Annotate Your Folders and Files

SAN FRANCISCO (05/26/2000) - Do you spend a lot of time opening files or folders just to see what's inside them? A good system for naming and organizing files can help, but sometimes you need more information than you can fit in a folder or file name. Fortunately, if you have Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000, Windows 98, or Windows 95 with Internet Explorer 4's Desktop Update feature installed, you can create annotations for any folder (and for some files) that are visible as an InfoTip, the small text that pops up when you hold the pointer over an object for a few seconds. You can also see these annotations for a selected item in the preview area of a folder displayed in Web View.

Create Web View folder annotations: If you only want to see a folder annotation in the preview area of a Web View folder, Windows 2000 offers the simplest method for adding these comments. Just open a folder in Explorer, right-click an empty area of the folder window, and choose Customize This Folder (or choose View*Customize This Folder). In the Customize This Folder Wizard, click Next.

In the next panel, make sure Customize is selected, and check Add folder comment. Click Next, type your annotation in the box provided, click Next, and click Finish.

When using the Customize This Folder Wizard, you will get better results if you do not check the option 'Choose or edit an HTML template for this folder'. A glitch in Windows 2000 causes any HTML template that you choose to override the display of annotations. Though you would still be able to see the annotation of this folder when you selected it from inside another folder, annotations for any folders nested inside the current folder would be suppressed by the template.

If you have already applied a template, you must first run the wizard with the Remove customizations option, and then restart the wizard to create or edit your annotation as described above.

Create pop-up folder annotations: You can add annotations that appear not only in the Web View preview but also as a pop-up InfoTip. First, open the folder you want to annotate. In Windows 9x, choose View*Folder Options, click the View tab, and make sure Show all files is selected under 'Hidden files'. Click OK.

In Windows 2000, choose Tools*Folder Options, click the View tab, make sure that Show hidden files and folders is selected, and uncheck Hide protected operating system files (Recommended). Click Yes at the warning prompt, and then click OK.

In any Windows version, press Alt-F5 to refresh the folder's contents so you can see any hidden files. Look for a file named Desktop.ini (the extension won't be visible if you have that option turned off). This file is created inside a folder any time you customize it, such as with a background picture.

Double-click Desktop.ini to open it in Notepad. If you don't see this file, simply start Notepad.

If you opened an existing Desktop.ini file, look for the line [.ShellClassInfo] (note the period before 'ShellClassInfo'). At the end of the line, hit Alt-Enter. On the next line, type InfoTip= followed by the text of your annotation--for example Personal and business correspondence with the Dotto Group, 1997 to present. If you don't see [.ShellClassInfo], or if you started with an empty Notepad window, type that line at the top of the file, press Alt-Enter, and type InfoTip= followed by the text of your annotation. Press Alt-Enter again.

Now choose File*Save. If you started with an empty Notepad window, a dialog box will prompt you for a name and location. Navigate to the folder whose icon you want to change. In the File name box, type "desktop.ini" (including the quotation marks) so Notepad won't add its default .txt extension. Click Save.

You're not done yet. This trick works only with folders that have the System attribute. To change the folder's attribute, first locate the icon for your folder in Explorer (or on the desktop). With Explorer as the active window, click Windows' Start button, select Run, and type attrib +s. Leave the Run box open, drag your folder from Explorer (or the desktop) to the Open box of the Run box, and drop it in. The text should look something like this: attrib +s "c:\My Documents" (the path to your folder will, of course, differ). Click OK.

A DOS box will flash momentarily on screen as it applies the System attribute to your folder. Finally, select your folder and press Alt-F5 to refresh the display. As a final touch, if you created a Desktop.ini file, you might want to hide it when hidden files aren't displayed: Right-click the file and choose Properties. Check the Hidden box and click OK.

Annotate files: You can annotate any folder but not just any file. If you're using Windows 98 or 2000, you can easily annotate many applications' files without launching the applications. Select one of these files and press Alt-Enter to display its properties. Click the Summary tab, and fill in the boxes for Author, Title, Subject, and Comments. Some or all of these entries will appear in your annotation, depending on your version of Windows. Then click OK. If you're using Windows 95, you won't be able to type comments directly into the Properties sheet. But you can open the file in the associated application, choose File*Summary Info or File*Properties, and enter the information there.

See the results: To see your annotation, hold the pointer over the folder for a few seconds until the InfoTip box pops up and displays your annotation. If you don't see it, try clicking in the window or on the desktop to make sure the location is active, or press Alt-F5 to refresh the information. Unfortunately, in Windows versions prior to Win 98 Second Edition, you may not see any InfoTips in single-pane folder windows; try the two-pane Explorer window instead. In addition, you may not see any InfoTips if the current folder is displayed as a Web page. To turn off this feature, choose View*as Web Page and uncheck that command. On the other hand, if you do want to see your annotations as part of the Web preview pane in a folder, you'll have to turn that feature on (choose View*as Web Page again to restore the check mark). In Windows 2000, choose Tools*Folder Options, select Enable Web content in folders in the Web View section, and click OK. Then select any icon in the folder that has an annotation; the text of the annotation will appear in the Web View preview on the left. In Windows 2000, this text appears both when a folder is selected and when the folder is open but nothing is selected. If you used both methods of adding annotations described above, Windows 2000 will display the results of both in the preview pane.

What about shortcuts to the folders you've annotated? Unfortunately, you won't see your annotations there. Your text is associated only with the icon for the actual folder, not with shortcuts to that folder. But at least Windows 2000 provides a useful InfoTip for folder shortcuts--one that displays the location of the original (target) folder.

Now that you've annotated your folders, see the next tip for customizing the look of pop-up annotations and tips.

Customize Your Infotips and Tooltips

Windows 9x introduced a new, less intrusive help system known variously as ToolTips (when the notes pop up over toolbar icons) or InfoTips (when they pop up over other kinds of objects). Just hold your mouse over a button or object for a few seconds, and--if you're lucky--you'll get a helpful explanation or label. But you may have trouble reading the tiny text they're written in. Or you may want to eliminate some or all of these tips. Here are some ways to boss them around on your system.

Get a new look: If you find the ToolTips too hard to read or if you don't like their font or color, right-click the Desktop and choose Properties. Then click the Appearance tab, and in the Item drop-down list, select ToolTip. Using the two color buttons at the right, choose a background color (top button) and a text color (bottom button) from the pop-up palettes. You can also use the Font and Size drop-down lists and the Bold and Italic buttons to customize the text's appearance further. Then click Apply. Continue tweaking your choices until you're satisfied, and finish by clicking OK.

Though your color choices apply to both InfoTips and ToolTips, the typographic choices (font, type size, bold, italic) affect only ToolTips (the tips you see with toolbar buttons and icons), not the tips you see for folders. In addition, your typographic choices affect the text you see in the status bar at the bottom of the Explorer window. If you don't see the status bar, you can choose View*Status Bar to make it visible. In Windows 95, your folder also affects the text at the top of each of the two panes in Explorer.

When you change the InfoTips' font and size, you also have to change the font and size of the file names in Explorer and of the labels under all icons in Explorer and on your desktop. If that doesn't bother you, return to the Appearance tab of the Display Properties dialog box, and select Icon from the Item drop-down list. Then use the Font and Size drop-down lists and Bold and Italic buttons as you like.

(Minitip: Avoid using bold for icon text. Some Windows dialog boxes use boldface to indicate a default choice in a list, so making everything bold obscures this information.)You can also customize annotations that appear in the preview area of a folder in Web View. In Windows 2000, follow the steps above for customizing the color of the font and its background. To change the font and type size for Web View annotations in Windows 2000, choose Menu from the Item drop-down and change the font settings. (Naturally, this will change the font on your menus as well.) In other versions of Windows, you can customize the font and the size by opening the folder window and choosing View*Customize This Folder.

Make sure Create or edit an HTML document is selected in the resulting dialog box, and click Next twice. When the HTML document (Folder.htt) opens in Notepad, skip down a few lines until you see an indented line beginning with the word 'body'. To the right of that, you should see font information like this: {font: 8pt/10pt verdana; margin: 0}. Edit the type size and line spacing (the first two numbers) and the font name. (Unfortunately, variants such as bold and italic are ignored.)When you're done, the text in braces should look something like this: {font:

14pt/18pt Arial Narrow; margin: 0} (naturally, your specifications may differ).

From Notepad's menu, choose File*Exit, click Yes when prompted to save the file, and click Finish in the Customize This Folder Wizard.

Customize tips for Windows' own icons: You may have noticed that if you select and then hold the pointer over the icons Windows installs--My Computer, Network Neighborhood, Control Panel, Recycle Bin, and so forth--you will see an InfoTip describing the function of these icons. If for any reason you want to change this text, you can do so by editing the Windows Registry. Because editing the Registry can be dangerous, attempt this task only if you are familiar with the Registry and are willing to proceed at your own risk. Choose Start*Run, type regedit, and press Alt-Enter. Choose Edit*Find, type InfoTip, and make sure that only the Values and Match whole string only check boxes are checked. Then click Find Next.

The search should stop at one of the annotations for these files. Usually you can tell which icon you are annotating by looking at the text to the right of the '(Default)' icon that appears above the InfoTip icon. In the case of My Computer and Network Neighborhood, however, the text next to the (Default) icon simply reads '(value not set)' (Windows 9x only).

You should still be able to tell which icon's InfoTip you are editing, though, by referring to the text next to the InfoTip icon. Suppose, for example, that you want to customize the InfoTip for the My Computer icon. Press Alt-F3 to continue the search until you find the InfoTip text that reads 'Displays the contents of your computer'. To be on the safe side, choose Registry*Export Registry File to make a backup of the Registry portion you are about to change.

Make sure that Selected branch is selected; then designate a name and location, and click Save.

Now you are ready to make some changes: Double-click the InfoTip icon, and change the tip text in the Edit String dialog box to something like Dad's computer. Then click OK. Use the same technique on any other icons the search finds, and then exit the Registry. You may have to exit and reopen an Explorer window to see the change there, and you may have to restart Windows to see a change on the desktop.

As you search the Registry in Windows 2000, you will notice that you can edit the InfoTip text for certain file types (such as compressed .cab files), and you can even edit the InfoTips for several of the Control Panel icons.

Turn off obvious tips (Windows 98 and 2000 only): New users may not know the purpose of the minimize, maximize/restore, and close buttons at the top right corner of each window. But you do, so why should you have to see a ToolTip pop up every time your pointer lingers too long over one of those buttons? You can turn specific tips off, but doing so again involves editing the Registry, so be careful. Start the Registry Editor as explained in the previous tip. Navigate down the tree in the left pane until you are able to select the folder icon labeled HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\desktop.

To be safe, export a backup of this branch, as explained in the previous tip.

Then in the right pane of the Registry Editor, double-click the UserPreferencemask icon (Windows 9x) or UserPreferencesMask (Windows 2000).

This will open the Edit Binary Value dialog box. Inside it, a text cursor will flash in the Value data area, just before two characters or numbers.

What you type depends on the first alphanumeric character in this pair: If the first character is a, type 2. If it's b, type 3. If it's c, type 4. If it's e, type 6. If it's 8, type 0 (the number). If it's 9, type 1 (the number). Now type the second number or letter you see in the original pair (that pair should still be there). For example, if the original characters were BE, you should type 3e. The original alphanumeric pair will then move to the right.

Press the Alt-Delete key once to delete the original pair of characters, and then click OK. Exit the Registry Editor and restart your computer. If the ToolTips for these buttons continue to appear and you have the system set up with profiles for multiple users, try repeating the same steps at this location in the Registry: HKEY_USERS\.Default\Control Panel\desktop.

Turn off all InfoTips: If you installed the Desktop Update portion of Internet Explorer 4, or if you're using Windows 98, Windows 98 SE, or Windows 2000, you may have noticed InfoTips popping up for My Computer, Network Neighborhood, and many other icons. You probably don't need Windows to remind you of the purpose of My Computer or the Recycle Bin each time your pointer pauses over them.

You can't turn off the ToolTips for every toolbar button, but you can turn off the tips for desktop icons, folders, and file icons in one fell swoop. And this time, you don't have to edit the Registry. Open any Explorer window, and choose View*Folder Options (Windows 9x) or Tools*Folder Options (Windows 2000). Click the View tab and uncheck Show pop-up description for folder and desktop items in the Advanced settings list. Then click OK.

You can obtain the file mentioned in this article from Find more tips at Send your questions and tips to scott_ We pay $50 for published items. Scott Dunn is a contributing editor for PC World and a principal author of The PC Bible, 2nd Edition (Peachpit Press, 1995).

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