Check Your E-Mail on Anybody's Computer
I'd like to check my e-mail on other people's computers when I travel, without changing their settings or adding software. Is this possible?
Gloria Hill, via the Internet
It is, but only if you use a standard POP3 e-mail account or America Online.
Most ISPs provide their customers with a POP3 e-mail account. If you are using Outlook Express, Netscape Communicator, or Eudora, you most likely have one. If that's the case, you can use one of the free e-mail services available from a company called MailStart: the eponymous MailStart or WebBox.
With MailStart you simply have to enter your e-mail address and password to see your messages. You can read your e-mail, reply to messages, delete them, or send new messages. All your messages will be available in your mailbox at home until you delete them manually.
WebBox is not as simple to use as MailStart--at least not at first. You have to register by filling in forms and providing survey information. But you get a lot more for your time and effort--including an address book, a calendar, and 20MB of storage space. There are other extras if you pay $5 a month or $40 a year.
As I write this, however, MailStart has a serious compatibility problem: The service can't display an HTML-Base 64 encoded message originally created in Outlook Express. You can't even get plain-text versions of your messages. MailStart claims that it is working on a solution to this problem, but the company can't say when a fix will be available.
Neither MailStart nor WebBox will work with America Online accounts, but that fact really doesn't present a problem because AOL has a similar service that's available for its users: AOL Anytime, Anywhere. Go to AOL and enter your AOL screen name and e-mail address in the AOL Anytime, Anywhere box. Or you can simply click the AOL Mail tab at the top of any page on the site. After you sign in, click the button that says "Please click here to complete the sign-in process."
One File Type, Two Associations
I'd like to associate some of my.jpg files with Photoshop and others with Internet Explorer. Can I associate files of the same type with different programs?
John Phillips, Pomona, California
By default, Windows associates all files of a specific type with a single application, but you can associate a single file with a particular program.
Windows uses file extensions--the three characters of the file name to the right of the last period--to associate a file type with a program. To see extensions in Windows Explorer, select View, Folder Options (or View, Options), click the View tab, and uncheck "Hide file extensions for the known file types."
To give a file a unique association, first give it a unique extension and then associate a program with it. Changing the name is easy. With the extensions showing in Windows Explorer, select the file, press F2, press either the left or the right arrow key to dehighlight the file name, and change the text after the period. For instance, if you want your "this.jpg" file to come up in Photoshop, you might call it this.psj. After you hit Enter, click Yes.
To set up the new association, select View, Folder Options (or View, Options), click the File Types tab, and click New Type. For "Description of type," enter something comprehensible, such as Photoshop jpeg. For "Associated extension," enter the extension you gave the file-- psj. Don't worry about the Content Type field.
Click the New button below the Actions box to bring up the New Action dialog box. In the Action field, enter something descriptive, such as Photoshop. In the "Application used to perform action" field, enter the name of the path to the program file. Better yet, click the Browse button, navigate to the program's folder, and double-click the appropriate program file. Click OK, Close, and Close again. That file, and any others you give the psj extension to, will now open in Photoshop.
Windows also allows you to associate more than one program with a file type, so you can choose to open a file in any of several applications when you launch it. In Windows Explorer, select View, Folder Options (or View, Options), click the File Types tab, select the appropriate file type from the list ("JPEG Image" in this example), and then click the Edit button.
In the Edit File Type dialog box, click the New button. Follow the instructions given above for entering data into the New Action dialog box, and click OK. Back in the Edit File Type box, you'll see two actions listed. The one in bold is the default action. To change the default, select your choice and click Set Default. Click OK twice when you're done.
From now on, double-clicking a.jpg file will launch it in your default program. Right-clicking the file will let you choose from all the available options.
Convert Mac and Unix Text Files
I've found that plain-text files created on Mac and Unix systems look strange on a Windows system. Is there a way to convert them faithfully?
Lomesh Patel, Ahmedabad, India
Different platforms use different methods to mark the end of a line or paragraph in a plain-text file. If you're sharing text files with someone on another platform or setting up code on a Windows system that will run on your ISP's Unix machine, you'll get this headache. (Luckily, it doesn't arise with HTML code.)
In a Unix text file, the Line Feed character (ASCII 10) marks the end of a line. On the Macintosh, the Carriage Return character (ASCII 13) performs the very same function. Windows follows the standard established by DOS and uses both Carriage Return and Line Feed characters.
The $5 ConvertCRLF file-format conversion shareware from Connor Miller Software is available from our Downloads library. Also available for download is Fookes Software's free NoteTab Light text editor that converts the line ends of Mac and Unix text files on the fly. You can use the program's File, Export command to save a file in alternate formats. As a text editor, NoteTab beats Windows' Notepad with a stick. Among its added features are drag-and-drop text editing, search and replace, and boilerplate text.
Clean the Right-Click Menu
How can I remove the right-click context-menu options that remain long after the program that added them has itself been uninstalled?
Carmelo Failla, Brooklyn
Uninstalling a program should remove all the changes it made to Windows, but sometimes to get rid of the context-menu options an uninstalled program leaves behind, you have to edit the Registry. First, back up the Registry (see "Protect Yourself Against Catastrophic Installs").
Now select Start, Run, type regedit, and press Enter. Find HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers in the Registry Editor's left pane. Click the plus sign (+) next to "ContextMenuHandlers" to see keys resembling Windows Explorer folders for every program that has options in the context menu. Then select the key for the program that you thought you uninstalled.
Double-click the (Default) value in the right pane to bring up an editing box that has the Value data field highlighted. Press Ctrl-C to copy this string to the Clipboard. Then press Esc. Right-click the open key in the left pane and select Delete, then Yes. Press Ctrl-F to start a search. With the cursor in the "Find what" field, press Ctrl-V to insert the numbers that you copied from the Value data field. Uncheck the Values and Data fields and click Find Next. The search should stop at a key inside HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID. In the right pane, the default value's data should describe the program. Press Delete and then select Yes. You should never see the dearly departed program's menu option again.
When Modems and Voice Mail Don't Mix
My voice mail changes my dial tone when there are messages, but my modem doesn't recognize the changed tone. I must listen to my messages before I can go online. How can I fix this?
Reggie Zeller, Barron, Wisconsin
Just tell your modem to stop listening for a dial tone. Open My Computer and double-click Dial-Up Networking. Right-click the icon for your dial-up connection and select Properties. On the General tab, click Configure and then click the Connection tab. Uncheck Wait for dial tone before dialing, click OK twice, and close the Dial-Up Networking window.
Put the Desktop on Your Taskbar
July's Answer Line explained how to put a pop-up menu to My Computer on your Windows 98 taskbar. Ruslan Prozorov of Urbana, Illinois, has a better idea: a pop-up menu to the Desktop for easy access to the Recycle Bin, My Documents, and My Computer. Right-click the taskbar and select Toolbars, New Toolbar, Desktop. Slide the end of the toolbar until only the word "Desktop" and a small double arrow are showing. Click that arrow for access to everything on the Desktop.