Windows Management and Maintenance : The Windows 7 Control Panel (part 6) - Devices and Printers

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8. Devices and Printers

Devices and Printers (Figure 10) is a new Windows setup and management tool that you can reach from the Hardware and Sound category of Control Panel. You can also reach it from the Start Menu. It enables you to manage devices such as mice, game controllers, displays, keyboards, external storage devices, printers, scanners, faxes and multifunction devices from a single interface.

Figure 10. The Devices and Printers window.

To manage a device other than a printer or fax, right-click it to select a troubleshooter, the device’s properties sheet, to create a shortcut to the device, or to choose from device-specific configuration tasks.

In the following sections, we’ll show you how to use Devices and Printers to manage devices such as mice, keyboards, and game controllers.

Game Controllers

If you’re serious about playing games on your computer, you need a game controller, such as a joystick, flightstick, gamepad, driving wheel, and other hardware devices designed specifically for the games of your choice. If you’re an extreme gamer, the type of controller you need can vary greatly with the types of games you play. Game controllers have reached the point at which serious flight simulator enthusiasts hook up a flightstick, throttle, and separate rudder foot pedals to more accurately simulate the flying experience. Sports gamers usually go for handheld digital gamepads for fast response times. And fans of racing games just aren’t getting the full experience without a force feedback steering wheel with its own set of foot pedals for the gas and break (and possibly even a clutch).

Windows 7 may detect it automatically, or you may need to run the Add Device applet available through the Devices and Printers menu in the Hardware and Sound category. In most cases, USB devices have no-brainer installations. Just plug it in and you are good to go.

To manage the settings for a game controller, right-click the controller in Devices and Printers and select Game Controller Settings. Click the Properties button to access the Test and Settings tabs. Click Test to open a dialog for testing the controller’s buttons, joysticks, pedals, or other features. If the controllers are not working properly, click the Settings tab and click the Calibrate button. The Calibrate wizard helps you set up your controller. Click Apply, then OK, to save changes.


The Keyboard applet lets you fine-tune the way the keyboard behaves, check the keyboard driver, and perform some keyboard troubleshooting. Start it by right-clicking the keyboard icon in Devices and Printers and selecting Keyboard Properties, or select Keyboard from Control Panel’s Small Icons or Large Icons views.

The main attractions here are the repeat rate, the repeat delay, and the cursor blink rate. By altering the key-repeat delay (the time after pressing a key before it starts to repeat) and the repeat speed, you can calm down an ill-behaved keyboard or improve usability for someone with a mobility impairment. Altering the delay before the repeat sets in might be helpful if you use applications that require extensive use of, say, the Page Up and Page Down, Enter, or the arrow keys (perhaps in a point-of-sale situation).

You also might want to change the cursor blink rate if the standard blinking cursor annoys you for some reason. You can even stop it altogether (the setting is None). I prefer a nonblinking one myself.

The defaults for these keyboard settings are adequate for most users and keyboards.

If you need to check keyboard properties, including the keyboard driver in use, click the Hardware tab and then click Properties. The Device Manager entry for the keyboard opens.


It’s almost impossible to use a modern computer without a mouse or equivalent pointing device. To make sure your mouse is working to your satisfaction, use the Control Panel’s Mouse applet (see Figure 11) to fine-tune its operation. From Devices and Printers, right-click the mouse icon and select Mouse Properties, or open Mouse from the Large Icons or Small Icons views of Control Panel.

Figure 11. Setting mouse properties can help you get your work done more efficiently, though the defaults usually work fine without modification.

Available settings include

  • Left/right button reversal

  • Double-click speed

  • ClickLock

  • Look of the pointers

  • Pointer scheme

  • Pointer speed

  • Enhance pointer precision

  • Snap to the default button of dialog boxes

  • Display pointer trails and length

  • Hide pointer while typing

  • Show location of pointer when Ctrl is pressed

  • Set wheel scroll to number of lines or screen at a time

  • Troubleshooting

  • Access device properties (same controls as through the Device Manager)

The options vary based on pointing device type, and sometimes you are supplied with even fancier options if your pointing device comes with a custom driver. For example, the Synaptics touchpads let you scroll a window by sliding your finger down the right side of the trackpad.

Poor lefties never get a fair shake in life, what with all the right-handed scissors and tools around. Well, they get one here (except for some types of weird, ergonomically shaped mouse devices that don’t work well in the left hand). If you’re left-handed, you can move the mouse to the left side of the keyboard and then reverse the function of the buttons on the Buttons tab of the Mouse applet. Right-clicks then become left-clicks.


If all else fails and you just can’t find a double-click speed to suit your needs or abilities, forget double-clicks altogether. Instead, click an icon or any selectable object in the Windows 7 environment. A single-click usually will highlight the option. Think of this as getting the object’s attention. Then press Enter on the keyboard to launch, open, or execute the selected object.

On the same tab, you can set the double-click speed. A middle-range setting is appropriate for most folks. Double-click the folder icon to try out the new double-click speed. The folder opens or closes if the double-click registered. If you’re not faring well, adjust the slider, and then try again. You don’t have to click Apply to test the slider settings. Just moving the slider instantly affects the mouse’s double-click speed.

As you know, the pointer cursor changes based on the task at hand. For example, when you’re editing text, it becomes an I-beam. You can customize your cursors for the fun of it or to increase visibility. You can even install animated cursors to amuse yourself while you wait for some process to complete. Just as with icons and screen savers, the Web is littered with Windows cursors, if you want to collect a few thousand. Windows 7 comes with enough to keep me happy, organized into schemes. You can change individual cursors or change a set of them in one fell swoop by using the cursor schemes.

Like color schemes and sound schemes, cursor schemes are collections of cursor shapes. When you select a scheme, all the cursors in the scheme go into effect at once. You can choose from approximately 20 canned schemes.


Use one of the Extra Large cursor schemes if you have trouble seeing the pointer. Also, some of the schemes change the pointer into things that don’t resemble pointers and can make selecting or clicking small objects difficult because the pointer’s hotspot is difficult to locate. Sometimes, the cursor is distracting and can obscure the item you want to select or click.

You can change individual cursors in a scheme, if you want. To change a cursor assignment, click a cursor in the list. Then click Browse. The default location is ...\windows\cursors. Animated cursors move for you in the Browse box (a thoughtful feature). After you custom-tailor a set of cursors to your liking, you can save the scheme for later recall. Click Save As and name it.

Windows 7 supports both the now-traditional scrolling wheel and the newer horizontal tilting mouse wheel with the Wheel tab. Use this tab to adjust how both types of wheels operate.

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