Five More Annoying PC Annoyancesby Steve Bass, author of PC Annoyances
My name is Steve Bass and I hunt down PC annoyances. What's funny is that no matter how many annoyances I fixed in PC Annoyances, more sit-in-the-corner, dumb things keep cropping up.
Admittedly, most annoying things are easy to find -- just boot up your system, spend a few minutes with Windows, and blammo, you're annoyed. The challenging part, and the reason I wrote the book, is the thrill of finding fixes for the annoyances. I dug around and found solid solutions that work instantly and don't require a degree in computer science to understand.
Of course, as I wrote the book, I bumped into more Windows, Office, Internet, email, and hardware irritations that I didn't have time to include in the book. So, rather than waste them, I thought I'd share them with you on this site. And if you like what you see, well gosh, maybe you'll be motivated to buy the book. Or several copies of the book. Or maybe a case of books ....
These are actual annoyances contributed by annoyed PC World readers.
The Annoyance: "I took the advice in your book about creating a Restore Point every time I install new software or fiddle with my PC's settings. The hassle is navigating through the Start menu to get to the buried System Restore dialog. There's gotta be a quicker way."
The Fix: It would be handy if Microsoft already had prefab desktop shortcuts for many of Windows' system functions. But it's pretty easy to do it yourself. Dig around and find the System Restore icon and drag it onto the desktop and when the dialog appears, choose "Create Shortcuts Here."
As you might imagine, you can do the same for other items. For instance, open Control Panel, right click on any icon, and choose "Create Shortcut." Then answer Yes, as shown in the dialog in Figure 1.
Figure 1. This dialog appears when you drag and drop the System Restore icon onto the Desktop. Answer Yes.
If you want to create a shortcut directly from the desktop, right click on any empty spot on the desktop and select New-->Shortcut. In the "Command Line" (98 and Me) or "location" (2000 and XP) field, type in %SystemRoot%\System32\restore\rstrui.exe. Click on the Next button, give your shortcut a name -- like "SysRestore" -- and click on the Finish button. Double- click on the shortcut and up pops the System Restore dialog.
Kill Some Time: You thought duct tape was just for fixing leaky radiator hoses and covering wall holes under the kitchen sink? Wrong. It's good for decorative wall hangings. See the Duct Tape Guys.
The Annoyance: Whenever I enter underlines by themselves in a Word 2002 document, they're automatically transformed into solid, thick horizontal lines. That's not what I want. I think it's a bug in Word and it's driving me nuts.
The Fix: So you're saying you don't like Word's overly ambitious AutoFormat feature that turns your lines into borders? Because that's exactly what's happening; every time you type more than three asterisks, hyphens, underscores, or equal signs, Word applies a character or paragraph border style. It's an easy -- dare I say, gratifying -- fix. From Word's toolbar, choose Tools-->AutoCorrect, click on the AutoFormat As You Type tab, and uncheck the Border lines box. (In Word 2000, uncheck the Border box.)
Figure 2. If you uncheck Border lines, you won't have to suffer with Word automatically turning your lines into borders.
Kill Some Time: Looking for something to do besides worrying about underlining in Word? Try the Snarg site. After the first few images flash on screen, click on the tiny pound sign on the right, then click on the "squeee" or "framina" link. (To exit either, just close the window.) Hint: Move your mouse around and click here and there until patterns emerge, or until your significant other walks in and asks how that defrag is going.
The Annoyance: I'm getting really tired of XP asking me if I want to send an error report to Microsoft every time a program crashes. I think the company should spend its time reducing crashes, don't you?
The Fix: I'll bet Microsoft's tired of taking all your reports, too, but that's another story. Stopping these report prompts takes five minutes. From the Start Menu, click on the Control Panel, then double-click on the System icon. If Windows XP is in the Category View, click on Performance and Maintenance, then double-click on the System icon.
In the System Properties box, click on the Advanced tab, then on the Error Reporting button. If you want absolutely no notification about errors, check "Disable error reporting" (see Figure 3) and make sure the "But notify me when critical errors occur" box is unchecked. (FYI: I leave notification checked so I can see details of the crash, something that helps me troubleshoot system problems.) Click OK, then OK again.
Figure 3. Eliminate annoying error reporting by marking "Disable error reporting."
Kill Some Time: Almost everyone gripes about Windows. If you want to file a complaint, however, you'll have to take a number.
The Annoyance: Ever since I upgraded my PC with a 160GB hard drive, hibernation has stopped working correctly. Every so often, my system annoyingly restarts rather than resuming from hibernation. I've run ScanDisk and defragged the drive, but the problem still occurs. What gives?
The Fix: Someone once said you can never have too much RAM or too big a hard drive. Unfortunately, without a fix from Microsoft, Windows XP will choke -- and possibly corrupt data -- on any drive that exceeds 137GB. There's a quick and easy downloadable fix at snipurl.com/atapi1. And if you're interested in the background, check out Microsoft's Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 331958.
The Annoyance: Whenever my cursor hovers over the Quick Launch toolbar, enormous yellow pop-ups appear with tons of text. It blocks the other icons, and besides, I already know what program the icon represents.
The Fix: The biggest offenders are -- surprise, surprise -- Microsoft applications. Word's descriptive pop-ups, as shown in Figure 4, are billboard size, and definitely annoying.
Figure 4. Hover your mouse over Word's Quick Launch icon and it insists on providing a lengthy explanation of what it does for a living.
Rather than eliminate the pop-up, shrink it down to size. Right- click on the icon in the Quick Launch Toolbar, choose Properties, and change -- or remove -- the text in the Comment field. Easy, eh?
Figure 5. Remove the text in the Comment field and you'll no longer see Word's built-in advertising.
Steve Bass is a longtime popular staff writer at PC World magazine and founded the Pasadena IBM Users Group.
O'Reilly & Associates recently released (October 2003) PC Annoyances.
A sample excerpt, "Email," is available free online.
For more information, or to order the book, click here.
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