(2K, XP, 98, ME) If you think Windows' Accessibility tools and settings are only for the disabled, you're missing some real gems. Magnifier, for example, does exactly what its title suggests. It's valuable for classroom instruction, product demos, or almost any kind of presentation. Magnifier is also useful for software engineers, interface designers, and anyone else who needs to zoom in on a piece of work.
In Windows 9x, you may have to install this utility from your Windows CD: Insert the CD, click Start, Settings, Control Panel, and double-click Add/Remove Programs. Click the Windows Setup tab, and confirm that Accessibility is selected in the Components list. Then click Details, check the box for Accessibility Tools, and click OK twice.
To start Magnifier, choose Start, Programs (All Programs in XP), Accessories, Accessibility, Magnifier. If that's inconvenient, just drag the shortcut to a different menu. Or choose Start, Run, type magnify, and click OK. In most versions of Windows, Magnifier starts by displaying an explanatory message box; check Do not show this message again if you wish.
Click OK to start the utility. By default, the Magnifier window appears at the top of your screen, enlarging whatever is under your mouse pointer. If you don't like its size, position the pointer at the edge of the window and drag to make it larger or smaller. Reposition the magnifier by placing the pointer inside the window and dragging it to any screen edge. Alternatively, you can make it a free-floating window in the screen's center (see Figure 1
The Magnifier dialog box lets you set the magnification level, decide whether the magnifier should always show what's under the pointer, determine whether it should follow text cursors as you type and edit, and so on (see Figure 2
Naturally, you don't want to be futzing with Magnifier settings during a class or demo. If your keyboard has a <Windows> key, you may not have to. For example, pressing Windows-Up Arrow will increase the zoom level, and pressing Windows-Down Arrow will decrease it.
A final tip: If you use a version of Windows other than XP and you need an occasional screen shot that includes the mouse pointer, you can use Magnifier instead of purchasing a screen-capture tool. First, arrange the Magnifier window and any other windows you need to capture. In the Magnifier Settings dialog box, set the Magnification level to 1. Then position your pointer where you need it, and press Print Screen (or your keyboard's version of this key) to copy the entire screen to the Clipboard. Choose Start, Programs, Accessories, Paint to start Windows' bitmap image editing application, and press Ctrl-V to paste the image into the image window. Click Yes if prompted to enlarge the bitmap area, and then click any tool on the left to complete the paste. Choose the rectangular select tool, and drag to crop the captured screen down to the area that you want in your final shot. Finally, choose Edit, Copy To to place the resulting image in a separate file. Set a location, type a name, and click Save.
For more magnification magic, check out this month's Windows Toolbox.
Customize Your Log-on Screen Saver
(2K, XP) When you turn on your computer but don't log in to Windows (or when you log out but don't power down), Windows automatically displays its floating-logo screen saver. Borrrrrrrrring. Fortunately, you can exchange this screen saver for something you like better--and adjust its timeout setting--with a simple Registry tweak.
To find out what screen saver options are currently available on your system, choose Start, Search or Start, Search, For Files and Folders. Enter *.scr in the top text box, and choose your Windows folder (in XP) or your Winnt folder (in 2000) in the 'Look in' box (be sure to include all subfolders). Then click Search. When the search is completed, pick a screen saver from the list of results on the right.
If you can't identify the screen saver by its file name, double-click it in the results window to see it in action, but keep your fingers off your mouse and keyboard while it loads. Move the mouse or press a key to turn it off. When you've decided on one, select it, press F2, and then press Ctrl-C to copy its name to the Clipboard. Close the search window.
Now click Start, Run, type regedit, and press Enter to launch the Registry Editor. Navigate the tree pane on the left to HKEY_USERS\.DEFAULT\Control Panel\Desktop. With the Desktop icon selected on the left, double-click SCRNSAVE.EXE in the pane on the right. Press Ctrl-V to paste the name of your chosen .scr file over the existing logon.scr text, and click OK. To adjust how long Windows waits before the screen saver kicks in, double-click ScreenSaveTimeOut, type the number of seconds you want Windows to wait, and click OK. If you would prefer not to have any log-on screen saver at all, no problem. Just double-click ScreenSaveActive, change the '1' to 0, and click OK.
Dump That Driver
(XP) It happens to the best of us: You download a new driver for a graphics board, keyboard, sound card, or other hardware component, and things get worse. What to do? You could resort to Windows' System Restore feature, but moving back in time might undo other important system changes while fixing the driver problem.
Fortunately, as reader Noah Voelker of Austin, Texas, explains, Windows retains your old driver to let you undo the boo-boo. Log on as an administrator, open Windows Explorer, right-click My Computer, and choose Properties. (Or simply press Windows-Break if you have a Windows keyboard.) Now click Hardware, Device Manager. (Or press Windows-R, type devmgmt.msc, and press Enter.)
In the Device Manager window, navigate to the hardware device with the problematic driver. Double-click the gizmo's icon and choose Driver. Click the Roll Back Driver button, and respond to any on-screen prompts (see Figure 3