Consultants who offer desktop support to clients that are using Microsoft 95 to XP are probably familiar with Tweak UI. With just about all of the settings that control the interface in one place, consultants who have to perform hands-on desktop work can use this tool to quickly modify users’ machines.

In this article, I’ll cover the Explorer, Common Dialogs, and Taskbar branches in the Tweak UI tree in Windows XP and show you how to use them to make the most of this Microsoft PowerToys tool.

Second in a series

Last week’s article on Tweak UI covered the first three main branches of the Tweak UI tree: About, General, and Mouse.

The Explorer branch
The Explorer branch allows you to alter a number of settings related to Windows XP’s main user interface controls. In addition to the settings found on the main page, the Explorer branch contains settings on the Shortcut, Colors, Thumbnails, and Command Keys pages (see Figure A).

Figure A
Tweak UI’s Explorer branch page

On the main page, you’ll find a scrolling list box that contains 20 check boxes for enabling and disabling settings that allow you to make adjustments to the Start menu and other parts of the user interface. These settings are listed in Table A.
Table A

Setting name Default setting Description
Allow Help On Start Menu Enabled Toggles the display of the Help and Support item
Allow Logoff On Start Menu Enabled Toggles the display of the Log Off option
Allow Recent Documents On Start Menu Enabled Toggles the display of the My Recent Documents item
Allow Web Content To Be Added To The Desktop Enabled Controls the ability to add Web content
Clear Document History On Exit Disabled Clears the history lists for My Recent Documents, the Run dialog box, and Internet Explorer
Detect Accidental Double-Clicks Enabled Configures double-clicks to be treated as a single click when using single-click mode
Enable Smooth Scrolling Enabled Configures the scrolling operation to be slow and smooth
Enable Windows+X Hotkeys Enabled Disables the Windows key shortcuts
Lock Web Content Disabled Prevents Web content from being added or removed from the desktop
Maintain Document History Enabled Enables the history list for My Recent Documents
Maintain Network History Enabled Enables the history list for My Network Places
Manipulate Connected Files As A Unit Enabled Allows files that are linked together to be treated the same in file operations
Prefix “Shortcut To” On New Shortcuts Enabled Adds the prefix “Shortcut to” on new shortcuts
Show “View Workgroup Computers” In Net Places Enabled Toggles the display of the View workgroup computers command
Show Links On Favorites Menu Enabled Toggles the display of the Links menu
Show My Documents On Classic Start Menu Enabled Toggles the display of My Documents
Show My Pictures On Classic Start Menu Enabled Toggles the display of My Pictures
Show Network Connections On Classic Start Menu Enabled Toggles the display of the Show Network Connections
Use Classic Search In Explorer Disabled Enables the Windows 2000/Windows Me Search bar
Use Classic Search In Internet Explorer Disabled Enables the Windows 2000/Windows Me Search bar

Settings on the Explorer page

On the Shortcut page, you can use the option buttons in the Shortcut Overlay panel to adjust the way the arrow appears on shortcut icons. You can choose a regular arrow, a near-invisible arrow, no arrow, or you can custom overlay.

You can use the three settings on the Colors page to alter the default colors the Windows Explorer uses to display certain files. If you’re using single-click mode, you can click the Hot-tracking button to change the color Windows Explorer uses to highlight files and folders when you hover your mouse pointer over them. If you’re using the NTFS file system on your hard disk, you can change the colors that Windows Explorer uses to display compressed and encrypted files.

If you use the Thumbnails view to display image files, you can use the controls on the Thumbnails page to set the image quality used to display the thumbnail images, as well as the size of the images. Keep in mind that higher quality and larger size thumbnail images will require more memory and disk space.

Remember that if you make any changes here, these new settings will only apply to new thumbnails; previously created thumbnails will retain their original settings. If you want to have the new settings apply to all thumbnails in a folder, you’ll need to locate and delete that folder’s Thumbs.db database file, which is a hidden system file. The next time you activate the Thumbnails view, the Thumbs.db will be re-created.

Command Keys
Now, if you happen to be using a keyboard that contains navigation keys, you can use the controls on the Command Keys page to reprogram most, if not all, of the navigation keys on the keyboard (see Figure B).

Figure B
The Command Keys setting

The navigation keys appear in a scrolling list box and can be reconfigured by selecting the key and clicking the Change button. You’ll then see a dialog box that provides options for disabling the key or configuring it to run a custom program.

The Common Dialogs branch
For those applications that use Windows’ common dialog boxes, you can change the way the Open and Save dialog boxes appear by using the controls on the main page of the Common Dialogs branch.

At the top of the page, you’ll find two check boxes that allow you to remove the Back button or to disable the filename history list. Then in the Places Bar panel, you can alter the Places bar that appears on the left-hand side of the Open and Save dialog boxes. You can hide the Places bar, or you can customize it by choosing any of the places available on the drop-down list or typing the paths to specific folders on your local hard disk or on a network.

The Taskbar branch
On the Taskbar branch, you’ll find two pages that allow you to reconfigure certain settings for the taskbar and the Start menu (see Figure C).

Figure C
Tweak UI’s Taskbar branch page

On the main page, you’ll find two check boxes: The first allows you to remove the balloon tips that certain applications that support Windows XP themes occasionally place on the taskbar and Start menu. The second allows you to prevent the low disk space warning from appearing on the taskbar.

As you probably know, Windows XP’s taskbar automatically groups buttons for applications that have multiple windows open at the same time. The options on the Grouping page allow you to specify how you want the applications to be grouped. The default setting groups least-used applications first, but you can specify that the applications with the most open windows be grouped first or you can specify that any applications with a certain number of open windows be grouped first.

XP Start Menu
One of the neat features on Windows XP’s Start menu is the Most Frequently Used Programs area, which provides you with shortcuts to the last five programs you’ve used. Chances are that you’d really only like to keep track of your major applications, though—not applications like Calculator or Notepad. If so, you can use the controls on the XP Start Menu page to pick and choose which applications will appear in the Most Frequently Used Programs area.