Nineteen Tips and Tricks

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Tips and Tricks: Windows XP
1. Control Inactive System Tray Icons
You don't have to hide or show all the icons in your system tray—you can control their
disappearing acts. Right-click on the taskbar and select Properties. Click on the checkbox next
to "Hide inactive icons" (if it's not checked by default), then click on the Customize button. For
each item on this list, you can choose "Hide when inactive," "Always hide," or "Always show"
options to decide what you'll see and when.

2. Fit More Icons on Your Desktop
If your screen is so cluttered with Word documents and program shortcuts that you can't see
the rolling meadows of your wallpaper, you don't need to move piles of stuff to the Recycling
Bin. Just change the amount of space between icons. Right-click on the desktop, select
Properties, then click on the Appearance tab, and click the Advanced button. In the "Item"
drop-down, scroll down to Icon Spacing (Horizontal) and Icon Spacing (Vertical); changing the
value in the "Size" field will move icons closer together (while increasing the number will move
them farther apart). When you're done, click OK. To make your existing icons follow these
rules, right-click on the desktop, select "Arrange Icons By" and then click Align to Grid, then go
back to the same menu and click "Auto Arrange."
3. Shut Down from Your Desktop
If you're trying to eliminate every extraneous mouse click, you can shut down your computer
with an icon on the desktop. Right-click on your desktop, click "New," and then click "Shortcut."
In the "Type the location of the item" field, type "shutdown -s -t 00" to give you a way to shut
down the computer immediately. (Change the -s to -r to create a reboot shortcut instead.)

4. Change What Programs Start When Windows Does
You can prevent a lot of apps forcing Windows into chilled-molasses boot times—without
uninstalling anything. Click Start, then "Run...," and type msconfig. This brings up the System
Configuration Utility window. Click on the Startup tab to see a list of all the apps slated to start
when you boot up Windows. Click the check mark next to any you don't want, and then click OK
to save your choices.
5. Type with an Onscreen Keyboard
Whether you have trouble with your hands or you just prefer using the mouse, typing with
Windows' onscreen keyboard can be a great convenience. Navigate to Start > All Programs >
Accessories > Accessibility, and click "On-Screen Keyboard." Click OK to clear the dialogue box
and then start "typing"—you can even change the settings to "press" keys just by hovering your
mouse over the letter you want (enable this feature by selecting "Typing Mode" from the
Settings menu).

6. No-wait Screen Savers
Don't want to wait for your screen saver to kick in? Create a shortcut to it just as you would for
any other program by hitting Windows key + F to search your computer and click on "All files
and folders." Type "*.scr" in the "All or part of the file name" field to find every screen saver file
on your computer. In the resulting list, right-click and drag the screen saver you want to your
desktop. Whenever you want it to start, just double-click its icon.

7. Create your own toolbar
You can turn a folder into a toolbar for quick and easy access to its contents. Right-click the
taskbar and choose 'Toolbars | New toolbar' from the menu. This launches the 'New toolbar'
Select the item that you want to use as a toolbar. If necessary, browse through 'My Documents'
or 'My Computer' to find the folder you want. Alternatively, click 'Make new folder' to create a
custom one. Click 'OK'. Your new toolbar will appear as a button on the taskbar.
Click this to see an expanding menu of its contents. Subfolders become their own expanding
menus. Select a file to open it in its associated application.

8. Cut the Start menu delay
There's a slight delay built into the Start menu to give you thinking time. If you know your way
around, you can shorten it with a Registry edit.
Open the Registry Editor by choosing 'Start | Run' and entering Regedit in the 'Open' bar, then
clicking 'OK'.
Now go to 'HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop'. Double-click the 'MenuShowDelay'
value and change it from the default 400 to a lower number of your choice.

9. Disable autorun for discs
Put a disc in your CD/DVD drive and you'll notice an appreciable lag as it spins up, even if
you're not just about to use it. If you don't always need your CDs and DVDs to launch
automatically when you insert them, the needless spinning up of the discs can slow your
machine down.
You can disable CD autorun by modifying this registry key:
'HKEY_LOCAL_ MACHINE\SYSTEM\Current ControlSet\Services\Cdrom'. Double-click the
'AutoRun Dword' value and set it to '0'. Change it to '1' to restore it.

10. Disable menu animation
You can turn off animated menus in Windows XP for faster navigation. In Regedit, open the key
'HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop' and create the string value 'MinAnimate'. Give it
a '0' value. To restore menu animations, delete this string value.

11. Reduce Hanging Time
By default, Windows waits for five seconds to allow time for any hung applications to be closed
properly as you shut down your computer. You can change this hanging time with a registry
Browse to 'HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop' and select the string entry called
'HungApp Timeout'. If you're using Vista, you'll need to create this entry. Right-click this and
choose 'Modify'.
The number is in milliseconds, so the default of 5,000 is a wait of five seconds. Simply choose a
lower number to shorten the wait time.

12. Remove text from icons
You can improve the general look of your PC's desktop by removing the names of shortcuts,
leaving the icons to speak for themselves. If you try renaming a desktop shortcut to a single
space, Windows XP won't let you.
However, you can force it to accept a space as the name by holding down [Alt] and typing 255
on the number pad. If you want multiple shortcuts to have blank names, you'll need to give
each one a different number of spaces to avoid them having identical names.

13. Create a mute shortcut
You can make a custom shortcut that mutes and unmutes your PC's sound by downloading a
small utility called Nircmd, which you can get from
Download and extract the file contents to 'My Documents'. Next, right-click the desktop and
choose 'New | Shortcut'. Enter the following for the shortcut location:
"C:\Documents and Settings\Owner\My Documents\nircmd\nircmd.exe" mutesysvolume 2.
Ensure that the path points to the location where you extracted the 'Nircmd.exe' file. Name the
shortcut 'mute_ unmute'. Double-click it to mute your speakers and do so again to turn them
back on.

14. Remove programs from the 'Open With' list
Stop programs appearing on the 'Open with' list when you're trying to open an unrecognised
Open Regedit and browse to HKEY_ CLASSES_ROOT\Applications', and you'll see a list of
programs that are installed on your PC as subkeys in the left-hand pane. To remove an
unwanted program from this list, select it and right-click in the right hand pane.
Choose 'New | String value'. Name it 'NoOpenWith'. Repeat for each application that you want
to remove from this list.

15. Correct file sorting
By default, a file named '2.jpg' will be sorted after one called '20.jpg'. Many people work around
this by starting single-digit numbers in file names with a leading zero, but you can change this
behaviour by making a Registry edit.
Browse to the Registry key
Create a new DWORD value and name it 'NoStrCmpLogical'. Right click and modify its value to
16. Add new 'Copy to' key
Add a 'Copy to folder' option to the right-click context menu so that you can quickly copy a file
by right-clicking it.
In the Registry Editor, browse to
'HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\AllFilesystemObjects\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers' and create a new
key called 'Copy to'. Change its default value to '{C2FBB630-2971-11d1-A18C-00C04FD75D13}'
and check it works in Windows.
You can also add a 'Move to folder' option in this way. From the same 'ContextMenuHandlers'
key, simply create a new key called 'Move to' and then change its default value to '{C2FBB631-
2971-11d1-A18C-00C04FD75D13}' to do this.

17. Skip Welcome Screen
You can choose to log into Windows automatically and bypass the welcome screen by making a
simple tweak. To do this, choose 'Start | Run' and enter control userpasswords2 into the 'Open'
bar. Click 'OK' to see a dialog showing each user installed on the PC.
Clear the box marked 'Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer'. Click
'OK'. Now restart your PC and you should go directly to your desktop.
18. Display shortcut keys
When you open a menu or My Computer window in XP, you can see what shortcut keys are
available by pressing [Alt] once - underlined letters will appear, and pressing that letter will
trigger the appropriate shortcut, whether it's ticking a box or selecting a button.
You can make these underlined letters appear automatically from the 'Appearance' tab under
the 'Desktop' control panel. Click the 'Effects' button and remove the tick next to the box
marked 'Hide underlined letters for keyboard navigation until I press the Alt key'. Click 'OK'

19. Say 'No to all' requests
When you're copying or moving a group of files, you'll sometimes be prompted to provide a
'Yes' or a 'Yes to all' response - if you need to give permission for a process to to overwrite
existing files, for example.
Choose the latter option and similar files that prompt the same question will be ignored in
future. But what if you want 'No to all' instead? There's no visible option, but you can select 'No
to all' by simply holding the [Shift] key as you click 'No'.

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