BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 1999

  

 

BOOT CAMP 062

POWERTOYS AND TWEAK UI

Every time we mention the Windows utility Tweak UI in Faqs! Facts! Fax! -- and that seems to be most weeks -- we receive a small flurry of letters and e-mails from readers having trouble finding, installing and occasionally using the software. We've got the message; this week's Boot Camp takes a closer look at this extremely useful little program.

Tweak UI (the UI stands for user interface) is one of a suite of  'tools' for Windows 95 called PowerToys, they are designed to help advanced or adventurous PC users customise Windows and make it easier to use. PowerToys were developed by the same team that created Windows 95 and is distributed as unsupported freeware, which basically means if anything goes wrong you can't expect Microsoft to bale you out. That's fair enough as it is made quite clear before installation that you use them entirely at your own risk, and after all, they are free... As it happens problems are rare, you can install and use PowerToys with a reasonable degree of confidence but please don't complain to us if it all goes horribly wrong!

PowerToys was created specifically for Windows 95 and Microsoft warns that it is not suitable for Windows 98 PCs. There are good reasons for this -- several utilities won't work with Win 98 -- but many users, including myself, have been using various PowerToys utilities on Windows 98 for the past 18 months without any major problems. However, the most useful element of PowerToys -- namely Tweak UI -- is included on the Windows 98 CD-ROM, so there's no need to miss out; we'll deal with the installation issues in a moment, but first, what are the PowerToys and what can they do for you?

There are several versions of PowerToys doing the rounds on the Internet and published on computer magazine cover mount CD-ROMs. They usually contain between 12 and 15 utilities, most of which you probably won't ever need or be interested in, but for the record you can expect to see some or all of the following:

CabView -- reads the contents of 'cabinet' folders (usually found on installation discs)

Clock -- displays a large analogue or digital clock on your screen

Contents Menu -- fast way of opening up files and folders

Desktop Menu -- a handy taskbar icon that lets you see the contents of your desktop

Explore From Here -- quickly opens Windows Explorer

Find 1.2 -- drag and drop enhancement for Find on the Start menu

FlexiCD -- Taskbar icon for playing audio CDs

Quick Res -- Taskbar icon for changing screen resolution

Send To X -- adds extra options to the Send To menu

Shortcut Target Menu -- displays a shortcut's target properties by right-clicking on the icon

Telephony Location Selector -- telephone dialler utility for laptop/mobile PC users

Tweak UI -- customise Windows and the way it works

XMouse -- focus follows mouse pointer, without clicking

Tweak UI deserves a bit more of an explanation. Basically it makes the kind of detailed changes to Windows that are usually only possible by editing the Registry files, (a no-go area for novices!). It covers a lot of ground including mouse and menu responses, getting rid of little annoyances like those arrows on shortcut icons, clearing out the Document History folder, deleting redundant references to programs on the Add/Remove list, customising Windows Explorer, repairing icons, the Registry, file associations, and so on. Suffice it to say your PC is incomplete without it, but where do you start?

First find your PowerToys. If it's on a freebie magazine CD-ROM the best advice we can give is to follow the supplied installation instructions as they vary from disc to disc. PowerToys is available from numerous sites around the Internet, including Microsoft's own but it tends to move around a bit. The most recent known address is listed under Contacts. When you find it you will be invited to download a file called 'W95powertoy.exe', it's not very large and should only take a couple of minutes with a 28.8kbs modem. Save the file in a new folder that you created in advance in Windows Explorer using the 'New' item on the File menu. Call it 'Powertoys' or something that you will remember and can later find when the download is complete.

Open up your Powertoys folder and double click on W95powertoy.exe. It will automatically decompress itself to create around 30 or so new files. Before you do anything look for one called Readme.txt, and read it! It contains a lot of important information, including how to uninstall the software!

Early releases of PowerToys used to be a swine to install but the current versions are fairly painless. To install a particular PowerToy -- including Tweak UI -- the usual procedure is to right-click on the relevant *.inf file and choose the 'Install' option from the menu that appears, it's as simple as that. PowerToys with a '.exe' extension can be run by double clicking on the file.

Windows 98 users should load their CD-ROM, either wait for it to automatically start and click the 'Browse this CD button' or go to Windows Explorer and open the CD from there. Look for a folder called Tools, open it, then Reskit, and lastly PowerToys. Read the Readme file then right click on Tweakui.inf and it will install itself.

Once installed a Tweak UI icon appears in Control Panel. When opened you will find all of the options neatly tabbed. Be warned; it is a powerful weapon and can make changes that might be difficult to undo, so read and understand what each function does before you use it!

Next week -- Inside Outlook Express

 

JARGON FILTER

DECOMPRESS

Files sent over the Internet are often 'compressed' to make them smaller and faster to send. However, in order to use the files they have to be decompressed or extracted on the host PC. Some compressed files come with their own automatic extraction utility, others -- usually with the extension *.zip -- depend on a separate program on the PC to 'unzip' the files    

REGISTRY

A large, constantly changing file in Windows 95 and 98 containing details of how your PC is set up and configuration information for all the programs stored on the hard disc

TOOLS

Small programs or applications that modify or change the way things work or happen on a PC

TOP TIP

If you are constantly fussing over fonts for your documents then there's a very handy feature in Windows 95 and 98 that allows you to quickly compare typefaces according to style and design. From the Start menu go to Settings, then Control Panel and double click the Fonts icon. Go to the View drop-down menu and click on 'List Fonts by Similarity'. Now all you have to do is click on the drop down 'List Fonts…', choose a font and you will be presented with list of comparable typefaces, ranked according to similarity.

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