Top Tips




On many XP (and some Windows 9x) PCs there is a hidden facility, built into the graphics card/adaptor software that lets you rotate the screen display. This can be quite useful when using an LCD monitor, for example, some of which can be rotated to provide a ‘Portrait’ view, which some users prefer, when using Desktop Publishing (DTP), web layout and word processing applications.


On some PCs with ATI and NVIDIA graphics adaptors the screen rotate function is assigned to a memorable keyboard shortcut; Ctrl + Alt + left/right cursor arrow is used on several graphics cards. On others it’s buried in Display Properties (right-click empty area of desktop, select Properties, click Settings then Advanced button. If your PC doesn’t have this facility you can try it out with the 30-day trial-version of Pivot Pro, the screen rotation program supplied with many rotating monitors. If you fancy a little fun try a tiny freeware utility called Rotate. It randomly flips and rotates the screen but returns it to its proper state when a key is pressed.



Quick, the boss is coming! Here’s an easy way to swiftly hide that web page or personal email you’ve been working on in company time. The idea is you click on a desktop icon and it instantly fires up a screensaver, blanking out whatever is on the screen. It’s also a good way of hiding your screen from prying eyes if you are only going to be away from your desk for a couple of minutes, and you can tell when you return if anyone has been having a peek. Here’s what to do, go to Search on the Start menu and type ‘*.scr’ (without the quotes) into the filename box, click the Search button and in a couple of moments a list of all the screensavers stored on your PC will appear (most of them live in C:\windows systen32). Right click on the icon of the one you want to use and select Send To > Desktop (create shortcut) then exit the Search box. To start the screensaver simply double-click on the Desktop icon, moving the mouse or tapping a key restores normal service. By the way, right-clicking on the desktop icon brings up the screensavers settings menu




With my rather dim eyesight I often find it hard to read some coloured texts on web pages when they are on a coloured background.  The answer is to left click and hold on the start of the text then drag down to the end - in other words, "select" the text, which will then show up as white on blue, which is easier to read

P Buchan


Extra Info:You can also change the colour of the highlight by going to Display Properties (right-click desktop select Properties then Appearance tab and click Advanced button, on Item drop-down menu click ‘Selected Items’ and use Color box to change colour.



Today’s Top Tip is a little freeware utility called Glass2k. Once installed simply right-click on any open window, or press a keyboard shortcut, and you can change the window’s transparency, so you can see what’s underneath. It can also make the taskbar transparent and there’s the option to store your settings and load it with Windows. The download is tiny (just 54kb) and it takes only a few seconds to install. It’s Beta software, so the usual warnings about using it at your own risk apply but it’s been working flawlessly on our office PCs for weeks so why not give it a try?



LCD monitors are now as good as CRT displays but it’s important to make sure that you are using the correct settings, in particular resolution and refresh rates. For best results an LCD screen should run in what’s known as ‘native’ resolution, so if the screen has 1024 x 768 pixels, that’s the setting you should use in Windows Display Properties. Another little known facility is Clear Type fonts, which are available in Windows XP and these are optimised for desktop and laptop LCD displays. To switch it on go to Start > Control Panel and click the Display icon. Select the Appearance tab followed by the Effects button, select ‘Fade Effect’ on the drop down menu and check the item ‘Use the following transition effect for menus and tooltips’. Next underneath check the box ‘Use the following method to smooth the edges of screen fonts’ and select  ‘Clear Type’ on the drop-down menu. Exit the dialogue boxes and reboot. You can also fine -tune the settings using a free online or downloadable optimisation tool on the Microsoft web site.



If you want to launch a screen-saver quickly -- maybe you're going out to lunch or prevent others from seeing what's on your screen -- open Windows Explorer, go to the Windows folder and open the System file. There you will find all of the Windows screen-saver files. They're easy to spot as they have monitor-shaped icons and end with the file extension *.scr. Right click on the icon, select 'Send To' then 'Desktop as Shortcut', when you want to start it in a hurry just double-click on the desktop icon.




Here is a nifty little trick to access the contents of your desktop from the Start button, without having to close or minimise any windows. Right click on the Start button and choose Open then on the Start Menu window that appears go to the File menu, select New and Shortcut. The Create Shortcut window opens and in the Command Line box type in the following: 'Explorer /root,' ignore the inverted commas but be sure there's a space between Explorer and the forward-slash, and don't forget the comma after root. Click Next and a window opens asking you to 'Select a title for the program'. Back space to delete the default entry and call it 'Desktop' (or anything else you fancy) and click Finish. The item should now appear on the Start menu, if you click it a window containing the contents of your desktop will open. To remove it from the Start menu go Start > Settings > Taskbar & Start Menu > Start Menu Programs tab and click the Remove button. Find the shortcut on the directory and click Remove.




If you’re bored with the standard Windows 98 & ME colours for title bars on windows and message boxes here’s a quick way to cheer them up with a very snazzy ‘gradient’ colour, which changes gradually from one colour to another. This trick works best if your PC is set to True Colour or High Colour, to check right-click onto an empty part of the desktop, select Properties from the menu and click the Settings tab. To create your colour gradient stay with Display Properties and select the Appearance tab. Click on the Active Window title bar in the display window then click on Colour, a palette of 12 colours appears, with the facility to create a colour of your choice by selecting the ‘Other’ button. Now click on Colour 2 and select a second colour, the effect is immediately displayed. Have fun, experiment with some bright and outrageous shades; it can really brighten up your desktop! 




Newcomers to Windows often find the scroll bars at the side and bottom of word processors and spreadsheets screens quite difficult to use. The bars are narrow and the slider can be hard to control, until you get used to it. It's easy to change the size of the bars; even seasoned users may prefer to make them a little wider. To make the change go to Control Panel, click on the Display icon and select the Appearance tab. Click in the middle of the scroll bar shown in the 'Active Window', in the display.  The word 'Scrollbar' should appear in the box below marked Item, along with a pair of up/down arrows and the default setting of 16. Try 20 or 25 but if you want to see something really funny whizz it up to the maximum of 100!




Create your own personal screensaver. If you have the OSR2 release of Windows 95 or Windows 98 onwards click on the Start button go to Settings, then Control Panel and double click on the Display icon. Select the Screensaver tab and scroll down the list until you come to '3D Text'. Highlight the entry and click on the Settings button. You can enter your name or a message -- up to 16 characters and spaces long -- in the text field, that will bounce or wobble around the screen, or you can choose an animated digital clock display. Click on the Texture buttons and try some of the *.bmp files in the Windows folder. This screensaver also contains an 'Easter egg' a hidden novelty feature planted by the programmers. Type the word 'Volcano' into the text field, click OK and see what happens…



A pound to a penny says your Windows 95/98 Taskbar is still in its default position at the bottom of the screen, taking up valuable screen space. Maybe you’ve enabled the Hide Taskbar facility (Start > Settings Taskbar & Start menu) so it doesn’t take up any room when you are working, but it still pops into view every so often, when your mouse strays close to the bottom of the screen. So why not move it?  The most logical place has to be the right or left side of your screen. The right hand side in particular is often a ‘dead’ area in programs like word processors and since a VDU screen is over 30% wider than it is tall; you can afford to loose a little room at the side. To move the Taskbar simply put the mouse pointer into an empty area of the Taskbar, right click and hold and drag it to its new location. You can enable Auto Hide, or better still, leave it on show and more accessible, then re-size your application to fit, so that it doesn’t obscure scroll bars: most Windows programs will ‘remember’ a new layout whenever they are opened.




It's all very well your PC being able to process over 16 million colours but can you see them all on your monitor screen? This simple little freeware monitor test program will help you find out and adjust your settings to produce the best possible picture. The self-extracting 'zip' file is only 278Kb and should only take a couple of minutes to download from:




When you see a picture displayed on your monitor how big is it and what size will it be when it’s printed out? Screen Ruler is a brilliant little freeware program that superimposes a ruler on your screen. You can move the ruler around the screen and make it longer or shorter with the mouse; a right-click menu sets the scale and units (pixels, inches, centimetres or picas) and flips between horizontal or vertical layout. The download zip file is only 143kb and it can be downloaded from:




Whilst it’s easy enough to remove red-eye in a digital image, it makes sense to avoid it happening in the first place. You can’t do much about the position of the flashgun on most compact cameras but a lot of models nowadays have a red-eye reduction mode. This is usually a bright light or weak ‘pre-flash’ before the main flash that reduces the size of the subject’s pupils. If your camera hasn’t got this facility you could try asking the subject to look at a bright light, just before you take the picture. Alternatively try covering the flashgun with a paper tissue or handkerchief, which has the effect of diffusing the flash.




If you have a scanner here’s a quick, simple and very cheap trick that might help to improve picture quality, especially if it's a budget model with only rudimentary scan controls. Try this - place a sheet of black paper or card behind the picture or image that you are scanning. The card will cut down reflections and glare from the normally white backing pad, which can result in better contrast, crisper colours and more accurate mid-tones.




If your screen resolution is set to 1024 x 768, or higher, you may find your desktop icons are a bit on the small side and any you’ve made from pictures may look indistinct. You can change the size of icons (make them smaller as well as bigger) by right-clicking into an empty area of the desktop, select Properties then the Appearance tab. In the ‘Item’ drop-down menu select Icon and in the Size box increase or decrease the value as necessary.



Copyright (c) 2006 Rick Maybury Ltd.