Stories by Scott Dunn

Phoenix Technologies Beinsync

BeInSync does four particular tasks--synchronizing, sharing, providing remote data access, and backing up--and it does them very well. There's no confusing of these tasks, each of which appears as a giant button in the cleanly designed interface. If you opt for the smaller 'Launch BeInSync' button, you get a more sophisticated interface, but with the same four buttons at the top.

Make Your Backups Painless and Brainless

One day, that 100-year-old oak outside your home-office window is going to plop onto your PC, or your power supply will dry up just as you attempt to save a huge Excel spreadsheet, or you'll have the one-in-a-million "reliable, robust" hard drive that suddenly, inexplicably gives up the ghost. What, you worry? Not for a minute, because you've set your system for automatic backups.

First Aid for Windows Help

Microsoft Corp.'s Hypertext Windows Help system was the envy of operating systems everywhere--until Microsoft decided to dump it in favor of a clumsy HTML-based version that doesn't let you bookmark topics, add annotations, or customize fonts. This is progress? A few applications continue to use the old system, but recent versions of Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office, and Windows itself are decidedly help-challenged. No instant fix is available to restore the hypertext version's features, but these tips will help you work around Windows Help's current limitations.

Folders: It's All in the Details View

Even the most descriptive file or folder name does not tell you much about what's behind the icon. How do you determine how large a file is, when a folder was created, or what that cryptic three-letter file extension means? Well, you could give your mouse a workout, or you could find out at a glance by using Details view in Windows Explorer or in an open folder window. These days, Windows Explorer and open folder windows are functionally equivalent, so we'll use the terms Explorer and folder interchangeably.

Annotate Your Folders and Files

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.

Give Us This Day Our Daily Tip

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).

Windows Tips

The Web viewpane of the Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000 Explorer vastly improves your preview of common bit-map image formats (such as GIF, JPEG, and BMP), letting you zoom in and out or launch a larger preview window. To activate this feature for a given folder, right-click an empty area of the folder and choose Customize This Folder. Click Next, check Choose or edit an HTML template for this folder,

Windows Tips: Quick and Easy Keyboard Shortcuts

If you frequently open certain applications, documents, folders, Control Panel applets or Web addresses, you can avoid digging through several levels of menus to find them by assigning a unique keyboard sequence to each. Here's how to get the most from this useful (and woefully underused) feature.