||Customize the GUI with TweakUI
Want to bend XP's interface to
your will without getting your hands into the Registry or having to
excavate through menus three levels deep? Then get this supremely
useful freebie from Microsoft and create your own customized version
There are countless ways to customize XP's
interface, including Registry hacks and menus and options hidden four
layers deep. But if you're the kind of person who
lives in the express lane, juices up on double espressos, and wants
to hack away at the interface fast, then you need TweakUI (Download
it for free from Microsoft at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/pro/downloads/powertoys.asp.
It's part of a suite of free, unsupported utilities
from Microsoft called XP PowerToys, but it's far and
away the best one.) It lets you
tweak not only the interface, as the title suggests, but also many
other system settings, such as how Internet
Explorer's search works, whether to automate your
logon upon system startup, and whether to enable CD autoplay so that
the CD immediately starts up whenever you pop it into your drive. In
this hack, you'll learn how to use it and apply that
knowledge to create a speedy, stripped-down version of XP. shows TweakUI in action, customizing the
display of thumbnail pictures in Windows Explorer.
Figure 1. Customizing the size and quality of thumbnails in Windows Explorer
I don't have room to show you all the ways you can
hack the user interface with
TweakUI, but here are some of the
- The General section lets you control XP's animated effects, fades, and shadowing. Also worthwhile in that section is "Show Windows version on desktop." Check the option and it displays, in the lower-right portion of your screen, your exact version of XP—for example, "Windows XP Home Edition Build 2600.xpsp2.021108-1929(Service Pack 1)," as shown in Figure 2-2. I find it useful for knowing whether I need to add XP Service Packs, or for providing the information to tech support if I have an operating system problem that needs to be solved. You'll have to log off or restart your PC before it will display your version.
Figure 2. Displaying your exact version and build of XP on your desktop
You can also force the operating system to display your exact version
and build of XP on your desktop by using a Registry hack. Run the
Registry Editor . go to
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop, and find
the DWORD value
PaintDesktopVersion. Change the value to
1. Exit the Registry and reboot. To remove the
version and build number, change the value back to
0. In beta versions of XP, the value was turned on
by default, but when the product shipped, it was turned off.
Hide Desktop icons that apparently can't be deleted from the Desktop, such as the Internet Explorer, Microsoft Outlook, My Computer, My Documents, My Network Places, and the Recycle Bin. To do this, go to the Desktop section and uncheck the boxes next to the icon you want to vanish. You won't have to log off for the changes to take effect. (You can force the Registry to do the same thing: see [Hack #13].)
In the Explorer section, customize the Taskbar and Desktop by
enabling or disabling balloon tips and determining which programs
will be allowed to show up on the Frequently Used Programs list,
among other customizations.
Customize how Windows Explorer looks and functions
by controlling the quality of image thumbnails; changing the way that
shortcuts look; determining whether to include Help, Recent
Documents, and Logoff on the Start menu; and many similar options.
There's a lot more as well—to find it all,
download it and try it all out.
Create a Speedy, Stripped-Down Interface with Tweak UI
While it may be fun to use TweakUI to
fiddle with the UI, its real power becomes apparent when you use it
to create your own customized XP interfaces. For example, you may be
the type who is concerned about only one thing when you use your PC:
pure functionality. You want to get your work done fast, and you
don't want to be bothered by the extra frou-frous
that XP throws in your way and that slow down your system.
Here's how to create a speedy, stripped-down
interface using TweakUI:
- Turn off animations, fades, and similar features
Animations and fades are pretty, but they require system resources
and slow down your system. You can turn off a wide variety of these
animations and fades from the General section of TweakUI. Uncheck the
boxes next to all of them, such as Enable menu animation, Enable menu
selection fading, Enable tooltip animation, and the many others
- Speed up right-click menu displays, hovers, and other mouse actions
If you want menus to appear with absolutely
no delay when you right-click on an object or icon, go to the Mouse
section and move the Menu speed slider all the way to the left. Test
how fast the menus will display by right-clicking on the test icon.
From this section, you can also increase your mouse sensitivity so
that it responds more quickly to your clicks and drags. In the Mouse
sensitivity section, decrease the numbers next to Double-Click and
Drag, and see the results by double-clicking the test icon.
The Mouse section also lets you change the mouse's
sensitivity to "hovering"—for
example, displaying a tool tip when you hover your mouse over an
icon. To speed up the hover display, highlight Hover underneath the
Mouse section, then decrease the numbers next to Hover sensitivity
and Hover time. Test out your settings using the test icon.
- Decrease the image quality of thumbnails in Windows Explorer
Windows Explorer uses up RAM when it
displays thumbnails, which can slow down your system, because the RAM
could instead be used for your applications or the operating system
itself. Use TweakUI to give thumbnails the minimum amount of RAM
only. Go to the Explorer\Thumbnails section and in the Image Quality
area, move the slider all the way to the left, to the lowest setting
for image quality. Decrease the thumbnail size, in pixels.
You can also completely turn off thumbnails so that they
aren't displayed in Windows Explorer. From Windows
Explorer, choose View → Details, or choose View →
- Delete unnecessary desktop icons
Desktop icons take up RAM, and clutter your interface, so you want as few of them as possible on your desktop if you want a stripped-down version of XP. You can delete most desktop icons, but some of them such as Outlook and Internet Explorer apparently can't be deleted. However, TweakUI lets you delete them. Go to the Desktop section and uncheck the boxes next to the icons that you want off the Desktop, as shown in Figure 2-3. (You can force the Registry to do the same thing—see [Hack #13].)
- Hide Control Panel applets
The Control Panel is filled with applets that you will rarely, if ever, use, and they clutter up the interface, making it more difficult to find the applets you do want to use. To hide applets, go to the Control Panel section and uncheck the boxes next to the applets that you want to hide. (You can force the Registry to do the same thing—see [Hack #9]. That hack also shows you how you can run the applets, even after you've removed their icons.)
- Clean up the right-click "New" menu
When you right-click on the desktop and choose New, you can automatically create a new document by choosing from a submenu. That submenu may offer many choices of which document types to create, depending on the applications you have installed on your PC, and how those applications handle their installation process. In many instances, those choices may be little more than clutter, because you may rarely need to create new documents of certain types. Strip down that submenu to the essentials, so that it has only those document types that you frequently create. Choose Templates, and uncheck the boxes next to the document types you rarely create. For example, most people rarely use the Briefcase [Hack #30], but that is one of your choices, so remove that unless you regularly move files using it. (For a hack on how to add power to the right-click context menu in Explorer, see [Hack #29].
- Enable autologon
If you're the
primary person who uses your PC, you
can enable autologon so that
you're logged in automatically when the system
starts and don't have to log on manually each time.
Choose Autologon from the Logon section, check the box next to
"Log on automatically at system
startup," and make sure that your username, domain,
and password are correct.
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