Microsoft

Personalize your Windows 2000 environment

Customizing your Windows experience can be the difference between working efficiently and banging your head against a wall. Learn to configure Windows 2000 environment variables and personalized menus.


Many of us see our computer as not just a gray box that sits on the desk, but as an extension of our own workspace and individuality. Here are tips to give your Windows 2000 system that personal touch.

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Personalized menus
A lot of users have been complaining in the newsgroups about "missing menus" in Windows 2000 and applications running under Win2K such as Office 2000. When you open a menu, it doesn't necessarily show you all of the available commands, causing some users to think that some commands are missing. This isn't a bug but rather a feature called User Personalized Menus. Some refer to it as "adaptive menus." Whatever the name, it can be an irritation if you're not used to it.

The feature is designed to monitor your use of an application and, over a period of time, determine which commands you use frequently and which ones you use seldom, if at all. The frequently used commands show up in the menu, and those you use infrequently do not. At the bottom of the menu, you'll find a double down arrow that, when selected, opens the full menu to display all items.

Personalized menus can help declutter an application's interface, but you might prefer to work with standard menus. To turn off personalized menus, right-click the taskbar and choose Properties. Deselect the User Personalized Menus option on the General page and click OK.

Changing environment variables
If you're a die-hard DOS or Windows 9x user converting to Windows 2000, you're probably familiar with environment variables and how you set them through the AUTOEXEC.BAT file. The PATH variable is a good example of an environment variable.

Windows 2000 handles environment variables a little differently, separating them into two categories: those for all users and those for the current user. The variables are stored in the appropriate user profiles, enabling Windows 2000 to apply the correct ones when a user logs on.

You can view and configure environment variables by right-clicking My Computer and choosing Properties. Click the Advanced tab, and then click Environment Variables to open the Environment Variables dialog box. You can use the controls in this dialog box to edit the value of existing variables, remove them, or add new ones. The variables in the top half of the dialog box apply to the current user, and those in the bottom half apply to all users.

There are several replaceable parameters you can use in environment variables, including:
  • %username%—User's current logon account name
  • %userdomain%—User's current logon domain name
  • %windir%—Location of the Windows 2000 folder
  • %os%—OS version
  • %processor_architecture%—System processor type
  • %processor_level%—System processor level
  • %homepath%—Path to the user's home directory
  • %homedrive%—The drive where the user's home directory is located
  • %homeshare%—The share name of the user's home directory

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