May 29, 2011

What you need to know about Windows 7 SP1

By Woody Leonhard

With Windows 7 Service Pack 1 generally available, Win7 users need to know what SP1 brings — and doesn't bring — to the game.

In short, this service pack adds surprisingly little to Windows 7. You'll want to install it — eventually.

And for those of you who followed the conventional wisdom and are waiting for the first service pack before installing Microsoft's newest OS, you waited without good cause. Win 7 SP1 sports a little nip here and a roll-up tuck there — but there's not a single significant enhancement to Win7.

And that's good news. It seems, for once, Microsoft turned out a major new product that was relatively problem-free, right from the start.

Service Pack 1's most significant improvements

Uh, there really aren't any. At least not for the average PC user. (SP1 does have a few nifty new features for Windows Server 2008 R2.) No need to take my word for it. Download Microsoft's official description, "Notable changes in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1," available on a Microsoft Download Center page, and see for yourself. "The impact of SP1 on the Windows 7 client operating system is considered to be minimal. Included changes address minor usability issues in specific scenarios," according to the unusually sedate Microsoft manifesto.

To save you a bit of time and effort, here's a summary:§  Higher-definition connections with Remote Desktop: If you use Remote Desktop (I prefer the third-party service LogMeIn), installing SP1 on both PCs sets up high-definition connection via a new technology Microsoft calls RemoteFX. Snappy name. Based on virtualization technology (info page) Microsoft acquired two years ago when it bought Calista Technologies, RemoteFX makes it possible for full graphics to show through on remote sessions. Someday, we're promised, you'll be able to use RemoteFX with your phone. I'm not holding my breath — I'm not even sure I'd want it.§  More Windows Live ID support: A technology Microsoft calls "Microsoft Federation Gateway" will give SP1-enhanced PCs improved Windows Live ID authentication to non-Microsoft sites, using a long-established Web services protocol known as the WS-Federation Passive Requestor Profile. I thought Win7 already had WS-Federation profiles (detailed in an MSDN article) nailed, but apparently some fix is necessary.§  An HDMI patch: I have no idea why MS emphasizes this as one of the noteworthy changes in Win7 SP1. It's a bug fix to keep HDMI working when a PC is rebooted.§  An XML Paper Specification fix: The 10 of you who actually use XPS instead of PDF will be pleased that SP1 fixes a print bug affecting mixed portrait and landscape documents.§  Even more-obscure fixes: These include restoring previous folders at sign-in, IKEv2 protocol improvements (used in VPN connections), and a hotfix rollup from November (KB 982018) for Advanced Format disks. Little stuff.This is a case where "SP" stands for "slim pickings."

Odd circumstances leading to SP1's release

If you follow the trade press, you may have picked up on some, uh, anomalous circumstances surrounding the release of SP1. (We'll probably see a similar series of leaks, half-leaks, and teasers leading up to Windows 8 — or whatever the next version of Windows is called.)

It appears that the code for SP1 was frozen as far back as mid-to-late-November. The files are digitally signed 11/22/2010. The official build identification string, 7601.17514.win7sp1_rtm.101119-1850, refers to November 19 ("101119"). The installer executable is dated November 23. That's a long, long time ago.

On October 27, 2010, Microsoft posted update KB 976902, which ended up crashing a significant number of machines. Soon dubbed the "Black Hole Update" by industry observers, the patch was pulled quickly and didn't reappear until January. We now know KB 976902 is a precursor to installing Windows 7 SP1 — and it's automatically installed for you when you install SP1.

As noted in a story, Microsoft updated its Service Pack Blocker Tool Kit (download page) in November. The updated kit lets corporate sites prevent Windows Update from automatically installing SP1. In retrospect, it looks like MS released these tools right around the time SP1 was finalized. That makes sense: the Windows development team needs to have things nearly locked down before ancillary tools can be distributed.

On January 13, Microsoft's Russian Windows Virtualization team posted the Win7 SP1 RTM (release to manufacture) build identification string on its MS TechNet site. Subsequently, the final build number was removed from the site and someone at Microsoft posted a notice stating, "Microsoft has not released SP1 to OEMs at this time, though we are on track for a Q1 release, as we previously announced. The comments made in this blog entry included some inaccuracies." As best I can tell, all of the pertinent details on the Russian TechNet site were correct. Those of you who watched the Windows 7 rollout will remember that Russian-language sites leaked many details about Win7 that were later confirmed. (The Russian sites just might provide accurate prerelease details for Window 8.)

On January 14, a copy of 7601.17514.win7sp1_rtm.101119-1850 hit the torrents, and Microsoft immediately and repeatedly denied that the leaked build was final. On January 14, Paul Thurrott reported, "A bit of rumor-busting. Some sites have claimed that SP1 is complete and that Microsoft will release it to its OEM — i.e., PC-maker — partners as soon as tomorrow. That is not the case. SP1 is imminent, but it's not quite done as I write this." No doubt that's what MS's handlers told Paul, but by all appearances, it wasn't true.

SP1's official announcement came three weeks later in a Feb. 9 Microsoft Windows blog. At that point, MS said that OEMs had already received the bits on February 9, that MSDN and TechNet subscribers would get them on February 16 (they did), and that the rest of us will have SP1 on February 22 via the MS Download Center and Windows Update.

That's an amazingly fast rollout, if indeed MS waited until February 9 for OEMs — blindingly fast if you're selling new PCs and want to ship them with the latest build of Windows 7. Perhaps it was smoke and mirrors; OEMs have often been fingered as the source of torrent-based leaks of new Microsoft software. Maybe the February 9 OEM announcement was simply damage control.

As I noted at the outset, this first service pack says much about Windows 7. It's surprisingly free of the growing pains that afflicted earlier versions of Windows. Unless you are completely attached to Windows XP, the wait to upgrade is over.

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A complete guide to Windows 7 keyboard shortcuts

By Becky Waring

One of the best ways to increase your computing productivity doesn't cost a cent: learn the keyboard shortcuts for your most-used commands.

To help you stop mousing around and become a keyboard maestro, I rounded up the best resources for finding, using, and creating shortcuts.

Lincoln Spector struck a nerve with his Jan. 13 column, "Twenty-six ways to work faster in Windows 7." Many of those tips involved keyboard shortcuts. After all, almost any time you can use the keyboard instead of the mouse, you work faster. But there are lots more shortcuts where those came from. This article aims to show you where to find the ones that can speed up your workflow. In case you can't find the shortcuts you need, I'll show you how to create your own.

You probably already know that you can invoke many menu and dialog-box items via the keyboard by pressing the Control or Alt key plus an underlined letter. For example, pressing Alt + F in most apps opens the File menu; then pressing the underlined letter N opens a new document. You might also know that when you press Alt + A, you apply dialog-box changes.

Direct keyboard shortcuts to menu commands (such as Ctrl + C for Copy) are typically shown next to the command in the menu itself. For a great introduction to using keyboard shortcuts, check out Gizmo's Dec. 3, 2009, column. For general strategies and more tips, see Scott Dunn's Feb. 25, 2010, column.

But hundreds of keyboard shortcuts for commands in Windows and widely used apps such as Internet Explorer and Office are not explicitly hinted at in menus and dialog boxes. In other words, you need to actually learn them.

I can hear you groaning. Yes, learning a whole bunch of keyboard commands is not my idea of a fun way to spend a weekend, either, but if you judiciously pick a few, list them in a cheat sheet that you stick on your monitor, and practice them for a week or two, they'll become second nature.

Top 20 shortcuts for taming your windows

Managing windows is probably one of the most fertile areas for keyboard shortcuts because otherwise, you manipulate them solely with the mouse. Here's my top-20 list of must-know shortcuts for taming your windows; you'll never have to move your hands from the keyboard. For completeness, I've included many keyboard shortcuts you might already be familiar with; skip down the list to see the ones you don't know.

Switch between open windows Alt + Tab
Minimize/restore all but the active window Windows key + Home
Minimize all windows Windows key + M
Maximize window Windows key + up-arrow
Minimize/restore window Windows key + down-arrow
Make all windows transparent so you can see the desktop Windows key + spacebar
Dock window to left or right half of screen Windows key + left- or right-arrow
Zoom in/out
  (In the default view, you must zoom in before zooming out.)
Windows key + plus/minus sign
Lock screen Windows key + L
Open Run dialog Windows key + R
Open Search box Windows key + F
Open Windows Explorer to computer Windows key + E
Expand Folders view in Win Explorer to show where you are Control + Shift + E
Go up a level in Windows Explorer Alt + up-arrow
Choose display mode/switch monitors
  (Especially useful for presenters or dual-monitor users)
Windows key + P
Launch apps pinned to the Taskbar
  (1 is the left-most app; Windows Key+T cycles through all apps.)
Windows key + (number 1-9)
Cycle through Gadgets Windows key + G
Rotate a picture clockwise
  (Or use comma for counterclockwise)
Control + period

Use Control-click to select the pictures in a folder you need to rotate, then rotate them all at once.

Turn Sticky Keys on and off Press Shift five times

Although keyboard shortcuts can be real time-savers, sometimes it's hard to press multiple keys at once, (especially while you're eating a sandwich or holding your phone in one hand). The Windows Sticky Keys feature lets you press one key at a time as you enter a shortcut. You can turn on Sticky Keys permanently by using the Control Panel's Ease of Access Center options.

Turn Mouse Keys on and off Left-Alt + Left-Shift + Num Lock

The Windows Mouse Keys feature is a really useful shortcut that lets you control the cursor with the arrow keys on your numeric keypad. Like Sticky Keys, it can be turned on permanently in the Control Panel's Ease of Access Center, but you can also invoke it at any time by pressing this key combination. This gesture turns you into a true keyboard jockey.

Note that both Sticky Keys and Mouse Keys display a warning message when you turn them on and off. You can disable the warning boxes in the Control Panel's Ease of Access Center by choosing Set up Mouse Keys or Set up Sticky Keys. This list is just a sample of the dozens of shortcuts available. For a full accounting of Windows 7 interface shortcuts, see Microsoft's Windows 7 Help & How-to site.

Other programs and lots more shortcuts

Although the global Windows 7 shortcuts are the headliners, you will probably save the most time by getting to know the keyboard shortcuts in frequently used applications such as your Web browser, e-mail program, and word processor.

Here are links to handy keyboard shortcut reference guides for many popular apps, along with my favorite shortcut discoveries made researching this article:§  Internet Explorer. (shortcuts) Try Control+Shift+P to open an InPrivate browsing window; try Control + E to go to the Search box.§  Firefox. (shortcuts) Select the exact tab you want with Command + 1 to 8. Command + 9 chooses the last tab.§  Chrome. (shortcuts) Press Alt and click a link to download its target, such as a picture or PDF file.§  Office 2010. (shortcuts) Use the keyboard to work the ribbon interface in all Office programs. This is a huge timesaver. Also, create your own shortcuts by first clicking the File tab to open Backstage view. Then choose Options/Customize Ribbon/Keyboard, then Shortcuts/Customize to enter your own key combinations or to change existing ones, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. The keyboard customization tool in Office 2010.
§  Word 2010. (shortcuts) Press Shift + F7 to open the Thesaurus. My new favorite function key! Lots of great formatting, selection, and navigation shortcuts here, too.§  Excel 2010. (shortcuts) Control + Shift + : enters the current time. Control + Shift + & adds a border around the selected cells.§  OneNote 2010. (shortcuts) I've fallen in love with the ability to move the current paragraph or selected paragraphs up or down in a document by pressing Alt + Shift + up- or down-arrow.§  Outlook 2010. (shortcuts) Enter Control + Shift + I to switch to your Inbox (or Control + Shift + O to move to your Outbox).§  Thunderbird. (shortcuts) Press F8 to toggle the message pane on and off; press T to jump to the next unread thread.§  Windows Media Player 12. (shortcuts) Alt + Enter toggles full-screen video.§  Adobe Photoshop CS5. (shortcuts) Adobe is kind enough to let you use theirs or build your own shortcuts right in the program.With a little Googling, you can find more lists of shortcuts for most any program you use regularly.

Better than shortcuts: Windows Aero tricks

First introduced in Windows Vista, the Windows Aero interface comes of age in Windows 7 and is part of all editions except Starter and Home Basic. Critically, most Windows 7 PCs actually have the horsepower to run Aero smoothly (many Vista users were chagrined to learn their computer either wouldn't support Aero or ran sluggishly), and new usability features make Aero much more than a pretty face.

You're probably already familiar with many of the Windows 7 interface effects, especially Aero Peek, but others, like Shake, are relatively obscure. If you haven't discovered these tricks, you're really missing out.

Yes, they're mouse shortcuts rather than keyboard shortcuts (and most have keyboard equivalents), but give them a try. Sometimes you have your hand on the mouse or trackpad already, which makes these mouse tricks faster than keyboard combinations to access. And they're much more fun.§  Peek. Hovering over a program icon in the taskbar gives you a thumbnail preview of open windows for that program.§  Shake. Click and hold your main window on the screen, and then "shake" it with your mouse to minimize or restore all other windows. This shortcut lets you focus on the task at hand. It works like the Windows key + Home combination.§  Flip 3D. This trick is way cooler than Alt+Tab: holding down the Windows key while repeatedly pressing Tab visually flips you through your open windows. (See Figure 2.) To flip backward, hold down the Shift key, too.§  Snap. Drag the title bar of a window to the top of the screen to maximize, or drag it to the right or left edge of the screen until an outline of the window appears to make it fill the right or left half of the screen. The latter maneuver makes it a snap to arrange two windows side by side. This is the mouse equivalent of Windows key + left- or right-arrow.
Figure 2. Windows Aero Flip 3D lets you visually sift through open windows.

If Aero effects are not presently working on your Windows 7 installation (or only partially working), you may not have the horsepower to run the full Aero interface. Or you may need to enable Aero effects because they depend on your Windows Experience Index.

To enable Aero (or check your ability to run it), go to Control Panel/System & Security/System and run or refresh the Experience Index. Then choose Advanced system settings/Advanced/Performance settings to see what Aero effects are enabled for your system.

If not all effects are enabled, click Custom and check the additional effects you want to use. If these effects perform poorly, you can always go to the same settings to disable them.

How to play God and create program shortcuts

If you spend any time following Windows news, you've probably read one or more of the recent stories on the Web about the so-called GodMode, the Windows 7 tweak du jour. This is nothing more than a searchable/clickable list (see Figure 3) of all system and Control Panel tasks, produced when you create a special folder. (Ed Bott describes similar shortcuts in one of his blogs.)

GodMode has no extra powers or capabilities. But it does let you easily assign keyboard shortcuts to any task in the list, which is undeniably cool.

Figure 3. The God Mode folder contains a searchable list of system tasks.

So you could create keyboard commands for tasks such as adjusting your monitor resolution, showing hidden files and folders, blocking or allowing Internet Explorer pop-ups, or viewing network connections.

To do so, simply create a folder on your desktop with a name and a globally unique identifier (GUID) number, such as GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}. (Warning: Creating a God Mode folder reportedly crashes 64-bit Vista systems. Use at your own risk in any OS but Windows 7.)

Next, open the folder and right-click the setting for which you want to make a shortcut. Finally, right-click the newly created shortcut, choose Properties/Shortcut, and enter your choice of key sequences to invoke it. Press Apply and close the dialog box.

When you create your own sequences, try to stay away from anything already used by Windows or by your main programs. The Control + Shift + Function key territory is relatively uncharted.

Note that you can use this last trick to create keyboard shortcuts for any programs or documents you use frequently, not just the GodMode tasks. Simply right-click the program name in the Start menu and choose Properties/Shortcut/Shortcut key. Do the same for documents by first creating a clickable shortcut and then a keyboard shortcut.

Using KeyText and AutoHotKey for shortcuts

Want even more shortcuts? Start rolling your own with a keyboard macro utility. These apps let you create standard shortcuts not only for menu items but also for sequences of actions, including tasks such as entering text and clicking buttons in a dialog box.

Macro utilities for Windows 7 are not as plentiful as they used to be for XP. (And my all-time favorite, QuicKeys, has not been updated for Vista or Windows 7.) But I found a couple that do the job for little or no money.

The first is MJMSoft's KeyText 3 (U.S. $29.95, info page). KeyText (see Figure 4) is an amazingly versatile program that can automate tasks such as opening your e-mail program and creating a new message using an e-mail address you've selected in another program.

It even supports regular expressions and if/then/else logic, so you can conduct search-and-replace operations or batch-file renaming, as well as perform different actions that depend on the result of a search.

Figure 4. KeyText 3's macro menu can be invoked from the system tray or via a hotkey. You can also assign direct hotkeys to any item.

Learning how to harness all this power requires a little work, but you can use both the contextual help and a very good PDF manual (albeit one not updated since Vista). You'll have no trouble learning simple tasks such as assigning trigger text to an action. A trial version of this software is available.

AutoHotKey (info page) is another versatile option for creating your own shortcuts. This free and open-source utility requires significantly more effort to learn and use than KeyText, but it has a very active community forum where you can get help quickly; it also has good documentation.

AutoHotKey is basically a macro scripting language that requires you to write simple programs for your shortcuts using a text editor like NotePad. After saving your shortcuts with the .ahk extension, you can then run them in the background by double-clicking them, or you can set them as startup items.

AutoHotKey's command list (page) is quite versatile, and programmers are likely take to it in a flash. The rest of us can get by with the included AutoScriptWriter macro recording utility, which — as advertised — "watches where you type and what you click, and keeps track of which window is active."

KeyText is considerably easier to use than AutoHotKey, and both powerfully fulfill almost every Windows 7 automation need. Even so, there's room for a simpler utility with a great graphical user interface, such as the old QuicKeys. If you know of one, please tell us in the Lounge. In the meantime, try out some of the preprogrammed suggestions above.

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Apple’s malware challenge: Usability as its security world changes

Apple’s security reality is changing right before our eyes and the company’s response will be telling. The toughest challenge will be shutting down hackers while keeping its trademark usability in tact.

Steve Jobs & Co. is known for creating devices that can spur gadget lust with just a mere rumor. Apple customers for years have taken the view—inspired by the company’s commercials—that its software is safer. If you have a Mac there’s no need for anti-virus software. You’re secure.

The reality is Apple enjoyed security by obscurity. Its market share wasn’t worth the attention from hackers. Now Apple is worth the attention. Where’s the glory in taking out a smaller computing player when you can take out the big dog—Microsoft?

As a result of Apple’s lack of hacker interest, the company could talk about being more secure even as it tended to rewrite QuickTime and plug security holes every time it launched a new product or generated buzz. While you were playing with your latest greatest Apple software release the company would patch vulnerabilities.

Here’s Apple’s chain of events over the last month:

  • Mac Defender malware attacks Apple users.
  • Apple remains mostly silent and tries to thread the customer service needle.
  • Apple then announces a fix and that a future update will put Mac Defender to bed with an update.
  • Evil doers launch a new renamed version just a few hours later. The new malware is renamed (predictable) and split into two parts, a downloader that delivers a payload similar to Mac Defender (not so predictable).

Does any of this sound familiar? It should. Microsoft went through this same learning process with its security procedures. Microsoft had to button down its security operations and today is able to fend off a lot of attacks.

Ed Bott nailed the importance of these malware attacks against Apple when he said:

Apple appears to be treating this outbreak as if it were a single incident that won’t be repeated. They seriously underestimate the bad guys, who are not idiots. Peter James, an Intego spokeperson, told me his company’s analysts were “impressed by the quality of the original version.” The quick response to Apple’s move suggests they are capable of churning out new releases at Internet speeds, adapting their software and their tactics as their target—Apple—tries to put up new roadblocks.

If Apple plans to play Whack-a-Mole with these guys, they’re in for months of misery. Just ask any Windows security expert who was around in 2003 and 2004 when Microsoft was learning a similar painful lesson. If each reaction from Apple takes two or three weeks, the bad guys will make a small fortune and Mac users can count on significant pain and anguish.

Microsoft eventually got security religion, but there was a cost—usability. Vista’s most hated feature was UAC (user account control). Bott later noted that UAC was enough to drive any level-headed person to PC rage.

In a nutshell, Microsoft added a key security feature—and drove its users nuts. Apple naturally capitalized on Microsoft’s UAC flub.


This usability vs. security line is one Microsoft has been walking for years. If you use all three of the top Web browsers regularly—IE 9, Google Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox—you notice pretty quickly that IE 9 has more prompts and security features that can be annoying. I don’t doubt that IE 9 is the most secure browser around, but there are times I feel like I’m taking medicine that has a nasty taste to it.

It’s not like Apple hasn’t paid any attention to security. The biggest issue is that Apple seems to be underestimating what it is up against. Apple is just supposed to work. Security sometimes requires some inconvenience to users. If you build security in from the ground up, usability can suffer.

Apple’s trade-off will between security and UI will be its biggest challenge in the years ahead. If I were to guess, Apple’s Mac malware issues are just the warm-up act for bigger things.

  • Why not target Apple’s iOS, which is a dominant mobile OS?
  • Why not target iTunes and all of those credit card accounts on file?
  • Why not go for the glory of bringing Apple down?

In other words, Apple may have to spend some time talking security frameworks. That’s quite a sea change. If Apple can integrate hardware, software and more security into a package where the consumer doesn’t notice then it will have pulled off a great feat.

Final thought: One natural reaction to talking Apple security is to bring up Google’s Android. Android will be just as big of a hacker target and Google will have to respond to the same challenges as Apple. Ironically, Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 will have a free pass for a while. Why? Security by obscurity. Microsoft in mobile just isn’t big enough to matter.


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Microsoft Skype breaks open-source partnership

I told you so. I knew that Steve Ballmer could talk all he wanted about how Microsoft would continue to support non-Microsoft platforms, but that there was no way he’d actually do it. The first proof is here. Digium, the company behind the popular open-source Asterisk private-branch exchange (PBX) program, has announced that Skype has unilaterally ended its deal that allowed Asterisk to work with Skype.

Digium’s letter to its Asterisk users reads:

Skype for Asterisk will not be available for sale or activation after July 26, 2011.

Skype for Asterisk was developed by Digium in cooperation with Skype. It includes proprietary software from Skype that allows Asterisk to join the Skype network as a native client. Skype has decided not to renew the agreement that permits us to package this proprietary software. Therefore Skype for Asterisk sales and activations will cease on July 26, 2011.

This change should not affect any existing users of Skype for Asterisk. Representatives of Skype have assured us that they will continue to support and maintain the Skype for Asterisk software for a period of two years thereafter, as specified in the agreement with Digium. We expect that users of Skype for Asterisk will be able to continue using their Asterisk systems on the Skype network until at least July 26, 2013. Skype may extend this at their discretion.

Skype for Asterisk remains for sale and activation until July 26, 2011. Please complete any purchases and activations before that date.

It doesn’t require a genius to see what the Microsoft and Skype are doing. This summer Microsoft will be launching the Microsoft-hosted version of its Lync unified-communications server, aka Lync Online. Asterisk is a direct competitor to the entire Lync line. Need I say more?

While Microsoft still hasn’t explained how they’re going to integrate Skype’s rickety peer-to-peer (P2P) infrastructure with its server-based Lync server or its cloud-based Lync Online, it’s on their to-do list. What isn’t on MicroSkype’s to do list is supporting non-Microsoft owned and controlled platforms.

Skype’s Response:

Jennifer Caukin, a spokeswoman for Skype, has a different slant. Caukin said, “Skype made the decision to retire Skype for Asterisk several months ago, as we have prioritized our focus around implementing the IETF SIP [Session Initiation Protocol] standard in our Skype Connect solution. SIP enjoys the broadest support of any of the available signaling alternatives by business communications equipment vendors, including Digium.  By supporting SIP in favor of alternatives, we maximize our resources and continue to reinforce our commitment to delivering Skype on key platforms where we can meet the broadest customer demand.”

Related Stories:

Microsoft’s Lync Online: What’s coming when

How Microsoft, Skype, Nokia can rule: Cut out obscene data roaming rates abroad

Beyond Skype: VoIP Alternatives

How Skype does, and doesn’t, work

Microsoft’s Ballmer $7.7-Billion Skype Blunder

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Your email address says more about you than you think

It sounds simple enough, but I do worry that many of my generation don’t quite see things from a prospective employer’s perspective. I can, in all honesty, because to me an email address guarantees somebody’s relationship with a company, and can be used to prove an identity on behalf of an organisation.

Email has not gone out of fashion with the younger generation. Devices such as the iPhone and the BlackBerry have brought email directly into the hands of already-digitised young adults. Social networking increases, but email has remained steady and will increase exponentially throughout their university timeline – and onto their careerpath.

It’s the first thing they see

But more often than not, when you apply for a job, your name won’t stick out but your email address will. It’s the first public information they will see and first impressions count more than most would lead you to believe.

Email addresses can be used like social statuses. To have a *.gov.* email address signifies political importance, whereas certain *.edu addresses can automatically show academic credit. The domain you use shows who you are and what you do. If you’ve worked hard to get to the position where you have such an email address, then use it to your advantage.

Your email can pre-determine the outcome

There is no doubt you would have experienced the, “oh, you only go to Yale? Yah, darling, I go to Harvard Law” (and it by no means just applies to the products you use or buy). My university is a world leader in criminology and my degree will be far more in credit than its counterpart degree from Oxford, but Oxford has an international name for itself and trumps pretty much every other university in our meager little country.

Email addresses are the same. My * email address may not compare to one of * but it will. Harvard will take precedent over Kent, UCL or even NYU and Yale. It’s not to say everyone will act in the same way towards a person’s academic institution; but the one point of information will increase your chances.

It’s a university email address. That automatically shows a level of education that so many still don’t achieve. Any email address associated with a university or academic institution by *.ac.* or *.edu makes you look good from the word go. It can tell a lot about you without having to say a word.

But if you graduate from a lesser-to-a-higher institution such as NYU to post-graduate study at Harvard, use the Harvard email address when sending your resume. It looks better from the start, but don’t miss anything off your resume. The person about to employ you might have graduated at NYU themselves, for example.

Personal email accounts just look trashy

But they do!? The Oatmeal has a hilarious yet true insight into how email addresses translate your computer literacy. I agree in that Gmail accounts do look best from a personal perspective, and Hotmail does look a little bit “I still go on MySpace”, but as I’ve said before, if you wish to overcome the * stigma but still use the service – get a * or ** address which can also signify your citizenship status (ie. * for Canada).

Seeing as your email address can identify who you are and who you work for, or rather which organisation or institution you are associated with, those with their own-domain could be at an advantage if you are trying to make an impression.

But your own discretion is important. Identify who you want to work for, the type of people you are applying to, and which account you should use. It does make a difference, and it takes an element of common sense and third-person perspective to determine which email address to use.

And one last thought; if you are using your work email address to pursue other employment opportunities, make sure your current employer cannot read your email. It’s happened, and people can end up losing out altogether.

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