|Please note:||Technology changes can occur faster than my website updates, so some of the tips on this page don't work as described. The various releases of Windows have changed the funtionality of some of them since they were written. I have Windows XP on my home PC (my preference by far—why did they discontinue this?), Windows 7 at work, and Windows 10 on my laptop. This page was written mostly for XP so it is probably pretty outdated.|
|Windows is the dominant operating system in use today, so I believe it is better to master Windows than be mastered by
Windows. The purpose of this page is to help you reach that goal. If some things may appear outdated bear in mind I started this page back in
the 90s. I have used Windows XP for years and have always been very comfortable with it, and have always used the Classic Start Menu so I can
set up a fairly elaborate menu system to access the things I frequently use on my PCs (I have 3—a desktop at home, a desktop at work, and
Classic Start Menu on Windows 7
List of features removed in Windows 7 - so far I'm not too impressed
|Upgrades & fixes|
|I've been using Windows regularly on PCs since Win 3.1 came out and I've configured them to my personal preferences. Here are some things you can do to make your Windows PC a personal computer. There should be a file in the Windows folder on your PC named Tips.txt that has a lot of useful information regarding Windows configurations. Some of this information may be listed in that file. Every visual element in Windows, including menu options, has a context-sensitive popup menu that displays when you click on it with the right mouse-button. Many of these settings are accessed in options on this menu.|
|Customize the Start Menu||
Please note: This section was created when I had Windows XP and my not be relevant to future versions.
The Windows 7 tips for this are at the top of the page.
|Organize your Start Menu in a way that's meaningful for you. You can add items above Programs option than can be shortcuts or sub-menus (see below). I have a menu named Edit that has options for my various word-processing and editor programs on it. I have one named Internet that has options for Netscape, IE, FTP, and email. I have one named Explore that has separate options for starting Windows Explorer in the various folders I go to frequently (see below). Menus can also contain other sub-menus.|
|Add individual programs to the Start Menu
Drag and drop an icon onto the Start button using the mouse. This will add it as an option listed above the Programs option.
|Add sub-menus to the Start Menu
|Change the order of items on the Start Menu
This applies to items on the Programs menu or sub-menus, and custom menu items appearing above the Programs menu option.
|Add the contents of the Control Panel as options on the Start Menu
Create a new folder on the Start Menu (described above) and give it the following name spelled exactly including punctuation:
The best way to do this is to copy the above string to the clipboard (use the mouse + Ctrl-c method described on this page under Mouse and Keyboard shortcuts) and paste it (Ctrl-v) when you do the rename.
You can also do the same with the following folders:
In Windows you get a little icon on the Quick Launch toolbar called Show Desktop, so adding these folders to your Start Menu won't necessarily provide more access to your desktop, but they do menuize these options.
|Start Windows Explorer in the drive or folder of your choice
There are command-line switches for Windows Explorer that enable it to be started in a specified way. On the popup menu for a shortcut to Windows Explorer, click Properties, select the Shortcut tab, and in the area labeled 'Target:' set Explorer using the following syntax:
Parameters are separated by commas. Many combinations are allowed.
'EXPLORER.EXE /n, /e, /select, c:\' will start Explorer with no drives or folders opened.
|Open any file with the program of your choice
The Open With dialog has an option for 'Always use this program to open this file type'.
|Use the Send To option on the context menus
On popup menus for files in Explorer, there is a Send To option. Clicking on this option shows a menu of possible targets for the file. To add more destination options to the Send To menu, create shortcuts in the SendTo folder, which is located in the Windows folder. If you put Notepad in there you can send a text file to Notepad to open it. You can copy a file to diskette by sending it to 3-1/2 Floppy (A). You can send a file to a printer, or fax, or even to a particular folder.
|Go directly to a command prompt from any folder in Explorer
When you are in Windows Explorer and you want to get to a command-prompt in a specific folder, first you must get to a DOS prompt, then you have to type a lot of 'CD' commands followed by directory names to navigate to the directory you want. By making a few entries in the Windows Registry, you can directly open any folder at the DOS level from a menu option. Here's how to add the option to the folder's context menu.
Now when you want to get to DOS in a folder, just point to the folder icon with the mouse, click the right mouse-button, and select the Command Prompt from Here option from the popup menu.
You can also create a Windows shortcut to go directly to a command prompt in the folder of your choice.
|Map network drives at startup
I map several network drives to Linux servers in my office using a batch file at boot time (run from MSCONFIG).
(My passwords do not expire on these servers.)
|Copy and paste text from anywhere, including an Internet webpage
|Rename a file or shortcut without using the menu
|Locate an item in a list with the keyboard
When you have a series of files or folders displayed, either in a list or as icons, type a letter and the first item beginning with that letter is selected and receives focus. This works in most Windows displays.
|If you rearrange the icons on your desktop and you want to save the new layout without rebooting your computer, do
|Windows 9x will launch items during bootup in the following order:
|Windows 98 comes with a program, MSCONFIG, that lets you control the startup items. To run it click on Start » Run... then type in 'msconfig'. The Startup tab allows you to enable or disable a startup item. When an item is disabled it remains on the list where you can re-enable it by checking it again. In the Registry, these disabled items are put into a corresponding key that is followed by a - (minus) sign. For instance, an item in the Run key is moved into the Run- key. This allows MSCONFIG to still show them on the list but with the check-box unchecked.|
|My favorite browser is Firefox, but as a web programmer I need to test things I develop in all browsers, so I will still have to use IE sometimes. There are several things about IE that I don't like and here are ways to fix some of them.|
|By default, there is no Menu Bar (File Edit View...) anymore in IE, which many of us have gotten used to using in browsers. To show it click on the Tools icon on the Command Toolbar and
select Menu Bar (this puts a checkmark in front). Now the menu bar is visible, but it appears below the Address Bar. In previous versions of IE you could unlock the toolbars and drag them to place
them where you wanted them, even combining them or components of them. In IE the Address Bar is not movable. But there is a way to put the Menu Bar above it by editing the Registry.
(The usual disclaimer here: Please use caution when editing the Registry.)
|I have always used the Google Toolbar for its convenience. IE lets you have Google as your search engine for its built-in Search Box, but the Google Toolbar has
many features I like, one of my favorites being that it puts the search words on the toolbar so you can click on them to find them on the page you are viewing from
your search results. So, I continue to use the Google Toolbar and not the IE Search Box. You can remove it using the Group Policy editor.
|As in all versions of IE it is possible to dock (combine) toolbars to free up space and enlarge the page-viewing area. Some of the toolbars don't
need an entire bar to themselves, and most of them you can customize by removing unwanted icons to shorten them. I have 3 toolbars combined in
one toolbar, the Menu Bar, the Google Toolbar, and the Links Toolbar. My Menu Bar has the default options, but I have removed all the icons from
my Google Toolbar because I seldom use them (and they still are available on context menus), and I have removed the default options Microsoft puts
on the Links Toolbar and added my own items (mostly folders, which create menus).
Here is how to combine toolbars.
|Sometimes things do not work the way you want them to in Windows, either because Microsoft has chosen to do something in a way you don't like, or because you have encountered a bug that needs to be fixed. Here are what I would consider to be some of those situations.|
|Microsoft thinks users would like the associated submenu to pop up whenever the mouse
passes over a menu item. I find this annoying and would prefer to click on the item to
see the submenu. Here's how to control this. (The usual disclaimer here: Please use caution
when editing the Registry.)
|When you receive an email that contains an Internet address for a website, the URL should be highlighted and underlined, allowing you to click on it with the mouse to open up the site in your web browser. If this does not occur, there is a Windows setting that may need to be configured to fix this problem. Here is the Microsoft Knowledge Base article that explains what to do:|
|The order and type of display you select for folders in Windows Explorer also applies to the Open and Save dialog boxes. If you find you have to keep resorting this order with the Arrange icons option on the context menu when you do an Open or Save As..., there is a setting in Windows that needs to be reset.|
|Here are a couple of Microsoft Knowledge Base articles on this:|
Items in "Open" and "Save As" Dialog Boxes Sorted Incorrectly
Contents of the "Open" and "Save As" Dialog Boxes Sorted Incorrectly – registry edit
|When you run Internet Explorer, do you see "Microsoft Internet Explorer provided by Some-Company-Name" on the title
bar? Sometimes when you install software from a CD or even a download the distributer might make it look as if they
had something to do with the development of the software by putting their name on it, when they actually had nothing
to do with it. This can be easily removed with a Windows registry edit.
This tip also applies to Outlook Express and other software.
|If you have Automatic Updates set on in Windows XP, after the updates have been downloaded and applied you must restart your computer for them to take affect. You may be in the middle of something that makes it a bad time to reboot so you click on Restart Later, but the restart dialog keeps popping up every few minutes. Here is how to turn this off.|
|If Firefox is your default browser and you click on a link in an email, or if you double-click on an html file on your PC, it may open the webpage in Firefox as intended but it can also produce this annoying message dialogue saying, "Windows cannot find <url or path to file>. Make sure you typed the name correctly, etc...". There is a setting in Folder Options that controls this.|
|I used to have all the Windows usenet groups listed here but they don't seem to function in browsers anymore, so I am just providing a link to Google Groups, where they are offered in a web format.|
There are more newsgroups on my Programming page.