Thursday, July 28, 2005

Customizing the Explorer Folder View

When using the Windows Explorer, you will notice that you can view your files several different ways (such as, by: thumbnails, icons, and details). The Details view is the most customizable view, all the columns in this view, can be added/removed, resized, or rearranged.

To customize the different parts of the Detailed view:
  • Resizing the columns: place the mouse on the vertical line that is displayed between the columns. Click and hold the left mouse button down while you drag the mouse back and fourth to adjust the column size.
  • Add new columns: display more information about your files. Right-click on the column heading and select or unselect the different column headers. Each header will display different types of information (such as: file size, creation date, modification date, etc.).
  • Moving columns: if you don't like the order that the columns are being displayed, you can change it by left-clicking on the column and holding down the mouse button. Drag the column to a new position, then just let the button go when you're done.

Rolling Back Device Drivers

One of the several system recovery features that Windows XP includes, is the ability to 'roll back' device drivers. Simply put, that means you can restore the previous device driver that you had installed on your system by pressing a button.

Now why would you want to do this? There are a few reasons. For example, if your system has been working properly for a long time, and then you decide to install a new device driver to take advantage of a new feature. If that device driver conflicts with something, or is just buggy then by pressing the roll back button, you can restore your previous driver.

Note: This feature can be accessed in Safe Mode.

To roll back a device driver to a previous version:
  • Right-click on 'My Computer' and select 'Manage.'
  • Click the Hardware tab.
  • Press the 'Device Manager' and double-click on the device whose drivers you want to roll back.
  • Click the Driver tab
  • Press the 'Roll Back Driver' button.
Windows will revert to the most recent saved driver after you restart your system.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Make Your Favorites Web Site Available Offline

If you have a web site that you like to visit, but you're not always online where you can read it when you want (such as being on an airplane). There is still away to access these sites, and read them while you're not connect to the Internet.

This feature is called 'offline browsing', and it allows you to store cached versions of the web pages on your local computer so that you can view the site when you want.

To enable this feature:
  • Navigate to the Web page that you want to make available for offline browsing.
  • From the Favorites menu, select 'Add to Favorites...'.
  • Select the folder where you want to store the shortcut to the web site, but before you press the OK button check the 'Make available offline' checkbox.
To further customize your offline browsing options:
  • Press the Customize button, then press the 'Next>' button
  • If the Web page contains links, you can make the links available offline by selecting the Yes radio button. From here You can also specify how deep I.E. should go when making copies of these linked Web pages available offline. It is not advisable to set this number too high, because the cached web pages will quickly consume a lot of disk space. Press the 'Next>' button to continue.
  • From here you can specify how you want to synchronize the offline Web pages (i.e.: manually or according to a schedule). Leave the default option selected and press the 'Next>' button.
  • On this page you can specify a username and password if a site requires it.
  • Press the Finish button, then press the OK button in the 'Add Favorite' dialog box.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Prevent Automatic Program Grouping in the Taskbar

In XP, similar windows and programs will automatically be grouped together into a single icon in the taskbar. If you don't like this behaviour, you can turn it off pretty easily.
  • Right-click an empty area of the taskbar or the Start button and select 'properties.
  • Click the Taskbar tab.
  • Uncheck the 'Group similar taskbar buttons' option.
  • Press the OK button

Monday, July 25, 2005

The 'Send To' Command

Have you ever used the 'Send To' command? Just in case you have not, the 'Send To' command is a context menu item that allows you to send files to different locations on your system (such as: the desktop, an email message, etc...).

Just in case you never heard of a 'context menu', that is the menu that is displayed when you right-click an icon in Windows. The context menu selections will change varying upon the object you click on.

Trying It Out
Try right-clicking an file on your desktop, you should see a menu item that says 'Send To'. If you select one of the items from the submenu, it will send that object to that location.

For example, if you're exploring your hard drive and you find a file that you will need to work on it later, you use the 'Send To > Desktop" command. This will place a shortcut to the file on your desktop, so that you can easily access it later.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Show Control Panels as a Menu

You can quickly access the control panel applets from the Start menu without having to open their folder. You can make the control panel applets appear in a submenu (similar to 'All Programs').

To add this functionality to the Start menu, do the following:
  • Right-click the Start button and choose Properties.
  • Press the Customize button to the right of the 'Start menu' option.
  • Click on the Advanced tab
  • In the 'Start menu items' list box, find 'Control Panel' and select the 'Display as menu' option.
  • Press the OK button twice when done.
Now when you go under the Start menu, you will see a new submenu called 'Control Panel'. All you have to do is click the menu to open it, then select control panel you want to open.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Making Your Mouse More Responsive

Have you ever needed or wanted to increase your mouse's responsiveness? It's a pretty easy task to increase the sensitivity of it through its control panel.
  • Open the Control Panels folder from the Start menu.
  • Double-click the Mouse control panel
  • Click 'Pointer Options' tab.
  • Under the Motion section, under 'Select a pointer speed' there is a slider that you can use increase or decrease the overall responsiveness and speed of your mouse.
  • You can check the 'Enhance pointer precision' checkbox to control whether the mouse pointer has an acceleration or deceleration curve to its movements.
  • Press the OK button when done.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Relocate the 'My Documents' Folder

Do you need to move your 'My Documents' folder from its default location (i.e.: C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\My Documents) to another drive and/or folder? To change the location of this folder:
  • Right-click on the 'My Documents' icon on the desktop or in the Start menu, and select Properties.
  • In the Target tab, in the field in the middle of the dialog enter the new path for the location your 'My Documents' folder.
  • Press the OK button when done.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Add the Administrator Tools to the Start Menu

If you use the Administrative Tools a lot, you can place it at the top level of your Start menu.
  • Right-click the Start button and select 'Properties.'
  • Press the Customize button next to the Start menu option.
  • Click the Advanced tab.
  • In the 'Start menu items' box, scroll down until you find the 'System Administrative Tools' entry.
  • Select the option to 'Display on the All Programs menu and the Start menu.'

Monday, July 18, 2005

Quickly Close Multiple Items in the Taskbar

Have you ever needed to quickly close multiple applications or windows in your taskbar. Hold down the CTRL key and click on each item in the taskbar you want to close. Then right-click on any of the items that you selected and choose 'Close group'. This will close all selected applications and windows.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Working With the Briefcase (Offline File Access)

Windows XP contains a feature called the Briefcase that allows you to synchronize files with just about any type of removable media (such as a USB drive). All you have to do is create a Briefcase on your USB drive, then copy files from your local computer into it that you want to take with you.

Then when you travel to the remote computer with your USB drive, all you have to do is plug it in, then open up the Briefcase folder and work with the files within it. Then when you get back to your regular computer you can synchronize files again by pressing one button, to keep the files on your regular computer up-to-date.

Create a New Briefcase
To create a new Briefcase on a removable media device, connect your USB drive to the computer and open it up. Right-click on an empty area in the new window that opens up and select 'New>Briefcase' in the menu. Double-click on the Briefcase icon, then drag the documents that you want to take with you into the new window that opens up. This will then create copies of your original files, and store them in the Briefcase folder.

When you need to work on the documents on another computer. Just put your USB drive into that computer, open the Briefcase folder and work on the files within that window. Don't try to move these documents out of the briefcase window or the links to the original files will be lost preventing you from easily synchronizing these files when you get back to your regular computer.

Synchronizing Your Files
When you get back to your regular computer, put your USB drive back into it and open up the Briefcase folder on it. You will notice that the status of any file that you changed within the Briefcase folder will show that the file needs updating. Also note that if you changed files on your local computer, but didn't change the files in the briefcase these files will also get updated.

To synchronize all the files in your briefcase and your local computer, press the 'Update all items' link from the 'Briefcase tasks' section on the left pane of the window. A dialog will display showing which documents need to be updated. To confirm the changes press the Update button to synchronize all the files.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Disabling the Clicking Sound in Internet Explorer

Some people get really irritated with the constant clicking noise that Internet Explorer makes when navigating through web pages by clicking links. If you want to turn this clicking noise off, it's pretty easy to do.
  • Go to 'Control Panel'
  • Double-click on the 'Sounds and Audio Devices' control panel
  • Click the Sounds tab.
  • Scroll down in the 'Program events' list until you find the 'Windows Explorer' section, then highlight 'Start Navigation.'
  • Change the 'Sounds' drop down menu at the bottom of the dialog to '(None).'
  • Press the OK button when done.
This will stop the clicking noise as you navigate different web pages.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Make Firefox Remember Passwords

Some web sites can include special tag (such as the: autocomplete='off') in their pages to tell browsers not to remember passwords for that site (for example, Gmail and Yahoo Mail). Most browsers honor this tag, and don't ask if you want to remember a password for that site even if you have this feature turned on.

This can be annoying if you rely on this feature to help you quickly move from web site to web site without having to remember different user names, and passwords. Well, I was frustrated and found a solution to my problem.

There is a bookmarklet (its a bookmark with some JavaScript in it) that allows you to reset this tag on the web page to allow your browser to remember the password for a site. This bookmarklet has worked pretty well for me the few times I have used it.

To install this bookmarklet, I would suggest dragging it to your bookmark link bar and leaving it there. Then to use it, when you go to a page that won't allow you to remember the login password, just click on the bookmarklet before you enter your password.

For your shopping convenience, I have included the bookmarklet here. Just drag the link to your bookmark toolbar and let go.

  • This bookmarklet won't work on every site.
  • If you're going to use the passwords autocomplete feature in your browser, it is highly recommended that you password protect it.
  • Never store passwords to sites that contain financial, or confidential information using the password autocomplete feature. You never know how good the encryption is used to store the passwords.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Using MouseKeys

Have you ever come across a Windows computer where the mouse is missing, or not functioning. This can make it extremely difficult to control the computer, even if you use keyboard shortcuts there are things that still require a mouse.

There is a feature in XP called MouseKeys which is part of the accessibility utilities. This program enables you to use the numbers on the keypad to control the mouse pointer. To activate the MouseKeys functionality, press CTRL + left SHIFT + NUM LOCK keys all at the same time.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Increase the Number of Frequently Used Programs Displayed in the Start Menu

In the Windows XP Start menu, there are generally six program icons in the bottom left section that will change depending on how often you use them. If you have several programs that you use on a frequent basis you might find that you want to increase the amount of icons that can be displayed.

  • Right-click the Start menu and choose Properties.
  • Press the Customize... button to the right of the 'Start menu' option.
  • Change the 'Select an icon size for programs' option to 'Small icons'.
  • In the 'Number of programs on Start menu' set it to a value of "10". This value can be set to whatever you want, but depending on your screen resolution you might not be able to fit more than 15 or more icons.
  • Press the OK button when done.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Internet Explorer Favorites in the Start Menu

Want to add your Internet Explorer's Favorites to the Start menu?
  • Right-click the Start menu, and select Properties.
  • Press the Customize button.
  • Click the Advanced tab
  • In the 'Start menu items' list, scroll down until you reach the 'Favorites menu' check the box.
  • Press the OK buttons
Now when you open the Start menu, you will see Favorites menu.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Making Windows Run Faster

Windows XP uses several visual effects such as animation, fading menus and more to try to enhance the user experience. While these graphical effects make Windows look pretty, they require extra CPU processing time and RAM to create them.

On an older computer which have slower CPUs and less RAM, these effects can slow down your computer. So help improve performance, you might want to try turning some or all the effects off. I am not going to promise a big improvement in your system's overall performance, but it could help.

To disable these visual effects, do the following:
  • In the Start menu, right-click 'My Computer' and select Properties.
  • In the Properties dialog box, click the Advanced tab.
  • Under the Performance section, press the Settings button.
Play around with the settings and find which ones give you the best balance of attractive visual effects vs. enhanced performance for your computer.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Make My Computer use Explore View by Default

The title of this article might be a bit confusing, but I hope that the next sentence will explain it better. When you open 'My Computer' under the Start menu, it defaults to a task view. This means in the My Computer window when displaying files and folders, on the right there is a set of tasks that can be performed on each item in the window (such as renaming, moving, or deleting a file).

Some people hate the Task view because it consumes too much screen space that can be used for other things, such as displaying more icons. Personally I really like the Explorer view, this view allows you to quickly access files by expanding and contracting folders by pressing the plus (+) or minus (-) icons next to these icons.

To make My Computer default to the Explorer view instead of the Tasks view, follow the instructions below:
  • From the Start menu open 'My Computer'.
  • From the Tools menu, select 'Folder Options...'
  • Click the 'File Types' tab.
  • In the 'Registered file types' list, find the item that says '(NONE) Folder' and click on it.
  • Press the Advanced button.
  • Click 'Explore' in the 'Actions list'.
  • Press the 'Set Default' button.
  • Press the OK button.
  • Press the Close button.
Now every time when you open My Computer, it will open in the Explorer view.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Windows XP: Using File Compression to Save Space

If you're running low on hard disk space, you can use Windows XP's built-in file compression feature which is a part of the NTFS file system to get more room. The great thing about this feature is that it automatically compresses and decompresses the files on-the-fly for you.

To activate file compression on a file or folder:
  • Right-click the item you want to compress, and select Properties.
  • Press the Advanced button at the bottom of the dialog.
  • Check the 'Compress contents to save disk space' checkbox, and press the OK button twice.
  • You will then be prompted to choose to apply the compression to just a file or folder (which includes any subfolders and files within it), then press the OK button to continue.
Windows will then compress the contents of the file or folder, so this can take a while (this process will take longer on a slower PC). You should notice when you view the file or folder in the Windows Explorer or on the desktop, the text of the item will now be a blue color to indicate that it has been compressed.

Note: Avoid trying to compress files that are already compressed (such as: audio, image, and video files), this can sometimes create files that are larger then the original.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Check Your System If a DVD Decoder is Installed

Do you want to know if your system has the DVD decoder software installed in it so that you can play DVDs inside the Windows Media Player. To check if your system has this software installed on it, follow the steps below:
  • From the Start menu, select Run..., type "dvdupgrd /detect" and press the OK button.
This utility will display a pop-up dialog with information about the decoding software installed on your computer. If no software is detected, you will need to install a 3rd party DVD decoding software package. For more information on this subject, see MSKB 306331.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Microsoft RAW Image Thumbnailer and Viewer for Windows XP (New Utility)

Microsoft recently added a new utility to the Windows XP PowerToys collection, its called the 'RAW Image Thumbnailer and Viewer' . This utility adds new functionality to the Windows Explorer, it allows you to see thumbnails, view the file's meta data, preview, and print photographs stored using the RAW image file format. This is a digital image format that is primarily used by most Canon and Nikon digital cameras.

Digital photographs stored in the RAW image format are stored uncompressed, meaning that no image quality is lost due to compression (such as JPEG image files). Since these files are uncompressed, they will also be several times larger then the same version of the files that is compressed.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Windows XP PowerToys (Part 5)

Today's featured PowerToys are:
Power Calculator [Download]
With this PowerToy you can graph, evaluate functions, and perform many different types of conversions. This is really a very versatile and powerful calculator. To access this utility, go under the 'Start menu|All Programs|PowerToys for Windows XP|Slide Show Wizard'.

Taskbar Magnifier [Download]
Magnifies part of the screen and displays it the taskbar. To access this tool right-click an empty area of the taskbar, and then select 'Toolbars > Taskbar Magnifier'.

Open Command Window Here [Download]
Adds an 'Open Command Window Here' context menu option on file system folders. This allows you to quickly open a command window at the location of the selected folder. To access this tool right-click a folder, and select 'Command Prompt Here'.