These are so simple, I feel silly for even posting them. Worse, though, I feel silly that it took me so long to start using them. Take a look at the three graphics here, starting with the one above, and notice how they go from best, to worst, to nice compromise. It's a subtle change, but it has a huge impact on reading webpages and e-books on your netbook laptop.
I've had my Acer Aspire 11.6" netbook laptop for three years and it has been the best IT purchase I've made next to my iPhone. My review of it is all positive. I'm a Windows trained IT, so I'm partial to the OS (please quiet the Apple fan-boys), and with Windows 7 correcting most of my complaints with Windows Vista, this netbook combo has been my business power house!
The biggest hurdle with any netbook, however, is usable screen space. This Acer is 11.6" diagonal, so that gives you a smidgen over 10" wide of viewing, and not quite 5.75" tall of viewing. This is superb for media viewing, but is a nuisance when trying to read. In netbooks, you don't have the luxury of turning your machine sideways and switching to Portrait aspect.
Even worse, if you add on an Internet browser's address bar, and one or two toolbars, plus the Windows Taskbar on the bottom, your up-down reading space is reduced to almost precisely 4.5". I'm measuring it right now with a tape measure. The number sounds bleak, and the lack of space is definitely not subtle.
There are two wonderful ways to work around this, and three years later, I'm kicking myself for not using them sooner!
Embrace the Firefox Full Screen Viewing Option for Web Surfing.
Move the Windows Taskbar to the Left or Right.
This is so simple, I was reluctant to admit that I never did it.
The first one (see very top image) I discovered on accident. My wife used my laptop, and when I got it back, my Internet browser kept toggling between full screen and normal depending on where I put my mouse. Generally dynamic screen displays annoy the crap out of me, but I was reading something for a college course, and I found myself turning Firefox's Full Screen view on so I could read more. After that, I got used to the dynamic URL bar popping down, and I rather enjoyed having all this extra breathing room.
At just about an inch, my Browser's tabs, address bar, and toolbars take up a significant 17% of readable up-down screen space!
The next one should have been much more obvious, but I guess I'm just a reluctant administrator. With only 5.75" up-down space, every vertical inch matters! With 10" horizontal, there's actually a good chunk of storage room to the Left or Right. Move the Taskbar to the Left or Right.
I always resisted this because as an IT administrator, it was a pain to figure out every single user's "custom" configuration. Windows was so cool when it first came out because people could go crazy with colors, shapes, and sizes. Graphics were up-side-down, task bars were all over the place, and things were hidden here, and bigger there. I was a fan of keeping that taskbar on the bottom where it "belonged."
This however is just stubbornness, and it was actually hurting the functionality of my business laptop. It took me about a day to get used to grabbing my stuff from the side. I found that I preferred the Right over the Left because on the Left it disturbed my reading more.
How Do You Do It?
Again, the changes are ridiculously easy.
To get into Firefox's Full Screen, hit the orange Firefox menu button at Top Left, and there's an option for Full Screen there. You can toggle in and out of it by hitting F11. (F11 will also give you full screen in Internet Explorer, but it's not a true full screen. The URL bar is still there.)
For your Taskbar, right click on any empty space in the Taskbar, click on Properties, and next to "Taskbar location on Screen:" select Right or Left. Click OK.
Super simple, but the impact has been a joy! Give these two modifications a whirl and let me know if they increase the value of your netbook. I recommend netbooks to any business owner I talk to since they're small, portable, and lightweight, but pack a powerful Windows package. I prefer Acer brand over the Asus, or eEe brands, for the durability of its keyboard.
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