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Optimizing Windows /
John Woram

Spare Parts
Tune up your PC with tips that didn't make it into my earlier columns.

Whenever WINDOWS Magazine arrives in my real inbox (the one by my front door), I know exactly what to expect: When I get back to my virtual inbox, I'll find several messages from readers that begin with, "Very nice column, but you forgot an important point ...." In my replies, I always assure readers that I certainly couldn't have forgotten a particular point-it must have been the evil copy editor who removed the corresponding paragraph. Since I now have a small collection of these odds and ends on hand, and I hate to throw anything out, here's a sampling.

Optimizing e-mail

Since I just mentioned e-mail, let's discuss a pet peeve of mine-as well as one important point-about electronic correspondence: If you click a Reply button on your incoming-message toolbar, the highlighted message is probably copied into an outgoing-message window, and the header data at the top lists the address(es) of the person(s) to whom you are replying. This saves the bother of entering complicated character string addresses, which are very easy to mistype. As for the message part, in olden days you would have had an actual letter on hand to consult while drafting a reply. But in the age of the "paperless" office, the original e-mail message gets dumped into the outgoing window. Hence, you don't need to toggle back and forth between the in and out boxes to refer to it.

This little convenience leads to one of the major annoyances of e-mail-the dreaded "quote-back" paradox: As people learn to configure an electronic mail system so that it actually works (well, some of the time), they simultaneously lose their awareness of the Erase function. Or maybe I'm the only one who regularly receives lengthy regurgitated messages prefaced by a single "Thanks," or perhaps a little "I'll try it and get back to you." The situation doesn't improve when you're caught in one of those "Reply All" epics in which each recipient spits back everything to everyone, along with their own one-liner on top.

Assuming this is not part of a worldwide test of phone system capacity, I hereby propose a radical plan to save the endangered bandwidth: Rediscover the Highlight/Delete function, and then use it. Trust me on this-your recipients really don't need to be reminded of all the From/Sent/To/Subject details of the recent missive to you. Nor do they need to reread everything that has gone before. To make sure your recipients recall the general drift of the conversation-easy to forget when traffic gets heavy-just include a few keywords at the top. Then get out your virtual scissors and cut everything else away.

And now for the Important Point: Never hit that Reply All button until you've double-checked the header on the incoming message. Are you listed as a recipient? If yes, use Reply All only if everyone on the list expects your response. (Again, if your correspondent sends an informational message to 50 people, you don't have to send a nice little thank-you note to all of them-half of them won't know who you are, and the other half don't care if you're pleased at getting the message.) If you're not listed as a recipient, use Reply All only if you want everyone on the list to know you're in the loop, thereby blowing your cover and probably embarrassing the person who put you on the blind-cc (bcc) list. Maybe a warning message should pop up if a bcc recipient hits the Reply All button, or maybe the button should be disabled. But until either option becomes available, think twice before delivering your reply messages.

Starting over

Some readers thought twice about my December 1996 column, which suggested you kick off the New Year by formatting drive C: and reinstalling Windows 95 from scratch. Do you know how many people actually followed my advice? Neither do I, but I was surprised by some of the reader feedback. Having done this a few times myself, I guarantee it as an effective way to exorcise the demons of OSes past, with the obvious proviso that before you embark upon such a project, you must back up anything that you want to save. E-mail reaction varied from total agreement to bewilderment at how anyone could make such a dumb suggestion in print. I think the total vote was slightly in my favor, but not with a wide enough margin to get me elected.

Some readers who followed my advice encountered a few obstacles as the resident version of Windows tried to protect itself from eviction. For example, the usual procedure is to boot from a floppy disk with the FORMAT. COM utility on it. However, if drive C: is compressed, the format command leads to the following message:

Drive C is a compressed drive.

Use the DRVSPACE tool to format this drive.

Don't bother following this advice, because if you launch Windows and try the Drive Space applet's format option, you'll run into a series of messages that tell you it can't be done. One message suggests using Explorer instead, but Explorer's format option leads to even more "Windows cannot format" messages. If you're determined to circumvent this issue, follow five simple steps.

1. Select the Shut Down menu's "Restart the computer in MS-DOS mode?" option.

2. At the command prompt, log onto drive: X, where X is the letter of the host drive for the compressed volume that becomes the C: drive.

3. Type the following commands and press the Enter key at the end of each line:

attrib D??SPACE.BIN

-s -h -

erase D??SPACE.BIN

4. Insert a formatted system floppy disk that contains FORMAT.COM in drive A: and reboot your computer.

5. At the drive A: command prompt, type FORMAT C: /S to format the now-uncompressed C: drive.

Since you've erased those BIN files in step 3, the volume file is no longer the format-proofed compressed drive C:. That is, it's now just one more big file (probably named DBLSPACE.000) that can be wiped out with the format command. But please-make sure that's really what you want to do before you actually do it.

Upgrade a clean hard drive

If you purchased your old Windows 3.x (or Windows for Workgroups) separately-that is, it wasn't bundled with your computer-there'll be no problem doing a Windows 95 upgrade to a freshly formatted C: drive. When prompted, just insert floppy disk 1 from the old Windows version so the setup procedure can verify that you are indeed entitled to use the Win95 upgrade package. But if your old version came bundled on the hard drive, and version 3.x floppy disks were not included, then there's a problem. You've just formatted drive C:, you don't have floppy disk 1, Windows 95 wants evidence that it's okay to proceed, and you don't have it. Catch-22?

Almost, but there is a workaround. Assuming you own a previous version of Windows, just copy any convenient small file to floppy disk, rename it as WIN.CN_ (note the underline as the final character of the extension), and insert it into drive A: when prompted for floppy disk 1 of Windows 3.x. The setup procedure should continue, and you can remove the floppy disk from the drive.

Fiddling with folders

Open any Explorer window, and the Folder pane on the left shows a long vertical series of yellow folder icons. (You'll see the same icons in the Inbox applet's Folders pane.) Likewise, the Registry Editor's Key pane shows a column of folder icons-only here they're called "keys" (they still look like folders to me). If you select any such folder/key, it obligingly changes to an open-folder icon as a visual aid to indicate the open item-provided you can make it out.

As a worst-case example of icon spotting, open the Registry Editor's Edit menu, select the Find option, check the Data box only and then search for My Computer. In a few seconds, you'll see "My Computer" in the Contents pane's Data column, and one of the keys on the left will open. (If the search fails, see the "Where's My Computer?" note below.) If you do this within a comparatively large window, it may be difficult to spot the tiny open-folder icon among all the others. On my system, it's a bit easier to see, since I've recolored it: A bright green open folder shows up in the Key pane whenever a search is successful, and it's hard to miss it in that long stream of otherwise drab yellow folders.

You'll need a good icon-editing utility to recolor a folder, since the original closed and open icons are embedded in the REGEDIT.EXE file. If you don't have an icon-editing utility, visit www.winmag.com/software/share1.htm, fetch Microangelo 2.0 (MUANGL20.ZIP). (See Optimizing Windows, August 1996.)

Once you have the utility, make a copy of REGEDIT.EXE (call it REGEDIT2.EXE). Next, open the copy in your icon editor and look for the open folder, which is the seventh icon in the series (select the 16x16-pixelx16 color set). Recolor it green, or according to your own preference, and you'll have no problem finding an open key the next time you use the Registry Editor. To check it out, run the just-edited REGEDIT2.

EXE version. If it looks okay, you can erase the original and then rename the copy as REGEDIT.EXE.

The Explorer window's open-folder icon is much easier to change. All you need do is open the following Registry key:


Shell Icons

Now select the Edit menu's New\String Value option. Overtype the New Value #1 box with the numeral 4, press the Enter key twice, type C: <path>\filename, xx and again press the Enter key. Enter the path, filename and icon number in the line above to select a distinctive icon to indicate an open folder. If there's already an entry labeled 4 in the Name column, then edit that entry instead of creating a new one. And if the Shell Icons key does not exist, then you'll need to create it before doing any of the above. (See Optimizing Windows, August 1996, for additional details, and for further information about the Shell Icons key.)

If you'd rather stay with a traditional but distinctively colored open-folder icon, then it's time to get out the crayons (in the form of your icon editor) and customize the existing icon. This time, you'll find the open folder in the SHELL32.DLL file, or in COOL.DLL if you've installed Microsoft Plus. As always, make a backup copy before proceeding. If your icon source is SHELL32.DLL, edit the backup copy instead, since Win95 won't let anyone play with this DLL file while Win95 itself is open. Then exit, rename SHELL32.DLL as SHELL32.OLD and rename your edited file (the backup copy) as SHELL32.DLL. The change will take effect the next time you open Windows 95.

Inbox applet

If you manage your e-mail via the Inbox applet in Microsoft Exchange, there probably aren't too many folder icons in the left-hand pane, and therefore little need to draw attention to the one that's open. However, this little open-folder icon is in the C:\Windows\System\WMSUI32.DLL file, just in case you want to recolor it, too.

Under certain circumstances, an icon change may not "take" on the Desktop. Often all you need to do is place the mouse pointer on some free area of the Desktop and press F5. But if that has no effect, open any convenient shortcut's Properties menu, select the Shortcut tab, click on the Change Icon button and choose a different icon-it doesn't matter which one. Then rechoose the original icon and click on the Apply button. Assuming you previously erased the SHELLICONCACHE file, this action should jolt Windows 95 to attention, and it will now rebuild the file.

Where's My Computer?

More Win95 trivia: By default, the Registry does not contain the phrase "My Computer." So if you search for the subkey that controls this object, you won't find it unless you already know its CLSID number-one of those horrid hexadecimal 32-character strings that lurk under the Registry's HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID key. If you don't know the number, just rename the My Computer icon on the Desktop. In fact, you can even rename it back to My Computer again; the simple rename action will write the new name (even if it's still the old name) into the Registry. Having done that, try searching the Data column again. This time, you'll find it.

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 at the e-mail addresses here.

Windows Magazine, April 1997, page 240.

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