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Get IT Done: Provide easy access to folders by customizing the Windows 2000 Places Bar

Customize Windows 2000 to provide easy access to folders with a registry edit


When you choose File | Open in most Windows 2000 applications, Windows 2000 uses a standard Open dialog box generated by Comdlg32.dll. One aspect of the Open dialog box is the Places Bar at the left edge of the dialog box, shown in Figure A. The Places Bar, by default, includes icons for the History, My Documents, Desktop, My Computer, and My Network Places folders. The Places Bar makes it easy to open documents stored in those common folders. But if your users often work from other folders, it can take a little browsing to get to the location you need.

Unfortunately, Windows 2000 doesn’t provide a means in the GUI to customize the Places Bar, but you can modify the Places Bar manually by modifying the registry. Once you’ve modified the Places Bar for your users, they can enjoy those modifications for all Windows 2000 applications that use Comdlg32.dll to generate the Open dialog box. Here's how.

Word of warning
The following section suggests ways to edit your System Registry. Using the Windows Registry Editor incorrectly can cause serious problems that may require you to reinstall your operating system and could result in data loss. TechRepublic does not and will not support problems that arise from editing your registry. Use the Registry Editor and the following directions at your own risk.

Figure A


Create a Places Bar registry key
First, you must create a registry key to contain the custom settings. The key doesn't exist by default, and creating it causes the Places Bar to be empty initially, but you’ll fill it up later.

Figure B


To create the necessary key, open the Registry Editor and create this key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\ComDlg32\Placesbar.

You’ll also need to create the ComDlg32 subkey and then the Placesbar subkey. To verify that the key is correct, open Notepad and choose File | Open. The Places Bar should now be empty, as shown in Figure B. Read on to find out how to fill the Places Bar again.

Fill the Places Bar with your own icons
The Places Bar can contain up to five icons (see Figure C). The registry values that reference these icons and their associated folders are named Place0 through Place4. Adding your own folders to the Places Bar is a relatively simple matter of creating these five entries in the key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\ComDlg32\Placesbar.

Figure C
The Places Bar in this image contains icons for the folder C:\TechRepublic Images and the system folder My Computer.


You can reference folders either by their absolute path string or the system ID for the folder. Using the string is best for folders that don’t change location based on current logon and for nonsystem folders. Using the ID is best for system folders such as My Documents, because the path can vary based on current logon, etc.

Adding a folder
To add a folder, open the Registry Editor and open your new key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\ComDlg32\Placesbar.

Right-click in the right pane and choose New | String Value. Name the value Place0 and set its value to the path to the desired folder. For example, you might enter C:\Docs\Personal to add that folder to the Places Bar.

Adding a system folder
To add a system folder to the Places Bar, right-click in the right pane and choose New | DWORD Value. Set the name to Place1 and set the value to the ID for the folder, which you’ll find in the following list:
  • Favorites: 6
  • Fonts: 20
  • History: 34
  • My Computer: 11
  • My Documents: 5
  • My Network Places: 18
  • My Pictures: 39
  • Network And Dial-up Connections: 49
  • Printers: 4
  • Recycle Bin: 10
  • Send To: 9
  • System Root (WINNT): 36

Repeat the steps to add values for Place2 through Place4. Open a standard Windows 2000 accessory application, choose File | Open, and verify that the folders are correct. You can adjust or correct values as needed.

Restoring the default Places Bar
If you ever want to restore the default Places Bar, simply delete the registry key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\ComDlg32.

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