QUICK PRINT DOCUMENTS
If you have any documents that you
need to print on a regular basis here’s a simple trick to save you the bother
of opening your word processor or the application that you print from and
finding the file every time. First go to Printers and Faxes on the Start menu
(or in Control Panel), right-click on your printer icon, select Properties then
the Advanced tab and check the item ‘Keep Printed Documents’, click OK and
close. Next, open Printers and Faxes again and this time hold down the Ctrl key
(to create a copy) and drag and drop the printer icon on to the Desktop. This
creates a shortcut to the printer Spool and when you click on it it will
display a list of the documents you have printed. To reprint a document just
right click on it and select Restart. Over time the list can get quite
cluttered so you may want to thin it out from time to time by right clicking on
unwanted entries and select Cancel
SWITCH OFF INDEXING FOR A FASTER PC
This simple tip should help to speed up your PC by switching off
the Windows XP Indexing Service. This runs in the background constantly
checking through the folders and files on your drives to maintain and up to
date index of its contents, it keeps the CPU busy and uses up a fair amount of
hard disc space.
You probably won't miss it, unless you make a lot of use of the
advanced Search facilities but even if you do I'll show you another neat trick
in a moment that will allow you to make use of the Index file already stored on
your PC. All you have to do is switch
indexing back on every so often to refresh the list.
But first here's how to switch it off. Open My Computer, right
click on your primary drive (you can do the others later) then select
Properties and the General tab and uncheck 'Allow the Indexing Service to index
this disk...' Click OK, select the All files and folders and files option and
leave it to get on with it for a couple of minutes.
now to making use of an existing Indexing Service file, If you want to find
something in a hurry go to Search on the Start menu as usual and in the
box 'A word or phase in the file;'
prefix your search term with an exclamation mark '!' and watch it fly!
FASTER FIREFOX MADE SIMPLE
You may recall last week we looked
at ways to speed up the Firefox browser by delving into its hidden
configuration menu. This is probably not a good idea for novices but here’s a
way you can safely tweak all kinds of performance settings from the user menu,
using a freeware utility called Fasterfox. If you experience problems then you
can return Firefox to its default settings with just a couple of mouse clicks.
Fasterfox is small, it is simple to install and use and the controls
appear in Options on the Tools menu.
Where’s that pesky mouse gone? It
can be difficult to see the pointer on some applications and screen displays.
Word can be quite tricky as the ‘I’ bar can get lost in text and laptop
displays can get washed out in bright light but there is an answer. Windows XP
has a built-in Mouse Finder facility that targets the mouse position like a
sonar display when you press the Ctrl key.
To enable it just go to Control Panel, double-click he Mouse icon,
select the Pointer Options tab and check the item at the bottom ‘Show Locations
of Pointer when I press the CTRL key’.
Hopefully you are viewing this
page using the most excellent Mozilla Firefox browser, and if not why not? It’s
free, it’s faster and easier to use than Microsoft Internet Explorer, it’s more
secure and it has loads of really useful features, like tabbed browser windows
and a built-in pop-up stopper. It’s also highly customisable, one of the many
benefits of Open Source software, which allows users to actively contribute to
its development, including some really nifty-looking ‘Themes’ that change the
way the browser looks, from simple colour changes to quite radical redesigns.
There are hundreds of themes to choose from and they only take a few moments to
download and install and if you don’t like what you see you can easily switch
to another one. They are free and there’s a good selection to get you started
on the Mozilla Update website.
HOW LONG HAS WINDOWS BEEN RUNNING?
If your Windows XP PC is left on
for extended periods or it has been left unattended for any length of time then
it may be useful to know the ‘Uptime’ or how long it has been since the last
reboot. To find out you need to open the Command Prompt window by typing ‘cmd’
(without the quotes) in Run on the Start menu. After the flashing prompt type
the following command. Be careful, it’s case-sensitive, watch for the spaces
and quotes and the vertical line ‘|’ or ‘pipe’ symbol is usually on the
systeminfo | find "Up
Press Enter, Windows will chunter
away for a few seconds and then display the Uptime, in hours, minutes and
seconds. If your PC is connected to a network you can find out how long it has
been online (usually the same as Windows Uptime) by right clicking on the
Network icon in the System Tray (next to the clock), select Status then the
If you are using Firefox instead of
Internet Explorer (and if you are not give it a try, you will be impressed)
than here’s a way to make this splendid browser find and download web pages
even faster, by increasing the number of page requests, and reducing the amount
of time Firefox waits to process incoming data.
Firefox has a hidden configuration
menu and there are a good number of published tweaks but these four are safe
and should produce a noticeable improvement, particularly if you are using a
broadband connection. If you are using a dial-up connection you can still try
them but don’t expect to see much difference.
In the Address box type
‘about:config’ and the page will change to a long list of settings. Scroll down
the list to ‘network.http.pipelining network. The Value (fourth column) should
be set to ‘false’, double-click the entry and it should change to ‘True’. Now
move down the list to "network.http.proxy.pipelining" and do the
same, changing the Value from False to True. Next go to "network.http.pipelining.maxrequests",
double-click the entry and change the Value to 30. Finally, right-click into an
empty area of the config page and select New > Integer. In the Preference
Name box type "nglayout.initialpaint.delay" (without the quotes) and
set the Value to 0 (zero). Exit Firefox and re-launch and the new settings will
take effect immediately.
COLOUR CODE YOUR EMAILS
Outlook Express has a number of very
useful features hidden away inside Message Rules, this one lets you colour code
incoming (and existing) emails according to who sent them or various other
criteria, such as keywords on the Subject line and so on. To set it up go to
Tools > Message Rules > Mail and click the New button. In the ‘Select the
Conditions…’ box click ‘Where the From Line Contains People’ then in the
‘Select the Actions for your rule’ box tick
‘Highlight it with Colour’. Now move down to the Rule Descriptions box,
double-click the underlined ‘Contains People’ and enter the sender’s name or
email address -- if necessary click the Address Book button and choose the name
from the list. Next click the underlined ‘Color’ and make your selection. The
choice is fairly limited so stick with the primary colours as they are easiest
to tell apart. When you’re happy with it click OK and to finish off click the
Apply Now button and OE will retrospectively colour code all of the emails in
your nominated mailboxes.
QUICK LOCK WINDOWS XP
If you work in an office and leave
your PC unattended for any length of time here’s a quick and easy way to lock
it up so that no one can have a fiddle or poke around while you are away. Incidentally, this only works if you have
set up a logon password, but if you haven’t don’t worry, we’ll show you how to
do that in a moment.
Step one is to go to Start >
Control Panel select User Accounts and click ‘Change the way users Log on of
Off’. Uncheck ‘Fast User Switching and click Apply Options. Now all you have to
do to lock your PC is press the Windows key (Winkey) + L, the PC is frozen and
the Logon Password box appears.
If you haven’t set up a password all
you have to do is press Enter and the PC is unlocked so to create one go back
to User Accounts in Control Panel, select ‘Change an Account’, select the
account you want to use and click Create a Password and follow the prompts.
HIDDEN DESKTOP FILE FINDER
Here’s another one of those weird and wacky undocumented features in
Windows and this one is well worth getting to know. This tweak puts new
Toolbars on your desktop that lets you quickly search your PC’s filing system
using fast access drop-down menus. It works on any Windows PC using Internet
Explorer 4 or later and to set it up drag and drop the My Computer icon to the
extreme right hand side of the screen. A new vertical toolbar will appear
displaying the contents of My Computer (quite handy on its own) but it gets better.
Next drag and drop the C: drive icon to the top edge of the screen and a new
horizontal toolbar appears. On the far right of the new toolbar there’s a
double continuation arrow, click on that and a menu bar appears on the right
side of the screen. Just hover the mouse pointer over the folders icons and the
contents will be shown in drop-down menus. To hide or get rid of the new
toolbars just right-click into an empty area and select Close or Auto Hide.
TURBOCHARGED WEB ADDRESSES
Here’s a nifty little tip that could save you several seconds each
day as you type in those long laborious web addresses. Popular browsers like
Internet Explorer and Firefox will let you just enter the site name of a
dot.com address, i.e. ‘rickmaybury’ and then hit Ctrl + E and the rest of the
address -- the http://www.
and .com bits -- will be added
automatically. It also works with UK registered sites, like bbc.co.uk for example, that also owns the .com domain
so it is always worth trying
MICROSOFT WORD - CUT YOUR KEYS
In MS Word
you can assign frequently used commands to a simple and memorable two-key
shortcut. For example, Word Count on my PC is Ctrl + \ (backslash). To
create a shortcut all you have to do is right-click into an empty area of the
toolbar, select Customize, and then click the Keyboard button. To create a Word
Count shortcut highlight ‘Tools’ on the Categories list then click on
ToolsWordCount in he Commands window. Click into the ‘Press new shortcut key’
box and enter your two keys. If it is already in use you will be warned so you
can find another key combination or you can replace the old one if it’s not one
you are likely to want to use again.
WORD SAFETY NET
We’ve all been there -- you’ve just spent the last five hours carefully
crafting a document or article then phut! Word or your PC throws a wobbly and
freezes or crashes. Even if you get your PC going again the chances are the
last five hours of hard work have been lost, but it doesn’t have to be that
way. Word has a built-in backup utility that can be set to create an automatic
copy of your work as often as you like, so even if the worst happens the most
you will loose is the last minute (or whatever your chosen backup period is) of
work. To enable or configure the facility go to Tools > Options and select
the Save tab, make sure ‘Save Auto Recovery info’ is checked and set the
interval to 1 minute. If word crashes when it next opens the recovered file
should be displayed. If it doesn’t (if Windows crashes for example) you can
find and open the saved document by going to Tools > Options, select the
File Locations tab and check the location of the Auto Recovery files.
MEASURE YOUR MOUSE
Ever wondered how far your computer mouse travels in a week?
Probably not but in case you ever do feel the need to know here’s a simple way
to find out. Mouse Off-Road is a little freeware program that tracks your mouse
movements, measuring the distance as it goes and displaying the results in an
unobtrusive panel that sits in the System Tray (next to the clock). Simply
hover the mouse pointer over the icon for an instant readout. Mouse Off-Road
can be set to show distance in metric or imperial units and it works in all
versions of Windows. You’ll find the link to this and many other excellent
freeware and shareware utilities on the BootLog Software page. For the record
the highly active Propellerhead/BootLog mouse does an average of 7km per week,
RECLAIM DESKTOP SPACE
Here are two quick and simple little tips that will let you
reclaim valuable screen space. The first one is to make the Windows taskbar
disappear when it's not being used, and magically reappear when needed. This
trick works on all versions of Windows and all you have to do is right-click on
the Taskbar, select Properties and the Taskbar tab (Taskbar options in Windows
9x) then put a check in the box next to Auto Hide the Taskbar and click Apply.
It will vanish, and rematerialise when you hover the mouse over where it used
My second and preferred tip for increasing screen real estate is
to move the taskbar to the right hand side of the screen. This tends to be a
dead area in most applications and moving it to the side will increase the
depth of the screen by a centimetre or two, hand for web browsing and word
processing. To move the taskbar right click on it and make sure 'Lock the
Taskbar is unchecked. Next, move the mouse point to an empty area of the
Taskbar, click and hold the mouse button and in one swift action drag it to the
side of the screen. You need to be fairly decisive and keep the mouse button
down until it is in position otherwise it can expand and shift around. Click on
the border to trim the width and move the separator bars to shift your Quick
Launch and open application icons to where you want them and when you are happy
with it go back and re-check Lock the Taskbar.
LAUNCH WEB PAGES AND DISPLAY TICKERS
Launch bar next to the Start button isn’t confined to your most frequently used
programs. You can also use it to automatically open your browser and go
straight to a web page. All you have to do is open the web page then drag and
drop the address line straight onto the Quick Launch bar. This trick also works
with complete web pages, which can also be persuaded to display on the Toolbar.
You could use it for streamed news or stock market tickers, for example. Visit
the page you want to display, copy the address then go to the Taskbar and
select Toolbars > New Toolbar and paste the address into the Folder box and
EASIER ON THE EYE
The bright white text area of most word processors can
become a quite tiring on the eyes after a few hours. You can of course jiggle
the brightness and contrast settings on your monitor but a far better solution
is to give your blank pages a light grey tint.
In Windows XP open Display Properties by right-clicking an
empty area of the desktop and select Properties or go to Display in Control
Panel. Select the Appearance tab and click the Advanced button then Select the
Appearance tab and click into the area marked Window Text. Next click on the
Color box and choose the Other option. This will bring up a colour palette,
select grey or white from the block of colour options and use the slider to the
right of the multi-colour panel to adjust the level. When you are happy with it
click Add to Custom Colors then keep clicking OK to exit the dialogue boxes and
XP will reset the colours.
If you are using Windows 9x (95/98/ME/SE) it’s actually a
little easier. Open your word processor and load a page of text, so you can
judge the effect. Next, from the Start button select Settings, Control Panel
and the Display icon. Select
the Appearance tab and click into the area marked Window Text. Next click on
the Color box and choose the Other option. This will bring up a colour palette,
select grey or white from the block of colour options and use the slider to the
right of the multi-colour panel to adjust the level. Click OK and if necessary
re-adjust until you are satisfied with it.
The tint only applies to the display and will not affect
the way documents look when they are printed.
is for all those of you that haven’t got around to tidying up your Windows
filing system. In no time at all you’ll end up with all of your documents and
pictures piling up in just a handful of misleadingly labelled and deeply buried
folders, making it almost impossible to quickly find anything. Anyway, the next
time you’re wading through screen-fulls of Windows Explorer listings, trying in
vain to find a particular file in a vastly overfilled folder, just right click
into an empty area in the right window and tap in the first letter of the filename
and you’ll be instantly transported to its location.
Outlook Express email Address book can have a life beyond your PC by printing
it out. Several sizes, including Memo,
Business Card and Phone list and by playing around with your printer’s
Properties you should be able to persuade it to resize the list to fir your
pocket organiser (the old fashioned sort, that doesn’t use batteries…). Begin
by opening the Address book in Outlook Express, if you only want to print out
selected entries hold down the Ctrl key and click on the ones that you want. If
there’s lots of them hold down the Shift key and use Cursor down (or Page Down)
to speed up selection. Next click the Print icon, select the style and click
Print. If you want to change the size click the Preferences or on some models,
right-click your printer’s icon and select Properties.
brilliantly simple little tweak to personalise your PC by putting an image and
some words of your choosing into the Windows System Properties dialogue box
that appears when you click System in Control Panel or use the keyboard
shortcut Winkey + Break. It’s a two-stage process, the first thing you have to
do is find your image, simple colourful images work best, as it will end up
quite small. Open it in Windows Paint or your chosen picture editing program,
go to Image > Attributes and change the size to 96 x 96 pixels then use Save
As on the File menu to rename the file as ‘oemlogo.bmp’ (without the quotes)
and save it as a 256-colour bitmap in C:\WINDOWS\system32. The second stage is
to open Windows Notepad and type in the following 3 lines of text:
enter what you like after ‘Manufacturer=’ and ‘Model=’, though keep it short as
it can end up looking messy. When you’ve finished save the file as
‘oeminfo.ini’ in C:\WINDOWS\system32. It should work straight away -- no need
for a reboot -- and you can check your handiwork by pressing Winkey + Break.
CLEARER DISPLAYS IN WINDOWS XP
If you are using a laptop or LCD type monitor with your PC there is a
way to make text look sharper by enabling Microsoft’s Clear Type font
smoothing. It’s also worth trying if you are using a CRT but on some models it
may not work very well and can even make text look blurred. To switch Clear
Type on go to Control Panel and click the Display icon, select the Appearance
tab then the Effect button. The item ‘Use the following transition effect for
menus and tooltips’ should be checked and ‘Fade Effect’ should be selected in
the drop down menu. Underneath the box next to ‘Use the following method to
smooth the edges of screen fonts’ should also be checked and the drop-down menu
should read ‘Clear Type’. When that’s done reboot and you should notice an
immediate difference otherwise you can fine-tune your Clear Type settings using
an on-line Wizard or a downloadable tuning tool.