Propellerhead Tips 06




If your printer is connected to a small home or office network then you may want to stop other network users printing at certain times. Being woken up at 2am by the sound of the printer running off the next day’s hastily finished coursework will be familiar to those with teenage kids… Windows XP will let you restrict printing times and if anyone tries to start a print job it will be queued until it’s back on line. The timer facility can be found by double-clicking Printers and Faxes on the Start menu, right-click on the printer icon in the right hand pane, select Properties, then the Advanced tab and click the item ‘Available From’ and fill in the times you want the printer to be accessible.



This Tip is aimed at home network PC users -- and concerned parents in particular - who want to be able to share files and resources with other users in the same workgroup, but prefer not to have their own PC show up in the other PC’s ‘My Network Places’ window. Your computer will still be connected to the network, it just won’t show up, it’s like having your own PC cloaking device. It’s also extremely simple and all you have to do is go to Run on the Start menu and type ‘cmd’ (without the quotes) and this will open up a DOS like window. At the flashing command prompt type the following:   'net config server /hidden:yes.' (again, no quotes), hit Enter and you should see a ‘Command completed successfully’ message and your will machine disappear from sight. Be aware that for reasons too complicated to go into here this can take several minutes to happen. If you ever need to make it reappear simply repeat the procedure, this time with the command: 'net config server /hidden:no.




We’ve spoken before about the secret hidden file in Windows that logs every web site you’ve visited using Internet Explorer. One way to avoid this is to switch to another browser and if you are a regular you’ll know that I recommend Mozilla Firefox, but it’s not entirely innocent. In allowed to do so Firefox will indefinitely store cookies -- small text files, they’re mostly harmless but they can reveal personal details -- but if you are at all concerned about privacy I suggest that you make some changes to the way Firefox manages your cookies. The simplest strategy is to allow them to be loaded onto your PC -- some web sites won’t display otherwise -- but you can set Firefox to delete them when you exit the program. It’s easy to do, just go to Options on the Tools menu and click the Privacy icon. Scroll down the list and click the ‘+’ sign next to Cookies then in the drop-down menu next to ‘Keep Cookies:’ select ‘Until I close Firefox’. While you are there you might want to familiarise yourself with Firefox’s other privacy setting and Clear the History and Cache files. When you have finished click OK to exit.




If you are worried that your Word documents don’t receive the attention they deserve here’s a sure fire way to get them noticed on your colleague’s PC screens. Word has a small and well-hidden selection of ‘Animated Text’ effects that can really make your words stand out. Simply open your document and highlight the words, sentences or paragraphs that you want to emphasise then go to Font on the Format menu and select the Text Effects tab. Choose your weapon from the list, which includes such razzle-dazzlers as ‘shimmer’, ‘Las Vegas’, ‘Blinking Background’, ‘Sparkle Text’ and ‘Marching Red Ants’. Be careful how often you use them, though, they can get very, very annoying… 




Control Panel on the Start menu is probably on your list of frequently visited places in Windows XP so here’s a way to make it easier to get at. This tip changes the Start menu entry into a drop-down menu when you click on it, so you are never more than a couple of click away from a Control Panel utility. TO make the change right-click on an empty part of the Start menu taskbar and select Properties then the Start Menu tab; click the Customize button then the Advanced tab. In the Start Menu Items box, next to Control Panel select ‘Display as a menu’ then OK. If for any reason you still want to open it as a folder just right-click on the icon and select Open




Microsoft Word has a little known facility that lets you print two pages on each sheet of A4 paper. This can come in quite handy when printing very long documents and/or you want to economise on your use of paper and ink. The basic method is to go to Print on the File menu and in the Zoom box change ‘Pages per sheet’ from 1 to 2 then click OK. You may find that the left side of the page doesn’t print properly, in which case go back to Print on the File menu, click your printer’s Properties box and on the Paper tab change Orientation from Landscape to Portrait. You may have to increase font size if the printing is too small to read. There are lots more nifty




The Restore Points created by System Restore use a lot of space, a gigabyte or more in the case of large hard drives. One simple and safe way to claw back some of this space is to delete old redundant RPs. To do that go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools and click Disk Cleanup. Your system drive (usually C:) should be selected by default, click OK and when it has finished scanning your system click the More Options tab then the Clean Up button next to System Restore and all RPs, with the exception of the current one, will be erased. Don’t forget there are plenty more tips to keep your PC running smoothly in the BootLog Archive at




Windows Explorer is fine for navigating your way around your hard disc but it doesn’t really give you the big picture, about what is stored on your hard disc drive. To do that you need something like Spacemonger. This is a small freeware utility that examines and then displays the contents of your hard in an easy to understand graphical format, so you can see at a glance which files and folders are taking up all of the room, and how much free space you have. You can also zoom in on the contents of files and folders and delete the stuff you don’t want and it’s bound to unearth a fair few files you never even knew you had.




If you are in the habit of opening and working on a lot of Word documents at the same time here is a handy little tip that will let you save and close them all in one operation. Simply hold down the Shift key, move your mouse to the File menu and two new items will appear, called Close All and Save All; click the latter and the deed is done.





If like most Windows users you have a couple of open word processor documents, web browser and email programs all on the go at the same time and you find yourself switching between them here’s a simple way to make the most of your screen space and have two or more windows on the screen at the same time. This simple little tips puts two windows side by side, just hold down the Ctrl key and right-click on the second window’s taskbar icon and select Tile Vertically from the drop down menu.




Take a close look at your computer keyboard, most of the keys you will be familiar with but what about those oddly labelled keys next the numeric keypad, what are they all about? Most of them are throwbacks to the old DOS and mainframe days. Scroll Lock is a complete waste of spaces as all it does is turn the Scroll Lock light on and off. SysRq (under PrntScn) is another one, it’s short for System Request and it doesn’t do anything, but the Pause/Break, -- another vestigial DOS command -- has found a use and if you press Winkey + Break it will bring up the Windows XP System Properties. ‘Alt Gr’ on the right of the spacebar works on US and foreign language keyboards, it toggles between ‘alternate’ characters printed in Green (that’s what the Gr stands for). Next door to that is another mystery key with what looks like a printed page label. This one also works and it doubles up as a keyboard equivalent of the right mouse button and usually displays a ‘Context’ menu, relating to specific functions of whatever application you are using.




This tip is an update of an old Windows 98 favourite and it creates a desktop shortcut that will shut down your Windows XP computer with a single click, automatically closing and asking you to save any open documents. Start by right-clicking onto an empty area of the desktop and select New > Shortcut. Click the Browse button and navigate your way to:  C:\Windows\System32\Shutdown.exe, click Next give the shortcut a name and click Finish. Next right right-click your new shortcut icon, select Properties and in the Target box, add the command line ‘switch’ -l (to log off), -s (to shut down) or -r (to reboot). For example a simple shutdown shortcut command line should look like this:C:\Windows\System32\shutdown.exe -s If you want to add a 3 second delay to the Shutdown then add the ‘-t xx’ switch, thus:C:\Windows\System32\shutdown.exe -s -t 03 If you like you can add own your own comments or text in the Shutdown box with a  -c "Your text" switch.




I am willing to bet that you are using the speakers that came with your PC, and you haven’t touched the audio settings. If I am right then you really are missing out, PCs are capable of near hi-fi performance, but not though those nasty cheap things either side of the screen. If you want decent sound you are going to have to shell out on some proper speakers, and avoid anything that purports to be pumping out several hundred watts of 'music power’ from an amp and speakers the size of a matchbox.


Even if you don’t feel like investing in new speakers just yet you should still make sure they are set up properly. Go to Control Panel and double click the Sounds and Audio Devices icon, select the Volume tab and click the Advanced button. On the Speakers tab click the down arrow next to the Speaker Setup drop-down arrow and make sure your speaker type and layout are selected.




If your mouse has a scroll wheel you might be missing out on a useful extra feature. Press down on the wheel and see if it clicks, if it does you have a little-known feature called a wheel button and it can be made to do a number of interesting things. To find out what they are and maybe try a few of them out go to Start > Control Panel and double-click the Mouse icon. Select the Buttons tab and check out the Wheel Button drop-down menu. There are almost 30 options but perhaps the most useful one is Start (Custom), which can be configured to open a program or application..   




If you are a Firefox fan you may know that it’s possible to weak its configuration settings to make it faster and more responsive. It’s Open Source software and users are encouraged to participate in its development but some of the settings can be quite trick and it’s not a good idea for novices to tinker with them, but there is now a safe and foolproof way to get some significant performance gains using a freeware utility called Firetune. It is easy to use, automatically optimising the browser according to your PC specs and broadband connection moreover any changes it makes can be easily undone using the backup option.




When working on long documents it is sometimes useful to be able to see and edit other sections of the text at the same time. Word will let you do exactly that, though unless you stumble on the feature by accident you’ll probably never know it exists. It’s really easy to use, all you have to do is point, click and drag the tiny separator bar that’s immediately above the arrow on the vertical scroll bar. Drag it down to halfway and you have two separate views of the same document, each with their own scroll bars so you can move around both sections of the document independently. To revert to the normal single pane view just slide the separator bar back to the top of the screen.



All of the components in you PC are important but there’s only one that’s critical and that’s the hard drive. The motherboard, memory and processor can all fail and be replaced without loosing any data but if your hard drive goes kaput you are in big trouble. But how do you tell if your HDD is in good health, or otherwise? The best way to do that is run a test or diagnostic utility, there are several on the market but they tend to be quite general in nature. The point is who knows your hard drive better than the folks who made it? Almost all of the major drive manufacturers have produced specialised boot and test discs for their products and they are all free, here’s a selection:Fujitsu Diagnostic Tool Hitachi Drive Fitness Tester Maxtor Powermax utility Samsung Drive Diagnostic Utility Seagate SeaTools Western Digital Data Lifeguard.




If you use the Window XP’s ‘My Picture’ folder to store your images you will probably have used the handy Filmstrip Viewer to quickly display your pictures. This feature can also be added to any other folder containing images. Simply open Windows Explorer (Winkey + E) then in the right hand pane right-click the folder icon you want to enable the feature. Select Properties from the sub menu and click the Customize tab. On the ‘Use this folder type as a template’ drop down menu choose either ‘Pictures’ or ‘Photo Album’ and click OK. When you next open the folder you will find that Filmstrip has been added to the list of options when you select the View menu or click the View icon on the toolbar.




As you know Google knows everything and in pursuit of its quest for knowledge it is currently mapping and photographing the planet. If you haven’t already tried Google Earth do so now, it is what you PC is meant for, it’s spectacular! But I digress, Google’s ambitions now extend beyond the Earth and they’re now mapping the Moo and doubtless the other planets will follow, but if you want to see a detailed view of the Apollo Moon landing sites (sorry, not enough detail to squash the rumours…) and finally answer the age old question of what the Moon is really made of go to Google Moon, and zoom right in…




As you know Microsoft Word has many hidden features, most of them accessible from the keyboard but do you know how many there are, go on, have a guess? At the last count there were more than 300 of them and this tip lets you print out a complete list and this works in all recent versions of Word.Go to the Tools menu and click on Macro then Macros. In the 'Macros In' drop-down menu select Word Commands, now move your mouse pointer to the Macro Name pane and highlight ListCommands, click Run and in the dialogue box that appears select Current Menu and Keyboard Settings and click OK. A new document will open, with a table showing all of the available commands and shortcuts. Just use Save As to give it a name and print it out. Be warned in its raw form it runs to around 9 pages (12pt text) but with a little judicious editing of the commands you'll never need or use it can be trimmed to a more manageable 5 to 6 pages.





If your PC is plagued by a persistent problem that’s causing it to crash and restart you’ll probably be fed up seeing the Microsoft Scandisk utility and waiting for it to carry out a check on the drive before loading Windows once again. Well, there’s not much you can do about that, and it would be inadvisable to skip this step, just in case there is a problem, but you can reduce the time that you have to wait before Scandisk does its stuff, thereby saving you a few seconds of frustration. By default the built-in delay is 10 seconds, you can shorten that to 3 or 4 seconds by going to Run on the Start menu and typing the following command (without the quotes): ‘chkntfs /t:4’ (where 4 is the length of delay in seconds), click OK and the change is set.




There is a little-known bug in recent versions of Windows Explorer running in Windows XP Home and Pro that can cause your PC to freeze, slow down or drop a network connection and make Media Player stutter when you right-click on a file in Windows Explorer. If you have noticed your PC behaving oddly when you right-click files PC then there is a simple workaround -- Microsoft are still working on a permanent fix. All you have to do is go to Start > Control Panel and double-click the Display icon, select the Appearance tab and click the Effect button and deselect the top item ‘Use the following transition effects for menus and tool tips’. Click OK, then OK to close all the boxes and the problem should disappear


Copyright (c) 2006 Rick Maybury Ltd.