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High Visibility Word Icons

wordicons.jpg Even those with 20-20 vision can have trouble with the icons in Toolbar Microsoft Word. They’re pretty small to begin with but they becoming increasingly indistinct on larger screens at higher resolutions so if you find your self squinting or switching to precision mouse mode to avoid mis-clicking then try this simple little tweak. Right click into an empty part of the toolbar, click Customize then select the Options tab. Under Other check the item ‘Large Icons’ and the toolbar icons will double or even triple in size, depending on your screen settings. Finally click Close to exit the Customize dialogue box. One point to watch out for, this change affects all MS Office programs, so be prepared to see some big icons in Excel, Outlook and so on. Please don’t forget that there are hundreds of Top Tips, links to the best freeware and shareware programs and solutions to your computer problems at www.pctoptips.co.uk

Startup Monitor, Freeware

startmon.jpgHow many programs do you have running on your PC? Probably a lot more than you think and many of them will be installed without your knowledge or permission and run automatically after Windows has finished loading. This little utility, unearthed by Propellerhead called Startup Monitor keeps a watch on new programs and if any of them try to add themselves to the Startup group you will be notified and asked to allow or disable it. The program is tiny, just a few kilobytes and it runs in the background using minimal resources. More great Windows tips, tweaks, hints and freeware can be found at www.pctoptips.co.uk/

Notepad Bug In Vista

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moon.jpgHere’s an interesting little oddity in Windows that will keep any conspiracy theorists you know entertained for hours.

Here’s how it works, open Notepad (Start > Programs > Accessories) and type the following ‘bush hid the facts’ (without the quotes). Now go to File > SaveAs, call the file bush.txt, click OK and close Notepad. Run Notepad again and open the file and see what happens. Spooky! Your text message will have been scrambled, turned into foreign characters or little boxes… Now try it with ‘moon pix are fakes’ and the same thing happens, it’s uncanny!

The more eagle-eyed amongst you may have spotted something. In both cases the messages comprise an even number of lower case letters in the form ‘xxxx xxx xxx xxxxx’. This combination of characters just happens to trigger a little known bug in Windows that prevents it from checking short strings of ASCII characters, and it seems to have escaped the attention of the Vista development team because it works in that version of Notepad as well.

Disc Drive Fitness Tester

fitness.jpgHas your hard disc drive ever let you down? Could it be about to do so? There’s no easy way to tell, it could pop its clogs tomorrow or next week, most likely never but it would be helpful to know in advance if there are going to be problems.

That’s something you might be able to find out with a freeware application that comes to you via Propellerhead from Hitachi Global Storage, called the Drive Fitness Test. It works with SCSI, IDE and SATA types drives and all you need to use it is a floppy drive or CD Writer. Once you have downloaded the file open it and it will create a bootable floppy disc or CD. Restart the PC and allow it to boot from the disc it runs through a barrage of tests, from a quick and simple ‘Exerciser’ to a ‘High Confidence’ test. It will identify problems with the drive’s tracks and sectors, cables and cooling and where necessary repair any serious problems.

Smarter Paint, Freeware

paintnet.jpgWindows Paint is usually the first and sometimes the only graphics program many PC owners ever use and to be fair it does the job, but it is incredibly basic and really not much use for anything other than very simple editing.

Well if you like Paint but you hanker after something a bit more sophisticated then have a look at a free Open Source picture editor called Paint.net. All of the familiar elements from Paint are there but it adds a whole load of new features, including a very good assortment of special effects, it supports layers, and if you get it wrong there’s an unlimited undo facility. It could be the only picture editor you’ll ever need. Don’t forget there are hundreds more PC tips, tweaks and games to try over at: www.pctoptips.co.uk

Freeundelete Recovery Utility, Freeware

Word BackupMacro

allsave.html

Propellerhead’s recent travails with Microsoft Word left him with what was effectively a new installation and he quickly discovered that one of most frequently used features was missing. It’s a macro, called Allsave and he relied on it for at least the past seven or eight years -- in various incarnations -- to make regular backups of the document being worked on. In days gone by they were sent to a floppy, nowadays they go to a UDF formatted CD-R, which works just like a giant floppy. For anyone who is interested here it is and note that this version only works in Word 2000 onwards.

To install it all you have to do is go to Tools > Macro > Macros in the Name box type Allsave then click the Create button. The Word Basic window opens and you will see a flashing cursor after the words 'Sub' (and before the word End Sub), copy and paste the following commands:

Sub Allsave()

'

' Allsave Macro

Dim Pathroute

Pathroute = ActiveDocument.FullName

ChangeFileOpenDirectory "D:\"

ActiveDocument.SaveAs FileName:=ActiveDocument.Name, FileFormat:= _

wdFormatDocument, LockComments:=False, Password:="", AddToRecentFiles:=True, _

WritePassword:="", ReadOnlyRecommended:=False, EmbedTrueTypeFonts:=False, _

SaveNativePictureFormat:=False, SaveFormsData:=False, SaveAsAOCELetter:= _

False

ChangeFileOpenDirectory "C:\"

ActiveDocument.SaveAs FileName:=Pathroute, FileFormat:= _

wdFormatDocument, LockComments:=False, Password:="", AddToRecentFiles:=True, _

WritePassword:="", ReadOnlyRecommended:=False, EmbedTrueTypeFonts:=False, _

SaveNativePictureFormat:=False, SaveFormsData:=False, SaveAsAOCELetter:= _

False

StatusBar = ActiveDocument.Name & " saved in active directory and on backup drive"

End Sub

In this example the backup drive letter is D: if yours has another assignment simply change the letter in the line: ‘ChangeFileOpenDirectory "D:\"

To assign the macro a button on the toolbar (or keyboard shortcut) click on Customize on the Tools menu, select the Commands tab, scroll down the list in the left hand window and click on Macros. For more great Word tips, and hundreds of hints and tweaks for Windows PCs head over to the archive at PCTopTips

Photo Retouching Freeware

Filtre You’ve probably got at least one photo editing program on your PC but here’s one you should definitely try. It’s called PhotoFiltre and from that you may rightly assume it’s French in origin, but don’t let that put you off, an English language version is available.

What makes PhotoFiltre different is the superb range of adjustments, filters, touch-ups and effects, which are all instantly accessible from the desktop -- no messing around with menus -- and how easy it is to use.

Word Having just spent the best part of a day wrestling with a corrupt copy of Microsoft Word Propellerhead thought you might be interested in some pearls of wisdom gleaned from the experience. The original fault was never found but it finally disappeared after the third reinstall and a System Restore.

However the one thing he wished he'd done was to make regular backups of the ‘normal.dot’ document template file. This contains Word preferences, macros, AutoText entries and so on. In fact there was a backup but it was well over a year old and lacked the many changes that had been made in the intervening period.

In XP you will find your normal.dot file in C:\Documents and Settings\<yourname>\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates. Copy it now, whilst Word is working properly, keep it in a safe place and resolve to update your backup every few weeks or months, depending how much you use and tinker with Word settings.

Tip number 2, when Word goes bad it does so spectacularly and rather than waste hours trying to fix it just make sure your document backups are safe, then uninstall.

Wonderful The name says it all really. Here’s another great little utility unearthed by Propellerhead. Click on the Wonderful Icon red flag that appears in your System Tray (next to the clock) and you have instant one-click access to scores of frequently-used functions, from Shut Down and Reboot, to Close All Documents or Shift Windows to Top of screen.

This excellent little freeware utility is really easy to set up and use and once you’ve played around with it for a day or two, you’ll wonder how you ever managed to do without it. More great Windows tips, tweaks, hints and freeware can be found at PCTopTips

Freeram Windows and every application running on your PC shares your PC’s RAM memory but it’s not always used very efficiently. For example, some programs use too much memory others that you have finished with leave clutter behind so over the course of a day your PC will slow down.

Propellerhead has been trying out a freeware utility called FreeRAM XP Pro. It’s a memory optimiser, it clears out the junk and forces programs that do not need to use RAM memory to into the swapfile. For some users there can be a noticeable improvement in performance and stability.

Wifi_6 Here’s a handy little program Propellerhead has found for road warriors. It’s called WiFi SiStr from a Belgian outfit called Dnsoft -- try saying that with false teeth. Once installed it sits quietly on your wireless laptop’s desktop, monitoring all available wireless connections, displaying signal strength, logging your connection history and warning you with an audible alert when the signal falls below a pre-set threshold. It can also display stats for your best and worst connections, and system settings, so it’s quite handy for troubleshooting. It looks very pretty too and the display is highly customisable. If you like that then take a look at the hundreds of other great tips and utilities featured on PCTopTips

Smtplog_1 Deep inside Outlook Express there’s a handy little utility that can be invaluable for tracking down faults, especially when it comes to OE not sending mail. With this Propellerhead Top Tip you activate it by going to Tools > Options and select the Maintenance tab.

At the bottom, under Troubleshooting, you will see a row of boxes, check the first one, marked ‘Mail’. Now when you send an email (or fail to do so) OE creates a text log file that should show how and when the problem occurred. The file, in plain text format, is stored in the OE Message folder, which on most XP PCs should be in C:\Documents and Settings\<yourname>\Application Data\Identities\{GUID}\Microsoft\Outlook Express (where GUID or Global Unique Identifier is a long string of alphanumeric characters).

Index.Dat File Viewer

Indexspy In case you are wondering what this is all about a quick recap might be in order. All versions of Windows (since Windows 95) have a number of hidden and protected files called index.dat, one in particular is quite troubling because it logs the address of every web page you visit using Internet Explorer, from the day that you first switch your PC on. Needless to say conspiracy theorists have has a field day with it and the favourite explanation is that it was put there a the behest of the FBI. Microsoft has certainly never given a sensible reason for its inclusion, or why it is tucked away and protected from deletion by normal means.

Anyway, over the years Propellerhead has used several tools that clear out the index.dat files -- Crap Cleaner and Spider (Windows 9x only) have done a sterling job over the years, but here’s a new one, called Index.Dat Spy. This little freeware utility tracks down all of the index.dat files on your PC and shows you their contents, with the option to delete whatever they contain on the next reboot.

X1index As time goes by and your hard drive fills up it becomes increasingly difficult to find things on a PC and whilst Windows and most applications have their own Search facilities, they’re not necessarily very convenient, or easy to use, which brings us to a freeware utility Propellerhead has been trialling, called the X1 Enterprise Client.

This is a powerful freeware desktop Search Engine that automatically indexes the files on your PC, including email messages, documents, zips, JPEGs, MP3s, PDFs and most common file formats. You can find whatever you are looking for quickly and easily using a simple keyword search, and the results are clearly shown in a preview panel. It’s flexible, highly configurable and it wont sap your computer’s resources as it can be set to carry out regular indexing operations whenever your PC is not being used. Don’t forget there’s hundreds of tips, tweaks and links to some great free software on the PCTopTips website.

Kartoo Google is very good but it’s not the only search engine and for some types of research you can greatly improve the quality of your results using a Metasearch engine.

These submit your query to a number of search engines at the same time, so you spread your net wider. They work pretty well but like Google, the results don’t actually tell you much about the web pages it has found, and their relevance and connection to one another. Well, Propellerhead has been trying one that does, it’s a ‘Visual’ Metasearch engine called KartOO, and you see the results as a series of interactive maps and when you hover the mouse over a link you’ll see a thumbnail preview of the page.

Rooting Out the Nasties

Rootkit You may not have heard of Rootkits yet, but Propellerhead suspects that it won’t be long before you do. A Rootkit is a set of tools, for creating a stealthy wrapper, for concealing malware. The trouble is anti-virus programs and malware cleaners have trouble detecting Rootkits, which means your PC could be infected by trojans, keyloggers, sniffers and heaven knows what else.

They’re fairly new and so far the threat appears to be relatively low, and they’re not very good at propagating but they are becoming more sophisticated so now would be a good time to start keeping an eye on your PC.

Sophos, the anti-virus people have come up with a freeware Rootkit detector, called appropriately enough Anti-Rootkit and you should download and run it as soon as possible, to see what’s lurking on your system.

Song Lyrics, The Evil Way

Evil How many times have you tried to lamely sing along with a tune playing on your PC without really knowing the words? Yes, we know it’s easy enough to look them up on the web, and some music files have the lyrics embedded, but for all those other occasions when you just want to know the words Propellerhead suggests that you try Evil Lyrics. It can be set to open automatically with all popular media players,

Power_1 The short answer is it depends. However, according to Propellerhead one way to get a fair idea of how much electricity your PC uses, and its contributing to global warming, is to consult the Journey Systems Power Supply Calculator.

It works by adding up the individual power consumption figures for all of the components in your PC, from the CPU to the CD or DVD drive. The site makes it very clear that the final figure -- designed to help PC builders work out the sort of power supply they will need -- is a theoretical maximum figure and unlikely ever to happen in normal use but it is a useful guide,

Regprot_1 This tip from Propellerhead is for advanced users. As we have said on numerous occasions the Registry is the heart of Windows and the place where all of the most critical configuration settings, and much more besides, are stored. Even a simple mistake can make your PC unusable so it should be off-limits to novices and tinkerers.

However, it’s very easy to get at, so if you are at all concerned about its security, and you know your way around Windows System files you should block access to it. To do that open the Registry Editor by typing ‘regedit’ (without the quotes) in Run on the Start menu, highlight a key, right-click and select Permissions.

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