Windows Tweaks and E-Mail Tips

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My editor got a new notebook and asked me how to get rid of the annoying ToolTips and Balloon tips. (The guy has access to PC World's Help desk, a team of IT people, and a Google toolbar. But no, he chooses to interrupt my day and then wonders why I'm late on deadlines.)

Nonetheless, his pesky request reminded me of how Windows XP is so amazingly tweakable. So this week, among other things, you'll read about an exceptional tweaking tool.

BTW, did you notice how this week's newsletter has nothing about, uh, well, that new Windows operating system? However, for those of you interested in how Dell is dealing with that same operating system, take a look at my blog, "Dell Challenges Microsoft on Vista."

1001 Windows Tweaks

The program's X-Setup Pro and actually, there are 1900 of the bad boys. But I'm only halfway through them.

The program's been around a long time. I first wrote about it in 1999 when it was Xteq's X-Setup, and was the ultimate free tool for black-belt system tuning and tweaking. The tool went beyond TweakUI and similar utilities. From simple boot options up to server settings and hardware settings, X-Setup allowed you to change more than 400 hidden functions with some simple button clicks.

The latest version is 9.0 and it's now it's called X-Setup Pro. The tool is substantially improved and can now change 1900 hidden functions in Windows versions 98 through Vista. You'll learn something, too, because all the tweaks have full explanations. And it's safe because you can reverse any change; you can also configure the program to warn you if the tweak is the least bit risky.

The downside is X-Setup Pro is now shareware, so that means after the 30-day trial version runs out, you have to pay $30 to register--but I think it's worth the money.

Dig This: Watch John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" on YouTube and think of a way to do a screen capture so you can get the music and transfer it to paper.

Control Your Inbox with Rules and Filters

My wife uses Microsoft Outlook. I was watching her check e-mail the other day, and I couldn't help noticing that she wasn't using many rules.

That's troubling because she's married to an alleged computer expert (what ever will people think?); besides which, she's missing out on some great ways to keep organized.

BTW, I haven't a clue why Microsoft refers to them as "rules"; I like calling them e-mail filters.

Outlook and Outlook Express Rules

Rules aren't difficult to create, but you could probably use some help getting started. One of the best tutorials I've seen is Sitedeveloper's Outlook Spam Tutorial, which covers Outlook Express and Outlook versions 2000 and 2003. The University of Maryland has a less-technical tutorial specifically for Outlook Express users.

Most of the tutorials available online focus on filtering spam. That's important, but you can also use filters to maintain a semblance of order to your e-mail folders. I have folders for more than a dozen categories, including newsletters, PC World editors, blogs, jokes, and reader e-mail, to name a few. That way everything doesn't land in my inbox and it gives me more control on deciding when I want to read newsletters, say.

Figuring out the logic of arranging the order of filters sometimes takes a little work. I discovered Inside Outlook Express, which has some smart filtering ideas that also apply to Outlook.

Filters for Eudora

If you've been reading my blogs, you know I still use Eudora. I think Eudora has the most powerful e-mail filtering feature I've ever seen. Just today I learned about Cecil Williams's Effective Spam Filtering with Eudora."

His filtering strategies and examples are brilliant, and he's explained how to apply controls to every incoming e-mail. For instance, in a few minutes I created a whitelist filter that takes everyone in my address book and gives them a free pass into my inbox (or appropriate other folder). Another one filters out e-mail with Asian characters; I have another that finds spoofed e-mail allegedly from AOL, Yahoo, or MSN addresses.

If you're using Eudora, you really need to look over the site; Outlook users may be able to glean the concepts and syntax, and from them, create equally powerful rules.

Dig This: Keep your nose pointed into the wind and steer your tires into the skid. Or is that the other way around? Either way, this video shows that a 747 caught in a crosswind made a decent landing.

Dig This, Too: Watch this jet plane crash into a concrete wall at 500 miles per hour--and totally disintegrate.

Steve Bass writes PC World's monthly "Hassle-Free PC" column and is the author of PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer, available from O'Reilly. He also writes PC World's daily Tips & Tweaks blog. Sign up to have Steve's newsletter e-mailed to you each week. Comments or questions? Send Steve e-mail.
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