Living with Windows XP: How to Set It Up the Way You Want
Setting up the task bar. The task bar (the thing on the bottom
of the screen that contains the start button) is locked down by default, which
is a new feature with XP. If you right-click the taskbar, and make
sure that there is no check mark next to "Lock the Taskbar", then you can make
changes to it. After you have it the way you like it, lock it down again and
you won’t be able to accidentally resize it.
Quick launch icons. Those are the little tiny icons next to
the start button introduced in Windows 98. I assume that you want these. To
enable them, right-click the task bar and click Properties. Check the
box that says "Show Quick Launch". The quick launch icons that you already had
and didn’t know it will appear. Chances are that you have quick launch icons
for AOL, MSN, and seventeen others. Of course you only want icons for the
programs that you use the most there, and the rest are clutter. To delete the
ones you don’t want, right-click each one and click Delete. If you
unlock the task bar (step 1), you will see some small blue dots to the right of
the quick launch icons. This is the border of the area that your quick launch
icons are allowed to fill; if there are too many icons, the extras will be
hidden. You may need to drag this border right or left appropriately. You must
have the task bar unlocked to move the border, and I highly recommend that you
lock the task bar again as soon as you are finished.
The benefits of right-dragging files or icons. This
actually has been a feature of Windows for a several versions, but lots of
people don’t know about it. You will need it later in this document, so I will
tell you how to do it. What I mean is, if you drag a file or icon from one
place to another, Windows sometimes assumes that you want to copy the file.
Sometimes it assumes that you want to move the file. Sometimes it assumes you
want to create a shortcut to the file. In my experience, Windows is right about
two thirds of the time, and it is very annoying when Windows is wrong.
Fortunately, there is a better way. If you right-drag the file or
icon, a menu will pop up asking if you wish to move the file, copy the file, or
create a shortcut. You need only click on what you want to do. Note that
copying a shortcut (quick launch icons and start menu items
are actually shortcuts in disguise) is the same as creating a new shortcut that
points to the same thing as the first shortcut. If you don't know what right-dragging
is, it's dragging with the second mouse button (instead of the first mouse
button you use most of the time), which is the right mouse button if you are
right-handed and have a two-button mouse.
Windows Explorer . If you were used to Windows Explorer, you
will probably prefer to have it handy in XP. I will tell you how to
create a quick launch icon and a desktop icon for Windows Explorer. You can
find it in start -> All Programs -> Accessories, but
that’s not very convenient. First, make sure that you can see part of the
desktop (no programs are filling the whole screen). Next, click start ->
All Programs -> Accessories, and leave the start menu up on the
screen. You will see an icon for Windows Explorer (which I mentioned earlier is
a shortcut in disguise). Right-drag the icon onto the desktop, and
click "Copy Here". You will then have a desktop shortcut for Windows Explorer.
Next, right-drag the desktop shortcut onto the quick launch icon
area. You will know when you are in the correct area because a shadowy vertical
bar will appear where the icon will go. After you let up the mouse button to
stop right-dragging, click "Create Shortcuts Here", and you will have a quick
launch icon for Windows Explorer.
Setting Up Windows Explorer. The default settings for Windows
Explorer are atrocious, and presume that the highest priority should be to make
recent Macintosh users comfortable. Large icons are nice and all, but do they
really have to suppress file extensions? Well fortunately you can change all
that nonsense if you want to. (If you like that nonsense, I apologize.) To do
so, first launch Windows Explorer. Click Tools ->
Folder Options. Click on the View tab. This brings up a dialog in which you
have many choices that affects how Windows Explorer looks. I don’t have time do
describe all of them, so feel free to experiment; just remember what you did so
that if you don’t like it you can change it back. I recommend that you check
both "display the full path" boxes, and uncheck the "Hide extensions for known
Large Icons versus a List of Files in Windows Explorer. The
default setting when you are viewing a directory in Windows Explorer is large
icons. I don’t know about you, but most of the time I want a list of files with
details about the file size and the last-modified date instead. This setting is
actually per directory, which is a good thing; in my opinion large icons are
better for the Control Panel, for example. I will tell you how to make the
default setting be a file list with details. First, launch Windows Explorer.
Change the setting for the directory you are looking at to be "Details"
(meaning a file list with details) by clicking View -> Details.
(There is also a convenient icon at the top of the Windows Explorer window, at
the far right next to the "Folders" button, which can do the same thing.) You
should now have a list of files with the details including file size and
modification date. To make this the default for every directory, click Tools ->
Folder Options, click the View tab, and click the "Apply to All Folders"
button. A dialog will pop up asking if you really want to do it; click yes.
When you are done with the Folder Options dialog, dismiss it by clicking the OK