Windows Tips for Everyone

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Project #3: Remodel the Interface

Bring Back Classic Menus...

One of the most disconcerting changes in Vista compared with previous Windows versions is the switch from menus to toolbars in Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer. If you prefer to order off the menu, simply press the <Alt> key to bring the menus back. Press <Alt> again to make them disappear. To keep menus around in Windows Explorer, choose Organize, Layout, Menu Bar. In Internet Explorer, click Tools, Menu Bar.

...And the Run Command, Too

XP's Run box is a quick and easy way to open programs and run DOS commands, but Vista's new Start menu has replaced it with the Start Search box. If you're a fan of the Run box, you'll be delighted to learn that it's easy to bring back. Right-click the Start button, choose Properties, Customize, check Run command, and click OK. The old favorite will be back on the Start menu, where it belongs.

Create Your Own Icons

Windows' icons aren't much help in finding important files and folders at a glance. It's easy to create your own icons to help you spot last year's tax return (skull and crossbones?) or your r&#233;sum&#233; (double dollar signs, perhaps). You don't need to be an artist to design an icon; but if you're willing to spend $50, Microangelo Toolset 6 (21-day free trial) can make you look like a digital Picasso.

First, open Microangelo Studio and follow the steps to create a new icon. For Windows XP, your icons should measure 16 by 16, 32 by 32, or 48 by 48 pixels. For Vista, you can choose any of those sizes or go all the way up to 256 by 256 pixels. You can use the program's pens, paintbrushes, and other drawing tools to make icons, but I rely on its import tool to work with graphics created by others. The program lets you import files in several formats, shrink or expand the images to the appropriate size, and then save them as icon files (.ico). Google Image Search offers a nice collection of downloadable images, but make sure the one you choose is royalty-free. To replace an existing icon with the one you just created, right-click the old one and select Properties, Shortcut, Change Icon. Browse to and select the new icon, and click Open.

Hack Vista's Bubbles Screen Saver

Vista's screen savers are inexplicably devoid of options. For example, if you'd like to make the bubbles in the Bubbles screen saver shinier, you're out of luck--unless you know this Registry hack, that is. By adding three new values to the appropriate key, you can make your bubbles metallic, give them shadows, and display them against the desktop or a solid black background.

Click Start, Run (or just Start on Vista's menu), type regedit, and press <Enter>. Navigate to and select HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\
CurrentVersion\Screensavers\Bubbles. Right-click in the right pane, select New, DWORD (32-bit) Value, and type MaterialGlass. Double-click the new key, enter a value of 1 to give your bubbles a transparent look or a value of 0 for metallic bubbles, and click OK.

Follow a similar set of steps to create a DWORD in the same right pane named ShowShadows. Enter a value of 1 to display shadows below the bubbles, or a value of 0 to go shadowless. Now make a DWORD called ShowBubbles and give it a value of 1 to show the bubbles on the desktop or 0 to display them on a black background.

Adjust Aero's Glass Borders

To change the size and color of the borders around XP's windows and dialog boxes, and make other display alterations, right-click the desktop and choose Properties, Appearance, Advanced. Vista, meanwhile, permits you to customize many features of its Aero interface. Right-click the desktop and select Personalize, Window Color and Appearance; to tweak the transparency of the window borders, adjust the sliding 'Color intensity' control (see FIGURE 4

FIGURE 4: Adjust the transparency of your window borders in the Aero interface.
). Choose Open classic appearance properties for more color options and click Advanced. To give your dialog boxes a new look, select Border Padding in the Item drop-down menu, and type in a new size (the default value is 4). When your borders are the right size, click OK twice.

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