SAN FRANCISCO (03/20/2000) - Remember when you first installed Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 95 and that annoying "Welcome to Windows 95" message appeared in the middle of the screen every time you rebooted? Remember how quickly you unchecked Show this Welcome Screen next time you start Windows? (Windows 95 users can relive the moment: Choose Start*Run, type welcome, and press Enter.) Fortunately, Microsoft has found a less obtrusive way to give you an occasional message. All you need is Windows 98 SE, Windows 2000, or Internet Explorer 5.
(If you're a Windows 95 user who installed IE 5 without first installing IE 4's Desktop Update, the following will work only when browsing Web pages.) In any folder, browser, or Explorer window, choose View*Explorer Bar*Tip of the Day. A small pane opens at the bottom of the window containing a tip. Click the Next Tip link if you want to see more. Or drag the bar separating the tip from the rest of the window to adjust its size. The tip will stay visible until you close the window. If you display the tip pane in a browser window, it should reappear the next time you launch Internet Explorer (with Windows Explorer or folder windows, you have to manually display the tip pane each time).
Unfortunately, many of the tips apply only to IE 5. But the possibilities for that space are endless. If you'd like to see a tip about some other aspect of Windows, or view a periodic reminder to back up your files, or even use the tip pane to send messages to other family members who use the computer, you can replace or add to the list of tips that cycle through. The trick lies in editing the HTML file.
Custom Tip Lists
Here's what to do. First, use Explorer to locate the Tip.htm file in the Web folder in your Windows folder. If extensions are hidden, the name appears simply as "Tip." Copy this file to another folder as a backup, so you can restore it to the original folder if anything goes wrong. Next, choose Start*Run, type notepad c:\windows\web\tip.htm (your path may differ), and press Enter. To add a tip or message, scroll almost to the bottom of the file until you see lines that begin div ID="Tip73", div ID="Tip74", and so forth.
Click at the end of the last of these paragraphs (following the text "/div") and press Enter a couple of times to separate your addition from the existing text. To introduce your tip, type div ID="Tip75" Style="display:none;" (or simply copy this header line from any of the tips in the file and paste it where you added the carriage returns). Just remember to adjust the tip number so that it sequentially follows the last tip's ("Tip75" if your last tip was "Tip74" and so on). Type your message, or copy and paste a short tip from another source, such as PC World Online. It's best to limit text to one paragraph so it fits in the tip pane. (But if you want to enlarge the window, type p at the end of each paragraph, or pp to double-space between paragraphs.) Complete the tip by typing /div at the end of the last paragraph. Add as many tips as you like; just remember to number them consecutively, following the example of the original tips in the file. Finally, look for the line that begins 'var nTips=' near the bottom of the file (about 20 lines from the end).
Edit the number to the right of the equal sign so that it represents the total number of tips, including Tip0. So, if you have tips numbered from 0 to 75, this line should read var nTips=76;. When you're done, save the file.
Now click in the tips pane at the bottom of your browser or folder window and press F5 to refresh the content. You should see your additions, or at least be able to get to them by clicking Next tip.
Not satisfied? You can also change the "Did you know..." text at the top of each tip--just reopen Tips.htm in Notepad and search for that phrase. Edit as you please, but be sure you don't change any of the surrounding code. To apply bold type, add b at the beginning and end of the phrase you want to emphasize.
To customize the graphic that appears next to the tips, replace the Tips.gif in the Windows\Web folder with any (preferably small) GIF image; just rename the original (to something like Tips.bak.gif), then name the new file Tips.gif (or just plain Tips if extensions are hidden). Windows will resize your picture to fit the allotted space. To change the display size of the picture, look for the phrases width="27" and height="36" in the Tip.htm file, and replace the values of the width and height in pixels.
Open one File Type in Many Applications
Windows recognizes a file's type by its three-digit file extension (which Windows 2000 hides by default) and will associate each type with one application. This makes it easy to open a file in a preferred application--simply double-click the file icon. But what if you open a file in multiple apps? At different times, for example, you may open a GIF file in an image-editing application like Adobe Photoshop, a Web-based animation application, or a quick-and-simple file viewer. In Windows 9x, this was doable but not very easy. See Windows Tips, July (www.pcworld.com/jul99/hh_windows), as well as this month's "Windows Toolbox" for a software solution. Fortunately, in Windows 2000, the capability has improved.
Make your menu: In Windows 2000, right-click any file icon and choose Open With. The first time you do this for an unassociated file type, you'll be presented with an Open With dialog box listing several installed applications.
Select one from the list or click Other. Select the application file from your hard disk, and click Open. Then click OK. The next time you go through this routine, you may still have to display the Open With dialog box and select another application. But once you've opened a file type in two or more applications, you'll get an Open With submenu that lists all the apps you've used to open this particular type of file so far. If the application you want is not on the Open With submenu, click Choose Program and go through the above routine again to add it to the list. The Open With submenu always shows the default program at the top; then items are sorted by date of use, with the most recent application first.
Change default associations: If you want to change the default application for a file type--the one that launches when you double-click a file icon--you can use the same technique. Right-click a file and choose Open With*Choose Program (even if you see the application you want on the submenu). Select an application from the list, and this time check the box labeled Always use this program to open these files. Then click OK. Alternatively, you can right-click any file type and choose Properties (or select it and press Alt-Enter, or even Alt-double-click). In the Properties sheet, click the Change button next to the Open With line. Select the application, and click OK two times.
Now, the hard part: If you want to rename or remove an item from the Open With menu or Open With dialog box, you'll have to edit the Windows Registry. Since this is risky, you should take the following steps to back up the Registry first: Choose Start*Programs*Accessories*System Tools*Backup. In the Backup window, choose Tools*Create an Emergency Repair Disk. When prompted, insert a floppy disk and check Also backup the registry to the repair directory. Click OK. If you run into trouble, these tools may or may not help. If they don't, you might have to reinstall Windows--so proceed at your own risk.
Remove a menu item: If you add an item to your Open With menu and later decide to remove it, try this: Choose Start*Run, type regedit and press Enter to start the Registry Editor. Navigate down the tree on the left until you come to the branch HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts.
If necessary, double-click the FileExts folder (called a key) to expand the branches beneath. Find the file extension for the menu that you want to edit, and double-click it. Then select the OpenWithList key under the extension key.
In the pane on the right, select the icon corresponding to the menu item that you want to remove. (You won't see the menu item by name, but rather the name of the file that the menu item launches.) Press Delete and click Yes to confirm.
Undo an accidental dialog box addition: If you accidentally added a nonexecutable file (such as a data file, which can't open any other files) to your Open With menu, the previous tip will remove it from your Open With menu.
To remove it from the Open With dialog box as well, go to the Registry Editor, and navigate to the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\Applications.
Double-click Applications, and underneath, locate the key that corresponds to your bogus application (the nonexecutable item you added to the dialog by mistake). Select the key and press Delete. Click Yes to confirm.
Rename menu and dialog box items: If you navigate through the menu using keyboard shortcuts, renaming the items in your Open With menu and Open With dialog box can ease the process. For example, Shift-F10 displays the context (right-click) menu for selected icons; pressing H afterward displays the Open With menu. From there, just press the first letter of the menu item you want.
But if more than one item starts with that letter, you may have to press it multiple times, followed by Enter. By renaming the menu items that begin with the same letter, you'll be able to access them faster.
Here's what to do: In the Registry Editor, navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\Applications key. Double-click Applications, and then double-click the application name whose menu you want to modify. Under that key, select the Shell key. In the right pane, double-click the Friendly Cache icon. In the Edit String dialog box, edit the text in the Value data box--this is the text that will appear on the Open With menu and Open With dialog box. If you want to give the menu name a unique keyboard shortcut, put an ampersand (&) in front of one of the letters in the name. Be sure that no other menu items begin with the letter you pick. Click OK and exit the Registry. The next time you open this menu using the keyboard method, you'll see an underscore marking the letter you designated; press it to launch that application. This underscore doesn't appear if you use the mouse to display the menu.
Browse your Folders
If you run Windows 95 and installed Internet Explorer 4.x without the Desktop Update feature, you're missing out on some of the embellishments IE 4.x gives to Windows 98 users. But you can still get an enhanced file-management tool by using IE to browse your hard disk; it includes a Favorites menu or panel, forward and back navigation button, and a Links toolbar. To make IE search your hard disk the way Explorer does, see "A Better Way to Explore Your Hard Drives" (www.pcworld.com/jun99/windowstips).
But if you want to open individual folders in a browser on the fly, you need another approach. You can customize Windows so that when you right-click a folder, you have the option of opening it in an Internet Explorer window.
Here's what to do: First, double-click My Computer. In the My Computer window, choose View*Options. Click the File Types tab, and in the list, select Folder (not File Folder). Click the Edit button. At the bottom of the Edit File Type dialog box, click New to create a new action for the right-click menu. In the New Action dialog box, type Explore in Browser (or whatever you'd like to name your menu command) in the top box. In the bottom box, type "C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe" -e (adjust the path as needed to reflect the location of your browser). Then click OK.
Now, your right-click menu has a command to open a selected folder in a two-pane Internet Explorer window with the folder tree on the left. To add a command that opens a folder in a single-pane browser window, do this: Click New once again to create another action. In the New Action dialog box, type something like Open in Browser in the top box and "C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe" in the bottom box (again, your path may vary). Then click Close twice to close the remaining dialog boxes. The next time you right-click a folder, you'll have two new menu commands that let you open that folder in your Internet Explorer browser.
Print selectively with Internet Explorer 5In January's issue I explained how you could use Microsoft FrontPage or FrontPage Express to simulate a print preview for Web pages when surfing with IE 5 ("Save Paper When Printing From IE 5," www.pcworld.com/jan00/hh_windows).
But reader Eli Winkler has pointed out a better way to save paper when printing a Web page. In IE 5, select the portion of the Web page you want to print (that is, drag the cursor over the area to highlight it). Then choose File*Print. In the 'Print range' section, choose Selection to print only the selected material. Then click OK. You'll get only the portion you selected.
Make Icons Disappear
In the April issue, I told you how to use a desktop toolbar to take the place of all the icons cluttering your screen. But I was wrong when I said that Windows 2000 didn't let you do this all on its own ("The Clean and Efficient Desktop," www.pcworld.com/apr00/hh_windows). It does, but like many things in Windows 2000, the controls have moved around a bit. In Windows 2000, right-click on the desktop and choose Active Desktop. Then, if there is a check mark by Show Web Content, choose Show Desktop Icons from the Active Desktop menu to uncheck Show Web Content. If Show Web Content isn't checked, add the checkmark. Then right-click on the desktop again and choose Active Desktop*Show Desktop Icons.
Get there Faster with Document ShortcutsWindows file and folder shortcuts make it easy to open a document or folder fast. But they don't make it easier to get to, say, page 31, paragraph C of a long document or a specific cell of that monster spreadsheet you've been nursing all year. Fortunately, there is another kind of shortcut to solve this problem--the document shortcut. The only catch is that the application you use to open these documents must support object linking and embedding (OLE). For the majority of people, this means using Microsoft Word or Excel.
To create a document shortcut, open the document or spreadsheet you want a shortcut for. Navigate to the particular page, paragraph, sentence, or cell that you frequently consult, and select it. Then use your right-mouse button to drag the selection to a folder or the desktop. Release the button and choose Create Document Shortcut Here. Depending on the application, you may need to copy the selection, navigate to your folder or desktop, right-click, and choose Paste Shortcut.
With many applications, you'll need to return to the original app (the one that the shortcut points to) and choose File*Save. If you're creating a great number of these document shortcuts, you'll find them easier to manage if you keep them in their own folder. To create this folder, right-click the Start button and choose Open. In the Start Menu folder, right-click an empty area and choose New*Folder. Type a name and press Enter.
Find files in this article at www.fileworld.com/magazine. Send your questions and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. We pay $50 for published tips and questions. Scott Dunn is a contributing editor for PC World and a principal author of The PC Bible, 2nd Edition (Peachpit Press, 1995).
Open One File Type in Many Apps with OpenExpertWant to open GIFs, JPEGs, or HTML files from your browser one day and from an editing program the next? Opening a file and its application from Explorer is usually a one-file-type, one-application kind of procedure. It's possible to dig through the myriad Explorer dialog boxes to change your options, but who wants to do that for several file types? OpenExpert can help. This handy little utility (free to home users, $20 for businesses) adds an "Open With" submenu to your right-click menu and makes it a breeze to configure applications. Once you've set up a few apps, adding them to the menu for other file types is a simple drag-and-drop procedure. You can also customize the names of applications and the order that they appear on the menu. Why didn't Microsoft think of this? Thank the people at BaxBex Software for such a great idea. You can download OpenExpert from the vendor's site (baxbex.com) or from FileWorld.