Search the Catalog
Windows Me Annoyances

Windows Me Annoyances

By David A. Karp
March 2001
0-596-00060-X, Order Number: 060X
472 pages, $29.95

Chapter 2
Basic Explorer Coping Skills

The face of Windows Me that users see most is Windows Explorer, commonly known simply as Explorer. Explorer (Explorer.exe) is the primary shell interface, handling the desktop, the Start Menu, the Recycle Bin, Control Panel, My Computer, the Explorer window, and about a million other things.

Given the amount of time we spend starting programs, finding files, copying folders, and configuring Windows, it makes sense to invest a little time not only to find better ways to accomplish these tasks, but also to learn how to configure Windows to work more like the way we think. In addition, you can make your experience with Windows a lot more pleasurable by giving it a little personality and reducing the various headache-causing annoyances--think of all the money for codeine you'll save.

The ideal user interface should adapt to you, rather than the other way around. One of the primary goals of this book is to show you how to change the way Windows looks, feels, and operates so that it is more closely in tune with the way you think and work. However, there are some fundamental features of the interface that simply can't be changed, such as the way icons and folders are drag-dropped.

There are times, on the other hand, when the design of certain basic Windows functionality is so frustrating that it makes you want to tear your hair out: such as how accessing the Search tool from Explorer disables the folder tree, forcing you either to open a new Explorer window or to turn the folder tree back on (select View, Explorer Bar, and then Folders), which incidentally is the only entry in this menu without a keyboard shortcut. (See "Fix the Search Tool" later in this chapter for several workarounds.)

So, it is the slightly revised goal of all the solutions in this book to arrive at the best compromise between the ideal solution and what is actually possible, while maintaining the lowest practical "annoyance coefficient."

Many of the topics discussed throughout this book require knowledge of the Windows Registry, with the exception of this chapter--I figured you'd want to jump right in. In addition to the Explorer-related tips and tricks, many of the topics of this chapter document the subtle interface differences in Windows Me from previous releases--it's all good stuff. Chapter 3, The Registry, covers the Registry thoroughly, and all subsequent material assumes a working knowledge of the Registry.

Lastly, this chapter assumes a basic working knowledge of Windows: files and folders, double-clicking, right-clicking, using menus, and so on.

Coping with Explorer

Explorer is the all-encompassing program that provides the basic working interface to all modern versions of Windows, allowing you to manage the files, folders, and applications on your system. The Windows desktop, the My Computer window, the single-folder windows, the Tree View window, and the Start Menu are all part of the Explorer application. However, in most Windows lore and in most of the solutions in this book, the term Explorer refers specifically to the window that has the Tree View shown in the left pane; it is opened by selecting Windows Explorer from the Start Menu or by launching Explorer.exe from the Start Menu's Run command. All other windows used to browse folders--those windows accessible from the My Computer window--are commonly referred to as folder windows or the single-folder view.

In reality, Explorer with the folder view and single-folder windows are exactly the same, except for the folder tree pane, which can be turned on or off by selecting Explorer Bar from the View menu and then selecting Folders. The distinction in this book is purely for semantics and casual conversation.

The good news is that files, folders, and most other system objects are copied, moved, opened, closed, and deleted in virtually the same way in all of these places. Interface consistency is one of the most important aspects of interface design, but, unfortunately, often contradicts other factors, such as intuition and historical consistency. For example, drag-drop in Explorer behaves differently when you're dragging from one drive to another (d: to c:) than when dragging from one folder to another on the same drive (c:\docs to c:\files). Why the inconsistency? Because that's the way it has been done in Windows for years, and fixing it would likely confuse too many users. (At least from the perspective of the company that otherwise would have to answer all the technical support calls.)

I've found that Windows Me has the best interface consistency of any Microsoft operating system I've seen. In Windows 98, for example, keystrokes that worked in one situation in Explorer didn't work in other situations, and this has been fixed in Windows Me. Surprisingly, Microsoft has also done away with the "drag an EXE file to create a shortcut" behavior that nobody liked; it, too, was inconsistent with the way other files were drag-dropped. Kudos to Microsoft.

One of Explorer's primary annoyances--and, paradoxically, one of its essential features--is the mandatory use of special combinations of keystrokes and mouse clicks to perform simple operations, such as using the Ctrl key to copy a file or having to make sure the source and destination folders are both visible before trying to copy or move an object. This behavior, for the most part, can't be changed--but there's enough flexibility in it to accomplish just about anything you want.

Exploring Basic Explorer Settings

Many aspects of the way Windows works can be controlled by changing certain settings, which are scattered throughout several different dialog boxes. The key here is to configure Windows the best you can to make it behave the way you expect it to--which, of course, depends on your level of experience and how you work. The Folder Options dialog box is a good place to start.

Select Folder Options from Explorer's Tools menu (or double-click Folder Options in Control Panel). The first page of the Folder Options dialog box, shown in Figure 2-1, allows you to control four different options--their connection is that they all affect the way Explorer looks.

Figure 2-1. The Folder Options dialog box is a good place to start messing around with some basic Explorer settings
Figure 1

Tips for various Folder Options settings

What it comes down to, of course, is that you should use what works best for you. Don't blindly accept the defaults just because it came out of the box that way.

Helpful navigation keystrokes

The following tips assume you're using standard double-clicking; if not, just replace "double-click" with "single-click."

Move or Copy Files at Will

Intuitively, when one drags an object from one place on the screen to another, it would seem reasonable that the object would then appear in the new place and disappear from the old place. In other words, what happens to a file when you drag it from the left side of your desktop to the right side of your desktop should be exactly the same as what happens when you drag a file from one folder to another or from a floppy disk to your hard drive.

The problem is that drag-drop is handled differently in different situations. The decision of what action to take in each situation was made by a committee in Redmond, Washington. Odds are you didn't have a personal representative at that meeting.

So, our aim here is to force Windows to work the way we think, keeping in mind the practical limitations of the operating system. Here's the way it works (note that "object" is a file, folder, shortcut, system object, or anything else with an icon that can be knocked around with your mouse):

The best way to cope with this confusion is to use a combination of certain keystrokes and the right mouse button to ensure the desired results every time you drag an object. That way, you don't have to try to predict what will happen based on some rules you likely won't remember. All the keystrokes are explained in the previous section, "Helpful navigation keystrokes."

Figure 2-2. Drag files with the right mouse button for more control
Figure 2

To aid in learning the keystrokes, notice that the mouse cursor changes depending on the action taken. A small plus sign [+] appears when copying, and a curved arrow appears when creating a shortcut. If you see no symbol, the object will be moved. This visual feedback is very important; it can eliminate a lot of stupid mistakes if you pay attention to it.

There is no way to set the default action when dragging files and therefore no way to avoid using keystrokes or the right mouse button to achieve the desired results. Even if there were a way to change the default behavior, you probably wouldn't want to do it. Imagine if someone else sat down at your computer and started dragging icons: oh, the horror.

Explorer's Undo command (in the Edit menu, as well as available by right-clicking in an empty area of Explorer or the desktop) allows you to undo the last few file operations.[4] If you've copied, moved, or renamed one or more objects, the command will read Undo Copy, Undo Move, or Undo Rename, respectively. Additionally, if your Recycle Bin is configured to store files, Undo Delete may also appear. However, if you're doing a lot of copying, moving, and deleting of files, it's hard to know to which particular operation the Undo command refers at any given time. The easiest way to tell is to click and hold the mouse button over the Undo menu item and look in the status bar (select Status Bar from the View menu if it's not visible), which will tell you exactly with which files the operation dealt. This, of course, is not available on the desktop, but luckily, the Undo command works the same regardless of the folder from which you use it.

Copy or Move to a Specified Path

To copy or move a file in Windows by drag-dropping, you must have both the source folder and the destination folder open and visible. There is no provision for specifying a destination folder with the keyboard when copying or moving a file, making these simple tasks that much more difficult for many of us. To get around this limitation, making file management far less awkward, follow the upcoming steps.

Solution 1: Drag patiently

  1. Open Explorer (with the Tree View), and navigate to the source folder.
  2. Drag one or more items over the tree pane on the left, then hold the mouse cursor over the visible branch of the destination folder. After two or three seconds, Explorer will automatically expand the branch and make the subfolders visible.

    If the destination folder you're looking for is buried several layers deep, you'll have to wait for Explorer to expand each level. This requires a steady hand and a lot of patience. It's an improvement over earlier versions of Windows, but it's usually quicker and easier to open the folders before you start to drag.

    This works on network drives as well, even when the host computer (the machine on which the remote folders are located) is running Windows 95 or NT and doesn't support the "autoexpand" feature natively.

Solution 2: Use copy and paste

This solution isn't exactly intuitive, but it can be convenient if you don't have a mouse or if your screen size limits the number of open windows:

  1. Select the file you want to copy, right-click on it, and select Copy to copy the file or Cut to move the file.[5]

    If the file is cut, its icon will appear faded (as though it were a hidden file). If the file is copied, there will be no visual distinction.

  2. Open the destination folder (or go to the desktop), right-click on an empty area (or open the Edit menu), and select Paste. Whether the file is copied or moved--or a shortcut is made--depends on the same criteria as if you had dragged and dropped the item. Unfortunately, modification keystrokes (Ctrl, Shift, and Alt) have no effect here, so you'll probably need a little trial-and-error.

    Note that if you cut a file and never get around to pasting it, or cut a second file without pasting the first, the first file that was cut is not deleted as you might expect. This is inconsistent with the way that information is cut and pasted from application to application, which is what most of us are used to.[6] If you cut text from one application and don't bother pasting it, the text is lost. Cut, copy, and paste in the context of files work with file references rather than the files themselves, so unless you cut a file and then paste it into the Recycle Bin, there isn't much danger of losing anything. Note that you can abort any cut operation by pressing the Esc key, which has little visual effect other than returning "faded" file icons to their normal state.

Solution 3: Use a third-party add-on

Creative Element Power Tools (available at http://www.creativelement.com) comes with a handy Copy To/Move To utility. Just right-click on any file or folder, select Move To or Copy To, and then type or point to the destination folder. You can also create new folders on the fly; the software even remembers the last dozen destinations you specified.

Make a Duplicate of a File or Folder

Windows lets you copy and move files from one folder to another by dragging them with different combinations of keystrokes (see "Move or Copy Files at Will" earlier in this chapter). You can also rename a file by clicking on its name or highlighting it and pressing the F2 key. However, if you want to make a duplicate of a file in the same directory and assign it a different name, the process might not be as obvious. There are several different ways to do it:

Regardless of which solution you use, the duplicate of a file called, say, Myfile.txt would be automatically named Copy of Myfile.txt. An additional copy of Myfile.txt will be called Copy (2) of Myfile.txt, while a copy of Copy of Myfile.txt will be called Copy of Copy of Myfile.txt. Because the filename keeps changing (albeit inconveniently), you can duplicate multiple files simultaneously to fill a directory quickly with dozens of identical files.

TIP:  If you duplicate a folder, all the contents of the folder will be duplicated, but only the name of the folder will be changed--the names of the files therein will remain intact.

You can also use the Power Rename utility (part of Creative Element Power Tools, available at http://www.creativelement.com) to duplicate large numbers of files quickly:

  1. Right-click on the file you want to duplicate, then select Power Rename. Or open Power Rename, and drag-drop the file into the window.
  2. Turn on the Show what files will look like option to see a preview of the filename(s).
  3. Select the desired renaming criteria so that the duplicate will not be the same as the original.
  4. Turn on the Leave original files (copy) option, and click Apply when you're done. Click Apply repeatedly to make lots of duplicates.

You can use Power Rename to make duplicates of a file quickly or simply to avoid the "Copy of" prefix.

Choose How to Delete Files

Deleting files and folders is something we do every day, but under Windows Me's default settings, deleting a single file can incur up to four confirmation messages.

You'll get a nag window when you first drop files into the Recycle Bin or delete them with a keystroke, a second one when you empty the Recycle Bin, a third one if the file that's being deleted is an EXE file (but not for .dll files, which are just as necessary as EXE files), and a fourth if the file has a read-only or system attribute set.[7]

The number and type of confirmation messages you get depends on settings in your Recycle Bin. For example, if your Recycle Bin is configured to store deleted files (the default), but not confirm their deletion, you may not see any warning message at all.

Right-click on the Recycle Bin on your desktop, and select Properties. The various options here are pretty self-explanatory. However, you should be aware of the following:

Why would you want files to be stored in the Recycle Bin? It gives you a way out: if you find that you are careless and delete important files accidentally, you should definitely exploit this feature.

Why would you not want files to be stored in the Recycle Bin? First of all, those files don't exist in a vacuum; they take up valuable hard-disk space and can slow system performance. Deleted files are a security risk; it's one of the first places I'd look if I were breaking into someone's system. And, having unwanted files remain on your hard disk can make your system more vulnerable to hard-disk crashes (from corrupted files) and viruses (from email attachments you deleted right away).

There are a few workarounds for whatever Recycle Bin settings you choose, allowing more flexibility and control:

Force Explorer to Remember Folder Settings

For many of us, it's a chore to get Windows to remember some of the most basic settings. For example, how many times have you turned off the Web View option in Explorer, only to find that it has been turned back on the next time the folder is opened?

Explorer's inability to remember settings is a long-standing problem with Windows, but it is slightly improved with each successive version of the operating system. Such preferences as the position and size of a window and the sort order, autoarrange, and size of icons can be mysteriously reset to Windows' default values when folders are closed and reopened. The problem is the battle between Explorer's "default" settings, agreed upon by a committee at Microsoft, and the "most recent" settings, repeatedly set by the user and occasionally stored in the Registry. So, which settings should Explorer and your folder windows use next time they're opened?

There are two ways to set a default setting in Explorer:

In theory, Windows will remember the defaults for all the settings listed as such in Table 2-1. After a time, you may notice that Windows will revert back to its out-of-the-box defaults, and there's really nothing you can do about it, except to make your choices again.

Table 2-1: The Defaults for Different Explorer Settings

Setting

Default Set Automatically

Default Set with Folder Options

Default Never Set

Autoarrange

 

X

 

Column Widths (Details view)

X

 

 

Icon size

 

X

 

Selected Folder (Explorer only)[8]

 

 

X

Sort order

 

X

 

Toolbar Settings

X

 

 

Web View

 

X

 

Window size and Position

X

 

 

There are also some exceptions to the previous rules. Some settings, such as icon size, are stored with reference to individual folders when the single-folder view is used. To illustrate, follow these steps:

  1. Create a new folder on your desktop, and name it Lenny.
  2. Open the new folder, and change the icon size by choosing Large Icons (or use something else if Large Icons is already selected).
  3. Now delete the folder, and then create a new folder called Karl. When you open Karl, you'll notice its icon size is set to your system's default.
  4. Without closing Karl, rename it (by renaming the icon on your desktop or by right-clicking on the Karl 's control box) to Lenny. As soon as it is renamed, its icon size will automatically revert to the setting used in the first Lenny folder.

This persistence of the icon-size setting (as well as any setting listed as "Default Set with Folder Options" in Table 2-1) is due to the fact that Windows stores these settings for the last two dozen or so folders you access. Your choices are stored in the Registry, rather than in the folders themselves, so there will always be a limit on the number of folders it can remember in this way.

Choose Your Short Filenames

One of the trickiest tasks a software developer faces is the addition of new functionality to an application that needs to be backwards-compatible. In the case of support for long filenames, Microsoft had to implement the functionality without making the new files inaccessible to older 16-bit Windows and DOS programs.

The solution was that every long filename has a short counterpart. That is, a file named A Big Blob.txt will appear as ABIGBL~1.TXT. Not only does this make it possible to open a file with a long filename in a program that doesn't support long filenames, it makes it clear which filenames have long counterparts.

If you find yourself using the short versions of long filenames often, such as if you rely on what's called a legacy application (written before long filename support), you'll want to have more control of how short filenames are chosen:

  1. Using any application (either a legacy 16-bit application or a non-long filename-aware 32-bit application), create a document with a short filename, such as ABIGBLOB.TXT.
  2. Then, in Explorer, rename the file to A Big Blob that ate Manhattan.txt, or something like that.
  3. Go back to the 16-bit application, and instead of ABIGBL~1.TXT, you'll see the same, original 8.3 filename. This is due to the fact that the long and the short versions are so similar, and the short version was created first. If the long filename is too different, this won't work. Now, this is not the most repeatable or reliable solution, but it's pretty benign, and if you get good at it, can be fairly useful.

Fix the Search Tool

Most of us rely on the Windows Search tool on a daily basis to find and organize files in Explorer. However, a new design in Windows Me (and Windows 2000) merges the Search tool with Explorer in a way that can be very inconvenient.

Instead of the separate Find window found in previous versions of Windows, the new Search tool (more specifically, the Search . . . For Files or Folders tool) is displayed in the left pane of an Explorer window. On the surface, this has little effect, other than that the Search window takes up a little more space on the screen and the search options are arranged in a somewhat different manner.

The problem becomes obvious when the Search tool is invoked from within an open Explorer window: the left pane containing the folder tree simply disappears! The contents of the currently selected folder remain visible, but vanish as soon as a search is performed. The fact that the current window is reused for the Search tool has no apparent benefit, yet it inconveniently and frustratingly invalidates whatever was displayed in the current window.

The only way to return to the previous view at this point is to select Explorer Bar and then Folders from Explorer's View menu--unfortunately, there's no keyboard shortcut, so this procedure is especially cumbersome. When the Tree View is reinstated, a new item, Search Results, appears at the bottom. However, if you select another folder and then return to Search Results, neither the search criteria nor the search results from your last search are retained. In other words, there's absolutely no point to this design.

The solution is to find a way to activate the Search tool so this doesn't happen. The following two methods will cause the problem described earlier, converting the current Explorer window into a Search window:

On the other hand, there are at least three methods for opening a new Search window, leaving any open Explorer windows intact. Note that each of these methods results in the search being performed in a different default folder:

There's also another way to open a Search window without disrupting an Explorer window. This solution has the added benefit of allowing you to choose the default search location:

  1. Open a Search window using any method, and select whatever search location you want to be the default. The Local Hard Drives entry is probably the most useful, but you can choose the My Documents folder or any other place you wish.
  2. Leave the rest of the search criteria blank, and click Search Now.
  3. When the search is complete, select Save Search from the File menu. When prompted, save the All Files.fnd file on the Desktop (choose a different name if you like).
  4. Double-click on the All Files.fnd file at any time to open a new Search window. You can place the shortcut on your desktop, add it to your Start Menu, or put it on a QuickLaunch toolbar for quick access.
  5. If you want to assign a keyboard shortcut to this new Search icon, start by moving the All Files.fnd file to a safe, out-of-the-way location. Create a shortcut to the file and place it in the same folder, in your Start Menu, or anywhere else that is convenient.

    Right-click on the new shortcut, click Properties, click on the Shortcut key field, and press the desired keystroke combination. Unfortunately, Windows won't let you choose a shortcut key combination with only the Ctrl key, so you can't redefine Ctrl-F for this window (believe me--this is the first thing I tried). However, Ctrl-Shift-F is almost as convenient, and may serve as a suitable compromise. Click OK when you're done, then try it out!

Creative Element Power Tools (available at http://www.creativelement.com) comes with a feature that fixes the Search tool, forcing a new Search window to be opened regardless of the method used.

Tweaking the Interface

If you've made it this far, odds are that you already know how to change your desktop wallpaper, create shortcuts on your desktop, and rearrange the items in your Start Menu. The following solutions allow you to customize some of the more subtle aspects of the Windows interface, using methods somewhat less obvious than those found in ordinary dialog boxes.

Probably the most important customizations in this section are illustrated in "Force Explorer to Start with the Folder You Want" and "Customize Drive and Folder Icons." Both of these solutions utilize built-in features of the operating system in ways for which they weren't necessarily intended. The rest of this section should help you tame the Tray, the Control Panel, and the Start Menu--stuff you won't find in the manual.

Force Explorer to Start with the Folder You Want

There are several ways to open an Explorer window, but the most direct method is to use the Windows Explorer shortcut in the Start Menu. This has the same effect as selecting Run in the Start Menu and typing explorer.exe. That is, the Explorer application is run without any command-line arguments.

When Explorer is run without any arguments, it opens to its default location, the Documents shortcut on your desktop (even if you've deleted the Documents icon from your desktop). You may want to have Explorer open to a custom folder each time, saving the time required to repeatedly navigate through all the folders on your hard disk.

Launch Explorer from a shortcut

The following steps show how to modify your existing Windows Explorer shortcut in your Start Menu. If you want to create a new shortcut instead, right-click on an empty portion of your desktop or the currently open folder, and select New and then Shortcut. When prompted for an application, point to explorer.exe (located in your Windows folder):

  1. Right-click on the Windows Explorer shortcut, select Properties, and click on the Shortcut tab.
  2. Change the text in the Target field so it reads:

    Explorer.exe /n, /e, d:\myfolder

    where d:\myfolder is the folder where you want Explorer to start.

  3. Click OK when you're done. The next time you use the shortcut, Explorer will open to the specified location.

You may have to use a little trial-and-error to get the desired results. The command-line parameters Explorer accepts are as follows:

explorer.exe [/n][,/e][,/root,object][[,/select],subobject]

The square brackets ([...]) show optional parameters; note the use of commas between each parameter.

The /n switch tells Explorer always to open a new window (even if the specified folder is already open somewhere), and the /e switch tells Explorer to use the Tree View rather than the default single-folder view. You'll want to use both of these options together in most circumstances.

The subobject parameter specifies the folder that is initially highlighted on the tree when Explorer opens (see the example earlier in step 3). If subobject is specified, it will also be expanded to show the first level of subfolders (if any).

If you also include the /select parameter (not valid without subobject), the parent of the specified folder is highlighted on the tree and no branches are initially expanded. If subobject is a file instead of a folder, it will be highlighted in the right pane as well.

So, for example, if you want Explorer to open to the My Computer folder so that no drive branches are initially expanded (handy if you have several drives), type the following:

Explorer.exe /n, /e, /select, c:\

Finally, the /root,object parameter allows you to choose what appears as the root of all folders in the new window, useful if you want an abbreviated tree. The default, of course, is the desktop. You can specify a folder to be the root by typing /root,c:\docs or a system object by typing /root,{class id} (see Appendix C, Class IDs of System Objects).

Exploring in context

In addition to launching Explorer with any number of parameters, you can open an Explorer window in the context of an object on the screen, and Windows will choose the parameters accordingly.

For example, you can right-click on any visible folder icon (on your desktop, in an open folder, and even in the tree pane of another Explorer window) and select Explore to open a new Explorer window with the folder in question highlighted.

You can also explore from various system objects by right-clicking and selecting Explore. This works on the Start button, the My Computer icon, and the My Network Places icon. Figure 2-3 shows the context menu for the Start button; note that Open is bold, which is the default action taken when the Start button is clicked.

Figure 2-3. Right-click Start for quick Explorer access to the Start Menu folder
Figure 3

By default, only the current folder name is shown in Explorer's title bar, which can be rather confusing. You'll find it much more helpful to display the full path (e.g., c:\Windows\Start Menu\Programs instead of just Programs). Select Folder Options from Explorer's Tools menu, choose the View tab, and turn on both the Display the full path in the title bar and the Display the full path in the address bar options.

Taming Mindless Animation

For anyone upgrading to Windows Me from Windows 95, or from Windows NT 4.0, one of the most obvious interface changes is the addition of animated menus, list boxes, and other screen elements. While these affectations may be cute, they can honestly make the fastest, newest computers seem like antiquated 386s. Rather than watch your Start Menu crawl to its open position, you can configure your menus and list boxes to snap to position. You'll be surprised at how much faster and more responsive Windows will feel.

Solution 1: All for one, and one for all

  1. Double-click on the Display icon in Control Panel and choose the Effects tab.
  2. Turn off the Use transition effects for menus and tooltips option, and click OK.

Solution 2: Individual animation

  1. Double-click on the TweakUI icon in Control Panel (see Appendix A, Setting Locator), and choose the General tab.
  2. In the Effects list, you'll find separate animation settings for individual screen elements:
  3. Combo box animation and List box animation add the "smooth scrolling" effect to combo (drop-down) list boxes and all other types of list boxes, respectively.
  4. The Mouse hot tracking effects option turns off the tooltips everywhere (although not necessarily animation--they're annoying just the same), rather than turning off the way that menus and toolbar buttons follow the mouse around, as you'd expect.
  5. Click OK when you're finished.

If you have both the Auto hide setting in Taskbar Properties and the Show window contents while dragging option in Display Properties enabled, turning off the Window animation option will also disable the animation for the disappearing taskbar.

Stop Menus from Following the Mouse

In all releases of Microsoft Windows since Windows 95, the Start Menu and the menus in all applications follow the mouse. This allows you to navigate through menus without having to click repeatedly. The problem with this design is that it can be very difficult to navigate menus unless you're able to hold your mouse or other pointing device very steadily. Even the smallest unintentional move in the wrong direction can cause the menu you're using to disappear. This can be even more annoying to those with more sensitive pointing devices, such as touch pads, pens, and other digitizers. Here's how to disable this behavior:

Solution 1

Obtain and install the Old Mouse Mode utility (download it from http://www.annoyances.org ), which forces the menus in Windows to behave pretty much like Windows 3.x menus.

Solution 2

  1. Double-click on the TweakUI icon in Control Panel (see Appendix A).
  2. In the Mouse tab, move the Menu Speed slider all the way to the right (towards Slow).
  3. This will increase the delay when opening menus to it's maximum setting, virtually disabling it. Although this will prevent submenus from opening automatically, the top-level menus will still follow the mouse like a starving alley cat.

Get Rid of Shortcut Residue

Shortcuts have three ways of telling you that they're shortcuts. When first created, a shortcut's caption begins with the text, "Shortcut to." The shortcut's icon also has a small curved arrow in the lower-left corner. (See the "before" icon in Figure 2-4.) If you're viewing the folder containing the shortcut in Details mode, the Type column will read either Shortcut, Shortcut to MS-DOS Program, or Internet Shortcut for .lnk, .pif, and .url shortcut files, respectively. Note that even if you've configured Windows to display your filename extensions, the extensions for shortcuts will always be hidden.

Figure 2-4. Cleaning up shortcuts: before and after
Figure 4

Although one can simply rename the icon so that the "Shortcut to" prefix isn't there, there is no quick way to remove the little arrow for just one shortcut. To turn off these artifacts for good on all shortcuts, follow these instructions:

Solution 1: Remove the "Shortcut to" prefix only

  1. Create a shortcut--any shortcut.
  2. Manually remove the "Shortcut to" prefix from the name.
  3. Delete the shortcut.
  4. Repeat the first three steps eight times in succession.

That should do it. Keep in mind that this is a one-way change; there's no way to undo it, without using the TweakUI utility, described later.

Solution 2: Complete control

  1. Double-click on the TweakUI icon (see Appendix A) in Control Panel, and choose the Explorer tab.
  2. The Prefix "Shortcut to" on new shortcuts option in the Settings section should reflect the state set by Solution 1 (previous). Turn it off or on as desired.
  3. To disable or change the curved arrow icon, choose the desired option in the Shortcut overlay section. If you choose Custom, you can choose any icon, although it should be 16 × 16 or smaller, or partially transparent, so as not to obscure the original icon.
  4. Click OK when you're done. The changes should take effect immediately.

If you disable both the "Shortcut to" prefix and the curved arrow icon, the only way to distinguish a shortcut from the actual program or file to which it's linked is either through the shortcut's Properties sheet or by its description in the Type column in Explorer.

Customize the Tray

The tray is the little box (usually in the lower-right corner of your screen, at the end of your taskbar) that, by default, contains the clock and the little yellow speaker. Microsoft calls this space the "Notification Area," because its intended use is to notify you of system status: when you're connected to the Internet, when your battery is low, etc.

Figure 2-5 shows a more-or-less typical tray. Odds are that you have more icons in your tray than you actually want or need. Whether that bothers you or not is anybody's guess.

Figure 2-5. The tray contains several (usually too many) icons, as well as the clock
Figure 5

The problem is that there doesn't seem to be any sort of consistency or standards for items in the tray; some icons get double-clicked, some require a single right- or left-click, and some don't get clicked at all. Some items can be removed easily, some can be removed with a setting in some obscure dialog box, and some can't be removed at all. Here are some ways to get a little more control of the tray.

Remove common items from the tray

Add your own programs to the tray

  1. Obtain and install the Tray utility (download it from http://www.annoyances.org ).
  2. Run Tray.exe, right-click on the new icon in the tray, and select Help for instructions.

If you remove the yellow speaker, you can still adjust the volume with the Volume Control utility included with Windows, as well with the volume control on your speakers (if applicable). Removing the flashing modem icon will not have any effect on modem performance or Dial-Up Networking functionality.

If you turn off the clock and remove all tray icons, the tray will disappear completely, providing more space for taskbar tasks. It will reappear when any tray icon is added.

Customize Drive and Folder Icons

There may come a time when you may get a little sick of the generic icons used for drives and folders in My Computer and Explorer. Now, you've probably figured out that you can create a shortcut to any drive or folder, choose a pretty icon, and place it on the desktop or in a convenient folder. Unfortunately, the icon isn't reflected anywhere else in Windows, such as in Explorer or My Computer. Here's how to make the change a little more universal as shown in Figure 2-6.

Figure 2-6. Make Explorer and My Computer less drab by customizing drive and folder icons
Figure 6

Solution 1: Customize drive icons

Using the functionality built in to Windows Me's CD-ROM Autoinsert Notification feature (see "Curb CD and DVD Autorun" later in this chapter)--functionality that allows Windows to determine the name and icon of a CD as soon as it's inserted in the reader--there's a simple way to customize the icons of drives other than CD readers:

  1. Open a plain-text editor, such as Notepad.
  2. Type the following:
  3. [autorun]
    icon=filename, number

    where filename is the name of the file containing the icon, and number is the index of the icon to use (leave number blank or specify 0 [zero] to use the first icon in the file, 1 for the second, and so on).

  4. Save the file in the root directory of the hard disk, floppy, or removable drive you wish to customize, naming it Autorun.inf.
  5. With Explorer or the My Computer window open, press the F5 key to refresh the display and read the new icons (Figure 2-7).
Figure 2-7. Customized Drive and Folder icons even show up in Explorer
Figure 7

Solution 2: Customize folder icons

The icon for any individual folder can be customized to suit your taste:

  1. Open a plain-text editor, such as Notepad.
  2. Type the following:
  3. [.ShellClassInfo]
    IconFile=filename
    IconIndex=number

    where filename is the name of the file containing the icon, and number is the index of the icon to use; leave the IconIndex line out or specify 0 (zero) to use the first icon in the file, 1 for the second, and so on. Note the dot (.) in [.ShellClassInfo].

  4. Save the file directly in the folder you wish to customize, naming it desktop.ini.
  5. Open a command-prompt window (command.com), and type the following at the prompt:
  6. attrib +s foldername

    where foldername is the full path of the folder containing the desktop.ini file (i.e., c:\docs). This command turns on the System attribute for the folder (not the desktop.ini file), something you can't do in Explorer. Close the command prompt window when you're done.

  7. You'll have to close and reopen the Explorer or single-folder window to see the change (pressing F5 won't do it).

If you're customizing a drive icon for a removable drive (i.e., Zip, CDR, floppies), you may need to refresh the My Computer or Explorer window every time the media is inserted by pressing the F5 key, because Windows can only detect the insertion of CDs and DVDs, and then only when the autoinsert notification feature is enabled.

To turn the display of certain drive icons on or off in the My Computer window, use the My Computer tab in TweakUI (see Appendix A for more information).

Turning on the System attribute for a folder (as instructed in "Solution 2: Customize folder icons") should have no effect on your system or any other applications.

Make the Control Panel More Accessible

The Control Panel is a virtual folder, which means that it looks and behaves like a normal folder, but it doesn't actually exist as a folder on your hard drive. That's why you can't rename or delete any of the Control Panel's contents, nor can you add items to it.

Using some of the features built into Windows Me to make virtual folders seem more like real folders, you can improve the usability of the Control Panel by making the parts of it you use more accessible.

Solution 1: Easy shortcuts to Control Panel icons

Creating a shortcut to an individual Control Panel icon is an easy way to provide quick access to commonly used settings. Solution 1 is fairly easy to do, but Solution 2, although more complicated, offers more flexibility:

  1. Open the Control Panel folder in Explorer or the Cascading Control Panel menu in the Start Menu.
  2. Drag any item onto your desktop or a waiting folder.
  3. Windows will complain that it can't copy or move the item; confirm that you'll settle for a shortcut.
  4. Double-click on the shortcut to access the respective dialog box.

Solution 2: Flexible shortcuts to Control Panel applets

Many Control Panel applets have multiple tabs, each with its own collection of settings and sub-dialog boxes. Anything you can do to decrease the steps in a repetitive task can be helpful. Here's how to make a shortcut to a particular tab of a particular dialog box:

  1. Right-click in an empty area of your desktop or an open folder window, select New, then select Shortcut.
  2. In the field labeled Type the location of the item (they're really looking for the name of the item, not just the location), type:
    control.exe sysdm.cpl, System, 1

    This command has four parts. The first, control.exe, is the executable that opens the Control Panel. The second, sysdm.cpl, is the Control Panel module you'd like to open. The third, System, is the name of the dialog box, used only with modules that have multiple dialog boxes (it's optional otherwise). Finally, 1 is the tab you want initially selected (0 is the first, 1 is the second, and so on).

    The command in this example opens the second tab of the System dialog box, which happens to be the Device Manager. Table 2-2 shows all the available Control Panel modules and the dialog boxes for which they are responsible. Simply substitute the desired filename and dialog box name in the previous command to customize it.[10]

  3. Click Next, type whatever you like for the name of this shortcut, and click Finish when you're done.
  4. To make any changes or to choose an icon for the shortcut, right-click on the shortcut and select Properties.

Table 2-2: Each Control Panel Module Has an Associated Filename (Virtual Folders Not Included)

Description

Filename, Dialog Box Name (If Needed)

Accessibility Options

access.cpl

Add/Remove Hardware Wizard

hdwwiz.cpl

Add/Remove Programs

appwiz.cpl

Date/Time Properties

timedate.cpl

Display Properties

desk.cpl

Fax Properties

fax.cpl

Game Controllers

joy.cpl

Internet Properties

inetcpl.cpl

Keyboard

main.cpl, keyboard

Mouse Properties

main.cpl

Network and Dial-up Connections

ncpa.cpl

ODBC Data Source Administrator

odbccp32.cpl

Phone and Modem Properties

telephon.cpl

Power Options Properties

powercfg.cpl

Regional Options

intl.cpl

Scanners and Cameras Properties

sticpl.cpl

Sounds and Multimedia Properties

mmsys.cpl

System Properties

sysdm.cpl

Users and Passwords

userpasswords (no extension)

Wireless Link Properties

irprops.cpl

Solution 3: Remove unwanted Control Panel icons

  1. Double-click on the TweakUI icon (see Appendix A) in Control Panel, and choose the Control Panel tab.
  2. Uncheck any entries you'd prefer weren't displayed in the Control Panel, and click OK when you're done.
  3. Your changes will take effect immediately in the Control Panel folder, but you'll need to log out and log back in to see the change in the Control Panel menu in the Start Menu.

Solution 4: Add a cascading Control Panel menu to the Start Menu

  1. Open the Start Menu, select Settings and then Taskbar and Start Menu, and choose the Advanced tab.
  2. In the list of settings at the bottom of the window, turn on the Expand Control Panel option, and click OK when you're done.
  3. Now, instead of a single menu item inside the Start Menu's Settings menu, all the Control Panel icons will be listed individually. Unfortunately, Windows ignores the Scroll Programs option when displaying this new menu, so if there are too many Control Panel icons, they'll simply go off the screen.

Solution 5: Make a custom Control Panel menu

This last solution produces similar results to Solution 4, but has the following advantages. It's in the top level of the Start Menu, so you don't have to open another menu (e.g., Settings) before you see it. Also, you can easily add new items, such as the Volume Control (sndvol32.exe), remove unwanted items, and configure the various icons to open more frequently used tabs (as described in Solution 2):

  1. Open Explorer and a separate Control Panel window, and place them side by side on your screen.
  2. In Explorer, navigate to the \Windows\Start Menu folder, and make a new folder inside it called Control Panel.
  3. Select some or all of the icons in Control Panel, and drag them into this new folder in Explorer. Confirm that you want to make shortcuts to the selected items. Windows will make a shortcut to each icon you drop into the folder, some of which you may want to rename. A new cascading menu will appear in your Start Menu, similar to the existing Control Panel menu under Settings, yet placed conveniently above the Programs menu.

Additional Control Panel modules that may have been added by a third-party application or Microsoft add-on are not included in Table 2-2. Furthermore, any subsequent icons added to your Control Panel will not appear in your custom Control Panel (Solution 5) until you create shortcuts for them manually.

Virtual folders are also discussed in "Change the Icons of System Objects" in Chapter 4, as well as in Appendix C.

Customize the Startup Screen

Given that you can spend up to a minute each day staring at the huge Windows Me logo as Windows loads all your drivers and settings, it's probably worth a few minutes to replace it with something at least somewhat attractive. Here's how you do it:

  1. The images Windows displays while it's loading and shutting down are simply bitmaps stored on your hard disk. These files are hidden by default, so you'll need to configure Explorer to show hidden files if it doesn't already. Select Folder Options from Explorer's View menu, choose the View tab, select the Show hidden files and folders option, and click OK when you're done.
  2. The startup logo is actually embedded in the file io.sys, which is located in the root folder of your boot drive (usually c:\); Windows uses this standard logo unless it finds the file Logo.sys in the same folder. In that case, the Logo.sys file (a standard windows bitmap file that has been renamed) is used instead.
  3. You'll also find the two shutdown logos ("Please wait while . . ." and "It is now safe . . .") in your Windows folder, named Logow.sys and Logos.sys, respectively.

    Make duplicates of your existing logo files in case you want to revert to the default logos at any time. To revert the startup logo to the default, just delete Logo.sys.

  4. If you want to modify any of the existing files, as opposed to creating new ones from scratch, make copies of them and rename their file extensions to .bmp.
  5. You can use almost any modern graphics editor to edit bitmap files, such as MS Paint, Paint Shop Pro (http://www.jasc.com), or my favorite, Adobe Photoshop (http://www.adobe.com).
  6. The specifications of the logo files are as follows: 256-color (8-bit) Windows bitmaps (RGB Windows-encoded, but not "RGB mode" for you Photoshop users) and 320 × 400 pixels in size. Because the aspect ratio (width divided by height) of these files is not the standard 4:3, like most computer screens, the bitmaps will appear vertically elongated in your graphics program, but will be squeezed vertically and will look fine when they're actually used.

    To make things a little easier, you'll probably want to work with files that aren't elongated and then squeeze them when you're done. Start by creating new images with these pixel dimensions: 534 × 400--if you're modifying the original logos, you can just resize them to these dimensions while you're working on them. Refer to the documentation for the graphics program you're using for details on choosing an image size and resizing an existing image.

    You can use scanned photos or images off the Web or make your own logos from scratch. I leave the creative part of this solution in your hands.

  7. When you're done making your logos, resize them to 320 × 400 pixels (you may have to turn off your graphics application's "Maintain Aspect Ratio" feature, or whatever it may be called) and save. If the dimensions are incorrect or if you're not using the correct number of colors, the screens won't work.
  8. When you're done, rename the extensions of your new files from .bmp back to .sys and move them to their proper locations, as described earlier. You may want to back up your work at this point, because subsequent Windows updates may overwrite your logos at any time.

For best results, you might want to convert the images to 24-bit mode (RGB mode in Photoshop) after you open them. That way, when they're resized, the edges will be smoothed. Just before you save, convert the images back to 256-color mode (indexed, 8-bit mode in Photoshop).

You can turn off the display of the startup logo altogether with TweakUI--see Appendix A for details. If your machine reboots instead of shutting down when these logos are replaced, make sure the bitmaps are not corrupted, and use no more than 256 colors.

Curb CD and DVD Autorun

Autorun is a feature intended to make using CDs in Windows easier for inexperienced users, but ends up just irritating many regular Windows users.[11] Autorun is responsible for starting an audio or data CD the moment it is inserted into your CD drive. If you did not intend to start the CD right away, then you're forced to wait until Windows loads the Autorun application before you can close it and continue with your work.

The Autorun feature works by polling the CD drive every few seconds to see if a CD has been inserted. If Windows detects a CD that wasn't there a few seconds ago, it reads the label of the disk and looks for a file called Autorun.inf in the CD's root directory. Autorun.inf usually contains two pieces of information: a reference to an icon file (for display, along with the CD label, in My Computer and Explorer) and a reference to an Autorun application.[12] If an Autorun application is specified, Windows proceeds to run the program, which is usually a large, brightly colored window with links to the application's setup program, documentation, and the manufacturer's web site and, hopefully, an Exit button. If, instead, Windows detects an audio CD, the configured CD player is opened and instructed to play the first audio track.

What's worse is that even after all this has happened, the Autorun process starts over again if you double-click on the CD icon in your My Computer window--contrary, of course, to the normal folder window that one would expect to see. You can get around this on a disk-by-disk basis by right-clicking on the disk icon and selecting Open or by using Explorer and opening the CD drive from the folder tree.

Naturally, there's no setting provided in the standard Windows interface to make it easy to curb this feature. Here's how you do it:

Disable Autorun

This solution allows you to easily turn off Autorun for CD-ROMs and audio CDs without losing Explorer's ability to automatically identify a disk when it is inserted.

  1. Double-click on the TweakUI icon (see Appendix A) in Control Panel, and choose the rather ambiguously named Paranoia tab.
  2. Uncheck the Play audio CDs automatically and Play data CDs automatically options as desired.
  3. For those of you with DVD drives, the data CD setting applies to data DVDs (DVD-ROMs) as well. For DVD movies, you'll have to use the "Disable CD and DVD polling" solution.

    The "Disable CD and DVD polling" solution, described later, should also explain the "(Requires AutoInsert Notification enabled)" message on the TweakUI window.

  4. Click OK when you're done; the change should take effect immediately.

If you disable the Autorun feature for data CDs, the Autorun application on any given CD will obviously not run automatically. Fortunately, it's easy to run the setup application or any other application on the CD manually. To do this, right-click on the drive icon in Explorer, and select AutoPlay. Alternatively, you can open the root directory of the CD drive in Explorer--on most data CDs that contain software, you'll see something like Setup.exe or Autorun.exe. Double-click the file to run it. Sometimes, however, the Autorun application file is not obvious, in which case, you can open the Autorun.inf file and look at the line that begins with open=. If you don't see an Autorun.inf file in the root directory of the CD, it doesn't support the Autorun feature.

You can also hold the Shift key while inserting a disk to temporarily prevent the Autorun application from being executed, but this often means holding Shift for 10-20 seconds while Windows reads the disk.

Disable CD and DVD polling

The TweakUI solution described earlier disables the Autorun feature, but it doesn't turn off the repetitive polling (reading) of the CD drive, as explained at the beginning of this section. The problem with the polling feature is that inserting a disk can cause Explorer to refresh itself one or more times, which can be frustratingly slow on some systems. Additionally, those using a CD writer will need to turn this off so that the repeated polling doesn't interrupt the CD recording process. This solution will turn off the polling of your CD or DVD drive completely:

  1. Double-click on the System icon in Control Panel, and choose the Device Manager tab.
  2. Expand the CD-ROM branch, and select the entry corresponding to your CD or DVD drive. If you have more than one CD drive, you'll most likely want to do this for each drive. If you have a CD changer, you'll see a different drive listed here for each disk the changer holds; likewise, you'll want to do this for each one that shows up.
  3. Click Properties, and then choose the Settings tab.
  4. Turn off the Auto insert notification option.
  5. Click OK, then click OK again. You'll have to restart Windows for this change to take effect.

This solution has the added effect of preventing Windows from automatically updating your CD icon in Explorer with the label and icon of a newly inserted disk. To refresh Explorer manually, press the F5 key.

Choose the Autorun audio CD player

The Autorun application for a data CD is located on the CD itself. However, because audio CDs don't contain files, the default audio CD player is a sole application, stored on your hard disk, used for all audio CDs. Here's how to configure the default audio CD player:

  1. Select Folder Options from Explorer's View menu (or double-click the Folder Options icon in Control Panel), and choose the File Types tab.
  2. Sort the list of registered file types by clicking on the File Types column header. Select AudioCD from the list (it will say N/A in the Extension column), and click Advanced.[13]
  3. Select Play from the Actions list and click Edit.
  4. If the Play action isn't there, there's no default CD player--you'll have to add a new action by clicking New and typing Play for the name.

  5. At this point, you can choose a new audio CD player application by typing its executable filename in the Application used to perform action field or by clicking Browse. The Windows Me default for this action is:
  6. "C:\Program Files\Windows Media Player\wmplayer.exe"
    /device:AudioCD "%L"

    Note that some CD player applications require special command-line parameters, such as /play, in order to start playing the disk automatically--refer to the application documentation for details.

    Click OK when you're done.

  7. Next, highlight the Play entry in the Action list, and click Set Default so the word Play now appears in bold.
  8. Click OK when you're done. The change should take effect immediately.

Naturally, you'll need to enable both Autorun for audio CD drives and Auto insert notification (see the two respective solutions, earlier) if you want to have audio CDs played automatically when they're inserted. If you disable Autorun completely, though, the default audio CD player setting still comes into play if you double-click the CD icon in My Computer.

See "Understanding File Types" in Chapter 3 and "Customize Context Menus" in Chapter 4 for more information on file types and the default action.

Regaining Control of the Desktop

Microsoft has, in terms of the interface, positioned the desktop as the root of all other objects in the imaginary hierarchy depicted by Explorer's tree. This includes all drives, the Control Panel, the Network Neighborhood, and even all running applications. The following topics cover some fundamental tasks when dealing with the desktop, such as refreshing the desktop and how to make sure your desktop configuration remains intact. For details on the Active Desktop and other Web integration topics, see Chapter 8.

Refresh the Desktop Without Restarting Windows

When Windows starts, it loads the Explorer application, which provides the desktop and the Start Menu. While it's loading, Explorer reads its settings from the Registry (see Chapter 3). If you make a change to the Registry, such as when following some of the procedures in this book, it might not take effect until you reload Explorer, which usually means restarting Windows. However, restarting Windows can take several minutes and will mean shutting down all applications and disconnecting your dial-up connection to the Internet (if applicable). In some cases you can put your changes into effect without restarting Windows, as outlined in the following solutions. Whether any of these solutions work depends on the type of setting you've changed.

Solution 1

Click on any empty area of your desktop or any icon on your desktop with the left mouse button, and press the F5 key to refresh the desktop.[14]

Solution 2

In cases where Solution 1 is not sufficient to implement your changes, you can force Explorer to reload without restarting:

  1. Press Ctrl-Alt-Del to display the Close Program dialog box.
  2. Select Explorer from the list, and click End Task.
  3. You'll immediately see the Shut Down Windows dialog box; click Cancel at this point.
  4. After about five seconds, Windows will inform you that it wasn't able to shut down the Explorer application. Click End Task here to finish the job. The taskbar and all desktop icons will disappear temporarily and then reappear as Explorer is reloaded.
WARNING:  This solution can cause your system tray to disappear and not come back. This shouldn't affect any applications with tray icons, but it may make them inaccessible. See "Customize the Tray" earlier in this chapter for details.

Solution 3

In cases where Solution 2 is not sufficient to implement your changes, the following will not only reload Explorer, but reinitialize all your user settings. Unfortunately, it will cause all your running applications to close, but it still doesn't take nearly as long as restarting:

  1. Select Log Off username from the Start Menu, and click OK.
  2. If Log Off doesn't appear in the Start Menu, select Settings and then Taskbar and Start Menu. Choose the Advanced tab and turn on the Display Logoff option.

  3. When the Enter Windows Password dialog box appears, enter your password (if any), and click OK. (Your username should already be entered in the User name field.)

Save Your Desktop Layout

After meticulously arranging all the icons on your desktop, you may find that Windows either rearranges them for no particular reason or simply forgets their latest positions the next time you start Windows. Sometimes a system crash is the cause; other times, it can do it right in front of you while you're staring at it.[15] Here are some workarounds:

Fixing the Start Menu

It's unfortunate that so many of Windows Me's functions and components rely on the Start Menu, because it's such a flawed interface. You're forced to navigate through several levels of menus to get at your applications, the main reason you use a computer; the less useful entries, such as Settings and Run, are more prominent than any application. Also, any currently open menu can easily disappear if your mouse strays even a few millimeters.[16]

Now, one thing you can do is to rearrange items in the Start Menu, eliminating all the unnecessary levels and superfluous shortcuts. For example, instead of the Photoshop shortcut appearing in Start Programs Adobe Photoshop (four levels deep), you can simply move the shortcut so it appears in the Programs menu. This isn't a great solution, but it's a good place to start.

Sorting Start Menu items

A consequence of being able to drag-drop Start Menu items in place is that new items are added to the ends of menus, rather than sorted alphabetically with the existing entries. To manually resort any single menu in the Start Menu, right-click on any menu item, and select Sort by Name. To sort all your Start Menu folders in one step, you'll need to write a script: see "Wacky Script Ideas" in Chapter 9, Scripting and Automation, for details.

Choose scrolling menus or multiple columns

In Windows 98, Microsoft made a change to the way large Start Menu folders were displayed, scrolling them vertically rather than displaying them in multiple columns. Unfortunately, this caused a public outcry among those users who had upgraded from Windows 95 and preferred the old method. In Windows Me, Microsoft has given us the option. Choose Settings and then Taskbar and Start Menu from the Start Menu, choose the Advanced tab, and change the Scroll Programs option to your liking. Naturally, another workaround is simply to distribute your Start Menu shortcuts to eliminate menus that are too large.

The curse of personalized menus

One of the biggest flaws in the Start Menu is a new feature called personalized menus. This remarkably awful feature made its debut in Microsoft Office 2000 and, unfortunately, has found its way into the operating system.[17] It's a design by which certain Start Menu entries are indiscriminately and suddenly hidden, flying in the face of one of the most important rules in user-interface design: don't change the interface from one usage to the next. Luckily, it's easy to turn off:

  1. Open the Start Menu, select Settings and then Taskbar and Start Menu, and choose the General tab.
  2. Turn off the Use personalized menus option, and click OK when you're done.

Remove unwanted Start Menu components

Some of the intrinsic items in the Start Menu can be selectively disabled, either to reduce clutter or to implement some level of security on a Windows Me system (for more information on TweakUI or the System Policy Editor, see Appendix A):

Documents
Double-click on the TweakUI icon in Control Panel, choose the IE4 tab, and turn off the Show Documents on Start Menu option.

Favorites
Double-click on the TweakUI icon in Control Panel, choose the IE4 tab, and turn off the Show Favorites on Start Menu option.

Find
Open the System Policy Editor, and select Open Registry from the File menu. Double-click on Local User, then expand the branches to \Windows 98 System\Shell\Restrictions, and turn on the Remove `Find' command option.

Run
Open the System Policy Editor, and select Open Registry from the File menu. Double-click on Local User, then expand the branches to \Windows 98 System\Shell\Restrictions, and turn on the Remove `Run' command option.

Another option is to right-click on an empty area of the taskbar, select Properties, and then choose the Advanced tab. Turn off the Display Run option, and click OK when you're done.

Folder Options (in Settings)
Open the System Policy Editor, and select Open Registry from the File menu. Double-click on Local User, then expand the branches to \Windows 98 System\Shell\Restrictions, and turn on the Remove folders from `Settings' on Start Menu option.

Shut Down (disable only)
Open the System Policy Editor, and select Open Registry from the File menu. Double-click on Local User, then expand the branches to \Windows 98 System\Shell\Restrictions, and turn on the Disable Shut Down command option.

Logoff {username}
Right-click on an empty area of the taskbar, select Properties, and then choose the Advanced tab. Turn off the Display Run option, and click OK when you're done.

Taskbar & Start Menu (in Settings)
Open the System Policy Editor, and select Open Registry from the File menu. Double-click on Local User, then expand the branches to \Windows 98 System\Shell\Restrictions, and turn on the Remove Taskbar from `Settings' on Start Menu option.

Alternatives to the Start Menu

The best thing about the Start Menu is that you don't have to use it. You can start programs by opening associated documents, double-clicking shortcuts on the desktop, or any number of other means:


Footnotes:

1. Most pointing devices (mice, styli, trackballs) with more than two buttons allow the additional buttons to be programmed. I've found that the third mouse button (or the second barrel switch, if you're using a stylus) is ideal for double-clicking.

2. The behavior in Windows Me is unlike previous versions of Windows, where dragging any EXE file anywhere created a shortcut.

3. If you use ZIP files, you may like the WinZIP utility (see http://www.winzip.com), which quite effectively utilizes the right-drag menu described above to zip and unzip files.

4. Ctrl-Z is a keyboard shortcut for Undo.

5. The keyboard shortcuts for Cut, Copy, and Paste are Ctrl-X, Ctrl-C, and Ctrl-V, respectively.

6. While you can drag-drop files from Explorer or the desktop into a running application to open the file in that application, the same isn't necessarily true for Copy and Paste. If you try to copy a file and then paste it into an application such as Word or Word Perfect, the file is inserted as an icon object directly into the document, which is not likely to be of much use for most people.

7. Not necessarily in that order. If you're deleting certain shortcuts, such as those placed in your Start Menu by some application installers, you'll additionally see a message explaining that, by deleting the shortcut, you're not actually deleting the software to which it links.

8. See "Force Explorer to Start with the Folder You Want" later in this chapter for a solution.

9. If you're looking for the old Find entry in Explorer's Tools menu, it has been removed, making the Search tool that much harder to find for inexperienced users.

10. Not all modules respond to the numbered tab, as you might expect; you'll need to employ some trial-and-error to get the desired results.

11. Autorun, originally introduced in Windows 95, has the distinction of being the very first Windows Annoyance I wrote about. It took me about five minutes after installing my prerelease version of Windows 95 to get sick of it.

12. See "Customize Drive and Folder Icons" earlier in this chapter for another solution that uses the Autorun.inf file.

13. While you're at it, you may also want to perform this procedure for the CD Audio Track file type (CDA extension), which is what's used when you double-click on a single audio track when viewing the contents of an audio CD in Explorer.

14. The F5 key can also be used to refresh any open folder or Explorer window.

15. Windows seems to refresh the desktop under certain situations, such as when files are copied to or deleted from the desktop or when settings are changed in Explorer. There's no way to completely predict or control this behavior.

16. See "Stop Menus from Following the Mouse" earlier in this chapter for a solution.

17. In Microsoft Office 2000, the personalized menus feature is also easily disabled. Right-click on the menu or toolbar in any Office application (Word, Excel, etc.), and select Customize. Choose the Options tab, and turn off the Menus show recently used commands first option.

18. The folder containing the Quick Launch shortcuts is c:\Windows\Application Data\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch. However, when you create a new toolbar, the folder can be located anywhere--odds are you want to put it somewhere more convenient.

Back to: Windows Me Annoyances


O'Reilly Home | O'Reilly Bookstores | How to Order | O'Reilly Contacts
International | About O'Reilly | Affiliated Companies

© 2001, O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
webmaster@oreilly.com