Windows Tips: Get on a Roll With Freewheelin' Windows

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Most mice have a wheel control between the left and right buttons. The wheel makes scrolling through documents a breeze, but that's just the start of its talents. Follow these steps to wheel yourself around Windows in style.

Master basic moves: You probably already know that your mouse wheel doubles as a clickable button in addition to moving the open file up and down in the active window. But with many programs, clicking the wheel once puts you into a panning mode. To start the document window panning upward or downward, nudge the mouse in that direction; continue panning until you either nudge the mouse in the other direction or click one of its buttons. In some applications (such as Notepad with the Word Wrap feature turned off), this technique pans right or left. Note that some programs require you to keep the middle button pressed continuously to get this effect.

These functions may vary depending on your mouse manufacturer and on the driver you use. Still, if you're not getting these extras, it doesn't hurt to visit the Web site of your mouse vendor to make certain that your system has the latest mouse software and drivers.

Customize increments: If your wheel makes your screen jump too far with each click, or if you have to twirl constantly to scroll the desired amount, try adjusting the wheel's sensitivity. In the Address bar of any Windows Explorer window, type Control Panel\Mouse and press Enter. Click the Wheel tab (it may also be labeled Scrolling or some similar term), and use the controls listed there to adjust how many lines (or how fast) your pages scroll with each wheel click (see FIGURE 1

Figure 1: Choose to scroll fast or slow via the Mouse Properties Control Panel.

If you use Mozilla as your Web browser, you can make it scroll one screen at a time while all other apps continue to scroll at a chosen number of lines per click. First, set the number of lines for most applications in the Mouse Properties dialog box, as shown earlier. Then launch Mozilla and choose Edit, Preferences. Double-click Advanced (or click the + sign next to that entry), and choose Mouse Wheel. On the 'No modifier key' tab, select Scroll a page up or a page down (see FIGURE 2

Figure 2: Make the Mozilla browser scroll Web pages at the pace you select.

If you prefer to scroll some Web pages by screens and others by a set number of lines, select the option that you want to use for most pages (the top option for number of lines or the second one for screen-by-screen). Then click a tab corresponding to the key (Alt, Control, Shift, or No modifier key) that you want to hold down for a different scrolling increment, and select the desired option there. When you're done, click OK. The next time you scroll through a Web page, your wheel will advance by one increment when no key is held down, and by another when you turn the wheel while pressing the specified key.

Zoom in: Many browsers and other applications give you advanced features with your wheel. For example, in Internet Explorer, hold Ctrl and rotate the mouse wheel forward or backward to decrease or increase the size of text in Web pages. If this doesn't work in your copy of IE, choose Tools, Internet Options and click Accessibility on the General tab. Check Ignore font sizes specified on Web pages and click OK twice. To get this effect in Mozilla, choose Edit, Preferences, double-click Advanced (or click the + sign next to it), and then click Mouse Wheel. Select the tab for the key (Alt, Control, Shift, or No modifier key) that you want to hold down when adjusting text size, and then click Make the text larger or smaller. Click OK.

This trick works even better in recent versions of applications like Microsoft Word, Adobe InDesign CS, and the Opera browser (free to try, $39 to keep). In these apps, <Ctrl>-wheeling enlarges or reduces the magnification level of your entire page (including graphics) rather than just adjusting the text display size (sweet!). InDesign zooms in on the area under your pointer, letting you magnify a specific spot just by pointing and wheeling. And Opera lets you return your Web page to its default '100%' view by Ctrl-clicking the wheel once.

In Adobe Photoshop CS, hold Ctrl and the spacebar while clicking to zoom in, or press Alt and the spacebar while you click to zoom out. But with the mouse wheel, just hold either key combination (Ctrl-Space or Alt-Space) as you wheel forward or back to zoom in or out on the spot under your pointer.

Navigate the Web: Your mouse wheel can also replace your Forward and Back buttons in your Web browser. In Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera, hold down Shift as you rotate the wheel forward or back and--voil&#224;!--your browser moves ahead or back one link.

To do the same thing in Mozilla, go to the Mouse Wheel portion of the Preferences dialog box, as explained in the previous tip. Select the tab for the desired modifier key, and choose Move back and forward in the browsing history. Click OK.

Beware of drop-down dangers: If your Web page or document uses forms with drop-down lists, take heed! When you choose an option in a drop-down list and then rotate the wheel to scroll down the page, you may--as shown in FIGURE 3

Figure 3: Don't use the scroll wheel while a drop-down list is active, unless you deliberately want to change the selection in the list.
--change your selection inadvertently rather than scrolling through the page. (This could explain why your favorite Web shopping site sent you 200 lawn gnomes last year instead of just 1.) To avoid unpleasant surprises, be sure to click the Web page (but not a link) outside the drop-down control when you finish making your selection. Then double-check to confirm that the appropriate choice is highlighted before you scroll onward.

Discover more wheel tips: For more ways to use the mouse wheel in your applications, click the Help menu to open an application's main help page, and then search for wheel or mouse wheel. Alternatively, go to your mouse maker's Web page and search for those terms there.

Easy Excel Scrolling

One advantage of using a mouse wheel in Excel is that you can scroll visually across the spreadsheet without losing your current selection. But if your mouse has no wheel, or if you want to leave your hands on the keyboard, use your keyboard's oft-forgotten ScrollLock key. Press it (a light may appear to show that it's on) and then use the up, down, left, and right arrow keys on your keyboard to scroll around your page. To have the arrow keys resume their normal functions, press ScrollLock again to turn the feature off.

Customize Your Scrollbar

If you use these mouse-wheel tips, you may not use your scrollbar as often. On the other hand, if your mouse doesn't have a wheel, you may depend on your applications' scrollbars for navigating large files. Either way, you can make the scrollbar larger for easier clicking, or smaller to get it out of the way. To adjust the scrollbar's size, right-click the desktop and choose Properties, Appearance. (In Windows XP, click the Advanced button at this point.) In the Item drop-down list, choose Scrollbar. Use the numeric control to the right to enlarge it or shrink it (see FIGURE 4

Figure 4: Tweak this setting in Display Properties to change your scrollbar's size.
). Click Apply (or OK and then Apply in XP) to try out the new size. When you're satisfied, click OK as many times as needed to close the dialog boxes.

For more scrolling tips, read "Let the Good Times Scroll" in last month's Windows Tips.

Flywheel Teaches Old Apps New Mouse Tricks

Sometimes the old utilities are still the best. Flywheel, which debuted a number of years ago, makes even the most stubborn applications wheel-friendly. Besides allowing you to use your mouse wheel in more applications, Flywheel lets you customize the wheel's behavior, application by application, so the wheel can scroll faster in some programs than it does in others. And good ol' Flywheel appears to work just fine in even the latest versions of Windows. Because Flywheel's developers no longer support the program, you can obtain it for free.

To register the utility, type I Am Free as the registration name and give 13601409 as the registration number. Click here to download your copy of Flywheel.

Send Windows-related questions and tips to We pay $50 for published items. Scott Dunn is a contributing editor for PC World.
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