The idea behind the Start menu is a good one: Put every application in one easy-to-find place for quick access. The problem is, every application ends up in the

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Start Menu Housekeeping
The idea behind the Start menu is a good one: Put every application in one easy-to-find place for quick access. The problem is, every application ends up in the Programs menu--and there are no tools for keeping "application central" from becoming a big mess. The solution? Give your Start menu an overhaul. It requires a little time, but the result is worth it.
One way to approach the problem is to create new subfolders--such as Internet, Suites, Utilities, Games, and so on--inside the Programs folder. Right-click the Start button and select Open. Inside the Programs folder, choose File, New, Folder. Type a name for the folder and press Enter. Or you can ignore the Programs folder altogether and create these new folders inside the Start menu. Either way, drag application Shortcuts from the old Programs folder into your new folders. When you're done, you may want to wipe out the Programs folder Shortcuts you never use or put them inside a seldom-used folder for those rare moments when you actually need them.

One-Click Exits
Do you want an easy way to shut down Windows? Right-click the Desktop and choose New, Shortcut. Then type c:\windows\rundll.exe user.exe,exitwindows (your path may differ), click Next, type a name for the Shortcut, and click Finish. Double-click this icon anytime to exit Windows.
To create a keyboard shortcut to do the same thing, right-click the icon, select Properties from the menu, click the Shortcut tab, and click in the Shortcut key box. Press the keys you want to use to activate your shutdown shortcut (they must begin with Ctrl-Alt, Ctrl-Shift, or Shift-Alt).
If you want a shortcut that restarts Windows rather than simply shutting it down, change the command line in the Target box to read c:\windows\rundll.exe user.exe,exitwindowsexec (again, your path may differ).

Faster Menu Navigation
The mouse can slow you down, especially if you're a touch typist. Here's how to keep your fingers on the keyboard while you're trying to launch an application. Press Ctrl-Esc to bring up the Start menu, followed by the first letter of the menu option you want, such as P for Programs. Now type the first letter of the menu item you want to reach (say, A for Accessories). If several menus start with that letter, keep typing it until you reach the item you want. Or be really efficient and rename your menus so each item starts with a unique character. If you can't come up with enough workable names, use a numbering system.


Restart, Don't Reboot
There are a number of ways to reboot your computer: Press Ctrl-Alt-Del twice (do this only when your system is hopelessly locked); press the Restart button (you know where it is); or choose Start, Shut Down and select "Restart the computer"' and click OK.
But did you know you can restart Windows without rebooting your entire system? (This trick comes in handy after you've made Registry changes for which you need to restart Windows.) Choose Start, Shut Down and select "Restart the computer" and then--here's the trick--hold down Shift when you click OK.


Windows Toolbox: Get More Out of Your Windows Key
Almost all PC keyboards now come with a special key on the bottom row displaying the Windows logo. You can use this Windows key for many useful shortcuts, but why stop with the ones Microsoft gives you? Copernic Technologies' WinKey utility lets you assign almost any unused combination of the Windows key and another keyboard key to open a folder, launch an application, or change the current window. The program is so easy to use, you'll be up and running in just a few minutes. And best of all, WinKey is free. It's available from PC World Downloads library and at the vendor's site.,fid,5506,00.asp


Instant Shortcuts Can Also Open Files
Want to make a shortcut to the file you're currently editing so that you can quickly reopen it later? First, save the file, then choose File, Save As. The document's icon should be visible in the dialog box. Use the right mouse button to drag the icon out of the dialog box and drop it onto the desktop or into any folder--just as you would from Explorer. Release the mouse button and choose Create Shortcut(s) Here. This tip works only with applications that use Windows' common file dialog boxes. Unfortunately, Microsoft's own Word and Excel do not.


Copy, Move, or Shortcut?
When you drag a file to another location, Windows sometimes moves the file and other times copies it. And when you drag an application, Windows only makes a shortcut. Why? There's a method in this madness. Dragging moves a file if it's dropped to a point within a single disk, but copies if it's dragged to a different disk. Dragging an application usually creates a shortcut, because moving an application out of its installed folder may cause it not to function.
If you need to move an app, hold down Shift as you drag to force a move, and hold down Ctrl to force a copy. You can press these keys anytime during the drag as long as you haven't released the mouse button. It may be simpler just to get in the habit of dragging with the right mouse button. When you drop the file, you'll see a pop-up menu that lets you choose to copy, move, or make a shortcut.


Launch Shortcuts From Your Keyboard
If you have applications, files, or folders that you open and close frequently, make life easier by creating keyboard shortcuts for each. Right-click the Start button and choose Open. Now open the Programs folder and click File, New, Folder. Name the new folder Keyboard Shortcuts. You don't have to put all the shortcut icons that have keyboard shortcuts in one place, but doing so makes it easier to change or delete them later. You can also make the keystrokes part of the shortcut name to serve as a reminder.
In any case, you must put these shortcuts either on the desktop or in a folder within the Start Menu folder hierarchy. Drag the desired apps, files, or folders to the selected folder one at a time using the right mouse button, then choose Create Shortcut(s) Here. Right-click a shortcut icon and choose Properties. Choose the Shortcut tab and click inside the 'Shortcut key' box. Press your desired key combo, and click OK.


Make One-Key Keyboard Shortcuts
If you try the previous tip, you may discover that Windows forces you to employ at least two modifier keys ( Ctrl, Alt, Shift) for many key combinations. To save on keystrokes, use a function key--one of the keys in the top row of your keyboard, numbered F1 through F12. You can use a function key alone or in combination with one or more modifier keys. Any combination you create will launch your shortcut and nothing else--even if another application tries to use those keys. You can also use the keys on your numeric keypad.

Make Printing a Real Drag
If you occasionally print files without reading them or making changes, you can save a few steps. Choose Start, Settings, Printers. Use the right mouse button to drag your default printer to your desktop and choose Create Shortcut(s) Here. Now the next time you need to print a document, just drag the document icon from its folder and drop it onto the printer icon. In most cases, the associated application will open, print the document, and exit.


Manage Your Application Windows
To see the contents of two application windows at once, don't waste time dragging the edge of each window until they're side by side. Just right-click an empty area of the taskbar and choose Tile Windows Horizontally to make your open windows appear in rows on your screen, or Tile Windows Vertically to make them appear in columns. Choose Cascade Windows to create a stack of windows with their edges offset to facilitate navigating between them with a mouse. These commands don't affect minimized windows.
If you change your mind, right-click the taskbar again and choose Undo Tile or Undo Cascade. Note: Some utilities (especially those in the system tray) temporarily disable these functions.


Quick Tricks for Mouse and Keyboard
You can often get from place to place in Windows faster by using key combinations and mouse moves that aren't apparent from looking at the screen. For a basic list of these techniques, choose Start, Help, click the Index tab, and browse the topics listed under 'keyboard shortcuts'. For even more power, try these often-overlooked tricks.

  1. Prevent a CD from starting: Hold down Shift while you insert the CD

  2. Enlarge/shrink the font size in Internet Explorer, Windows Help, Word, and Excel: Hold down Ctrl as you spin the mouse wheel (requires a wheel mouse)

  3. Maximize/restore a window: Double-click the window's title bar

  4. Close an active Internet Explorer, Explorer, or folder window, or Excel or Word document: Ctrl-W

  5. In an Explorer or folder window, get the optimum column width for Details view: Ctrl-NumPad +

  6. Select (highlight) the Address bar entry in Windows Explorer: Alt-D


The Windows Key: A Fast Worker
Most keyboards made in the last several years come with a Windows key, and sometimes also with an Application key. Try these keyboard shortcuts for extra speed and productivity. Warning: The Surgeon General has determined that these keystrokes may be habit forming.

  1. Display the Start menu: Windows

  2. Open the Run dialog box: Windows-R

  3. Minimize all: Windows-D

  4. Undo minimize all: Windows-D

  5. Open Help: Windows-F1

  6. Open Windows Explorer: Windows-E

  7. Open Find/Search Files or Folders: Windows-F

  8. Cycle through taskbar buttons: Windows-Tab (Enter opens task; Tab moves focus to system tray, desktop, Start button, and Quick Launch and other toolbars)


Freeware Solutions: Tweak UI
What might be Microsoft's best free add-on to Windows is also its least well known: Introducing Tweak UI. Microsoft's free Tweak UI tool (named for its skill of making changes to the user interface) gives you a single place to do everything.
Most people never find out Tweak UI exists. First released as part of Microsoft's Power Toys applications for Windows 95, Tweak UI is, essentially, a control panel that agglomerates nearly all Windows interface settings controls within a single location. The current version is compatible with all versions of Windows--95 and 98, 2000, NT 4, and Millennium. Microsoft doesn't offer any support for it, but it's simple to use.
Download Tweak UI from PC World Downloads. You can also get an older, all-OS-compatible Tweak UI installer from a Windows 98 CD-ROM (Tools\Reskit\Powertoy\Tweakui).,fid,2803,00.asp

Once you've saved the tweakui133.exe archive where you can find it on your hard drive, double-click it to unzip it. The archive unzips the files that install Tweak UI (into the C:\Windows\Temp directory by default, though you can save them anywhere).
When the extraction finishes, navigate to the directory where the files unzipped, then right-click tweakui.inf and choose Install. As part of the briefer-than-usual installation process, you'll see the Tweak UI help file open. You can browse this file now or later, but the installation doesn't complete until you close this window.

Those Old-Fashioned Menus
In Windows 95, the items in the Start menu and its submenus were always alphabetized, and Win 95 could expand a long menu into multiple columns. But Windows 98 forces you to scroll. Is there a way to make the Win 98 Start menu behave like the one in Win 95?
There are fixes, but they require Internet Explorer 5 (go to Start, Windows Update ). Once you have IE 5 installed, to alphabetize any Start submenu right-click the submenu and select Sort by Name.

Making long menus display in multiple columns is tougher. In fact, it requires editing the Registry. Before you do this, see "Protect Yourself Against Catastrophic Installs" for instructions on backing up the Registry.
Once your Registry is safely backed up, select Start, Run, type Regedit, and press Enter. In the Registry Editor, navigate the left pane, as you would in Windows Explorer, to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced. Once there, right-click a blank spot in the right-hand pane and select New, String Value. Name your new value StartMenuScrollPrograms. Press Enter once to save the name and again to bring up the Edit String dialog box. In that box's "Value data" field, type false. Press Enter, then close the Registry Editor and reboot.

Quick E-Mail
Simply select Start, Run and type mailto: plus the e-mail address of your recipient, and then press Enter.
You can do the same thing within your browser's URL field. For instance, to reach me, just type .


Fix Button Size
The Minimize, Maximize/Restore and Close Taskbar buttons are sometimes too small to rapidly select them, or too big, and take up a lot of space. This Windows 9x/ME Registry tweak makes them a bigger square.
Open Regedit and go to:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\WindowMetrics

Double-click the "CaptionWidth" String value and change the number to 25. Then double-click the "CaptionHeight" String value and change the number to -350. If you experiment with this, do so in small increments because if you put in the wrong number, you will mess up the screen.
You can alter the size of the scroll buttons in the same manner by changing "ScrollHeight" [String value] to -330 and "ScrollWidth" [String value] to -165


Xteq X-Setup
Xteq X-Setup optimizes your MS Windows computer in every imaginable way, bringing it to the maximum level of performance, compatibility, speed, and security.
It's like having MS TweakUI, TweakAll, TweakJr, Tweak 2000, TweakME, TweakXP, WinBoost, PC Accelerator, Total Control, Tweaker, ITweakU, Tweak Revisited, DirectControl, CacheMan, Cache Booster, Optix, etc... ALL in ONE program, and much, MUCH more. No other similar tweaking utility comes even close!
... And besides, X-Setup is also absolutely FREEware for personal use. (Version 6.1: 3.8 MB)_____________________________________Prevent pop-up browser windowsSince most pop-ups are created in JavaScript, you can prevent the popping by turning off your browser's JavaScript support. In Netscape Navigator 4.7 x, choose Edit, Preferences, select Advanced in the Category tree, remove the check mark from Enable JavaScript in the displayed options, and click OK. In Internet Explorer 5. x, choose Tools, Internet Options, click the Security tab, select the Internet zone, and click the Custom Level button. Scroll through the Settings window until you reach Active Scripting; set the option to Disable or Prompt, and click OK. If you use America Online 6's browser, choose Settings, Preferences, (Internet Properties) WWW, click the Security tab, select the Internet zone, and follow the same steps described for Internet Explorer above.Once you disable JavaScript, Web sites that use it for navigation controls or personalization won't display or function as intended. If that causes problems for you, reenable JavaScript and then download and install one of the many freeware and shareware utilities for taming pop-ups._____________________________________Free or Almost Free Programs...Uncharted Territory: Flow LT 4Punch up even the driest text with IMSI's Flow LT 4, a free program that lets you create simple flowcharts by dragging and dropping any of 25 symbols to a diagram and then linking them with lines that stay connected even if you later rearrange the items on the page. Add text, color, shadows, and rounded corners to shapes; and align objects vertically or horizontally. The lines don't have arrowheads built in, but Flow LT offers lots of arrow symbols. With context-sensitive pop-up help, you'll be up and running in minutes.Track Your Portfolio: StockVue 2001For richer, for poorer--now you'll know instantly how the twists and turns of Wall Street affect your portfolio. With NQL's gratis but ad-supported StockVue, you can record your stock and mutual fund purchases, sales, and splits; view delayed data on highs and lows, bid and ask prices, and price/earnings ratios; set alerts for price and volume changes; and read company news and filings. Look at analyst views; peruse analysts' consensus estimates; and get daily, weekly, or monthly charts (you can specify the number of days for the moving average). Drawback: The program asks for lots of personal information when you register.Word Processing Wonder: AbiWordWhile Microsoft's Word grows fatter with seldom-used features, AbiSource's AbiWord holds appeal as a trim yet capable, no-cost program. It's nimble, installs quickly, and sports a simple menu. You can import Word, HTML, and Palm (.pdb) files and edit them in AbiWord (Word documents maintain formatting features such as columns). You can even save your work as a Web page. The application is strong on basic text-editing functions--complete with a word counter, headers and footers, multiple undo/redo, and squiggly red lines under misspelled words--but it's relatively light on graphics support.Sheltered System: ZoneAlarmIf you're constantly connected to the Web, your PC is especially vulnerable to hacker attacks. Zone Labs' free ZoneAlarm can give you some protection. It blocks attacks from the outside and guards against dangers that originate within your PC as well, preventing Internet-bound applications from opening ports into your system. ZoneAlarm also makes a digital fingerprint of authorized apps so that Trojan horses can't slip by, masquerading as trusted programs. Zone Labs just announced version 3 (due out this month), designed to protect program components (such as DLLs) from being changed and to provide an online help function that explains security vulnerabilities in plain English. For added privacy controls, such as ad blocking and cookie management, consider buying the Pro version.All the above Free or Under $30 Programs Can Be Found At:,collid,324,00.asp__________________________________________Ins and Outs of Word Templates: A custom template can override those pesky defaults.Unfortunately, sometimes the changes you make in Word don't "stick." In other words, changes you make to settings often apply to the current document only. That's fine most of the time, but what if you want to make a change that affects every new document you open? For instance, you might prefer to use Arial as your default font.The trick is to use a Word template--a boilerplate document that contains settings, formatting, and styles you need frequently for various tasks. When you base a new document on a template, you don't have to change the settings all over again. You can use templates not only to override defaults, but also to create custom documents that you use over and over again.When you create a document with the file extension .dot and store it in the proper place, Word recognizes it as a template. Word offers all kinds of templates to use as a basis for your own documents. To see Word's templates, choose File, New to open the Task Pane with the New Document pane open. Under the "New from template" section, click General Templates. You'll find templates for publications, reports, Web pages, letters, faxes, and many other types of documents. To use any of these, simply click one and follow the directions, replacing the boilerplate text with your own.Even blank documents are based on a Word template. is the basis for each new document you create when you click the New Document icon, choose File, New, or click the Blank Document icon in the Task Pane. If there's a setting you'd like to change for all of your documents--for example, the default font or point is the file to edit. Your changes will apply to every document you create. If you don't want to make global changes, however, you're better off creating a new template, then opening files from that. Either way is a piece of cake.To see how editing works, let's change the default font to Arial. First, you'll have to find on your system. Where it's located depends upon your Windows configuration, but it will probably be located in the C:\Windows\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates directory. If that's not where yours is located and you can't find it, go to the Windows task bar and choose Start, Search, For Files or Folders, and type in the "Search for files or folders named" text box. In Windows 98 and earlier, choose Find, Files and Folders, then type in the Named field. When Windows displays the file, right-click its icon and choose Open. If you simply double-click, Windows opens a blank document based on the template instead of the .dot file itself.That's the hard part. Now just make the changes you want to appear in all new documents. To change the default font to Arial, simply choose it in the font drop-down list, then save the document and close it. Now all new documents you create will include the changes you made to Toolbox: Mixed-Up Drive Letters? Change Them to Your LikingIf you install a new disk drive or repartition an old one, you may be less than thrilled with the letters your system assigns to your drives. In Windows NT, Windows 2000, or Windows XP, you can fix the letters with the Disk Administrator utility (NT) or the Disk Management portion of the Computer Management utility (2000, XP). If you're running Windows 95 or 98, you can change letters quickly and simply by using the Letter Assigner freeware utility. You're not likely to need it often, but when you do, you'll be glad it's around.,fid,15520,00.asp_______________________________

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