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Back to the Future
If you're using NT 4.0 but prefer the NT 3.x interface, there is a procedure that will almost return you to that older look-and-feel. First, right-click on the Start button, and select Explore from the context menu. An Explorer window will open, with the Programs folder in the right-hand pane. Right-click on it, and select Create Shortcut. There will now be a Shortcut to Program Manager folder in the right-hand pane of the Explorer. Click on it, drag it to the desktop, rename it Program Manager, and double-click to open it. By default, it will open in large icon view, and the folders within it correspond exactly to NT 3.x Program Manager groups. One of the icons will be Windows NT Explorer. Right-click on it, create a shortcut, drag the shortcut to the desktop, and rename it File Manager. It will open in Explorer (two-pane) view, and will default to the root of your system disk. To finish the job, move the standard NT icons to a portion of the screen where they're out of the way (unfortunately, you can't delete them), and set the Taskbar to Auto hide.
Some users like NT 4.0's new desktop so much they want to make the two-pane explorer view the default. You can do that with the NT Registry Editor (you'll need to be logged in as Administrator to do this): Start/Run REGEDT32.EXE. Select HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT/Folder/shell/open/ddexec and change the first <No Name> entry from [ViewFolder("%I",%I,%S)] to [ExploreFolder("%I",%I,%S)]. As a check, switch back and forth between open/ddexec and explore/ddexec-the entry should be the same for both. When they are the same, close the Registry Editor. Now, double-clicking on any folder will open in a two-pane Explorer view.
Experienced users may find some of Explorer's default settings annoying. To set up an "expert's view" of Windows NT Explorer, start it (from Start/Programs), and select View/Options. Click the Show all file radio button to avoid hiding system files, check "Display the full path in the title bar," "Display compressed file and folders with alternate color" and "Include description bar for right and left panes." Then click OK. Top it off by selecting View/Details.
A Clean Desktop
It's possible to do without the NT 4.0 desktop altogether-helpful for computers with little memory. To shut down the NT desktop while leaving NT up and running, right-click in the Taskbar and bring up Task Manager. Select the Processes tab, and find explorer.exe on the displayed list. Click to select that name and then press the End Process button. NT will display a warning message. Ignore it and click the Yes button. NT Explorer will shut down, taking with it all desktop icons, the Start menu and Taskbar. Task Manager (and any other open application) will continue to run (and if you click the Performance tab you'll find that you've gained 1MB to 3MB of RAM). You can now start programs from the Applications tab's New Task button. To get your desk-top back, click New Task and type in explorer.exe.
If you can do without the regular NT 4.0 desktop permanently, it's possible to start with just the Task Manager-or even with an NT command prompt. To do so, launch the NT Registry Editor (Start/Run REGEDT32.EXE) and select HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SOFTWARE/Microsoft/Windows NT/CurrentVersion/WinLogon. You'll see a list of values in the right pane. Double-click on the one called Shell (set by default to Explorer.exe). You can now type in the name of any valid NT program. For a command prompt, type CMD.EXE, for the NT Task Manager, type TASKMGR.EXE, and so on. Then close the Registry Editor and log off. When you log back in, you'll get your new default shell instead of the NT desktop. To get the original desktop back, run EXPLORER.EXE.
You can add your own folders and items to NT's Start Menu. Right-click on Start and, to create an item for the currently logged on user, select Explore. To create a new global item for all users, select Explore all users (this requires Administrative access). Either way, you'll get a two-pane explorer view with the Programs folder in the right pane. To add a new folder (equivalent to an NT 3.x Program Manager Group), double-click the Programs folder to open it, and then select File/New Folder. To add shortcut icons in the folder, open it by double-clicking on it, then select File/New Shortcut and follow the on-screen directions.
NT 3.x users who've upgraded to NT 4.0 might ask, "Where did my PIF editor go?" The answer is to the property sheet for the program. Browse for it in Windows Explorer, and right-click on the application's icon. Then select Properties from the resulting context menu. The resulting Properties dialog includes Program, Memory and other tabs that offer the same functionality of the old PIF editor.
A Space of Its Own
The Start button's Run... item has a Run in Separate Memory Space checkbox. If you have to do this frequently, create a shortcut to the program's icon in Windows Explorer, right-click on the Shortcut icon, and select Properties from the resulting context menu. The Shortcut tab on the Program's Properties dialog includes not only a Run in Separate Memory Space checkbox, but also a field for the directory to start the application in, and options to run the program minimized or maximized.
Command and Control
NT 4.0 supports some significant enhancements to the NT command prompt. You can get a list by starting a command prompt and typing CMD /? |More. With extensions enabled (they are by default) programs associated with a file type can be started just by typing the name of the file. For example, typing MYDOC.DOC at the command prompt will launch whatever program is associated with the .DOC. You can disable command enhancements with the NT Registry Editor (REGEDT32.EXE). To do so, edit HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/Software/Microsoft/Command Processor, and set Enable Extensions to 0.
Multilingual users can benefit from NT 4.0's support for multiple keyboard layouts. These are set from the Input Locales tab on Control Panel/Regional Settings. You can add one or more additional input locales and layouts, set up a special key combination to change layouts, and display a two-letter locale identifier on the Taskbar.