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Lowell Heddings

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

In prior versions of Windows before Vista, you could always open control panel items by passing control.exe the name of the *.cpl file that represented the item you were trying to open. For instance, if you wanted to open the display properties you could run the command “control.exe desk.cpl”.

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Instead of re-typing long, painful error messages whenever you are trying to Google for a solution, did you know you can simply use Ctrl+C to copy the text of the message to the clipboard?

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I’ve noticed quite a number of people mentioning that I’m covering Vista too much (is that possible?) and have requested that I cover more topics… so I’m going to open it up to you, the readers, for suggestions on what topics I should branch out into.

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Windows 7 and Vista have all the same Windows+X shortcut keys as other versions of Windows, such as Win+E for explorer and Win+D for the desktop, but adds in all of the Win+<num> keys to launch the shortcuts in the Vista Quick Launch menu (or switch to apps in Windows 7), as well as Win+X for mobility center, etc. But what if you want to disable all these extra keys?

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Windows Mobility Center is a fairly useful tool for those of us using Windows 7 or Vista on a laptop computer, but might not be for everybody, especially since it takes over the Win+X keyboard shortcut.

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The Tab Mix Plus extension has a gem of a feature buried deep within the settings: The ability to turn the Ctrl+Tab key from a direct tab switch into a popup menu that works similarly to the Windows Alt+Tab feature. It’ll pop up a tiny dialog window that gives you a list of your tabs, and then on release of the keys will switch to that tab.

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If you use the built-in file encryption in Windows 7 or Vista, you might be interested in adding an option to the right-click menu to more easily encrypt and decrypt your files, rather than having to use the file properties dialog.

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If you’ve experienced a problem where Windows Explorer in Vista decides to suddenly stop showing the file names in certain folders, you are in luck, because it’s an easy fix.

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If you’ve got drives in My Computer that you never access, such as a USB Flash drive that you are using solely for ReadyBoost, a floppy drive, or a network drive only used for a particular piece of software, then you might want to simply hide the drive from your computer.

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I use del.icio.us to store all of my infrequently used bookmarks, but I’ve found that browsing by tag just isn’t very efficient for me. I always use a full text search through my bookmarks to find what I’m looking for, so what I’m really looking for is a single-click save solution similar to the star button on the Flock browser.

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Many people have reported problems with synchronizing their clocks with the internet time servers, especially time.windows.com, which seems to have a ton of problems with uptime. We’ll go through a few workarounds to fix this issue.

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If you’d rather see the subject line as the top line when using the condensed view in Outlook, you can make a simple tweak to show the subject line on the top, and the from address on the bottom. I’ve found that this helps when you get a lot of emails from the same people, since you can see what the message is about more easily.

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A reader wrote in a while back asking if there was a hotkey to open attachments in Outlook. Since this thought had occurred to me a number of times before, I looked for a way to do it. Turns out it’s really fairly simple, and I’m sure many of you already realized how to do this.

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Windows Vista’s AutoPlay options are a great improvement over Windows XP in terms of flexibility, but unfortunately there are so many options that it can be confusing, especially since there’s no specific mention of USB Flash drives in the options.

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A very useful feature in Windows is the ability to automatically hide system tray icons when they are not in use. The problem is that over time, Explorer caches a list of every single icon that it’s ever seen, and your list might grow to hundreds of items that Explorer knows about.

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I’m the type of geek that has an SSH client open at all times, connected to my most frequently used servers so that I have instant access for monitoring and anything else. As such, it irritates me greatly when I get disconnected, so I’m sharing a few methods for keeping your session alive.

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In my quest to get rid of every useless tray icon wasting memory, I was very annoyed when Vista’s automatic updates installed a new driver and the icon for the touchpad ended up in my system tray again. There’s almost no benefit to this icon, so it needs to go.

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After writing the article yesterday about how to restore the show desktop icon, I received a number of emails asking if I could post the shortcut for Flip3D as well, so I’ve zipped up a copy of that shortcut as well.

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I’ve received dozens of emails asking how to restore the show desktop icon once you’ve deleted it, so I have a solution for everybody: I’ve zipped up a copy of the shortcut, and you can download it here.

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If you switch resolutions a lot you’ve probably experienced the problem with Windows moving your icons around every time it switches to a lower resolution, such as when playing a video game or hooking up your laptop to an external display.

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If you are a blogger that doesn’t want to show off your subscriber numbers, take note: Even though you aren’t displaying the Feedcount widget, if you’ve enabled it at any point we can still see your subscriber numbers if we just know the right URL to go to.

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Our motto here has always been “Computer Help from your Friendly How-To Geek”, and we try to provide help in the friendliest mode possible. Since we’d like to be more efficient in helping you I decided to write up some tips on the best way to get help.

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Every time I connect to my Ubuntu development server through my ssh client, I receive the same message and I’m getting tired of seeing it, so I decided to change the message to something else.

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A number of people have written in asking about a Vista Sidebar gadget for our latest articles feed. I finally got some time today, so I’ve thrown one together that isn’t exactly feature-rich, but does get the job done.

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As you install ever more software on your computer, your startup entries become littered with applications that slow down your boot time and typically waste your computer’s memory.

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