My Tips

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This page will list any tips, hints, or anything I consider "handy to know" in relation to Computers. Hopefully you may find something useful too.

Cascading Control Panel
Alphabetically sorting "Programs" Menu
Source of good quality "Freeware"
First website you should visit on a new PC or Laptop
Renaming MP3 Files
Free Anti Virus Programs
AVI Files
Dynamic HTML Scripts







Cascading Control Panel (Windows 98)

Here's a Control Panel tip that gives you instant access to any section of the Control Panel via a Cascading menu in the Start Menu. I have found this very useful. UPDATE: You don't need this facility if you are using Windows ME as it already contains an option to enable this.

To cascade the Control Panel applets off your Start Menu:

1. Right-click on the Start button and select Open.

2. Create a new folder (File...New...Folder)

3. Now rename it:

Quick Control Panel.{21EC2020-3AEA-1069-A2DD-08002B30309D}

Don't forget the period (.) in the folder name!

Actually you can call the folder whatever you like. This will be the name that will appear in the Start menu with the icons cascading off it. I called mine Mission Control Access!!

I just copied the above line to the clipboard before creating the new folder then pasted in the line
(Using CTRL + V) and changed the Quick Control Panel. text to Mission Control Access.

You must remember to put the period.(dot) between the text and the first open bracket { as above or it won't work.

You should then have a nice cascading menu on your Start Menu with quick access to any Control Panel option.

Cascading Control Panel (Windows XP)

Right click on the Start Menu button. Select "Properties".
Click "Customise" next to the Start menu style you are using.


In the Customize Start Menu properties box that appears, click the "Advanced" tab and under "Control Panel" select "Display as a menu".

Other options checking are remove the tick form "Highlight newly installed programs" as shown in the screenshot. This stops new programs in the Start menu having a highlight bar on them.




Also ticking "Scroll Programs" makes XP add scroll bars to your All Programs menu if it becomes to long to fit a single page, instead of opening multiple menus across the desktop.

Finally if like me, you don't like the "My Recent Documents" menu appearing in the Start menu untick the "List my recently opened documents" option.

Remember to click "OK" then "OK" once more to save any changes you have made.

All the above can also be done in Windows Vista and Windows 7 although the screens may differ slightly and some options may not be available.

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Alphabetically sorting "Programs" Menu

Do you find when you've just installed a new Application or Game that Windows puts it at the bottom of your Programs menu, instead of alphabetically sorting it into the right order?

This problem is easily resolved.

 <<< In Windows XP: Click on the Start Menu, click "All Programs" and then anywhere on the All programs menu list that appears, right click on it and select "Sort by Name" and any newly added items in the wrong place will be alphabetically sorted.

In Windows Vista and Windows 7 it's even easier:

Right click on the Start Menu button. Select "Properties".
Click "Customise" next to the Start menu style you are using. In Windows 7 there will be only one Customise button.

In the Customize Start Menu properties box that appears, scroll towards the bottom of the list looking for the option titled "Sort All Programs menu by name" and make sure it is ticked.

Click "OK" then "OK" once more to save the changes and the All Programs Start Menu will be alphabetically sorted.

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Source of good quality "Freeware"

I've found that for every "Chargeable" Software program (The one's you usually buy in the Shops) and every "Shareware" Software program (The one's you often download from the Net only to find that they "expire" in a month and either stop working or "lose" their useful functions unless you pay a fee to the author), there is often an equal and in some cases much better "Freeware" version of a program that will do the task just as well as, if not better, than the one you first considered. (Freeware requires no payment to the author of the program, who is often making it available to "get noticed" for producing great software at a knockdown price! Zero! Nil!! Nothing!!! Nought!!!!)

One of the best sources of Freeware I have found at:

Freeware Home Back to Top


First website you should visit on a new PC or Laptop.

Update (20/03/10):

FreeApp Are you feeling dizzy trying to find and install the must-have applications when you buy a new laptop/desktop or restore your system? If so, DO NOT worry. FreeApp can do all the work easily and effectively for you.

If you already have a good idea about what programs you want to install on your PC or Laptop and have not yet installed anything, how about letting the PC do it all in one go while you go off and have a cup of coffee.

Go to this Website and you can do just that!  You'll see a box on the right of the page with all their "Recommended" software to install. I suggest clicking the "Clear All" link and then clicking on the checkboxes below (putting a tick in the box) against all the software you want to install. These will appear in the top box now headed "My Selected". If you are not sure what an application does or what it is used for, if you click on the names of the software listed a separate page will appear for each one giving information and Users comments.

A lot of the software I write about on my website is available from this website and I would make it the first port of call on a new PC or Laptop setup!

For further help on how to use the site I have made a new page showing you how to use the FreeApp utility.

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Renaming MP3 Files

You know how it is. You search and search for a nice little utility or program to perform a particular task for you and all the time there's utility already sitting on your computer that can perform the task much better, when you finally found out just how to to it!!

I have searched for (and downloaded) several utilities/programs that "claim" to be able to rename a batch of MP3 music files in one command. With MP3's that you get from various sources or maybe from your CD's often the filename does not "conform" to the style you prefer to use on your PC. For example a lot of programs and downloaded files will name the file using the style "Artist name_Album name_Track title.mp3" or "Artist name_Track title.mp3". Now I don't like my MP3 files named in this manner preferring to replace the underscore character (_) with a couple of spaces and a minus sign ( - ) such as "Artist name - Track title.mp3". Also I prefer all the words in the filename, except the extension to have an Uppercase first letter for example "Artist Name - Track Title.mp3".

Anyway I've finally found a utility on my PC that performs this function and many more general "housekeeping" type tasks faster and much better than any of the other programs I've found on the Internet.

It's called "Total Commander" and you can download a fully functional shareware version from here.

To multi-rename the files you first select them all in the drive/file list window in "Commander" using the "Select All" command:

File List Window

"Select All" files.

Select "Multi-Rename Tool".

Then in the "Rename Tool" alter the options you require for renaming the files. For example in the above screenshot I have opted to keep the file name [N] and extension [E] the same. I have told the tool to search for (Search & Replace) underscore characters (_) in the filename and replace them with spaces and the minus character ( - ) and finally I have told the tool to change the first letter of each word in the filename to uppercase if it isn't already so.

You the click the "Start" button at the bottom of the window and within a few seconds the jobs done!!

<<<The newly renamed files list.

This program can perform lots of other laborious tasks, such as file copying or moving, renaming files, editing files and much more, at the touch a few few keys or buttons and is a worthwhile addition to any PC.Back to Top


Free Anti-Virus Programs

An Anti-Virus application is a pretty essential program to have installed on any Internet connected PC. But you don't have to go to the expense of forking out your hard earned cash for the latest version in the Shops, that usually only allows you to update the Virus definition files for around a year anyway, before having to pay for further updates.

The following two hyperlinks both allow you to download a very good Anti-Virus program that you can use indefinitely on your own personal computer.

Until recently I was using the Free Edition AVG Anti-Virus Software. However for some very strange reason it has become incompatible with some CD Burning software that I use regularly on my PC leading me to have to uninstall AVG Anti-Virus to allow my CD software to operate. This is a pity as this Anti-Virus software is very easy to install and use and updates itself automatically when needed. It has always worked very well in the past and has only caused me problems since I upgraded to the "Windows XP" Operating System (Now there's a surprise!!). If you are running any other OS I would recommend using AVG Anti-Virus.

I went in search of another free Anti-Virus program that would be compatible with my OS and my installed Software. I came across AntiVir Personal Edition which I duly installed in place of AVG. Luckily this program has no problems working with "Windows XP" and my CD Burning software so things are now back to normal. The only drawback I found with this program is that it doesn't appear to update itself automatically. So you need to check for updates on a regular basis to ensure constant protection. This is easily solved though by signing up for the free e-mail newsletter from the program's developers, which among other things advises you when an update is available to download.

Update (09/03/10): I have now discovered Microsoft Security Essentials, a free Anti-Virus/Anti-Spyware program from Microsoft. It uses very little resources, even on a low spec PC and I highly recommend  it to anyone seeking a freeware Anti-Virus solution. It comes in flavours for all versions of Windows (including 64bit versions of the program which makes it ideal on 64bit OS systems) and the webpage will automatically detect your OS and offer to download the appropriate version. You can change this option if you wish to get a different version for another PC's with a different OS to the one you are working on. The program downloads Virus definition updates regularly and runs a weekly scan. It will also warn you if a scan or update has not been done for sometime.

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If you're worried about Hackers or Intruders trying to "break into" your Computer whilst you are online you should consider installing a "Firewall". This is a utility that effectively blocks any unauthorised accesses to your PC and helps protect it from intruders. Most Routers used for Internet access nowadays have their own built in Firewall, which is the best first line of defence. Windows own firewall does a reasonable job of offering a second level, despite regular Internet postings about its Security flaws and I have not found a need for a third party firewall in place of it, in my many years of Internet access.

However if you feel better with a more substantial third party firewall in place of Windows own, one of the best available as "Freeware" is Zone Alarm. You can download the free version which is easy to use here. A more comprehensive and configurable "Pro" version for which a fee is payable is here. Back to Top


Opening AVI Files

Recently I had trouble opening some AVI Files. Apparently most AVI files use different "Codecs" and if you don't have the correct Codec installed on your PC you can't open the file. After much hunting about I found a site where you can download most of the AVI file Codecs you should ever need. Unfortunately this linking is now "dead", so see below:

Update (09/03/10): Instead of installing numerous codecs on your PC which need constant updating, a much better option is to install the free VLC Media Player, which can play just about any Video or Audio file you throw at it including DVD's and CDs. I use this all the time and it is regularly updated and uses very little resources. The general opinion around the Internet is that if a Media file won't play in VLC then it won't play at all and I totally agree with this opinion! Back to Top


Dynamic HTML Scripts

I use a few Dynamic HTML Scripts throughout my site to perform various tasks. The best source I have found for these easy to use scripts is Dynamic Drive. Click on the banner below to visit them. Back to Top

Visit Dynamic Drive for free, original DHTML scripts and components, all of which ultilize the latest in DHTML and JavaScript technology!

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This page was last updated Sunday 14 July, 2013
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