Problem-Solving Apps: Classic Start Menu, Search Commands, Double Diver

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My recent article on tweaking the Windows 7 taskbar icons produced a lot of great follow-up questions, including one from reader Bob A. He doesn't like the scrolling All Programs list in 7's Start Menu; he wants to go back to XP's larger fly-out list. Vista offers the option of restoring that "classic" Start Menu, but Windows 7, inexplicably, doesn't. Fortunately, there are at least two ways to accomplish this: one, a Registry tweak; the other, a shareware utility.

I'll start with the latter first, as it's arguably the easier of the two. Classic Start Menu Pro replaces the Windows 7 Start Menu with, well, you can probably guess. Just install and run the utility, then click Start for a blast from the XP past. As you can see in the screen shot, Classic Start Menu Pro also leverages Windows' Aero features, so you get some of the best of both worlds.

Now for the bad news: Classic Start Menu Pro is nagware for the first 30 days, and after that it'll cost you $20. (There is a free version, CSMenu, that might be worth a look.)

But instead of installing more software, you can modify Windows 7 so that the Favorites menu becomes an XP-like Programs menu. Here's how:

  1. Back up your Registry.
  2. Click Start, type regedit, and press Enter.
  3. Navigate to the following key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software \Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Shell Folders
  4. Double-click the Favorites entry and replace the current path with this one:C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs
  5. Navigate to a second key:HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders
  6. Repeat Step 3.
  7. Exit Regedit, then restart your PC.

Now, when you click Start, you should see a Programs menu on the right-hand side. Mouse over to see the fly-out Programs menu of yore. Don't see it? You'll need to tweak the Start Menu settings. Right-click Start, then click Properties. In the Start Menu tab, click the Customize button. Scroll down to the Favorites menu entry, click its check box, and then click OK twice.

Add 'Command Search' to Office 2007

Ingenious. That's the only word I can use to describe Search Commands, a free Microsoft Office Labs tool that adds a search tool to the Office 2007 Ribbon.

See, for anyone who cut their teeth on Office 2003 or an earlier version, the move to Office 2007 can be daunting. Much as I like the Ribbon, it's not immediately intuitive. And to this day I still have trouble finding commands that were a snap to locate in the old menu system.(Speaking of which, you can restore those "classic" menus to Office 2007 by installing the free UBitMenu add-on.)

That's why I'm jazzed about Search Commands. Once installed, it adds an eponymous tab to the Ribbon. Click it, then click in the search field and type the name of the command you're after.Like all search engines should be, this one's dynamic: It starts producing results as you type. So if you're looking for, say, macros, you'll see matching commands just by typing mac. Then just click the one you want.

Search Commands also provides context-sensitive help, meaning if you type out macros and then click the blue "Get help" question mark, it'll open the help window for that subject.

Although the Labs page for Search Commands says it's compatible only with 32-bit Windows XP and Vista, I'm running it just fine on my 64-bit Windows 7 system. Keep in mind, however, that because this is not an official Microsoft product, you can't get support for it.

That said, this is a must-have addition to Office 2007. Why Microsoft hasn't built it into the suite--and, for that matter, the upcoming Office 2010--is beyond me.

View, Print, and Back Up Your Drivers

Documents? Check. Photo and music libraries? Check. Drivers? Better double-check. Even if you're religious about backing up important data, I'll wager you never thought to back up all your drivers.

That's an oversight. After all, if your system ever suffers a major meltdown, you'll need mouse, printer, video, and other drivers to get everything up and running again. And take it from me: driver discs always go missing when you need them the most.

Double Driver 4.0 makes fast and easy work of saving all your drivers. The utility scans your system, automatically detects and selects those drivers that aren't native (i.e., part of the operating system), and lets you back them up to any kind of storage: a USB drive, a network folder, and so on.

I particularly like the choice of output options. You can save the drivers in a structured folder (meaning each driver gets its own subfolder), a compressed folder (good if you're saving to, say, a space-challenged flash drive), or a self-executable file (which will automatically restore every driver when you run it). Double Driver also lets you print a list of your installed drivers and/or save the list as a text file. Both could come in mighty handy if you ever lose the backup itself.

What I like best about Double Driver, apart from it being free, is that it's a portable application. There's nothing to install; it can run just as easily from a flash drive as it can from your desktop. Ultimately, this is one of those must-have (and must-use) utilities. Take three minutes and make a driver backup. The system you save could be your own.

If you've got a hassle that needs solving, send it my way. I can't promise a response, but I'll definitely read every e-mail I get--and do my best to address at least some of them in the PCWorld Hassle-Free PC blog . My 411: . You can also sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week .

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