The Tweak UI for Windows XP PowerToy contains 36 pages of settings that allow you to alter a vast number of user interface settings. If you haven’t had time to go through them all, take a look at what you’ve missed. In this article, we’ll look at the Desktop, My Computer, Control Panel, and Templates branches of this tool.

Third in a series on Tweak UI

Other articles in this series have focused on the About, General, and Mouse branches of this tool and the Explorer branch.

The Desktop branch
Do you long for the days when the desktop contained icons for My Computer, My Network Places, and the like? You can use Tweak UI to put those icons back on the desktop from the main page of the Desktop branch.

On the Desktop page’s list of the main Windows XP icons, select the check box to add the icon to the desktop. Of course, clearing a check box will remove the icon from the desktop.

First Icon
If you’ve decided to place both the My Computer and My Documents icons on the desktop, you can use the options on the First Icon page to specify which of these icons you want to appear in the upper-left corner of the desktop (see Figure A).

Figure A

Keep in mind that once you decide to specify which icon you want to appear first on the desktop, you’ll need to right-click on the desktop and select the Arrange Icons By Name command in order for this change to take effect. Simply refreshing the desktop by pressing [F5] won’t do it.

The My Computer branch
The My Computer branch contains several pages and a subbranch that allow you to make numerous changes to My Computer. On the main page, you’ll find two check boxes: Control Panel and Files Stored On This Computer (see Figure B).

Figure B

By clearing these check boxes, you can remove the Control Panel and the main user Document folders from My Computer’s display. This allows you to clean up My Computer’s display so that it only shows the disk drives connected to your system.

On the Drives page, you’ll see a listing of drive letters from A to Z with check boxes next to each one. When you first look at this page, it’s easy to assume that the goal of the Drives feature is to allow you to clear the check boxes for all the drives that don’t exist on your system, but this feature isn’t intended to disable drives that don’t exist. It’s intended to remove existing drive icons from My Computer (see Figure C).

Figure C

You could use this as a low-grade security feature to prevent unauthorized users from accessing certain drives from within My Computer. I call it a low-grade security feature because it’s very easy to circumvent—you can still get to the drives from within other applications or the command line.

Special Folders
Windows XP has a set of special folders in which it automatically stores certain types of files. The settings on the Special Folders page allow you to change the location where files normally directed to Windows XP’s 13 special folders are saved. These special folders are listed in Table A.
Table A

Windows XP’s special folders

CD Burning
Document Templates
My Documents
My Music
My Pictures

Send To
Shared Music
Shared Pictures
Start Menu

Keep in mind that making a change here doesn’t move the existing special folder and its files, nor does it create a new special folder. It changes the Registry settings that reference that folder from the default location to the new location that you specify. This means that once you decide you want to relocate a special folder, you need to first create a new folder or move the existing folder to the new location before you use the Special Folders setting to change the location.

On the AutoPlay subbranch, you’ll find a set of pages that let you control how the AutoPlay feature works. On the main page, you’ll find a shortcut to open My Computer and instructions on how to access the AutoPlay tab for any removable drive that uses the AutoPlay feature.

Three pages in the AutoPlay branch allow you to customize other aspects of AutoPlay:

  • Drives: The Drives page features a list of all the drives on your system and allows you to disable the AutoPlay feature for any drive by clearing the associated check box.
  • Types: The Types page allows you to specify what types of drives you want to use the AutoPlay feature on.
  • Handlers: The Handlers page allows you to specify what applications you want to be able to configure the AutoPlay feature to launch when you insert various media into those drives.

The Control Panel branch
The Control Panel branch contains a single page that lets you prevent certain extensions from appearing in the classic view of the Control Panel (see Figure D).

Figure D

Keep in mind that removing an extension from the classic view of the Control Panel has no effect on the task-oriented view of the Control Panel—you can still access the extension from there.

In the scrolling list box, you’ll find a list of all the extensions in Control Panel. To hide an extension, clear its check box. Remember that the extension still exists on your system; it’s just hidden.

The Templates branch
When you right-click on the desktop and select the New command from the shortcut menu, you’ll see a submenu containing a series of file type templates that you can use to easily create new documents. On the Templates branch is a single page that contains a list of the existing file type templates (see Figure E).

Figure E

If you have more templates on the New menu than you need, you can clear the check box of any templates that you don’t need right now. If you have templates on the New submenu that you’ll never use, just select them and click the Delete button.

If you want to add a new file type template to the submenu, you can do so easily. First, create a template file. To do so, launch your application and open a blank document, configure any settings that you want in your template, and then save the document on your hard drive. Then, to add your custom file type template to the New menu, you can click the Create button and locate your template file.

Have you used Tweak UI with other versions of Windows?

Besides its cleaner look, XP’s version of Tweak UI seems to be easier to use than previous versions of the tool. Do you agree? Post your comments below.