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Windows Tips

Korova Multimedia

Windows 95 Tips

This document is in constant revision. New tips get appended to the bottom. Illustrations (GIFs) will be included as long as the tip features a New! flag, and thereafter will be linked as a separate page.

Some of these tips will work under Windows 3.xx, where noted. And, of course, all of these procedures should port over to Macs, because System 7 is a superior operating system, or so Apple tells me.

Adding icons to Program Manager or Start Menu

It's easy to create a new program icon in Program Manager. Hold down the ALT key and double click on a blank space in a Program Manager icon group ... then fill in the dialog box. Use the Browse... button if you're not sure exactly where the program is.

You can also create icons for files that you use regularly. Follow the same steps, but in the Program Item Properties dialog, use the Browse... button to look for files with extensions to match your file (i.e., *.DOC for Word files, *.TXT for Notepad files, etc.).

There's an even simpler way for both these operations. Arrange File Manager and Program Manager together on your screen, so you can see your Program Manager group, and browse in File Manager for your document. When you've found it, click and drag it from File Manager to the Program Manager Group. As long as the file type is associated with a program in WIN.INI (most common Windows programs will have done this already), your new icon will automagically open up in the right program. If the file type isn't associated with a program, you'll need to do this in File Manager (more on this technique next time).

In Windows 95, simply right-click and drag a file from an Explorer/My Computer window to the Desktop or a Start Menu folder ... and select Create Shortcut(s) Here. You can also drop a file or program onto the Start Button to add it to the top of your Start Menu.

Custom File Types with Windows Associations

Most Windows programs will automatically “associate” their own, proprietary file extensions with themselves: CRD for Cardfile, TXT for Notepad, WAV for Sound Recorder. When a new program installs itself, it updates Windows to associate its new extension: DOC for Word for Windows, SAM for Ami Pro, DBF for dBase.

You can do this yourself in File Manager. Click on a file, and select the File Associate... menu command. If you pick a file type that's “spoken for,” such as README.WRI, the File Associate dialog will indicate that it's claimed by Write. Pick an “orphan” file type, and you'll need to pick a program from the provided list, or you can click the Browse... button to find a new one.

Here's the power tip: use a new file type for specific tasks. For example, I use NOT for files I open up in Windows' ASCII editor, Notepad. Since I open up my normal TXT files in another program, I use Notepad as a, well, notepad.

Here's how to follow my example. Save a file in Notepad as MYFILE.NOT. Then, in File Manager, highlight it, and associate it with Notepad (Notepad should already be in the drop down program list). Now, the next time you click on a NOT file in File Manager, it will open in Notepad. Voilà! (See illustration.)

For Windows 95, the first time you double-click on one of your NOT files, you'll be asked to select the program to open this file type with, and a check box makes this association permanent. Later, in any Explorer window, select View ... Options ... and use the File Types tab to edit the registry information for your custom file type. In fact, you can add commands for the file type that appear in any Explorer window popup menu.

File Management From Any Application (Really!)

Once you get used to it, the Explorer really is a better tool than File Manager ever was. But I usually just have preconfigured shortcuts to folders I use often, and that opens the My (Little) Computer window that I need. But ... say we're in an application ... and want to create a new folder in which to save our current file ... or just want to zap some files.

Open up the standard (Windows 95) File Open or File Save As dialog boxes. You have a partial toolbar, providing a drop list where you can select the drive or folder to look in ... and a few buttons to jump to the parent folder, create a new folder, or change the view in the file window.

But wait! You can click those files in the window. You can ... right-click them. A-ha! (See illustration.)

You can do anything you want to do that you can do in a normal folder view. You can cut, copy and paste files. You can rename them (click on the title, or highlight the icon and type F2). You can delete them. Even right-click and look at the files' properties. In fact, anything that is available on the popup menu is available from the File Open or File Save As dialog boxes. And ... you can add just about any command you want to a file type's popup menu by selecting View ... Options in Explorer or My (Little) Computer, and clicking the File Types tab. (You select a file type, click the Edit button, and add commands.)

By the way, you can also drag objects into and out of the windows in these dialogs ... you can move or copy a file from this window right to the Desktop.

So if you're using Notepad in your C:\FILES directory, and decide to edit VOICE MAIL SCRIPTS.DOC with Word for Windows, just right click it in Notepad's File Open window and select Open. It's kind of bizarre, when you think of what you're doing.

Drag 'n' Drop in Windows 95

Dragging and dropping objects from one application to another is easy enough in any flavour of Windows ... if you're working on a 20" monitor at 1024x768 screen resolution. You can arrange the windows side by side, or tile them using Task Manager. Try it on an older 14" at 800x600 ... or on my Aero's 7.8" screen at 640x480? Forget it! -- You'll feel like you're knitting on a Tokyo subway car at rush hour.

The newest Windows offers a better way. When you drag your objet d'art from one application, hover your cursor (now adorned with a little “object” box and plus sign) over the destination application's icon on the Taskbar. In a moment, the destination program jumps to the foreground. You can then drop the data morsel into the program window.

If you still want to tile the programs, right-click on the Taskbar and select Minimize All Windows. (This is very similar to System 7's “Hide” feature ... which I'm sure Apple invented.) Now select the two programs you want to work with ... and, again, right-click on the Taskbar and this time select one of the tile choices, either Horizontal or Vertical. Drag 'n' drop as you please.

Windows Manager ... finally

Years ago, when a little boy named Bill was still riding high on an antique called Microsoft Disk Operating System (MS-DOS), he had a dream. That dream was ... well, some people think that dream was to plagiarize the Xerox Star, Apple Macintosh and a couple of other forgettable graphical user interfaces (GUIs). There's an old photo of an early brainstorming session, wherein Bill had scribbled on a whiteboard a couple of unassuming rectangles, one of which was labeled, ... ahem ... Windows Manager, or something like that.

That stroke of brilliance became the atrocity known as Program Manager. Usable, yes; intuitive and fluid, definitely not.

Task Manager

Windows 95 finally gave us the Windows Manager. And -- get this -- it's our old friend, the Task Manager. This new version does essentially what it did under Windows 3.xx (if you double-clicked on the Desktop or typed CRTL + ESCAPE), that is, list the programs you've got running and give you a little help switching between them.

Now ... we can control windows ... we can click on several (by using the CRTL key as you click their bars) and minimize the whole bunch ... “tile” some windows ... close a bunch of windows the same way ... shut down several progams simultaneously ... even shut down Windows entirely.

But what's really great? When you've got so many windows open (folders with long-ish names, for instance) that the Taskbar buttons are truncated, Task Manager makes sense of it by allowing you to read each's entire title bar (see illustration).

Drag a shortcut of it (set to run minimized) into your Start Menu\Programs\Startup folder and try it for a few days and you'll see what I mean. You can't launch it with CRTL + ESCAPE anymore (that's the key combo for the Start Button), but in the Program Properties you can give it another shortcut key (found in the second tab of the Properties box), such as CRTL + ALT + T.

You'll find the program as TASKMAN.EXE in C:\WINDOWS.

There's a neat alternative to this, too. Right-click on any blank space on your Taskbar, and select Properties (or click the Start button, select Settings, and Taskbar...). Select Auto hide. Now click and drag the Taskbar (that's right, the Taskbar) to the left or right side of your screen. It should snap to the side. (We enabled the Auto hide feature because, otherwise, the Taskbar would shuffle everything on your Desktop over ... thereby ruining any neat arrangements you might have made.) Now -- here's the fun part -- move your cursor to the Desktop-side edge of the Taskbar until it becomes the “sizing” cursor. Click and drag the edge of the Taskbar to widen it, at least wide enough to read all the buttons, perhaps wide enough so that the window with the clock and status indicators (the “systray”) move to the top by the Start Button). You can also size the Taskbar at the top or bottom of the screen, but this way you can actually read the buttons ... and you have plenty of room for more buttons.

A Desktop Program Manager

Okay, okay, okay. You miss Program Manager. You just don't get the whole Start Button thing. You don't like clicking it, or typing CONTROL + ESCAPE, to start navigating the Amazing, Self-Cascading, Text-Rich Programs menu. You miss that whole-meal-deal window that had all your program groups and (if you were clever) icons for documents you use regularly.

This is easy to remedy. Right-click on the Start Button, and choose Open. You'll get a nice window of everything on your Start Button, including the Programs folder. Right-click on that, and drag it to the Desktop. When you release your right button, you'll get a pop-up menu; choose Create Shortcut(s) Here. (You do not want to pick Move, as this would wipe out your Start Button/Programs menu!)

You now have a icon on your Desktop that opens a window on your program groups. You can view it, as with any Explorer view, as Large Icons, Small Icons, List or Details. You can open cascading windows, or browse with the same window (this is set in the View/Options menu command). Functionally it's similar to Program Manager. (See illustration.)

Program manager ... sort 

If you want to complete the impersonation, highlight the shortcut and type F2; rename the shortcut Program Manager. ALT + DOUBLE-CLICK on the icon, and in the Shortcut tab, click the Change Icon... button. Enter PROGMAN.EXE and select either the first or eighth icon in the selection box.

Incidentally, if you usually use cascading windows in Explorer, here are a couple of useful keytrokes.

  • CONTROL + DOUBLE-CLICK on a folder icon, and you'll use the same window for the subfolder (if you normally use the same window, this is reversed, so a new window is opened). CONTROL + DOUBLE-CLICK reverses the preference set in View/Options.
  • If you have a series of subfolder windows open separately, hold the SHIFT key while clicking on the Close button (the one on the upper right with the “X”). This will close the window and any parent windows that are still open.

Return Engagements - These Are A Few of Your Favorite Things

Do you find yourself using the same documents over and over again? Opening up the same folders? Working on the same projects?

No kidding ... me, too. The easiest way to keep a folder open is to leave it minimized (or open, if you like) when you shut down your computer (and be sure to use the Shut Down command on the Start Button). Surprise! it's still open when you boot up.

There's another way. Right-click on the Start Button and select either Open or Explore. Open up the Programs folder. This is the subfolder that holds all the shortcuts that make up your Programs menu. Create two new folders: Documents and Folders. Any shortcuts you create in these two folders will be available on your Programs menu at any time. (See the illustration for the last item, A Desktop Program Manager.)

Let's go one step further. Select both of these new folders. (You can do this by holding down the CONTROL key down while you click on each one.) Now right-click, and drag them, to the Desktop; choose Create Shortcut(s) Here on the pop-up menu. Now you've got icons on your Desktop for each folder on the Programs menu. As you fill up these folders with your most-used files, shortcuts to those files will also be available right on your Desktop.

More importantly, you can right-click and drag shortcuts for any files or folders you use regularly to these two Desktop shortcuts, and create shortcuts in these two Programs menu folders. In this way, shortcuts act like “teleport pads” to the target file/folder for the shortcut. By dropping an item into the Desktop shortcut, the item actually ends up in the folder that the shortcut points to. Makes sense, right?

If this doesn't make a lot of sense ... try it!

Keyboard multitasking with ... the Taskbar?

Sounds crazy? No, you CAN use the Taskbar with your keyboard. You just haven’t tried yet. Maybe your mouse is due for a breakdown....

Use the conventional keyboard shortcut to enable the Start Button -- CTRL + ESC. Now hit the ALT key to de-select it. Look carefully: do you notice that the Start Button still has that little “highlight” box on it? Type your TAB key. The highlight appears to have gone away ... it hasn’t. You can now use your keyboard left arrow and right arrow keys to punch down a button on your Taskbar. That application will jump to the foreground when you type ENTER.

You can also type SHIFT + F10 to enable the pop-up menu on that button ... just as if you had right-clicked on it with your cursor.

Why is this any better than typing ALT + TAB (the “cool switch”) to switch programs? Essentially, it’s not. But you can’t bring up the applications pop-up menu with cool switching. This way you can quickly minimize, maximize, or close a program right from your keyboard ... without bring the program to the foreground. (Another way to do this is with the new, improved Task Manager; see “Windows Manager ... Finally.”)

This next tip is rather trivial,. but if you type TAB again, your context will change to the Desktop. Yeah, I know, “big whoopee.” But if you keep shortcuts for your “hot files” on the Desktop, you can type the first few letters of the icon name (just as you can in any Explorer window) to immediately select it. Just type ENTER to execute it.

Auto-starting files

More Stupid Shortcut Tricks. I’ve mentioned before that you can use Shortcuts as “teleport pads” to other locations on your computer, network ... there are even Shortcuts to World Wide Web addresses. This trick comes in handy when your computer isn’t even behaving that well.

We’re going to use the Desktop for this, so you’ll want to minimize any extraneous programs. If you’re like most Windows and Mac OS users, you’ll have some shortcuts or aliases on your Desktop for your most-used programs and files. So ... if they’re so important, why not have them have them running when you start Windows?

Open the Start Menu, by right-clicking on the Start Button, and selecting Open. Double-click on Programs to open it up. Now, right-click and drag the StartUp folder to your desktop, and select Create Shortcut(s) Here from the pop-up menu. Close all the Start Menu folders (you can close a folder and all of its “parent” folders by holding the SHIFT key when you click on the folder’s Close button).

If you double-click on your new Desktop StartUp folder, may already find some applications there, no doubt installed by something like Microsoft Office. I have two applications that I’ve inserted: C:\WINDOWS\RSRCMTR.EXE (which installs a Resource Meter icon in the Taskbar “systray”) and the previously mentioned C:\WINDOWS\TASKMAN.EXE (which is set to run in a minimized state).

Now you can simply drag shortcuts of files and programs onto the StartUp icon on your desktop. If you have to shut down and restart Windows ... if you like to have a particular program (Lotus Organizer, for instance) running all the time, every time ... or you just want to remember to finish writing down that recipe for chocolate-covered pretzel and peanut butter ice cream ... you simply drag the a shortcut onto StartUp.

Virtual Desktops ... Sort Of New!

Windows 95 offers you the capability of logging in under differnet user names, with different passwords, so that your friend Stimson can change all the screen colors and desktop patterns under his session without botching up your own. But you can go further.

Under the Passwords icon in Control Panel, look for the User Profiles tab. Here, you can select multiple user options, like allowing each user to configure his/her own desktop and settings. You can even allow users to change their own Start menu groups. This is particularly handy if you want a young person to only have a few games and programs available, but not all the Windows system tools.

On a notebook, by the way, you can configure a user profile for when you’re running about, using the small LCD display (with screen settings appropriate to it), and another for when you’re working on a docking station.

Most effectively, you can create user profiles for particular tasks. For instance, you can have one desktop and Start menu set up for going online, and browsing information services ... another for desktop publishing ... yet another for working with graphics. The possibilities are endless.

To change profiles, simply select Shut Down from the Start Button, then select Close all programs and log on as a different user?

A Fully Menued Control Panel New!

You can get to your Control Panel icons quicker if you create a Control Panel menu under the Start Button. Right-click on the Start Button, and select Open. Right-click in the window, and select New ... Folder. Name the folder Control Panel. Now, open up the “real” Control Panel under the Settings menu. Select all the icons in it (either drag a marquee around them, or select Edit ... Select All from the menu), and right-drag them to your new Control Panel folder in the Start Button. From the pop-up menu, select Create Shortcut(s) Here. Now, each shortcut in this folder is accessible from the Start Button — only one click away.

Folder Properties (gee!) New!

Have you noticed that the application control box (it used to be just a little box with a large dash in it) for all your folders and programs now sports a small version of the icon? Cute, eh? Have you noticed that you can still click on it? Uh-huh. Have you tried right-clicking on it? No? Uh-huh. What’re you waiting for?

If you right click on a folder’s application control box, er, icon, you’ll get just about the same menu as if you’d right-clicked on a folder, but Open will now read Close ... and you can also get to the Properties dialog box. So you can see how big the folder is ... if the folder is for a drive, you can use the Tools tab to check and tune up the drive.

Aren’t you glad you read this far?

To be continued....

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Updated: 28 Jan 1996

© Copyright 1997 D.B. Spalding/Korova Multimedia. All rights reserved.







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