying information. If you delete the cookie, you lose access to the files, unless you sign up for a free account. The account has the added benefit of providing access to your files from any Internet-connected PC.

Should you find Writer to your liking, be sure to make a donation to its creator to help keep the great services coming.

Monday: get more use out of Windows' taskbar.