Windows

Handle Windows Vista like a pro with these tricks

Using Microsoft Windows Vista over a period of almost two years, Greg Shultz has discovered a handful of useful tricks that makes using the operating system easier. He shares some of these tricks with us in this edition of the Windows Vista Report.

As I've been using Microsoft Windows Vista, I've discovered a handful of useful tricks that I use every day to make things a bit easier. In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I thought I would pass on some of these tricks.

Keep track of multiple time zones

If you're like most folks in this day and age, chances are good that you regularly communicate with people or businesses in cities in other time zones. As such, you're always wondering what time it is where these people or businesses are, so that you know when to call or expect an e-mail response.

Wouldn't it be cool if you could tell at a glance what time it is in those other time zones? Well, that's the whole idea behind Windows Vista's Additional Clocks feature, which can display up to three clocks: one for local time and two more for other time zones.

This blog post is also available in PDF format as a TechRepublic Download.

Fortunately, using and configuring Vista's Additional Clocks feature is easy: just right-click the time display in the notification area and select the Adjust Date and Time command from the context menu. When you see the Date and Time dialog box, select the Additional Clocks tab. You can then select the Show This Clock check box, choose a time zone, and enter a name that you want to associate with the additional clock, as shown in Figure A. To activate your new clocks, just click OK.

Figure A

You can keep track of other time zones if you enable additional clocks.
Now, when you want to see what time it is in the other locations, you can just hover your mouse pointer over the time display in the notification area and you'll see a pop-up showing the time in the other time zones. If you click the time display, you'll see a larger pop-up showing you the clocks along with the calendar. Both of these pop-ups are shown in Figure B.

Figure B

There are two displays that you can use to view other time zones.

Instantly access Task Manager

As you know, in Windows XP, you can press [Ctrl]+[Alt]+[Del] and instantly get to Task Manager. In Windows Vista, that same keystroke combination will blank your display and display a full screen menu from which you can launch Task Manager.

In order to get directly to Task Manager in Windows Vista, you need to press [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[Esc].

Toggle Aero off and on

As you know, Aero is the fancy visual interface in Windows Vista that features the transparent glass design with cool window colors and neat animations. However, there are times when you may want to disable Aero to improve system responsiveness. For example, some games or other graphics-intensive applications may perform better with Aero disabled. Fortunately, you can easily do so with a shortcut.

To begin, right-click anywhere on the desktop and select the New | Shortcut command from the context menu. When the Create Shortcut wizard appears, type:

Rundll32 dwmApi #104
in the text box, as shown in Figure C, and click Next. Then, name the shortcut Turn Aero Off and click Finish.

Figure C

Create this shortcut to turn Aero off.

You can then create a second shortcut to re-enable Aero. To do so, launch the Create Shortcut wizard again and this time type:

Rundll32 dwmApi #102

in the text box. Name this shortcut Turn Aero On and click Finish.

Keep in mind that when you turn Aero off, the process will happen without any fanfare. However, when you turn Aero back on, the screen will blink momentarily as Windows readjusts the screen display.

Using Shell command shortcuts

While you can use Explorer, the Control Panel, or the Start menu to access key features in Windows Vista, sometimes a shortcut can be more useful. Hidden underneath the Windows Vista architecture are a whole host of special shortcuts known as Shell commands. To use a Shell command, all you need to do is press [Windows]+R to access the Run dialog box and then enter the word Shell followed by a colon (:) and then command as in:

Shell:command

As you can see there are no spaces between the word Shell and the colon and the command -- it is essentially one word.

While there are close to 100 Shell commands, not all of them are very useful. As such, I won't actually list them. I'll just discuss the ones that I find most useful in everyday situations first and then I'll list the other ones that I find occasionally useful.

Keep in mind that not all of these Shell commands will work in all versions of Windows Vista.

Most useful Shell commands

  • shell:ChangeRemoveProgramsFolder - opens the Programs and Features (Add/Remove Programs) window.
  • shell:Sendto - opens the SendTo folder so that you can easily add more locations to the Send To list.
  • shell:Common Administrative Tools - opens the Administrative Tools menu as a folder
  • shell:Desktop - opens the Desktop as a folder.
  • shell:Downloads - opens your Downloads folder.
  • shell:Quick Launch - opens the Quick Launch folder.
  • shell:Searches - opens the Search folder showing all your saved searches.

The other useful Shell commands

  • shell:AppUpdatesFolder - opens the Installed Windows Updates location in Program and Files.
  • shell:Cache - opens Internet Explorer's temporary Internet files folder.
  • shell:CD Burning - opens the folder where Windows Vista temporarily stores files to be burned to a CD.
  • shell:Common Desktop - opens the Public User's Desktop folder.
  • shell:Common Documents - opens the Public User's Documents folder.
  • shell:Common Programs - opens the Start menu shortcuts folder.
  • shell:Common Start Menu - opens the Start Menu as a folder.
  • shell:Common Startup - opens the Startup folder.
  • shell:Common Templates - opens the Templates folder.
  • shell:CommonDownloads - opens the Public User's Downloads folder.
  • shell:CommonMusic - opens the Public User's Music folder.
  • shell:CommonPictures - opens the Public User's Pictures folder.
  • shell:CommonVideo - opens the Public User's Video folder.
  • shell:ConflictFolder - opens the Sync Center Conflicts folder.
  • shell:ConnectionsFolder - opens the Network Connections folder.
  • shell:Contacts - opens your Contacts folder.
  • shell:ControlPanelFolder - opens the Control Panel.
  • shell:Cookies - opens the cookies folder
  • shell:Favorites - opens your Favorites folder.
  • shell:Fonts - opens Vista's Fonts folder.
  • shell:Gadgets - opens your Windows Sidebar Gadgets folder.
  • shell:History - opens the Internet Explorer history folder.
  • shell:InternetFolder - opens Internet Explorer.
  • shell:Links - opens your Links folder location.
  • shell:MyMusic - opens your Music folder.
  • shell:MyPictures - opens your Pictures folder.
  • shell:MyVideo - opens your Video folder.
  • shell:MyComputerFolder - opens Computer window.
  • shell:NetHood - opens Network Shortcuts folder.
  • shell:NetworkPlacesFolder - opens the Network Places location.
  • shell:Original Images - opens Windows Photo Gallery Original Images folder.
  • shell:Personal - opens your Documents folder.
  • shell:PhotoAlbums - opens your Slide Show folder.
  • shell:Playlists - opens your Playlists folder.
  • shell:PrintersFolder - opens Printers in the Control Panel.
  • shell:Profile - opens your main folder.
  • shell:ProgramFiles - opens the Program Files folder.
  • shell:Public - opens the Public User folder.
  • shell:Recent - opens the Recent Items folder.
  • shell:RecycleBinFolder - opens the Recycle Bin folder.
  • shell:Start Menu - opens the Start Menu folder.
  • shell:Startup - opens the Startup folder
  • shell:System - opens the System32 folder location.
  • shell:Templates - opens the Templates folder location.
  • shell:UserProfiles - opens the Users folder.
  • shell:UsersFilesFolder - opens your main folder.
  • shell:Windows - opens the Windows folder.

What's your take?

Did you find these to be useful tricks? Are there other tricks that you use? Please stop by the Discussion Area and let us hear from you.

About

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.

49 comments
seanferd
seanferd

A: A professional Windows Vista wrangler, of course! :) Sorry, just had to. don't mind me. Liked the tips, but nothing up my sleeve, as my Vista exposure is limited.

ganjoo
ganjoo

I just started using Vista.At first I thought I can't handle it , but I find various improvements over win xp.Though there RE A FEW THINGS THAT WERE SIMPLE WITH xp such as SEARCH FUNCTION, which is missing here or may be I am not able to find it .Can some one guide me about it . bhushan Ganjoo

franceso
franceso

my problem since 2day M$ windows search indexer doesn??t work any more & can??t be deactivated thank u M$

Hanzo21
Hanzo21

Nice tricks. Hope to see some more.

bigdish
bigdish

Turn Areo on or off not working?

gilbartdon
gilbartdon

How to set the network settings for print sharing between an Xp machine and vise-versa

Fujikid2
Fujikid2

Task Manager access is exactly the same as on XP. Depending on how your system is setup on Vista or XP Ctrl+Alt+Del may or may not give you direct access to task manager. Ctrl+Alt+Esc works on both.

roxdad
roxdad

This is the type of article that I joined TechRepublic for... Thank you.

gb
gb

Hi, I use a second display to the left of my laptop in the office, but every time I get back to the office, I have to: 1. Run Windows Mobility Center 2. Click on Connect Display (after waiting a few seconds) 3. Click show different parts of my desktop on each display (after waiting even more seconds) 4. Click OK or Apply/OK (Vista remembers my preference, but doesn't apply it unless I go through this laborious sequence. I assume that the dev team that worked on this feature always had their second monitor on the right and never tested having a second monitor on the left, but it would be great if it was easier to switch between duplicate on all monitors, extended left and extended right. Thanks very much. regards Gary

bergman_m
bergman_m

I am running 64 bit Vista with 4 GB, with a core duo quad core. My machine screams.

jonheath
jonheath

Ok, so some of these tips are XP as well. Still they are helpful to me. Another *Vista* tweak to your tips is that you don't have to use Star>Run. Just hit the windows key, and start typing! Thanks!

anish_sunkara
anish_sunkara

Nice Tricks, Thank you for the information. Really appreciate it.

richard.miller
richard.miller

May not be useful to most, but I'm learning - Thank you

amj2010
amj2010

using command like we did in unix? NO WAY Gosez.....

yousuf.hassan
yousuf.hassan

Fortunately, the Ctrl+Shift+Esc "also" works in XP to bring up the Task Manager. So I guess it shouldn't be touted as a Vista feature only.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

What Windows Vista tricks have you found? Did Greg uncover something new for you?

?vatar
?vatar

Click in the desktop and press F3. That brings up the search box with the advanced search features button already there so you can begin your search with any of those features and specify where you want to search.

rodan1
rodan1

Double click on my computer so you get into the explorer window so you can see all your directories there in the upper right corner is the search bar. When you type in your search and hit enter it will also show you the advanced search.

todd.goodson
todd.goodson

I'm not a IT person, just a user who doesn't understand Why? I had a HP AMD Opteron 64 bit Vista with 4GB, with duo quad core. My machine was very slow. Put a eSATA card on for external hard drive. Machine kept bsod. IT person put machine back to XP Pro 32 bit. WHY, WHY, WHY???

Interstellar Towel
Interstellar Towel

Here's my favorite way to open task manager quickly, in either XP or Vista: right-click on the task bar and select the task manager. :)

BGunnells
BGunnells

Nobody here seems to recall that this key combination functionality dates all the way back to Windows NT. This is a feature of the NT kernel, which has been carried through successive versions of Windows from NT 3.x through Vista (6.x). Granted, it is an extremely handy keyboard shortcut (one which I use almost daily), but it's definitely not Vista-centric and would be better suited to a general "Windows Tips & Tricks" type of article.

Rob
Rob

Actually - They nearly all work in Xp... Not flaming, just expected something more from this story. Sorry for the bubble-burst...

khamelinck
khamelinck

I use a custom shortcut bar. Just create a folder on your PC containing the shortcuts you want on a toolbar. When you right click on the Task bar and select Toolbars, you can select New Toolbar (or custom toolbar I think in XP). Navigate to your new folder and select it. You can customize further right clicking on the toolbar and deselecting Show Text and/or Show Title. Then click on View and select small icons. I also have my Task bar unlocked and positioned on the right hand side of my desktop. This allowed me to increase the width to about 1" thick. This means getting used to the Start button being in the top right hand corner, but it allows much more visibility to all the items that "live" there.

jck
jck

step 1) Wipe hard drive step 2) Get out your Windows XP Pro x64 CD and reinstall lol :D i currently develop under Windows Vista Business in VS2008. it is so slow and unresponsive. i have updated a variable name, and it take 5 seconds (literally) to let me move the cursor again in the IDE. i'm about tired of it. i want to code. not wait for graphics or intellisense to decide it's ok to let me keep coding.

davishipps
davishipps

In my experience, a solid video card will make or break a Vista machine. My computer and my parents' computer are almost identically configured, except that mine has a video card with 256 MB RAM dedicated to it (+763 MB shared system memory), and my parents' video card is built into the motherboard and is only using shared system memory. Mine screams, theirs is tolerable. I've seen similar behavior among colleagues and clients as well. Slower processor, less RAM, better video card still manages to equal better performance within my office. I haven't noticed whether toggling Aero off improves system performance on these machines with lesser video cards or not.

Rob Kuhn
Rob Kuhn

[Ctrl]+[Shift]+[Esc] has always been in XP. the shell command was kinda interesting but unless you memorize the commands or have it printed and nearby it pretty much doesn't provide any benefit. I'm suprised that he didn't mentioned that you can launch icons from the Quick Launch toolbar by hitting WINDOWS+[number]. Example: On the Quick Launch toolbar, I have Outlook as the third icon (looking from left to right); I just hit WINDWOS+3 and it launches icon #3 in the Quick Launch toolbar which is Outlook. It's just a shortcut (hotkey) but it's done automatically when you place an item in the Quick Launch toolbar. Another "trick" is the WINDOWS+TAB when in Areo mode - its really more of a "coolness" factor and always gets heads turning when they see it for the first time. :-)

musab_20
musab_20

Also in general..VS2008 runs really slow, I have tried it on more than one machine. Thats it, you know what, I moving back to Linux lol

pjschloemer
pjschloemer

Sounds to me like your Machine there does not have Enough installed RAM.. Because I run Vista Ultimate 64x and I am Using 1.0 gb of my 2 gb of RAM installed on a AMD 3200 64 CPU.. Oh wait most of the software guys I know .. know little about Hardware .. Not saying you are one of them but well... you want to figure it out I would say that Low amount RAM is your problem and maybe a higher End video card if you can .. Only Because Vista is a Power Hog and you Must Have the Proper Upgraded Power to Use the OS.

Nsaf
Nsaf

I am thinking it's you who is slow not Vista...I suggest you get a MAC!!!!!

todd.goodson
todd.goodson

This computer has a NVIDIA Quadro FX 3500 with 256M.

rodan1
rodan1

All in all I thought it was a pretty good article. I never thought shell commands were that useful but I did see where it let me access a couple of buried folders a lot easier. It makes me curious though. Is there a folder that one can access for the notification icons?

Rob Kuhn
Rob Kuhn

... but there probably is some third-party application/shareware that adds/improves on it.

sdegroft
sdegroft

The quick launch shortcut is very handy. Is there a way to do more than ten (0-9)?

badben
badben

You ought to read before posting any reply, because it would have saved you a lot of typing nonsense... I quote: "the box i'm running on is a core 2 duo 2.2GHz w/4GB ram."

jck
jck

if you're having to "tune" Vista...then: a) is the analysis tool that is supposed to configure Vista for performance according to your hardware capability not doing what it's supposed to...making your PC work efficiently with the system you have? b) how much time does a Vista admin in a large organization have to spend per year doing this to every Vista machine they install the software on or receive from Dell, etc.? and how much does that cost companies in labor and time? just seems futile to have an OS that doesn't come out of the box working as well, and that you have to tune and configure and all. I thought that's what the install wizard was for. :)

NaughtyMonkey
NaughtyMonkey

if they can't, they can pay me to come fix it or at least hire a competent admin that provides computers that run well no matter what is on them.

jck
jck

i use Firefox 2 instead of IE 7 on the Vista Home Premium box at the house here. of course as i said elsewhere...i turned off a lot of the graphics features on this machine, and it hums. but, i had to tune it. that's the difference. my XP Pro x64 box was never tuned. fast as heck off the CD. i don't think i'm gonna have them tune the box. i'll just suffer til i leave there or something. i'm getting my work done faster than expected regardless. just hate watching that little circle busy icon all the time, or waiting for the cursor to move when i change code in VS2008.

itpro_z
itpro_z

...your IT guys are not up to speed on Vista. We are using Vista Business for a good number of our users now with excellent results, but we (IT) spent a few months learning how to configure and support it before going live. I have ran into a few slow machines, but find that a few simple steps will usually solve the problems. On some, I disable the indexing for external and network drives. On a few I have had to shut off the auto window sizing in TCP. Beyond that, getting rid of crap like Google Desktop, the Sidebar, and anything from Apple or RealPlayer seems to do the trick. Find out which of your techs is Vista knowledgeable and have him/her check your system out. I would expect that they could solve your problem in a few minutes. Just so you know, I have had to tune literally hundreds of XP machines that were slow as well, so this is not a Vista only issue.

jck
jck

if you remove the interface enhancements (i noticed on my laptop), Vista looks a lot like...XP lol it's almost like they expanded the object class to have shadowing and transparency attributes and made them switchable, and then made the interface to those public only on things like windows and controls. who knows tho...i am just aggravated by it...and i am not gonna tune the work machine. they have tech support to do that for me.

jck
jck

this machine was configured for me when i got here. they just said "here's your office...here's your machine...here's your password. get to programming." lol

jck
jck

of course at work, i have Team Studio...at home, it's express edition... at work, we have SCCS...at home, I don't use that...i just make small projects and play with controls and what not...not team development. but, the laptop is a dual core mobile 64-bit AMD processor...i.e.- should be slower than a full-powered Intel desktop CPU with double the ram and faster drives. plus i jacked the video display customization off on the laptop. with the gimp video card that thing has, i don't want redraw taking forever. so it could be an install thing...or a conflict...or domain rights verification to files taking too long...who knows... i just know it aggravates the pi$$ outta me when i'm trying to scroll down or move the cursor and start typing...and the screen hasn't moved yet.

NaughtyMonkey
NaughtyMonkey

if you disable aero, sidebar, adjust for best performance, and disable other un-needed crap it does run pretty good. But then again, that takes away everything Vista about the interface.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

able to run under vista as written by the developers of the IDE, is it running in XP compatible mode?

jck
jck

but i didn't buy this development machine...my employer did. i have a XP Pro x64 machine at home with 8GB. Plus, I have a 2GB Vista Home Premium laptop...and it runs VS2008 better than this desktop. Scary, eh?

Icckleguy
Icckleguy

I am Guessing that u are using the 64 bit version of business, because i thought that the 32 bit only supports up to 3gb and anything more is a waste

jck
jck

it's definitely Vista Business. and the box i'm running on is a core 2 duo 2.2GHz w/4GB ram. and i get stutters in the development IDE all the time. never had them this bad under XP Pro, even with machines with less memory and less CPU. sorry i'm not a tech evangelist type from MS camp, but i'm just telling you my experience with Vista. and from both from a work and personal usage standpoint, it is slower to boot...slower to run apps in...etc.

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