Hidden in the mazes of the
Registry are countless ways to hack XP's interface.
Following are some of my favorites.
Hide All Icons in the Notification Area
The system tray,
also called the notification area, is the small area on the far-right
side of the taskbar, in which utilities and programs that run in the
background, such as antivirus software, show their icons.
I don't find it a particularly intelligent use of
screen real estate, so I prefer not to see the icons there. To hide
them, run the Registry Editor [Hack #83] and go to
Among other things, this key controls the display of objects
throughout XP. Create a new DWORD called
NoTrayItemsDisplay. Assign it a value of
1. (A value of 0 will keep the
icons displayed.) Exit the Registry and reboot.
While you're at the
key, you can also delete the My Recent Documents icon on the Start
menu. Create a new DWORD called
NoRecentDocsMenu. Assign it a value of
1. (A value of 0 will keep the
icon displayed.) Exit the Registry and reboot.
Hide Only Certain Icons in the Notification Area
You might want to display
some icons in the notification area but hide others. If so, you can
hide icons on a case-by-case basis. You'll do it by
delving through menus, though, not by hacking the Registry.
Right-click the taskbar and choose Properties → Taskbar. The
Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box appears. This dialog
box, as the name implies, lets you control how the taskbar and Start
menu look and function.
In the Notification area of the dialog box, check the box next to
"Hide inactive icons," then click
Customize. The Customize Notifications dialog box appears.
Figure 1. Hiding inactive icons
Click the program's listing in the Behavior column,
and choose from the drop-down menu to hide the icon when the program
is inactive, to always hide it, or to never hide it (see ). Click OK twice. Your changes will take
Add Specific Folders to the Open Dialog Box
When you use certain
Windows applications (such as Notepad) to open a file, on the left
side of the Open dialog box are a group of icons and folders (such as
My Documents, My Recent Documents, Desktop, My Computer, and My
Network) to which you can navigate to open files.
Good idea, bad implementation. Do you really keep documents in My
Computer? Unlikely, at best. It would be much more helpful if you
could list only those folders that you use, and if you could choose
to put any folder there, not just ones XP
decides you need.
In fact, you can do it with a Registry hack. It'll
let you put just the folders of your choosing on the left side of the
Open dialog box. Note that when you do this, it will affect XP
applications such as Notepad and Paint that use the Open and Save
common dialog boxes. However, it won't affect
Microsoft Office applications and other applications that
don't use the common dialog boxes.
Run the Registry Editor and go to
This is the key that determines how common dialog boxes are handled.
You're going to create a subkey that will create a
customized location for the folders, and then give that subkey a
series of values, each of which will define a folder location.
This works with XP Home Edition only, not XP Professional.
To start, create a new subkey underneath
called Placesbar, and create a
String value for it named
Place0. Give Place0 a value of
the topmost folder that you want to appear on the Open dialog box,
for example, C:\Projects.
Next, create another String value for
Placesbar called Place1. Give
it a value of the second folder that you want to appear on the Open
dialog box. You can put up to five icons on the Open dialog box, so
create new String values up to
Place4 and give them values as outlined in the
previous steps. When you're done, exit the Registry.
You won't have to reboot for the changes to take
effect. Figure 2 shows an example of an Open
dialog box customized in this way.
Figure 2. A customized Open dialog box
If you do not want any folders to appear in common Open dialog boxes,
you can do that as well. In
create a new DWORD value called
NoPlacesBar and give it a value of
1. Exit the Registry. If you want the folders
back, either delete NoPlacesBar or give it a value
Turn Off System Beeps
To me, system beeps that my PC makes
when it encounters certain system errors are like balloon
tips—gnatlike annoyances that I can do without. So, I turn them
off using a Registry hack. Run the Registry Editor [Hack #84] , go to
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Sound, and find
the Beep and ExtendedSoundsString values. Set each value to
No. Exit the Registry and reboot. The beeps will
no longer sound.
Use Your Own Graphic for Your User Account
This one isn't a
Registry hack, but I couldn't resist putting it in
here since it's one of the more useful ways to
customize the interface. The Windows XP graphic for your user account
on the Start menu might not be to your taste, and your choice of
other graphics to display there isn't particularly
inspiring, either. After all, not everyone wants to be pictured as a
rubber ducky, a snowflake, or a pair of horses.
But you're not limited to XP-supplied pictures for
your user account; you can use any picture in
.png, or .bmp format. In
this hack, I'll show you how to use your own
To change your User Account picture to any one that you want, from
the Control Panel choose User Accounts, then pick the account you
want to change and choose Change my picture → Browse for
more pictures. Navigate to the picture you want to use and click OK. Figure 3 shows the screen you'll
use to change your picture; it also shows the customized User Account
picture I use during the winter holiday season.
Figure 3. Changing your User Account picture
If you have a digital camera or scanner attached to your PC, a button
will show up on the screen shown in Figure 3 that
lets you take a picture with the camera, or scan a picture with the
scanner, and then immediately use that picture for your user account.
For those interested in saving keystrokes, there's a
quicker way to get to the screen letting you customize your picture.
From the Windows XP-style Start menu, click your picture, and the