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Customize Your Environment

006 |

Add (or Delete) Standard Desktop Icons.  When you first install Windows XP, you won't see the My Computer, My Documents, Network Places, and Internet Explorer icons on your desktop.  To add any of these (or remove them later), right-click on any empty space on the desktop; choose Properties, the Desktop tab, and then the Customize Desktop button.  You'll see four boxes you can check or uncheck to add or remove the icons from the desktop, as well as options to change the look of each icon.

007 |

Back to a Better Search Feature.  The Windows XP search feature includes an annoying animated dog.  More annoying, it adds a step to the previous Windows search process, asking what you want to search for before you can enter search terms.  You can remove either or both of these annoyances.

Choose Start | Search to open an Explorer window with the Search Companion bar.  To get rid of the dog, choose Change Preferences in the options at the left side of the window, and choose Without an animated screen character.  To get rid of the extra step, choose Change Preferences, then Change files and folders search behavior, and then select the Advanced option.

008 |

Tweak UI: The Must-have Tool.  Tweak UI, an essential tool from Microsoft for customizing Windows, is one of several unsupported tools from Microsoft that make up PowerToys.  With it, you can set your system to log you on automatically at start-up, complete with password entry; set Windows to let applications steal focus or not; and specify how Windows should group applications on the taskbar when the grouping feature is enabled: less-used applications first, applications with the most windows open first, or grouping any applications with at least a specified number of windows open.  You can download TweakUI from www.microsoft.com (search for PowerToys).

009 |

A Customized Alt-Tab.  Another PowerToy you may want to download is Taskswitch (also available at www.microsoft.com; search for PowerToys), a replacement for the menu you see when using Alt-Tab to switch applications.  The tool adds a preview of the application window and the open page in it, if applicable.  This is particularly helpful when you have multiple sessions of an application open.

010 |

Create Your Own Toolbars.  You can make the Windows taskbar more useful by adding toolbars to it.  Right-click on the taskbar and select Toolbars to see choices for several built-in toolbars, including Address (see the "Navigation" section for more on this), Desktop, and Quick Launch.

But perhaps the most interesting option is New Toolbar, which lets you create a toolbar to get fast access to any folder, file, or URL.

Among other uses, creating a personal toolbar can be helpful for immediate access to a particular group of files - if you're working on a long-term project, for example, and want one-click access to all the files or subfolders in the project directory.

011 |

Customize Folder Columns.  You're probably already familiar with the basic View menu choices that let you see icons, tiles, a simple list, or a detailed list that includes columns for the size, file type, and date last modified.

Don't overlook the thumbnails view for folders with graphics or photos.  And be sure to look at the Choose Details option from the View menu, too; it lets you choose additional information including Artist (for music files) and Date Picture Taken and Dimensions (size in pixels) for photos.

Also, if you haven't already, be sure to experiment with the Show in Groups option (choose View | Arrange Icons By | Show in Groups).  This works with any basic view options except List.  To specify how to group the files and folders, choose from the items in the Arrange Icons By menu.  The fun part is that any detail you've specified in the Choose Details option will show up as a choice on the Arrange Icons By menu, so you can group files very flexibly.

012 |

Eliminate Balloon Tips in the Notification Area.  Most of the balloon tips tied to the notification area on the taskbar serve little or no purpose for experienced users; they're just distracting.  To turn off the tips, run the Registry editor and navigate to the subkey HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced.  (Always use caution when editing the Registry.  Any errors can cause system problems and data loss.)

Right-click on the right pane, create a new DWORD value, and name it EnableBalloonTips.  Then double-click on the new entry and give it a value of 0 (zero).  Close the Registry editor and restart Windows.

Note that this change will turn off all the balloon tips, which means that you may have to adjust some other options.  If, for example, you have Automatic Update set to notify you before downloading anything, notifications of critical updates won't be as obvious.  You may want to change your Automatic Update options or update manually.

013 |

Remove Hidden Windows Components.  If you've been looking for a way to remove Windows Messenger or other Windows components that don't show in the Add or Remove Programs applet, here's the secret.  Windows keeps a list of components in a file called Sysoc.inf in C:\Windows\Inf.  Some of the entries under the [Components] heading, among them the line for Messenger, include the word hide.  To make them visible to the Add or Remove Programs applet so that you can remove them, you have to delete the instruction to hide them.

First, make sure that Windows Explorer is set to display hidden files: In Windows Explorer, choose Tools | Folder Options, then the View tab, and set the option to Show hidden files and folders.  Also remove the check from the check box labeled Hide protected operating system files (Recommended).

After clicking OK, you can navigate to the C:\Windows\Inf folder.  Open Sysoc.inf in Notepad and find the line msmsgs=msgrocm.dll,OcEntry,msmsgs.inf,hide,7.  Delete the word hide, being careful to leave the commas.  Save and close the file.

Next, go to the Control Panel, choose Add or Remove Programs, and when the applet opens, choose Add/Remove Windows Components.  Windows Messenger should now appear in the list.  You can make other hidden components appear in the applet by following the same steps.

014 |

Disable Error Reporting to Microsoft.  If you'd rather not take the time to send error reports to Microsoft when things go wrong, you can disable the feature.  To turn it off, run Msconfig.  Choose the Services tab and remove the check from the Error Reporting Service check box.  Starting with the next time you reboot your system, the error-reporting service will no longer load.

015 |

Customize the Start Menu.  Configuring the Start menu to match your habits can help you work more smoothly in small but noticeable ways.  First, choose either the default Windows XP menu or the classic menu, which resembles earlier Windows Start menus: Right-click on the taskbar, choose Properties, then go to the Start menu tab and choose Start menu or Classic Start menu.

Whichever one you pick, follow up by choosing the Customize button that goes with it, and experiment with any options you don't understand.  Also, be sure to follow the suggestions for organizing the Start menu that we talk about in the Navigation section.

016 |

Customize the Send To Menu.  You can easily add entries to the Send To menu, invoked by right-clicking on a document, folder, or other item.  Navigate to C:\Windows\Sendto and create shortcuts to directories and applications where you might want to send an item.  Items added to the Sendto directory will appear on the Send To menu.

017 |

Use Themes in Windows 2000.  There isn't any Themes Control Panel applet in Windows 2000, but there is still a desktop themes tool.  Just click the Start menu, select Run, and, in the Open box, type Themes and hit Enter.  You can then configure your desktop theme as you wish and click OK when you're done.

018 |

Enable Auto-complete in the Command Prompt.  To do this, you must be logged on with Administrator rights.  Run Regedit and navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SOFTWARE/Microsoft/Command Processor.  Right-click on the CompletionChar DWORD and choose Modify.  Change its value to 9.

After you reboot, the next time you're in a command prompt, try typing cd followed by the first letter of the folder you're interested in and then hit the Tab key.  You'll see the first directory that begins with your letter; continue to hit Tab, to scroll through all of the folders with your designated letter.  This trick works with files and folders and various commands, such as rd and copy.

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