When you purchase a computer from one of the major PC manufacturers, you know that the General tab in the System Properties dialog box probably contains the company’s logo and a button that, when clicked, will tell you how to contact the company’s technical support department. Figure A shows an example of a Dell PC’s General tab and support information dialog box. While this information is great for home users, you don’t want your users calling Dell technical support when they have a problem—you want them to call you.
|Major PC makers put technical support contact information on the General tab of the System Properties dialog box.|
Wouldn’t it be terrific if you could customize the General tab in the System Properties dialog box to contain specific information on how to contact your IT department’s technical support? You could even include some basic troubleshooting steps that users can perform before contacting you. You could also place your company’s logo in the dialog box. As you can imagine, integrating this customized information right into the operating system can save a lot of time and frustration, not only for your users but for you as well. And the extra touch can give a real professional polish to your department’s image.
In this Daily Drill Down, I’ll show you how to add customized technical support contact information and a logo to the General tab in the System Properties dialog box. You’ll also find a template you can download and use to customize the information in the System Properties dialog box, and an HTA file you can use to distribute the file to your users.
Adding the technical support information
Adding the technical support information to the General tab in the System Properties dialog box is a relatively simple procedure. All you need to do is create a specially formatted text file, which you can build in Notepad. The file must be named Oeminfo.ini and must be saved in a specific folder:
- For Windows 9x/Me, save the Oeminfo.ini file in the C:\Windows\System folder.
- For Windows NT/2K/XP, save the file in the C:\Windows\System32 or C:\Winnt\System32 folder, depending on which folder the operating system is installed in.
The Oeminfo.ini file is broken down into two sections. The first section begins with a heading titled [General]. It contains the information that you want to appear on the General tab above the Support Information button. The second section begins with a heading titled [Support Information]. It contains the technical support contact information that appears in the secondary dialog box.
You can see an example of how the information in the Oeminfo.ini must be formatted by taking a look at the template shown in Figure B. You can also download this template in the link above.
|Start with theOeminfo.ini template and fill in the technical support contact information.|
As you can see, under the [General] heading are two lines:
This is where a computer manufacturer would place its company name and the model of the computer. However, you can put your company and department name on the Manufacturer line and some kind of delimiter on the Model line. For example, you might use asterisks as shown here:
- Manufacturer=GCS Consulting - Tech Support
Two important points
It’s important to point out two things: First, make sure that you don’t leave any trailing spaces after the text on the Manufacturer line. Second, the text you place on the Manufacturer line will become the title of the dialog box you see when you click the Support Information button.
Under the [Support Information] heading are a number of lines that are formatted as:
where # is a consecutive number from 1 to 35, and each number is followed by an equal sign and a pair of double quotes. Keep in mind that, while the template contains only 35 lines, you can add as many as you like, as long as each successive line number is consecutive and you follow the format shown above.
Use consecutive line numbers
You must use consecutive line numbers. Keep in mind that if you skip a number, none of the lines that follow will be displayed.
You must enclose your text within the double quotes. Each line should contain at most 58 characters—any more than that and the user will have to use the vertical scroll bar to read the line. Also, if you want to create a blank line between sections, just leave the double quotes empty.
For example, you might want to include a phone number as well as a Web site and e-mail addresses. Keep in mind that the window that displays this information is text based. As such, none of the links will be live.
- Line1="You can contact our technical support department at:"
- Line3="Phone: 800-555-1212"
- Line5="Web: www.GCS-Consulting.com"
- Line7="Email: Help@GCS-Consulting.com"
Creating a logo
While you don’t actually have to create a logo for the General tab in the System Properties dialog box—the Oeminfo.ini file is all that’s needed—a logo will give the dialog box a more professional appearance. To create a logo file, create a simple bitmap file with Paint and save it as Oemlogo.bmp in the same folder in which you saved the Oeminfo.ini file.
The Oemlogo.bmp graphic shouldn’t be any larger that 180 by 114 pixels, and you must save it as a 16- or 256-color bitmap. If it’s any larger, Windows will crop it to this size. If it’s smaller, Windows will center it inside the frame. If you use more than 256 colors, the background of your image won’t be transparent.
If you want the logo background to be transparent, remember that the bottom left pixel controls which color is treated as the transparent color. As such, if the bottom left pixel is white, anything in the logo that is white will be transparent. This feature is designed to make your logo match whatever color scheme you use. However, this also means that you need to be careful when choosing your logo’s colors.
What if you want only the logo?
If you want to provide only the technical support contact information and don’t need a logo, you can just create the Oeminfo.ini file. However, if you want only the logo, you still have to create the Oeminfo.ini file and fill in the Manufacture= line under the [General] heading, but you can then leave out the [Support Information] section altogether.
Distributing the files
Once you’ve created your Oeminfo.ini and Oemlogo.bmp files, you’ll need a way to easily distribute them to your users. Going from system to system to install the files manually would take too much time, and asking your users to copy them to the appropriate folder could be more trouble than it’s worth.
To make the procedure easier, I’ve created a little installation program using Windows Script Host and VBScript and packaged it as an HTML Application that will install the files for you. All you have to do is send out the Oeminfo.ini and Oemlogo.bmp files along with the installation program (Installer.hta) via e-mail.
Users can save the files to any folder on their hard disk. When a user runs the Installer.hta, it will display the dialog box shown in Figure C, which prompts the user to select the appropriate operating system.
|The Installer will prompt the user to select the operating system.|
Once the user selects the operating system and clicks OK, the files will be moved from the current folder and placed in the appropriate folder. The user can then delete the Installer.hta file.
Checking the results
Once you’ve created the files and copied them to the appropriate folders, you can immediately check the results. Just press [Windows][Break] and you’ll see the logo on the General tab in the System Properties dialog box, as shown in Figure D.
|You can see the results of your efforts immediately.|
If you then click the Support Information button, you’ll see the text-based dialog box containing your technical support contact information, as shown in Figure E.
|Clicking the Support Information button brings up your tech support contact information.|
As you can see in Figure D, once you add the logo to the General tab in the System Properties dialog box, Windows automatically adds the line “Manufactured and supported by” right above the logo. In this case, it might be more appropriate if the line simply read “Supported by” instead. You may also want to change the text that appears in the button. For instance, you might want the button to read “Contact Information” instead of “Support Information.”
If you want to customize these pieces of text, simply edit the Sysdm.cpl file with a resource editor such as Resource Tuner or Resource Hacker. Programs like these let you edit text and graphics that appear in dialog boxes. The Sysdm.cpl file contains the System Properties Control Panel tool. Keep in mind that you should back up the Sysdm.cpl file before you begin your resource editing expedition.
Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.