Copyright Michael Karbo, Denmark, Europe.


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    Chapter 4. Adjust the taskbar

    Let us move on with the review of Windows XP. The taskbar is a very important component in the user interface, so let us look closer at that. It can be fitted in different ways to suit your personal needs, and that can be done in different ways. I presume that you have started yor pc again.

    Expand the taskbar

    You can drag the taskbar with the mouse to a placement in the left/right side or on top/bottom of the screen, but I do not recommend that. The task bar ought to be in the bottom of the screen, that makes it easiest to use.

    1.    Notice that a button in the taskbar can cover more than one program window. You can see that from the numeral 2 in the Notepad button:

    2.    But try to make the taskbar taller:

    3.    Place the mouse cursor in the border between the taskbar and the rest of the desktop. The mouse cursor changes to a double arrow:

    4.    With this mouse cursor you can drag the taskbar up to “two stories”; I personally like that setting.

    5.    If you cannot heighten the taskbar, it can be because it is locked. Then you need to right click somewhere in the taskbar and remove the checkmark at the item ”Lock the Taskbar.”

    Figure 15. The task bar is most effective when it occupies two ”stories”.

    Quick Launch

    One of the really smart details that was introduced with Windows 98/2000 is theQuick Launch tool bar that needs to be in the taskbar. Oddly enough you have to install it yourself in Windows XP, so let us do that. Then you also get to see the other setting options.

    1.    Open the controlpanel from the Start menu:

    2.    Then click on the category Appearance and themes:

    3.    Then select the menu item ”Taskbar and the Start menu” in the lower right:

    4.    You can see the whole dialog box in

     Figure 18 on page 25. To activate the Quick Launch toolbar you have to click and set a checkmark in this field:

    5.    Then click on the OK button. Now Quick Launch is installed. It has a bunch of small buttons that can open documents or programs with a single click:

    Figure 16. You have to install the indispensable toolbar Quick Launch yourslf.

    Use the Quick Launch toolbar

    There are three small default buttons in the Quick Launch toolbar. They are these hyperlinks:

    Figure 17. The buttons in the Quick Launch toolbar are really practical for daily work.

    The hyperlink Show Desktop minimizes all windows. That is all right, but I prefer the alternative keyboard shortcut Windows+d, which I have mentioned before.

    I recommend that you start using the Quick Launch toolbar. It is very convenient for your daily work. But you have to install additional hyperlinks in that yourself.

    1.    You will probably need to expand the Quick Launch area. That is easily done with the mouse. Just drag in the ”partition”, which is to the right of the area. Drag it to the right:

    2.    Now there is more room for new hyperlinks. Let us presume that you often need the drawing ­pro­gram Paint. Then it needs a hyper­link in Quick Launch.

    3.    Open the Start menu; there is still a hyperlink to Paint in the left list (as long as you made the exercises):

    4.    Drag with the mouse in the hyperlink from the Start menu. Drag it down to the Quick Launch tool bar. Keep holding the mouse button down until you find the right place for the hyperlink. You can see the cursor as a vertical beam with a small plus symbol:

    5.    When you release the mouse button, the new hyperlink ”falls” in place on the toolbar:

    6.    It is that easy! Notice that you did not move the hyperlink; you made a copy, and that is indicated by the small + symbol that followed the cursor.

    7.    Try in the same way to drag a copy of the Notepad hyperlink from the Start menu to the Quick Launch toolbar:

    8.    But how do you delete unwanted hyperlinks from the Quick Launch toolbar? That is very easy, just right click on the hyperlink and select Delete:

    The Quick Launch toolbar does not occupy much room on the screen, and those buttons give quick access to documents and programs. I personally use it a lot. This allows me to quickly remove unneeded hyperlinks. And correspondingly I add hyperlinks to current projects and programs.

    It is a good idea to keep the number of hyperlinks below 10. If there are too many small buttons, it will soon be confusing, and it will take too much time to find the right button.

    Figure 18. Here you control the appearance of the taskbar and Notification area.

    About the Notification area

    If you right click on an empty part of the task bar and then click on Properties, you get a menu that includes the so-called Notification area, which also received a great enhancement in Windows XP. It might look quite different on your pc, but here you see it as it looks now on my pc:

    The Notification area is really a funny item. Unexpected messages like this can appear:

    There are also messages (in the shape of small icons) like when you print or when you have received new e-mail). But the most obvious element is the calendar and watch, which is always shown in a blue field in the lower part; that is a very pracktical func­tion. Try to double click on that field, then this dialog box opens:

    In this menu you can also set the clock, if its time/date is off. Single click on that field to adjust the Date and Time Properties.

    On the Internet Time tab you can select to have the clock updated through the Internet, including optional automatic adjustment for daylight savings time[n7] . That is really smart, but of course it requires that you have Internet access on your pc. You also need to select the correct time zone (on the center tab) to make the update work, but that is done automatically when Windows XP is installed. Click on Update Now, when you are logged on to the Internet:

    Inactive icons are hidden

    The Notification area became ”intelligent” in Windows XP. Now the inactive icons are hidden automatically. In earlier Windows versions the Notification area were soon filled with all kinds of peculiar icons. These icons are installed without the user’s control in connection with installation of new hardware-drivers and new programs. The unused icons are now hidden. You can get to see them by removing the checkmark from the item ”Hide inactive icons”:

    You can also see which message types there are for this area. That is done in the dialog box ”Taskbar and Start menu Properties” (see Figure 18). Just click on the button Customize …, then the dialog box ”Customize Notifications” opens. That shows the different elements that can appear in the notification area, and you can decide whether they will be allowed or not.

    Figure 19. In Windows XP the functions in the notifications are substantially expanded.

    The new”intelligence” in the notifications area is not always realistic. As an example, I often get a message to sign on to .NET-passport. That is some Microsoft nonsense on the net, which has nothing to do with my pc or Windows XP. Just ignore it if something like that pops up. In my case it is rather comical, since this pc has no Internet connection!

    Figure 20. A totally misleading message from Windows XP – those things happen.

    Adapt The Start menu

    I have previously mentioned the start menu. It has a dynamic design, where the individual menu items can be changed to suit your needs. If you want to change the menu, then try this:

    1.    Right click on the Start button. Then select Properties:

     

    2.    On the Start Menu tab you need to click on the Customize button:

     

    3.    Now comes a dialog box with two tabs named General and Advanced. Together they make it possible to adjust almost everything in the start menu. Read the following review.

    Figure 21. The start menu can be adjusted to fit your wishes and needs.

    The General tab is divided in three sections. On top you can change icon size. In the middle section you can adjust the number of the dynamic hyperlinks that are seen in the start menu left program list (see Figure 8 on page 8). You can also reset the list by clicking on the button Clear List (like in Figure 21).

    In the bottom section you can deselect two hyperlinks, which are shown by default in the top of the left menu list. I have done that; I always use the small buttons in the Quick Launch toolbar to start the Internet programs Internet Explorer and Outlook.

    Figure 22. Additional adjustment options.

    The Advanced tab (Figure 22) gives especially the possibility to adjust the menu item All Programs. You can look at the possibilities for yourself. Close the window when you are through looking.

    Unfortunately there is no easy way to clean up the Alle Programs list. You have to do that yourself, and I show the method on page 76.

    Choosing language for the keyboard

    When you install Windows XP, there are automatic provisions for both English and French/Danish/Etc. keyboard layouts.

    This means that you as user can switch between the French/Danish/Etc. and the English keyboard, where the keys are arranged differently. That is fine if you are French/Danish/Etc. and wish to work on this keyboard layout.

    You switch between the two keyboard layouts by pressing the DA or EN button that you see here:

    The option to switch keyboard layouts may be a nuisance to most English speaking users. With some keyboard shortcuts you could accidentally switch without realizing.

    So I recommend that you simply remove the Danish layout – it can always be re-installed if you need it.

    Select Control Panel --> Regional and Language à Languages à Details. Then remove the Danish layout by clicking on the Remove button:

    Figure 23. The Danish keyboard layout is often superfluous.

    Now let us look at another very central Windows component, the system folder My Computer.


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