Mouse, Keyboard & Desktop

 

Hard At Work, Or Hardly Working?

What have you been doing today? It’s the sort of question that bosses, wives, husbands, partners and so on can spring on you, and ideally you’ll have a convincing answer. That’s easy to do if you have a copy of a freeware utility called WhatPulse on your computer. Think of it as your own personal PC Black Box, quietly monitoring everything that you do, from how many times you’ve clicked your mouse, and where on the screen you clicked the most, to how many keystrokes you’ve made. It’ll even tell you which keys you press the most with a simple ‘heat map’. But that’s just for starters. The program creates a whole bundle of statistics about you and your computer, including how long it has been switched on, which applications you have been using, network and Internet traffic, and all of this data can be uploaded, stored and analysed on your online web account, and should you so desire, shared and compared with others. Of course it could sound a bit Big Brotherish, even a tad creepy but it definitely makes for interesting reading, and it might even come in handy one day, if you ever need to prove you’ve been hard at it…

01/09/14 

 

Wheely Easy Windows Control

How much time have you wasted moving, hiding, showing and resizing windows? Probably lots, if you’ve been using PCs for a while, so here’s some welcome relief and a way to claw back precious hours and minutes of your life. It’s called Feewhee (it comes from Feel The Wheel) and it is a tiny freeware utility that does just two simple things: makes windows larger or smaller, or varies their transparency, using the mouse wheel, so you can quickly and easily switch from one window or application to another, All you have to do is hover the mouse pointer over a window’s titlebar and spin the wheel, to make it grow or shrink, or hold down the shift key and it becomes more or less transparent. True, it doesn’t sound very exciting but after you’ve used it for a while you will wonder how you ever got on without it.

23/06/14+

 

There Is Such A Thing As A Free Launch

The Windows Quick Launch toolbar is okay-ish, but beyond opening the programs you’ve decided to place there, it doesn’t do much else. If you fancy trying something with a bit more oomph then have a look at this. It’s called Free Launch, and as the name implies, it won’t cost you a bean, so it’s off to a promising start. It really comes into its own if your Quick Launch toolbar is getting a bit crowded, because it let you organise your icons into mini menus, with unlimited levels. It has numerous customisation features that let you assign hotkeys, change the icons and the views, rearrange the icons and separators, change the Tip box text and switch quickly between other toolbars. Okay, so it’s not going to make your PC run any quicker (it shouldn’t slow it down either as it uses very few resources), and it won’t make it any more reliable or but if you’re someone who wants to extract the last ounce of functionality out of your computer desktop – instead of getting on with your job – then you’ll find plenty here to keep you amused.

21/10/13 

 

Headstrong Mouse

Here’s a brilliant little utility for anyone who finds moving and using a computer mouse difficult or impossible though disability or injury, or just because you want to keep your hands free to do something else. It’s called Enable Viewcam and the idea is that you move the mouse pointer around the screen simply by moving your head. You make selections by hovering the pointer over an icon or menu item, and then move it to a toolbar on the top of the screen to select a mouse action (right/left/middle click, double click etc). The program is very easy to set up, using a laptop’s own built-in web cam, or you can use an external USB camera, and once configured you can fine tune the speed and click actions to suit your particular needs. The program is free Open Source and as always the developers would be very happy to accept any donations so they can continue with its development.

18/06/12

 

Desktop Dexterity

One of the features in the better Linux distributions that often impresses new users is the facility to create multiple desktops. This can be handy, if, for example, you frequently switch between applications – a web browser on one desktop, for example, your word processor on another, email on another and so on. Each one can be set up exactly how you like it, and there’s the ability to quickly switch between them with a simple Hotkey combination. Of course there have been desktop managers and virtual desktops for Windows almost since day one, but you may be interested in this one, from Sysinternals. You may recall the company, which is big on high-end Windows tools and utilities was bought out by Microsoft some years ago, so there’s no need to worry about the program’s pedigree or lurking nasties. By the way, it’s called Desktops, it’s free, works on all Windows from XP onwards, it’s incredibly easy to use and the download is a mere 60kb, so it’ll be with you in less time that it takes you to reach the end of this sentence…

28/11/11

 

Silence is Golden, and Free

System Silencer is a clever little freeware utility for Windows (the download is just over 500kb) that lets you customize what your computer does when it is left idle for a preset period. It’s a kind of supercharged Power Options – see Windows > Control Panel -- but this one comes with lots of extra features. The standard options include switching the monitor off but in addition you can set it to mute the sound, hide your taskbar, hide a window and desktop icons, lock the computer, kill a running process, run a program, shutdown, reboot, logoff or hibernate. Each option has it’s own timer setting and if you choose to donate you’ll be rewarded with a set of extra features.

21/02/11

 

Get A Head With Your Mouse

Originally designed by researchers and Boston’s College and University for people with physical impairments, Camera Mouse is a fascinating little program that lets you control your mouse just by moving your head. It works on any Windows PC (XP onwards) with a webcam. It works really well too and there’s plenty of configuration settings, so you can fine-tune it to your set up. The only problem, as far as we can see, is there’s no way to instigate a mouse click, except by clicking the mouse or touchpad buttons. Hopefully they’re working on that too; how about blink or tongue recognition? Anyway, it clearly has some very serious and worthwhile applications but even if you’re lucky enough to be currently able-bodied it’s great fun to try out. With a little practice it’s possible to become quite accurate though at first it’s best to stick with program that have fairly large buttons and menus.

0302

 

Don’t Lose Your Desktop

It can take a long time to get your desktop looking just how you like it. A well-used desktop is like an old friend, so imagine how you will feel if, one day, it all disappears, or re-arranges itself. It can and does happen and all you can do is start again. Well, not any more, thanks to DesktopOK, a little neat little freeware program from Nenad Hrg. You don’t even have to install it, just click the Save button and all of your icons and their positions will be saved and ready to be restored if and when the need arises. Hopefully you’ll never need it, but you never know so if you value your desktop give it a whirl.

13/01/11

 

At Last, A Royal Wedding Countdown Clock!

It’s the question that’s on everyone’s lips – down our way at least -- how much longer do we have to wait for the Royal Wedding?  Well, you could look it up online but now there’s a much easier way, just download the Royal Wedding Countdown Clock from Free Vector Clocks and have it permanently on your desktop, ticking off he days, hours and minutes to the big event. It’s as delightful as it is elegant, with the happy couple smiling benignly at you. And there’s more, as the happy day approaches it will play a celebratory animation with rings and swans to the accompaniment of he wedding march. Don’t worry, when it’s all over it will continue to function, counting up the days since they got hitched. In case you get bored waiting there are plenty of things to fiddle with too, including size, shape and position. If, heaven forefend, you’re not counting off the days to the royal nuptials the Free Vector Clocks website has plenty of other eye-catching desktop timepieces for you to download, just pay attention during the installs as there can be pre-ticked utilities and toolbars that you may not want.

23/12/10

 

Heads Up LEDs

To save space, weight and no doubt costs, many netbook and notebook manufacturers do away the keyboard LEDs for Caps Lock and NumLock; we won’t worry about Scroll Lock as no-one knows what’s that’s for… Anyway, even on models that do have a set of keyboard LEDs they’re often tucked away or near invisible, which brings us to a nifty little freeware utility called Keyboard LEDs. The idea is it puts a set of keyboard indicators in the System Tray, next to the clock, of you can have a set of labels, the choice is yours. Come to think of it, it could come in quite handy on desktop PCs, the indicators on some keyboards are difficult to see when you are in full flow, so give it a try and see what you think.

30/08/10

 

Wheel Easy Resize and Transparency

I really like simple little utilities that do just one or two things, but do them extremely well and are easy to use and Feel The Wheel ticks all of my boxes. FeeWee for short varies the size and transparency of a window by spinning the mouse wheel. To quickly make a window larger or smaller simply place he pointer on the title bar and spin. To change the transparency just hold down the Shift key as you twiddle. That’s really all you need to know, apart from the fact that the program download is tiny, just 6kb, oh yes, and it’s completely free.

23/08/10

 

Rain on the Desktop

It’s called Rainmeter and there’s no way to easily to describe it except to say that if you want to take control of Windows your desktop, this is the way to do it. Basically Rainmaker is a desktop customiser. There’s all the usual stuff, backgrounds, wallpaper and themes and so on. It lets you add a wide range of moveable applets, a bit like Vista/Win7 Gadgets, covering all sorts of useful things, from the news and weather, to what your PC’s CPU and RAM are up to. There’s to-do lists, application launchers; you know the sort of thing by now. One of the key selling points (not that it’ll cost you a bean – it’s Open Source), is the ease with which you, the user can customise the skins, or even create your own. In fact there’s so much to play around with there’s a distinct danger that you won’t get any work done… Have fun!

03/06/10

 

A Touch of Genius

This one is for all fat-fingered and clumsy typists – like me – who are unable to use a laptop keyboard without accidentally brushing against the touchpad, causing the application you are using or the computer to do all sorts of strange and unexpected things, This little freeware utility is called Touchfreeze and its sole purpose is to disable the touchpad while you are typing. It sounds simple, and it is, and it just works, so the next time you are in full flow and hammering away there’s no more excuses for wandering cursors, loosing stuff or switching applications.

15/03/10

 

Speak Your Mind, and Your Clipboard

Windows has a text to speech facility built in but it’s buried away in the accessories section and not that easy to get at (or switch off), so here’s a handy alternative. It’s called Speak Clipboard and if you haven’t already worked it out, all you need to know is that if you copy and paste a chunk of text into the Windows Clipboard, Speak Clipboard will read it back to you. It uses the slightly mechanical Sam voice that comes with Windows, but it’s good enough for writers who need to be able to hear how a piece of copy sounds, and more importantly, those with visual impairments, who can benefit from an easy to use text to speech facility.

08/03/10

 

Fishy Tales

When it comes to screensavers I can take them or leave them, very few ever catch my eye and besides, these days with LCD screens they’re pretty pointless. Nevertheless, I’ve always been quite impressed by those tropical fish tank screensavers but put off by the fact that most of them cost money. I’m now pleased to report that one of the better ones, Living Marine Aquarium 2 can be all yours for the cost of a 2Mb download, i.e. nothing, zilch. It’s the real deal with many exotic varieties, stunning colours and backgrounds, including a coral reef; there are even sound effects. You might be wondering how this can be so; well, you’ll see why it is free when you install it as it offers to load several other commercial and shareware programs. Don’t worry, they are optional but if you don’t want them, make sure you click the Decline button!

07/01/10

 

Stone Circle Launcher

We’ve looked at several Application Launchers in the past few years and they are a genuinely useful way of quickly getting at your favourite and most frequently used programs so there’s always room for another. It’s called Krento and the 3D circular layout is supposed to resemble a stone circle – each app button is called a ‘stone’. Anyway, that’s really all you need to know about the design philosophy; using it is very straightforward too, simply drag and drop your program icons onto the circle, or create program groups, even multiple circles for a really busy PC. The launcher appears when you press the keyboard shortcut Winkey + C, or you can click on the ‘Pulsar’ icon that sits near the System Tray. I have to say that Rocket Dock (below) is still my favourite but if you fancy a change or just want to see if an application launcher really will make your life any easier then this one is worth trying.

31/12/09

 

Rocket Docker

Docking bars have been around for yonks but they’re back in the news again following the release of Windows 7, with its whizzy new taskbar that makes it look and work like a fancy docking bar. If you’re not planning to upgrade to Win 7 just yet there’s no need to miss out on this very useful feature and there’s an excellent free docking bar for XP and Vista called RocketDock. Once you’ve downloaded the program simply drag the shortcuts for all of your favourite applications onto the bar and it’s good to go. Right click on it to open the Settings menu, which lets you move it, resize, and control the program many advanced features. Try it and I suspect you’ll wonder how you every managed without it…

09/11/09

 

The Mesmerising Blob of Infinity

Quite frankly, these days’ screensavers are a waste of time. LCD monitors do not suffer from the ‘screen burn’ effect that affected old style CRT monitors when left to display the same image for hours on end. That said, a blank or simple floating logo screensaver on a black background can provide a small power saving when a PC is left idle (though there are much better ways to achieve it). On the other hand password protecting a screensaver is a handy way of keeping prying eyes off your PC when it is left unattended for any length of time. Well, that’s my excuse for mentioning Zoom Mania. It’s a wacky, trance-inducing fractal blob thingy that floats around the screen giving off streams of smaller blobs that appear to disappear into infinity. You can move it around, zoom in and out and do all kinds of weird and wonderful things to the image. Try it after a couple of pints and I guarantee you won’t get any work done. It’s freeware but when you install it watch out for very kind offers to load browser toolbars and change your home page, unless of course you want it to…

10/09/09 

 

Windows in the Dock

Okay Apple fans, I know desktop docking bars are old hat on Macs but there’s no reason why Windows users can’t join in the fun as well. In case you’ve just tuned in, a docking bar is simply an on-screen graphic, usually always in view, containing a strip of shortcut icons to your favourite applications, so there’s no need to mess around with the Start menu or minimize open windows to get at the desktop. There’s plenty of docks to choose from but this one, called Nexus, is one of the better ones, with more configuration options and eye catching features than you can shake a stick at. All you have to do is download the program, run the installer and it’s good to go. It comes pre-loaded with popular options, like a clock, CPU and RAM meters, browser and email client icons and a weather gadget to get you started so all you have to do to make it your own is drag your preferred icons on to the bar, set the size, transparency and position and it’s ready to use.

13/07/09

 

On A Roll

Here’s a really neat little program that makes it easier to manage a busy desktop. It’s called WinRoll and the idea is that when you right-click on a program’s Title bar, it rolls up into it. You can vary the transparency, you can set it to launch with Windows, minimise, maximise or close all open Windows, to name just a few of the configuration options. The download is tiny, a mere 89k, and versions are available in Russian, Italian, German and French

13/04/09

 

C Is For…

Kids are great, aren’t they? Well, yes, and when my two were tiny they thought it hugely entertaining to bash away on daddy’s keyboard when he wasn’t looking. Way back then – and we’re talking very early Windows (3.1 & 95), it didn’t take much frantic key pressing to crash a computer. Windows is a bit more tolerant these days, but a determined 3 year old can still lock up your laptop or wipe a day’s work, if you’re daft enough to leave your PC unattended. Not any more, all you need is CrazyLittleFingers . It’s a freeware keyboard lock, but here’s the clever part, instead of just disabling the keyboard and putting them off computers, it remaps it. That means when they press a key they are rewarded with a picture and a sound related to the letter. For example, if junior presses the ‘C’ key your computer shows a picture of a toy cow, accompanied by a mooing noise. When you want to use it, you just press a key combination to bring back Windows. Hang on, this is much too much fun for kids, moo, baaa, baaa, bleat, quack….

12/01/09

 

Make Your Mouse Work Harder

Computer mice are pretty versatile these days but here’s a very neat little freeware program that adds even more functionality to your favourite rodent. It’s called AltMove and once it’s running you can quickly move, resize and hide windows with a simple keyboard and mousse key combination, and it even works on windows that do not normally support move and resize. If you have a centre mouse button, or clickwheel, pressing it opens a magnifier screen, and there are three simple ‘gestures’ with the right mouse button. Click and hold the right button and move the mouse down and the open window minimises, click right, hold and drag upward to maximise and click right, hold and drag right lets you change the windows transparency. And if that’s not enough, you can create your own custom actions. The program is freestanding, so it doesn’t need to be installed and it can be launched from a pen drive. It’s what your mouse has been waiting for!

10/11/08

 

Stick it Out

Windows application launchers come and go, and I must have used scores of them in my time, but this one, called Stick, is one of the best, and certainly one of the easiest to use. Basically it puts a series of tabs along the top of the screen and when you click or hover on it, it opens the chosen program, folder or applet. It’s highly configurable, easily customisable and you can also access tabs using Hot Keys. Needless to say it’s free, and it works on both XP and Vista. Give it a try; you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it…

21/07/08

 

Icon Finder General

As I am sure you know you can change your desktop icons by right-clicking on them and selecting Properties and clicking the Change Icon button, but what do you change it to? Of course you can go on line and search through the thousands of free and paid for icon banks but you may be surprised at how many icons there are sprinkled around your PC.

 

A freeware utility called IconsExtract managed to find no less than 18,000 icons and cursors on my office PC, and this is on a machine only three months after a full re-install! The program is very easy to use, just tell it where to look for icons, it could be just a folder or a sub folder, or your whole C: dive, tough be warned, searching an entire drive can take a few minutes and use a lot of resources, so go and make a cup of tea. When it has finished you can save selected icons, or copy and paste single icon to the clipboard.

18/02/08

 

Clear the Decks (Desks)

How many times have you wanted to just clear everything off you desk? It’s tempting, no matter how hard you try desks are like magnets for all kinds of rubbish that you somehow never get around to throwing away, and PC desktops are just the same. So, for everyone who has forgotten what a naked desktop looks like, or maybe you just want to do a few screenshots, without all the clutter, here’s a tiny little program that clears everything, with a single click. It’s called Empty Desk and when I say it’s small I’m not kidding, the download is only 22kb, and the program runs from any folder, so you don’t even have to install it.

21/01/08

 

Getting the Point

Are you still using those boring old standard Windows cursors and mouse pointers, even the alternatives are pretty drab, so here’s a way to liven things up. It’s a freeware program called RealWorld Cursor Editor, and not only can you create your own custom cursors and pointers from scratch, you can also create snazzy looking animated cursors as well. The program is packed with easy to use 2D and 3D drawing and editing tools plus simple animation options and it will run under both XP and Vista, so what are you waiting for, get creative!

26/11/07

 

Doing the Taskbar Shuffle

It sounds like a cheesy dance but Taskbar Shuffle is actually a clever little freeware program that lets you move things around in the Windows Taskbar to suit your way of working. Normally program icons in the status area appear in the order they were opened, which isn’t always very convenient but with Taskbar Shuffle running you can shift them around to your heart’s content, group them according to function, open and close groups with the middle mouse key (a use for it, at last) and with a simple Hotkey command, rearrange the icons in the System Tray (next to the clock).

22/10/07

 

Mobile Mouse and Keyboard

Here’s something interesting for more advanced users to play around with. Synergy is a freeware, Open Source program that lets you share your mouse and keyboard with any other PC on your home or office network. Basically what happens is when you move your mouse off the edge of your main PC screen, it appears on the screen of another PC, and whilst the mouse is on the screen you can control that PC using both the mouse and keyboard. This could be handy if you are working on a document on your desktop PC and want to refer to a website showing on your laptop, sitting next to the computer. Configuration is a little messy and there’s not much in the way of Help but it’s worth the effort, and truly bizarre watching another PC obey your commands. If you are interested you might find it easier to download the program from Here as the Sourceforge site isn’t especially novice-user friendly.

10/01/07

 

Mouse Buttons Magnifier

If you have a scroll wheel mouse you may have noticed that the wheels is also a button, but it probably doesn’t do much. Here’s a way to put it to good use, Microsoft has developed a really useful set of utilities for it’s Intellimouse range of mice, and the really good news is that it works with most other mouses, and it’s free.

 

Download and install the Intellipoint software, when asked just select Optical Mouse from the list (unless you have a MS Mouse, in which case enter the model). Now go to Control Panel and double-click on the Mouse icon, select the Buttons tab then on the Wheel Button drop-down menu select Magnify then OK. Now when you click the mouse wheel the pointer turns into a magnifying glass. There’s loads of other options, like Cut, Copy, Paste and Delete, and while you are at it try the ‘Precision Booster’ which give you one-click control for pointer speed. 

04/12/06

 

Lost XP Theme -- Royale Noir

Well, not so much lost as shelved and forgotten. This XP Theme from Microsoft is called Royale Noir (almost topical Mr Bond…) and according to its discoverer at istartedsomething it was originally developed for XP Media Centre but never used and somehow it escaped onto the net.

 

It’s actually very smart, all blacks and shades of grey and it works well with most applications. To give it a try you first have to download the compressed Rar file by clicking here, and if you haven’t got a suitable decompression utility you can download the trial version of WinRar here. When the file has downloaded click on it and this will open WinRar, click Extract and set the Destination Path to: c:\windows\resources\themes\royalenoir (use the Browse button then enter the Royal Noir folder name). When it has finished open Windows Explorer and navigate your way to the royalnoir folder and double-click luna.msstyles and this will install the theme. The Display Properties dialogue box should now appear, select the Appearance tab and under Color Scheme select Royal Noir.

10/11

 

Background on your Background

How much do you know about your PC? Of course there are ways and means of finding out things like how long it has been running, the name of your computer, the type of network adaptor, how much free space there is on your hard drives, your current IP address, how much memory you have and a dozen other things besides but with a little utility called BGInfo everything you could ever want to know about your PC is right there in front of you, superimposed on your desktop.

 

You can choose to display as much or as little information as you want, change the font, size and colour and blend it into your existing background, or create a new one. It’s simple, informative and completely free.

20/10/06

 

The Wonderful Icon

The name says it all really. Click on the Wonderful Icon red flag that appears in your System Tray (next to the clock) and you have instant one-click access to scores of frequently-used functions, from Shut Down and Reboot, to Close All Documents or Shift Windows to Top of screen. This excellent little freeware utility is really easy to set up and use and once you’ve played around with it for a day or two, you’ll wonder how you ever managed to do without it.

10/10/06

 

Two Mice Better Than One?

Did you know than on most PCs you can have two mice? But why, I hear you ask, would anyone in their right mind want to do such a thing? Well, there is this new game I’ve just invented, called Duelling Mice, where two users are given a mouse each and the winner is the one who manages to shut down Windows… But seriously, if you’re into high-end graphics you might want a regular mouse for day-to-day Windows stuff, and a precision mouse or trackball for delicate work. The second mouse could also be a graphics tablet or even a wireless device, used for presentations. So how do you go about connecting two mice? Easy, one of them needs to be a regular PS2 type mouse. That plugs into the back of the PC, and the other one should be a USB mouse. Switch off, plug them both in and reboot and they should both work, if not check to see if you have any specialised mouse utilities -- they’re normally to be found in Control Panel -- that specifically prevents the use of two mices.

14/09/06

 

Mouse Volume Control Freeware

You may recall a few weeks ago we looked at a little freeware utility called ‘One Click Volume that simplified the clunky Windows System Tray volume control, well, here’s an even better one, called Volumouse. Simply hold down the Alt key (or one of sixteen other actions) and spin the mouse wheel and the volume goes up or down. You can also use it to control a variety of other functions from the mouse wheel, using four ‘Rules’ or presets and these include varying screen brightness and transparency, adjusting bass boost and a number of audio actions. The download is tiny (just 38Kb for the Zip, or 78Kb for the self-installing version) and it takes only a few moments to configure.

11/09/06

 

Time Zone Display Freeware

Here’s another freebie from Bill, this time it’s a little add on called Time Zone, and it does exactly what it says, displaying the time in a choice of world wide locations. The defaults are London, Los Angeles, New Delhi, New York and Sydney, but you can choose from scores of cities, from Abu Dhabi to Zagreb. Incidentally, if it doesn’t work you may have followed one of our previous tips and disabled ‘Balloon Tips’ in which case see this Top Tip to switch them back on again.

08/09/06

 

Titlebar Clock

All Windows applications have a Titlebar at the top and for the most part it is a waste of space, with just the name of the program on the left, the Minimise, Maximise and Close icons on the left and a lot of empty space in between. Here’s a nifty little freeware program that makes good use of some of that wasted space. It’s called TitleBarClock and it really is tiny (the zip file is just 61kb) and once installed it inserts the time (12 or 24 hour format), date, day of the week and how much free HDD memory you have on the left of any active title bar that has mouse or keyboard focus. It’s highly configurable from the icon that appears in the System Tray and it can be set to start with Windows.

16/08/06

 

Remove Run Command from Start Menu

Run on the Start menu can be a real nuisance for those who share their PCs with others. Tinkering causes so many computer problems, and there’s no quicker way to foul up a PC than mess with System Files or the Registry, all of which can be accessed through tools and utilities that launch from the Run command, so hide it!

 

It’s really easy, just right click on the Start button and select Properties then the Task Bar tab and click the Customize button, followed by the Advanced tab. Scroll down the ‘Start Menu Items’ list to Run Command and uncheck the box, click OK, then OK to exit the dialogue boxes and it’s done.

10/08/06

 

Make Caps Lock Behave Like Typewriter

You wouldn’t think it but the humble computer keyboard annoys the hell out of a lot of PC users, especially those of a certain age, who like myself, learned to type on a typewriter.

 

The Caps Lock key is one of the biggest bones of contention, and in particular the way it behaves, which, is quite unlike the way the Shift Lock key on a typewriter works. If you’ve never got used to it, or you just want to see what it was like in the olden days then here’s a simple little tip that makes the Shift key work like a typewriter and cancel caps lock.

 

All you have to do is go to Regional and Language Options in Control Panel, select the Languages tab and click the Details button then the Key Settings button and under ‘To turn off Caps Lock’ select Press the Shift Key’. If the Key Settings button is greyed out you’ll have to add a second keyboard (e.g. English United States) to the list by clicking the Add button; it’s okay your existing default keyboard setting will not be changed. When you’ve finished keep clicking OK to exit the dialogue boxes 

27/07/06

 

A CLIPBOARD ON YOUR MOUSE

Your mouse is much smarter than you think. For example, did you know you could turn it onto a sort of clipboard for files?  Just click on a file and it literally sticks to the mouse pointer, so you can drag and drop it into any other folder on your PC. The feature is built into XP and other versions of Windows, you’ll find it in Control Panel, double-click the Mouse icon and select the Activities button (one some machines it may be on the Buttons tab) and check the ‘Click Lock’ button. To make it work simply click and hold on the file for a few seconds, then release the mouse button and the file selected should be attached to the pointer. To release the file simply click again. You can vary the time needed to engage Click Lock from the Settings button. Be warned, useful though it is, it can change the behaviour of the mouse in some applications so it may take some getting used to.

29/05/06

 

CONTROL YOUR KEYBOARD

I don’t know if you’ve ever held down a character key whilst typing but if you do then you’ll see that the character is repeated, and quickly starts to fill the line. Maybe this feature is useful to you? If so you can control how quickly the character repeats after you’ve pressed and held the key, and the rate at which it repeats. You can do this from Keyboard applet in Control Panel, just click the Speed tab. Personally I’ve set the Repeat Delay and Repeat Rate sliders towards ‘Long’ and ‘Slow’, so the feature is there if I need it, but it won’t happen by accident. You can also change the rate at which the cursor blinks. I find a slightly faster blink rate makes it easier to spot on larger LCD monitors. While you have the keyboard controls open click the Remap tab and you’ll find a small selection of keys that you can have their functions swapped. Not exactly earth shattering but it might be of interest to some users.

 

 

LINUX STYLE DESKTOP MANAGER FOR XP

One of the most eye-catching  features of many Linux distributions is the ‘virtual desktop’, which basically means you can switch between four active desktops with the click of a mouse. That feature is also available in Windows XP, though you have to know where to find it. In fact you need to go to the Microsoft website and download a ‘Powertoy’ called Virtual Desktop Manager. Powertoys, as we’ve mentioned on many occasions, are a suite of tools developed by Microsoft (including the most excellent Tweak UI) but they’re not included as standard with Windows XP, or at least not any longer. They’re unsupported but that doesn’t mean they’re in any way buggy or inferior.

 

But I digress, download and install Virtual Desktop manager. To launch it right-click on the Taskbar, select Toobars then click Desktop Manager and you will see 5 new icons on the Taskbar, one for each virtual desktop and one for a ‘quad’ view. I suspect that you’ll find it hard to go back to a boring single desktop after using it for a while, so what are you waiting for?

 

 

TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR SCROLLBAR

Given the choice I’m guessing some of you will like them thin and skinny, others will prefer them to be thick and chunky. I am of course talking about scrollbars the sliding doohickeys down the side and sometimes along the bottom edges your windows. Well, there is a way you can change the width, and it’s a global change that will apply to all of your programs. Simply open Display Properties (Display in Control Panel or right-click an empty area of the desktop and select Properties). Make you way to the Appearance tab and click the Advanced button then on the ‘Item’ drop-down menu select Scrollbars, use the size box to make your change and click OK.  By the way the the default size is 13. You may need to know that so you can put it back to normal after playing around with it; the maximum size (100) it is rather eye catching…

 

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HOME PAGE ON YOUR DESKTOP

Here’s a way to have your favourite web page or your home page displayed on your desktop. It can be quite handy if, for example you always open your browser on BootLog or maybe even Google, it’ll be right there at boot up, ready to go as soon as you Windows has finished loading. Here’s how to do it. Right click on the Desktop and select Properties or go to Start > Control Panel > Display to open Display Properties. Select the Desktop tab then click the Customize Desktop button. If you want to see your Home Page select the web tab and under Web pages tick the item ‘My Current Home Page. If you want any other web page click the New button and enter the full address in the box that appears.

 

 

DOUBLE QUICK DISPLAY DODGE

If you are forever opening Windows XP Display Properties, to tweak settings, mess around with screensavers and change the appearance of my desktop -- it may have something to do with my jobs - -but the point is to get to it you have to open Control Panel and click on the Display icon or right-click on the desktop and select Properties. I’ve found a much better way and now I can open Display with a single click on a Quick Launch icon and here is how it’s done. Right-click on the desktop and select New > Shortcut. In the ‘Type the location o the item box’ enter (or copy and paste) the following command:

rundll32.exe shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL desk.cpl

Click Next, give the new shortcut a name then OK. Now you can drag and drop the shortcut onto the Quick Launch toolbar and you are ready to give it a road test.

 

 

KUSTOM KEYBOARD

Back in the olden days, when Windows 95 roamed the Earth, there used to be a useful little utility -- called a Kernel Toy -- that you could download from Microsoft that would ‘remap’ or change the assignments of certain keys on your keyboard. In theory remapping the keys on a Windows XP system should be easy as the facility is built into the Registry but it’s a swine to get at and I caution novices to mess with the Registry at their peril. Fortunately you don’t have to, I’ve just finished trialling a great little freeware utility, called KeyTweak, that lets you change the action of any key on your keyboard, which you can do directly, or by ‘teaching’ it by pressing the keys you want to change. At last, a way to make those unused buttons do something useful, change Scroll Lock (Scrlk) into sound mute, open your Home Page or display the Calculator, for example. Hours of fun for all the family, and if you get into a tangle you can quickly reset all or any of your changes back to their default setting.

 

 

WEB PAGE & PROGRAM LAUNCHER ON THE TASKBAR

If your Taskbar is still in the default position, at the bottom of the screen, this tip will insert a handy Address bar into it, so you can go directly to web pages or launch programs. Right-click into an empty area of the taskbar, select Toolbars then Address. The word Address now appears on the taskbar and if you double-click on it an address box will appear. I wouldn’t try this if you have used one of my earlier tips and moved your taskbar on the side of the screen, it can do odd things to the layout, which can take ages to undo, as I discovered…  Incidentally, if this tip doesn't work the taskbar may be locked, in which case right-click on the taskbar and deselect 'Lock the Taskbar'.

 

 

WHEELY INTERESTING MOUSE FEATURE

Does your mouse have a scroll wheel?  Hopefully yes, they’re really useful, but did you know most models have a little known feature called the wheel button. To see if yours is so -equipped press the wheel and it should click. If so you can make it do all sorts of interesting things, indeed something unusual may have happened when you just clicked it, but to take control and assign a function to the wheel button go to Control Panel, double click the Mouse icon and select the Buttons tab and have a look at what’s on offer on the Wheel button drop-down menu. My favourite settings are Undo last action (keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Z) and double-click, but play around with it and see if anything takes your fancy.

 

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MOTIVATE YOUR MOUSE?

Is your PS2 mouse a bit sluggish? Are you finding it difficult to click on titchy icons and menus? If so you might want to try this simple little tweak to make  your  rodent more responsive. Press Winkey + Break to Open System Properties, click the Hardware tab then the Device Manager button and scroll down the list to ‘Mice and other pointing devices’. Click the plus sign to expand the tree and right-click on your mouse and select Properties then the Advanced Settings tab. Increase the Sample Rate setting to 200, click OK and reboot and you should notice a small but useful increase in your mouse’s sensitivity

 

 

EMERGENCY MOUSE

What happens if you boot up your PC and the mouse isn’t working, or it suddenly stops responding halfway through an important task? You can revert to keyboard controls, using the Alt, Tab and Arrow keys to make and change selections, but did you know you can also control the mouse from the keyboard?

 

It’s a Windows Accessibility feature called Mousekeys and on most XP machines you can switch it on straight away using the keyboard shortcut Alt + Left Shift + Numlock and you will then find that the mouse pointer can be moved using the keypad keys 8 (up), 6 (right), 4 (left), and 2 (down). 1, 7, 9 and 3 drive the mouse pointer diagonally. Key 5 or Enter is used for the left mouse button and to right-click hold down the minus key on the numeric keypad and press 5. If the keyboard shortcut doesn’t work you can get to Mousekeys through Accessibility Options in Control Panel.

 

 

REMOVE ICON NAME

This tip should appeal to minimalists with tidy mind and a good memory as it allows you to remove the names of icons on your desktop. Simply click the icon name once, wait a second and click again and it will be highlighted, press the Backspace key to delete the existing name then press Alt + 0160 and press return and as if by magic the name disappears.

 

 

WHAT’S THAT KEY FOR?

Have a close look at your keyboard. There’s probably several keys that you don’t use and have absolutely no idea what they’re for. Several of them are throwbacks to the old DOS and mainframe computer days, like Scroll Lock and all it does is turn the Scroll Lock light on and off. SysRq (under PrntScn) is another vestigial command, it stands for System Request but again it doesn’t do anything, nor does Pause/Break, though if you press it after the Winkey you will see the Windows XP System Properties box.

 

What’s the ‘Alt Gr’ key to the right of the spacebar all about? This one actually does get some use and it toggles between characters on US and some foreign keyboards (the Alternate characters are usually printed in green on the keycaps, hence the ‘Gr’). To the right of that there’s usually another mystery key with what looks like a sheet of paper printed on the keycap. This also has a use and if you press it you will find it brings up the right-click content menu of whatever application you are using, just like the right button on your mouse. 

 

 

WATER IN THE WORKS

It’s going to happen to you sooner or later and you will spill tea, coffee or soft drink on your PC keyboard. Don’t panic! Unlike the movies it’s not going to explode, catch fire or emit sparks, but as quick as you like  use the mouse to save your work, close any open applications then shut down your PC. You now have a few options, If you are feeling lucky and time isn’t pressing disconnect the keyboard, drain it off, shake out, blot up as much surplus liquid as possible with kitchen towel then let it air dry for at least 24 hours before trying it again.

 

The chances are quite good that it will work, though if you take sugar in your drinks the keys might be a bit sticky. My preferred method is to actually wash the keyboard under a tap running lukewarm water. It sounds a bit drastic but it will get rid of any sticky residues and probably flush out a lot of gunk that’s been accumulating. Once again it is vital that you remove any surplus liquid and allow to dry in a warm place for at least 24 hours.

 

If you are feeling brave you could try dismantling the keyboard, by taking the case apart and removing the ‘key caps’ (they should pull off quite easily and carefully dry it out with a soft cloth. However I strongly recommend that you take a picture of it first, so you can put the keys back into their correct locations. If you are in a hurry or it still doesn’t work then don’t waste any more time on it, just get a new one.   

 

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MOODY MOUSE?

Has your mouse cot a nasty case of the jitters? In the olden days -- three or four years ago -- most of the time it was caused by encrusted grime on the rollers that come into contact with the captive ball in the base of the mouse. This can be easily removed by taking out the ball (they’re usually held in place by a twist-fit ring) and scraping the gunge off with a toothpick. However, nowadays many PC users have switched to the more reliable ‘optical’ type mouse, which has no moving parts. Instead a small low-resolution camera on the underside picks up a reflected beam of light to determine how fast and in which direction the mouse is moving. It works well, most of the time, but the sensor can be fooled by reflective and some types of patterned surfaces. To see if that is the problem just put the mouse onto a sheet of plain paper and see if the pointer tracks smoothly. Check also that the light-emitter and pickup on the underside are free of fluff and dirt; they can be safely cleaned by blowing or a careful application of a cotton bud. If it is still jumpy then it’s probably time to get a new mouse.

 

 

ADDRESS TOOLBAR ON THE TASKBAR

Here’s a nifty little tweak to add some extra functionality to your Taskbar. With a few clicks of the mouse you can insert an Address toolbar, so you can search for files on your computer and enter web addresses or without having to open your browser or Windows Explorer first. It’s easy, just right click into an empty area of on the Taskbar and if ‘Lock the Taskbar’ is ticked, uncheck it. Right click again and this time select Toolbars > Address, click and it’s done.

 

 

CONTROL CONTROL PANEL

If you use Windows XP you can expect to pay frequent visits to the Control Panel, to configure your computer and change various settings. Fortunately it’s easily accessible from the Start menu but when you click the icon the whole folder opens, which means a short delay and another click to get to the selected tool or utility. Here’s a way to speed things up by changing Control Panel to a menu, rather than a folder. Right-click on an empty part of the Start menu taskbar and select Properties then the Start Menu tab; click the Customize button then the Advanced tab. In the Start Menu Items box, next to Control Panel select ‘Display as a menu’ then OK. You will now find that Control Panel opens as a menu, if for any reason you want to open it as a folder just right-click on the icon and select Open.

 

MOUSE LOCATOR

Ever wondered where your mouse was hiding? It can be quite difficult to see the mouse pointer in some programs, Word is a good example because the ‘I-bar’ can easily get lost in a block of text and you have to wiggle the mouse to find it. Windows XP has a nifty mouse finder feature built in, that zeros in on its location like a Sonar display when you press the Ctrl Key, it’s also a good way of warning you that you’ve pressed the Ctrl key instead of Shift by mistake. To switch it on go to Start > Control Panel and double click the Mouse Icon. Select the Pointer Options tab and right at the bottom check the item ‘Show

 

 

NOW YOU SEE THEM...

Here’s a quick and simple little tweak to stop nosey parkers and passers-by seeing what programs you have on your PC when you are away from your desk. All you have to do is right-click onto an empty area of the desktop, select ‘Arrange Icons by’ then on the drop-down menu that appears uncheck ‘Show Desktop Icons’ and all of your icons will magically disappear. To get them back again simply repeat the procedure and re-check ‘Show Desktop Icons’

 

 

HIDDEN FAST FILE FINDER

Here’s another one of those undocumented Windows features, and this one works on pretty well any version of Windows using Internet Explorer 4 or above. On your desktop click, drag and drop the My Computer icon to the extreme left side of the screen. After a few moments a vertical toolbar should appear showing the contents of My Computer. This on its own can be quite handy, but it gets better. (By the way if you want to get rid of it or hide it right-click at the top of the Toolbar and select Close or Auto Hide).

 

Now try this. Click, hold, drag and drop the C: drive icon from the My Computer Toolbar to the extreme top of the screen and a new horizontal toolbar appears. This is the good bit. On the far right side of the new toolbar is a continuation arrow, click it with your mouse and a new vertical toolbar listing the contents of the drive appears on the right side of the screen and you will find that the contents of the drive will be displayed simply by ‘hovering’ the mouse pointer over the folder icons. As before you can close or Auto Hide the top toolbar by right clicking on it.   

 

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YOU ONLY HAVE TO OSK...

Windows XP has a number of interesting hidden features. Try this, go to Run on the Start menu and type 'osk' (without the quotes) and the On-Screen Keyboard will appear -- handy if your regular keyboard packs up. It has two 'typing' modes; you can point and click using the mouse or if you go to the Settings menu and choose Hover, characters will appear if you just point at them with the mouse

 

 

DESKTOP DODGES

How many time a day do you need to go to your PC's desktop, to access a program or icon? Most people either minimise any open windows or root around for the tiny 'Show Desktop' icon on the Quick Launch taskbar. Here are two double-quick alternatives. The first is to use the keyboard shortcut Winkey + D, which instantly minimises all open windows. The second method is to create a taskbar menu for your desktop icons. To do that right click on an empty spot on the taskbar and uncheck (if checked ) 'Unlock the Taskbar' then go to Toolbars and click Desktop. This may or may not display all of your desktop icons, if so click on the dotted lines next to the word Desktop on the taskbar and drag the separator to collapse the menu so that just the word Desktop and the two arrows '>>' are shown. Now, when you want to access a desktop icon just click the double arrows.

 

 

SHORTCUTS WORTH REMEMBERING

Newbies to computing sometimes become alarmed at the way their work on screen suddenly vanishes forever and they have to do it all over again. So the best Tip for someone new to computers is to commit to memory two critical keystrokes. Ctrl + A is the most dangerous, because it highlights all your work, and the next keystroke can wipe it all! Ctrl + Z (Undo) is the Lifesaver, as it will recover any such lost data to the screen before it is overwritten. (The Undo button on many applications does the same job.)

 

 

HELP!

Help is always at hand! If you encounter a problem or get into difficulty, just press F1 and the associated Help file will be displayed. Swapping between open applications in Windows is easy; hold down the left 'Alt' key and press the 'tab' key. Pressing tab again steps through all of the programs the machine is currently running. If for any reason a program freezes, or the mouse stops moving try pressing 'Alt' and you may find that you can still select menus and options, using the four arrow cursor keys. If an application refuses to respond then press and hold down 'Ctrl', 'Alt' and 'Delete' in that order -- once only -- and the PC will display the Close Program window. This gives the opportunity to shut down the offending application, without having to exit Windows.

 

 

KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS

There are several Windows Explorer keyboard shortcuts worth remembering. Each time you press the Backspace key Explorer steps back one level up the directory tree. The F2 key allows you to rename a highlighted folder and Shift plus F10 brings up the context based pop-up menu. Clicking once or twice on the Size and Modified headings in the right hand 'Contents' window will sort the files in descending (i.e. largest files or most recently modified first) or ascending orders.

 

 

MORE SHORTCUTS

Here are some more Windows Explorer keyboard shortcuts. Pressing F4 displays the full contents of the Address/location panel, F5 refreshes the windows, updating any changes you may have made and F6 switches the focus between the various window 'panes'. Ctrl + A selects everything in the right hand window, Ctrl + Z undoes the last action and the Backspace key steps back through the parent directory tree. The asterisk key on the numeric keypad expands all of the directory branches whilst the '-' and '+' numeric keys collapse and expand the tree.

 

 

WINDOWS EXPLORER SIZING

Windows Explorer sometimes seems to have a mind of its own and always seems to open with a different shape, position or icon and display settings. You can make it remember your preferences -- for a while at least - set it up the way you want it to look then press Ctrl + Alt + Shift when you click on the close icon (the 'x' in the top right hand corner). It will eventually forget but it's easy enough to repeat the exercise. It's a lot easier in Windows 98, set up Windows Explorer, go to the View Menu then Folder Options and select the View Tab and press the 'Like Current Folder' button.

 

 

WINKEY SHORTCUTS

If you have a Windows keyboard you obviously know the 'Windows' button (in between Ctrl and Alt keys) brings up the Start menu, but it can do a lot more besides. Win key (Wk) + D is a very quick way of getting to the desktop as it toggles maximise and minimise all windows. Wk + E opens Explorer, Wk + F opens Find, and Wk + R opens Run. System Properties opens with Wk + Pause, Wk + Tab steps through the programs on the Taskbar and Wk + F1 opens Windows Help.

 

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EVEN MORE SHORTCUTS

There are several frequently-used multiple key shortcuts in Windows, like Ctrl + Alt + Del (to bring up the close program menu) and Alt + Tab (to switch between running applications) and dozens more in applications like Word, Excel and Outlook. Windows 95/98/2000 & ME has a nifty way to avoid two and three finger gymnastics, it's called 'Sticky Keys' and it's one of the Accessibility Options in Control Panel. It's aptly named because instead of pressing and holding a sequence of keys, you simply press each one in turn, your PC's internal speaker bleeps at you to confirm each key press. The facility can be easily switched on and off by pressing the shift key five times in quick succession.

 

 

STICKY KEYS

Sticky Keys is not always installed by default, if you can't see the Accessibility Options icon in Control Panel click on Add/Remove in Control Panel, select the Windows tab then Accessibility and follow the instructions. To enable Sticky Keys open Accessibility Options and select the Keyboard tab, use the Settings button to change the way it behaves. Whilst you're there you might also like to switch on the Caps Lock bleeper, which also uses the PC's built-in speaker. 

 

 

TASKBAR CLUTTER

It doesn't take long for the Taskbar at the bottom of the screen to fill up with icons; they get smaller as the number increases and it can be difficult to read the labels. You can easily increase the size of the taskbar by moving the mouse pointer onto the top edge of the taskbar where it will turn into a vertical double-headed arrow. Click and hold the left mouse button and you can increase the width of the taskbar by dragging it upwards; it can be expanded to fill half of the screen if necessary. Clearly this takes up more room on the desktop, so make the Taskbar disappear, until it is needed. Click on the Start button, then Settings and Taskbar and check the Auto Hide option. From now on the Taskbar will only be shown when the mouse pointer is at the bottom of the screen.

 

 

RIGHT MOUSE KEY

The right mouse button in Windows has many hidden talents; here are a few to be getting on with. If you've got a lot of open windows and you want to get to the desktop, simply right click on the taskbar. This brings up a menu for minimising, tiling or cascading all windows; right click on the taskbar a second time to restore the windows. A right click on the recycle bin gives the option to empty it straight away. Discs can be quickly formatted by right-clicking on the disc drive icon in My Computer or Explorer.

 

 

START BASICS

The Start menu is a fast and easy way to launch frequently used programs, but you can make it work even quicker, and you don't even have to take your hands from the keyboard. Right-click on the Start button and select Open. A window appears, containing all of the Start menu icons. Insert a number (1, 2, 3 etc.) in front of the name of the applications you use most often. Click once on the icon and the name field turns blue. Wait a moment click and click on the text and a cursor appears, then click again in front of the first letter of the name and type in the number. When you have finished close the window. Now you can launch the Start menu and a program by pressing the Windows button on the keyboard, followed by the number. If you're using an older keyboard the shortcut is Ctrl + Esc, then the number.

 

 

RENAMING START MENU ITEMS

You can do all sorts of clever things with the items on the Windows 9x Start menu, they can be copied, moved around and have their properties changed but the one thing you can't do is rename them, unless you have Internet Explorer 5.0 or later on your system. However, there is a way around that. You can change the name of an icon by left clicking on it and dragging it onto the desktop, it can then be renamed by clicking into the name field. Next, right-click on the newly named icon, drag it on to the Start button, put the mouse pointer where you want it to go on the Start menu, release the mouse button and choose 'Move Here' from the dialogue box that appears.

 

 

DISAPPEARING TOOLBARS

Every so often a program window opens in the wrong position or the menus and toolbars have disappeared off the top of the screen and you can't get them back. Here's a simple solution, press Alt + Spacebar to bring up the sizing menu then hold down the letter M and use the down arrow cursor key to bring the window back on to the screen.

 

 

CONTROL YOUR MOUSE

From the Start menu in Windows click on Settings, Control Panel and then on the Mouse icon. There you will find a range of settings that control the way your mouse behaves. There's also the opportunity to change the button configuration, useful if you are left-handed. The two most important parameters for PC newcomers are Motion and Click Speed; set both to slow and you'll find the mouse much easier to control. Increase the speed once you get used to how the mouse reacts. Whilst you're there click on the Pointers tab and the Scheme menu, then select the Animated Hourglasses option. This will make waiting for things to happen just a little more interesting...

 

 

FAST DESKTOP ACCESS

Here is an easy way to access the contents of your desktop from the Start button, without having to close or minimise any windows. Right click on the Start button and choose Open then on the Start Menu window that appears go to the File menu, select New and Shortcut. The Create Shortcut window opens and in the Command Line box type in the following: 'Explorer /root,' ignore the inverted commas but be sure there's a space between Explorer and the forward-slash, and don't forget the comma after root. Click Next and a window opens asking you to 'Select a title for the program'. Back space to delete the default entry and call it 'Desktop' (or anything else you fancy) and click Finish. The item should now appear on the Start menu, if you click it a window containing the contents of your desktop will open. To remove it from the Start menu go Start > Settings > Taskbar & Start Menu > Start Menu Programs tab and click the Remove button. Find the shortcut on the directory and click Remove.

 

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CREATE YOUR OWN ICONS

Bored with your desktop and all those dull little icons? Then do something about it! You can easily create your own icons in Windows using ordinary picture files or graphics created using the Paint program. You could have the pictures of the family or pets representing your programs (no jokes about using a photo of the mother in law to represent the word processor please...), or design your own from scratch. The image can be any size - Windows will automatically adjust the size and shape -- but it must be in the Bitmap (extension .bmp) format. Most paint and graphics program have a 'Save As' facility that will convert picture files from other file types into .bmp format. Once that's done open Windows Explorer, find the picture file and click once into the name field to highlight it, then wait a second and click again to insert a cursor so it can be renamed. Change the file extension from .bmp to .ico, and hit return. Now go to the Desktop and right-click on the icon you want to change and select Properties. On the Shortcut tab you should see a 'Change Icon' button, (you can't normally change the icon on Windows applications) click it and use the Browse button to find your icon picture file, press OK and it's done.

 

 

DOUBLE PANE VIEW

The double-pane view of Windows Explorer makes it easy to navigate around files and folders, if you like you can force all other Explorer type Folders (My Computer, Control Panel, Recycle Bin etc.) to open with double panes. Open a folder, My Computer will do, click Folder Options on the View menu and select the File Types tab. Scroll down the list under Registered File Types to find 'Folder', double click on it and in the dialogue window that appears, under Actions, highlight 'Explore', click Set As Default and then Close. To return to the original single pane view, follow the above procedure, but this time select 'Open' in the Actions box.

 

 

DECLUTTER THE DESKTOP

If you've had your PC for more than a year or so the desktop is probably starting to get a bit crowded. Of course you can always remove icons and shortcuts you rarely use but if you're the sort of person who hates to part with anything, here's a simple way of packing even more icons onto your desktop, by reducing the space between them. If you can find an empty area on the desktop click into it and the Display Properties window should appear. Select the Appearance tab and under Item highlight Icon Spacing (horizontal). Change the value from the default setting to 30 and click Apply. Now do the same with Icon Spacing (vertical). You may need to experiment with different values and watch out for large overlapping Icon labels. If that becomes a problem edit the text by clicking slowly into the label box three times or reduce the size of the actual icon - the option is on the same drop down menu as Icon Spacing. 

 

 

TOP TEN EASY START

This tip will let you start your ten favourite applications with a single key press, and it gives the numeric keypad on the right side of your keyboard something to do. First press the Num Lock key on your keyboard then right-click your mouse on any desktop shortcut and select Properties. Click the cursor into the 'Shortcut Key' field and press the number key on the numeric keypad that you want to start the program with. Click OK and repeat for up to nine other programs. Unless you have a good memory it's a good idea to make a list. If you use the keypad then you can assign some other infrequently used key or key combination, though make sure it's not used by something else...

 

 

QUICK EXPLORE

Here's a quick and simple little timesaver that will help you to make more efficient use of Windows Explorer. If you are looking for a file or folder in a large directory, rather than spend time scrolling through the list simply click into the Explorer window and type the first letter of the name of the file or folder and hey-presto, Explorer immediately whisks you down to the first file starting with that letter.

 

 

RIGHT CLICK STAND OUT

Make your right-click Context menus stand out! Right-click on an empty area of the desktop and select Properties or go to Display in Control panel and select the Appearance tab. In the example window display click on the menu bar below Active Window (Normal Disabled Selected) and change the colour from grey to something a bit more interesting, a light red works well; you can choose any colour by clicking the 'Other' button. Click OK and try it out by right clicking. If you click the 'Selected' label on the menu bar you can change the colour of highlighted menu items in all of your programs from dark blue - try light green for a really funky look!

 

 

TAKE CTRL

Ctrl is a much undervalued and underused key on your keyboard and it is well worth getting to know, especially when editing, and not just in word processors, but in most text editor windows, and that includes email message windows. Holding down the Ctrl key when using Backspace or Delete erases whole words instead of single letters, and if you use the arrow keys to move the cursor around, press and hold the Ctrl key and it jumps a paragraph, or a word at a time, depending on the direction.

 

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Stick it Out

Sticky Keys

Stone Circle Launcher

Take Ctrl

Take Charge of your Scrollbar

Taskbar Clutter

Taskbar Web & Program Launcher

The Mesmerising Blob of Infinity

The Wonderful Icon

Time Zone Display Freeware

Titlebar Clock & Memory Display

Top Ten Easy Start

Two Mice Better Than One?

Water In The Works

What’s that key for?

Wheel Easy Resize and Transparency

Wheely Interesting Mouse Feature

Win Key Shortcuts

Windows Explorer Sizing

Windows in the Dock

You only have to osk...

 

 

 

 

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All information on this web site is provided as-is without warranty of any kind. Neither PCTOPTIPS nor its employees nor contributors are responsible for any loss, injury, or damage, direct or consequential, resulting from your choosing to use any of the information contained herein.