February 18, 2000

Window Manager, Brian Livingston

More quick tricks from Windows 2000 Secrets, now that the wait for the new OS is over

LAST WEEK I described the official release of Windows 2000. I celebrated this event by giving you four "quick tricks" from my new book, Windows 2000 Secrets (www.idgbooks.com), co-authored with Bruce Brown and Bruce Kratofil of BugNet fame.

Most of the secrets in this, the ninth book I've authored or co-authored on Windows, take a page or more to explain. So I've chosen 10 "quick tricks" whose main virtue is that they fit into a single paragraph. Here we go with the second installment of tricks, five through 10, in no particular order.

5. A personal portal in five minutes. Tired of Web "portals" that are just trying to sell you things? It's easy to create your own personal, noncommercial Web portal. Simply create a document in a modern word processor, such as Microsoft Word 97 or 2000, and type in the Web pages you want to have on your list. Save the file in HTML format anywhere on your hard disk. (To do this, click File, Save As, then look for .HTML or .HTM as a file format you can save to.) In your browser, make this your Start Page. In Internet Explorer 5, for example, click Tools, Internet Options, then click the "Use Blank" button and replace the filename that appears (typically, file:///C:/WINNT/SYSTEM/BLANK .HTM) with your own filename. The extra slashes in "file:///" are necessary for this to work.

6. Render dates the way you want. In the Regional Settings control panel, you can click the Date tab and, as a new feature of Windows 2000, specify how Windows should handle two-digit years you enter.

For example, you can say that any two-digit year should be interpreted as a year between 1930 and 2029, or 1980 and 2079, and so forth. But in that same dialog box, you're given only a few choices for how you want programs such as Windows Explorer to display dates.

What most people don't know is that you can type in your own formats and Windows will recognize and use them. For example, selecting the built-in format "dd-MMM-yy" displays dates in Explorer as "07-Jun-00." But if you type in "dd-MMMM-yyyy," you'll see the same date as "07-June-2000."

7. Expand your computer. Drag the My Computer icon from the Windows 2000 Desktop to your Start Button. Not only do you get a quick shortcut on the menu to the My Computer window, but it's expandable. You can easily open any file in any folder from the submenus that branch off your new My Computer menu.

8. Your documents and control panel will expand, too. It's even easier to create expanding menus to open documents and Control Panel applets than it is to create an expanding My Computer.

Click Start, Settings, Taskbar & Start Menu, then select the Advanced tab. You can turn on check boxes that expand My Documents, the Control Panel, the Printers folder, and Network & Dial-up Connections.

9. Make Notepad work for you. Notepad has a bad habit in Windows 2000 of saving the text files you create into the root folder of your C: drive. You can change this behavior so that Notepad defaults to My Documents or any other folder you normally store your documents under.

To do this, right-click the Start button, then click Explore. Navigate to the Programs, Accessories folder, then right-click the Notepad shortcut and click Properties. Change the folder Notepad starts in to "C:\Documents and Settings\(UserName)\My Documents" and click OK. (Use the username that appears in Windows Explorer.) The quote marks around the setting are needed because it contains spaces.

In Windows 2000, by the way, Notepad has finally matured so it can open files larger than 50KB. This improvement took 14 years, but oh well -- better late than never.

10. Oops, now what? So you renamed a file in Windows Explorer, but you've changed your mind and now you aren't sure exactly what the old name was?

It's easy to fix this with the little-known key combination Ctrl+Z. This automatically undoes whatever name change you made and restores the original file name. You can also right-click an unoccupied space in Windows Explorer, which shows "Undo" (your last action) as a choice you can select. This is a multiple-level undo, too, which lets you go back several steps. It works in a surprising number of situations.

Next week I'll be back to my usual format, in which I reveal an undocumented feature or an unannounced product that requires an entire column.

Now that the beta program is over, I know you have great Windows 2000 secrets that you're dying to share. E-mail them to me with "Windows 2000" as the subject line. I'll send you a free book if you're the first to send me a tip that I print.