Set up Windows Me just for you

After you install Windows Me, the operating system isn't set up for the convenience of experienced users. In this Daily Feature, Mike Jackman presents seven tips to make Me work for you.

If you’re an experienced computer user, when you install Windows Me for the first time, you’ll want to do some housekeeping to be able to get inside your system. In this Daily Feature, I’ll offer a few tips for setting up Windows Me to the standards you’re used to.

1. Get rid of Explorer’s Web view
Under Windows Me, when Windows Explorer is expanded to fill a certain portion of the screen, a middle column appears. When you open My Computer, this column appears on the left. The extra column—which is part of Explorer’s Web view—can be helpful. Highlighting a drive letter, for instance, displays a graph of hard drive space in this column, as shown in Figure A. Highlighting a file or folder shows you a description, along with a thumbnail if the file is a recognized type (see Figure B). However, given that this information is already visible in View | Details, View | Thumbnails, or Properties, you may tire of this loss of screen real estate. To make the center column disappear, select Tools | Folder Options, and then click the General tab. Under Web View, select the radio button Use Windows Classic Folders.

Figure A
Windows Explorer takes up screen space with a helpful Web view that can show a drive’s current data use.

Figure B
Explorer’s space-hogging Web view also shows file properties and thumbnails.

I discussed this tip first because if you change other default folder views before you set the system to use the classic view, all your previous changes will be lost. Save yourself the annoyance and make this change right away.

2. Set up Windows Explorer to view all files and extensions
Windows Me has a slightly different version of the My Computer and Windows Explorer interfaces you’re familiar with. You won’t find Folder Options under the View menu any more. Instead, go to Tools | Folder Options, and then click the View tab. Under Hidden Files And Folders, change the selection from Do Not Show Hidden Files And Folders to Show Hidden Files And Folders. Deselect the options Hide File Extensions For Known File Types and Hide Protected Operating System Files. A warning will encourage you not to reveal OS files. Click Yes, because as an experienced computer user, you’re sure you want to view these files. Finally, click the Reset All Folders button. Your screen should look like the one shown in Figure C.

Figure C
Use Folder Options to view all files and extensions.

To return to the default settings, simply click the Restore Defaults button.

3. Open folders in the same window in My Computer
You don’t have to do anything! One of the most annoying features of My Computer in Windows 98 was that every time you double-clicked a folder, it opened in a new window. This default feature has been changed in Windows Me. Now, by default, folders open in the same window. But if you’d like to change back to the former way of browsing, navigate to the General tab of the Folder Options dialog box and change the Browse Folders option to Open Each Folder In Its Own Window.

4. Get rid of large icons
Viewing large icons makes it inefficient to browse folders, and large icons consume too much space. When you’re looking for a file, you don’t have the time. To change to a more efficient list view, open My Computer and choose View | List. To make the change permanent, choose Tools | Folder Options, select the View tab, and click the Like Current Folder button.

5. View all Control Panel icons and system files
Windows Me views naive computer users as their own worst enemies. You can see this philosophy at work in Control Panel, which shows only seven relatively harmless applets after Windows Me is installed. These include Date/Time, Internet Options, Display, Accessibility Options, and some less innocuous applets such as Dial-Up Networking and Add/Remove Programs. Windows Me hides files in the Windows folder and other places where system files exist, as well. Since you’re no amateur, there’s no reason for the OS to protect itself from you. Again, from inside My Computer, select Tools | Folder Options and click the View tab. Then, select the option Display All Control Panel Options And All Folder Contents.

6. View file attributes in Detail view
When you’re messing with your files, you’ll want to be able to view their attributes. From My Computer’s View menu, select Choose Columns. You’ll see quite a few possibilities in the Column Settings dialog box that appears. Most of these options you’ll have no use for. Select the Attributes check box. Then, if you like, you can arrange the order of any highlighted column by using the Move Up and Move Down buttons (see Figure D). When you’ve finished customizing your column layout, click OK. Make sure you choose Tools | Folder Options, select the View tab, and click the Reset All Folders button to make the change global. Now when you view a folder, you’ll be able to see the status of any file’s Archive, Read, and Hidden attributes.

Figure D
Use the Column Settings dialog box to display file attributes.

7. Put Windows Explorer and the MS-DOS Prompt on the Start bar
You may prefer browsing with the Windows Explorer view rather than the My Computer view. However, selecting it takes longer since Windows Me moved it one level deeper in the Start menu. Since Windows Me installs with the ability to rearrange Start menu icons by dragging and dropping, use this feature to move Windows Explorer to a more useful spot. Navigate to Start | Programs | Accessories | Windows Explorer. Highlight Windows Explorer, left-click, and drag it over to the top of the Start menu. A black horizontal line shows you where the icon will be placed. Release the left mouse button to drop Windows Explorer into place. Do the same for the MS-DOS Prompt, which is also hiding out in Start | Programs | Accessories.

Windows Me’s philosophy is to protect itself from the end user. As an experienced computer user, you want access to “harmful” features Windows Me has hidden or moved deeper in the Start menu hierarchy. With a few simple menu changes, you can make Windows Me suit your needs. Most of these changes will work in Windows 95, 98, NT, and 2000 as well, though their menus will vary.
The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.

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