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Optimizing Windows /
John Woram

A Peek at Tweak UI
This little applet can teach you about Windows 95's Registry.

I'd like to discuss a nifty application called Tweak UI that pulls off some neat stunts by editing the Windows 95 Registry. In fact, it's such a great example of the Registry at work that (prepare for a self-serving plug!) I added a detailed description of it to the latest printing of my book, The Windows 95 Registry: A Survival Guide for Users (MIS: Press, 1996). Since I'm obviously not the only Registry freak in the crowd, here's a much-condensed overview of Tweak UI's major features. If you're interested in exploring how the Registry works, Tweak UI is an excellent teaching aid.

If you've already downloaded Tweak UI from the Internet, skim down to the subhead "TweakUI tabs." Otherwise, fetch Tweak UI by visiting http://microsoft.com/windows/software/powertoy.htm. When the PowerToys page appears, click on "PowerToys Set for Windows 95" to download the complete PowerToys set, or "TweakUI 1.1" for just this applet. Next, create a folder named C:\POWERTOY or C:\TWEAKUI (or something similar), place the EXE file in that folder and double-click on its icon to expand it. The resulting Tweak UI files are:

Filename: README.TXT Destination: (original folder only)

Filename: TWEAKUI.CNT Destination: C:\WINDOWS\HELP

Filename: TWEAKUI.CPL Destination: C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM

Filename: TWEAKUI.HLP Destination: C:\WINDOWS\HELP

Filename: TWEAKUI.INF Destination: C:\WINDOWS\INF

To install Tweak UI, right-click on the TWEAKUI.INF file and select the Install option. This action copies the Tweak UI files into the destination folders listed above, after which you can delete the files in the Tweak UI folder itself if space is tight. Otherwise, save the original EXE and readme files in case you need them in the future. The installation procedure places a TweakUI icon in the Control Panel window that you can drag to the Windows 95 Desktop as a shortcut.

Tweak UI tabs

Now we're ready to discuss a few of Tweak UI's features. Let's start with the Add/Remove tab. The text at the top of this tab notes that "The following software can be automatically removed by Windows," and the tab window shows a list of such software. Highlight any item on the list and click on the Remove button. The next time you open Control Panel's Add/Remove Programs applet, the removed item will no longer be listed on the Install/Uninstall tab. In other words, it is the ability to uninstall the application that has been removed, not the application itself, which remains safe and sound and continues to function as always.

Tweak UI accomplishes this by opening the HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall Registry key. Next, it deletes the subkey associated with the highlighted application, which prevents hyperactive "helpers" from removing programs by accident or on purpose. This can make things difficult if you eventually decide to remove the application. If that's a possibility, export a copy of the associated Registry key to diskette before clicking on the Remove button. Then import it back into the Registry if it becomes necessary to do a full uninstall.

Desktop tab

Next, let's examine the Desktop tab. The Delete option is conspicuous by its absence from the Context menu for Network Neighborhood and a few other Desktop icons. These icons appear in the "Special desktop icons" list on the Desktop tab, and if you open the Context menu for any item on the list, you'll find a Show on Desktop option at the top of the menu. Clear the check mark next to that item and it will vanish from the Desktop. In most cases, a CLSID subkey associated with that object is also deleted from the HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\explorer\Desktop\NameSpace Registry key.

As one notable exception to this description, the Network Neighborhood check box does not place a CLSID subkey under the NameSpace key. Instead, if this check box is cleared (note: only clear it if you truly want to remove Network Neighborhood from your Desktop), Tweak UI makes the appropriate edit elsewhere in the Registry. But first, the following message appears when the Apply button is clicked after clearing the check box:

"Removing the Network Neighborhood from the desktop has additional consequences which are not obvious. Would you like to see additional information about this?"

The additional information points out that "hiding the Network Neighborhood icon will prevent Explorer from accessing resources via UNCs." The unexplained UNC (universal naming convention) format identifies a network resource in the following manner:

\\network computer name\sharename\path\filename

However, anyone who takes the trouble to hide the Network Neighborhood should not be surprised to find that network resources are hidden. The additional information screen also notes incorrectly that "In order to access network resources from Explorer, you need to map them to a drive letter." To access any network resource, simply select Explorer's Network Neighborhood folder and search for the desired resource. A Network folder may of course be mapped to a local drive letter, but this is an optional step.

For most items on the Special desktop icons list, a Create As File option on the Context menu duplicates the action of clicking on the Create As File button near the bottom of the Desktop tab. In either case, a zero-byte file is created in the C:\WINDOWS folder (unless some other location is specified by you), and you may drag it to any convenient location, such as the Windows 95 Desktop. To remove the object icon later on, simply highlight it in Explorer and delete it. As an exception to the file-creation examples, if you select the Create As File option for Control Panel or Printers, a folder with that name is created under the C:\WINDOWS folder, and you may drag and drop this elsewhere also.

Explorer tab

Maybe Microsoft should call it "Desktop II," because the Explorer tab doesn't have much to do with the Windows 95 Explorer. Instead, its various radio buttons and check boxes modify the appearance of various Desktop items. For example, the little arrow in the lower left-hand corner of every shortcut icon bugs some users. If you're one of them, use the Shortcut overlay section to replace it with something else, or kill it completely. I've been using an arrow icon in the SHELL32.DLL file at position 30. Although it's larger than the little default boxed arrow, it's less obtrusive while still visible. If you select the None option, Tweak UI uses a transparent icon in its own TWEAKUI.DLL file at position 3. Whatever your choice, one of the lines shown in Figure 1 (see next page) is written into the Contents pane of the HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\explorer\Shell Icons Registry key.

The number (29) in the Name column of Figure 1 is associated with the shortcut icon overlay, and the Data column identifies the new icon that replaces the default overlay icon.

The other Explorer tab options are self-explanatory, and each makes an entry into a subkey found under the HKU\.Default (or user name)\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\... Registry key.

For each check box, the specific subkeys following the CurrentVersion key, and its Contents pane entry, are shown in Figure 2.

On line 3, the Name and Data entries are written into the indicated subkey if the Prefix check box is cleared; if the box is checked, the entire entry is deleted. In the other examples, the value of the underlined byte represents the default state. The first and last lines are examples of the famous Microsoft double negative, in which a feature is enabled by disabling something (as in NoStartBanner = 00, for example). Or to put it another way, "No, I don't want the NoStartBanner feature enabled."

General tab

The three check boxes in the Effects section of the General tab write entries into the Contents pane of a subkey under the HKU\.Default (or user name)

\Control Panel\... Registry key. The subkeys following the Control Panel key, and its Contents pane entry, are given in Figure 3. In each case, use the General tab's pop-up Help feature for information on Smooth scrolling and Beep on errors.

As for the Special Folders section, the pop-up Help states that the location of certain "special folders" can be changed, which may suggest this option moves a folder from one location to another. But that's not quite what happens. Instead, the Folder box lists one of these special folders, and the grayed Location box beneath it indicates the source of the objects currently associated with that folder. The following examples show how this works.

By default, Windows 95 displays various objects on the Desktop, including those found in Explorer's C:\WINDOWS\DESKTOP folder, such as Briefcase and Online Services (OEM version only). The specific use of this "Desktop" folder is determined by the Registry key and the Contents pane entry listed on the first line under the Name header:

HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Shell Folders

Name: Desktop Data: "C:\WINDOWS\DESKTOP"

Name: Desktop Data: "D:\"

However, if the Desktop folder is selected in Tweak UI's Special Folders section (found on the General Tab), and the Change Location button is clicked, then some other folder can be selected instead. In the previous example, the drive D:\ (root) directory was selected, and the Data column was changed as shown by the last line. Therefore, all objects in the drive D:\ directory will now appear on the Desktop in place of those in the C:\WINDOWS\DESKTOP folder.

As one more example, a new C:\WINDOWS\START MENU\PROGRAMS\ STARTUP2 folder might be created, with an alternate group of StartUp shortcuts in it. Now select the StartUp folder and change its location to the new StartUp2 folder. The next time Windows 95 starts, the applications specified in that folder will be executed instead of those in the default StartUp folder.

Mouse tab

The controls on the Mouse tab add extra bells and whistles to those available via Control Panel's Mouse applet. For example, the Menu speed slider varies the Registry's MenuShowDelay setting, which appears in the Contents pane of the HKCU\Control Panel\desktop Registry key.

The Data column entry varies from 0 to 65534 as the slider moves from Fast to Slow, and the number indicates the delay in milliseconds until a cascading menu appears if the mouse pointer lingers on a menu option with a right-pointing arrowhead on the option line.

To watch the effect of slider movement, open the key listed above and place the Tweak UI applet and the Registry Editor side by side. Note the current MenuShowDelay value and then slide the fader left or right. Now open the Registry Editor's View menu, click on the Refresh option and the value will change accordingly.

In the Mouse sensitivity section, the Double-click setting determines how far the mouse pointer may move between two clicks, which will still be considered a double-click action. The mouse pointer must be moved the distance specified in the Drag setting before the selected object is dragged. Both options write data into the Registry's HKU\desktop key, as shown in Figure 4.

Although the range in both boxes is 1 to 32 pixels, in 1-pixel increments, the Double-click data is recorded in half-pixel increments (x= 2-64), while Drag data is written in 1-pixel increments.

Paranoia tab

I'd discuss Tweak UI's Paranoia tab, but I'm out of space. And it's a good thing too, because I think somebody's watching me.

Senior Contributing Editor John Woram is the author of The Windows 95 Registry: A Survival Guide for Users (MIS: Press, 1996). Contact John in the "Optimizing Windows" topic of the WINDOWS Magazine areas on America Online and CompuServe, or care of the editor at the e-mail addresses here.

Copyright (c) 1997 CMP Media Inc.

Windows Magazine, March 1997, page 230.

[ Go to March 1997 Table of Contents ]