Take the Shortcut Route to Instant File Backups
Full system backups are the safest way to protect all the files and programs on your hard drive, but the files you need to back up most often are the ones you use every day. Fortunately, it takes just a few minutes to create application shortcuts to back up each file as soon as you finish working with the program.
First, open Notepad or your text editor of choice and type start /w (in Windows 9 x and Me) or start "" /w (in Windows 2000 and XP), followed by a space and the path to the application whose work you want to back up automatically. For example, to back up your Word files in Windows 2000 or XP, your first line might look something like start "" /w "c:\program files\microsoft office\office10\winword.exe" (your path may differ, of course). If your application's path contains spaces or any folder names longer than eight characters, as this example does, be sure to include the path in quotation marks but place your command-line parameters outside the quotes.
Now press Enter, and on the next line type xcopy /m /d /y followed by a space, the path of the files you want to back up, another space, and the path to the device and folder where you store your backups--such as on a Zip disk, an external hard drive, or a network drive. As before, place quotation marks around paths with spaces or with folder names that are longer than eight characters. To continue our example, if you store your Word documents in My Documents, your second line might look something like xcopy /m /d /y "C:\My Documents \*.doc" "d:\backup\doc\" (again, your path may differ). The /m switch ensures that only documents that have the archive attribute are copied. (Applications typically apply this attribute to files when you save them.) The switch then removes this attribute from the file you backed up so that it won't be backed up again until the next time you save it. As an extra precaution, the /d switch ensures that only files newer than those with the same names in the destination folder are copied. The /y switch suppresses prompts to overwrite files during copying.
Choose File, Save As and navigate to a folder where you will store this batch file. Save it with a name like "wordbak.bat", taking care to include the quotation marks so that Notepad doesn't add its default.txt extension. Next, in Explorer locate the.bat file you just saved. Click the right mouse button and drag the.bat file from the Explorer window over the Start button, without releasing the right mouse button. After the Start menu appears, drop the.bat file on an appropriate submenu, and choose Create Shortcut(s) Here. Right-click your new shortcut and choose Properties. Make sure the Program tab (Windows 9 x, Me) or Shortcut tab (Windows 2000, XP) is in front. On the Run drop-down list, choose Minimized (see FIGURE 1). In Windows 9 x and Me, check the Close on exit box. Then click OK.
From now on, when you launch your application from this shortcut, it will open your designated application and wait quietly while you work. When you exit the application, it will back up the files you just worked on (or whatever file types you designated in the batch file).
But what if you tend to open your application not by going to the Start menu but by double-clicking a file in Explorer or in the Start, Documents menu? No problem. Just follow the same steps described above, but add a space followed by %1 to the end of the first line in your batch file. After saving this file, right-click one of the application's data files (or in Windows 9 x, Shift-right-click it) and choose Open With or Open With, Choose Program. Click Browse or Other, and then navigate to your batch file shortcut (in Windows 9 x and Me) or to the batch file itself (in Windows 2000 and XP). Select it and click Open. If you're sure you want to open every data file this way, check the Always use box and click OK. Your document will open in your application and be backed up when you exit.
The Disappearing Passwords Panel
In the September 2002 issue, I explained how to make Windows stop showing a password prompt each time you log on. Quick review: Begin by opening the Network control panel, and then set the Primary Network Logon to Windows Logon. Now open the Passwords control panel and use the Change Windows Password button under the Change Passwords tab to set your new password to nothing at all (in other words, don't type anything in either the 'New password' text box or the 'Confirm new password' text box).
Unfortunately, a great many readers wrote to say that when they double-clicked the Passwords icon in Control Panel, they discovered to their frustration that the Passwords Properties dialog box had no Change Passwords tab at all--where oh where had that little tab gone? Though the tab's disappearance can be the result of restrictions set by an administrator using the System Policy Editor utility, reader Alethia Mongerie of Jamaica, New York, points to a more likely culprit: If you are in the habit of pressing Esc or clicking Cancel when you see the Enter Windows Password prompt on the screen, you are entering a configuration of Windows that will not let you change the Windows password. The solution is simple: All you need to do is log off, enter your password and log on normally, then return to the Control Panel and open the Passwords Properties dialog box. Just like that, you'll find the restored Change Passwords panel (see FIGURE 2).
Selectively Hide File Extensions
Back in the November 2002 issue, I explained how to edit the Windows Registry so the three-letter file-type extension of certain file types is always visible. Reader Steve Wong sent an e-mail to point out that if you prefer, you can pull the opposite trick: Keep all your file extensions showing, but hide just a few that get in the way (such as the.stky extension I created for making on-screen sticky notes.
To hide a single extension type, follow the steps in the November tip (including a Registry backup), then click Start, Run and type regedit to launch the Registry Editor. Locate the branch in the Registry corresponding to the file type whose extension you want to keep hidden--for example, HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\stkyfile for the.stky file extension.
Note that in recent versions of Windows, the branch (a folder icon called a "key" in Registry lingo) for any homegrown file types, such as the.stky example I described, is named something like ft000001 or ft000002. If you select this folder icon in the left pane and see 'Sticky Note' under the Data column in the right pane for the '(Default)' icon, you know you've selected the correct icon.
To prevent this file extension from appearing, select its folder icon in the left pane, then right-click anywhere in the right pane and choose New, String Value. Type NeverShowExt (all one word) and press Enter. The right pane should now have an icon named NeverShowExt. At this point you may need to log off and log back on to Windows to see the effect, but from now on, files of that type should never show the extension, even when you use the View, Folder Options or Tools, Folder Options dialog box (under the View tab) to make extensions visible all the time.
Free Lesson in Volcanism
You may not realize it, but a free geography lesson is built into Windows' screen savers (98 and Me only). Right-click the desktop, choose Properties, and click the Screen Saver tab. In the Screen Saver drop-down list, choose 3D Text, then click the Settings button. Select the Text option in the upper-left corner, and in its text box, type volcano. Click OK, then either Preview or OK, and wait for your screen saver. Instead of the word volcano, you'll be treated to an ever-changing list of volcanoes of the world (see FIGURE 3).
Sizer: When Size Matters
Sometimes you need a folder or application window to be just the right size. For example, you may need to know how that Web page you're designing looks at different screen sizes. Or maybe (like me) you want your current window to fill the entire desktop except for a strip along one side to let the desktop icons peek through. Well, you can say good-bye to dragging title bars and window edges this way and that to get the perfect size and position for each window. Download Sizer, a free utility from Brian Apps. Just right-click Sizer's tray icon and choose Configure Sizer to add your own custom window sizes and positions. Thereafter, as long as Sizer is running, you simply have to right-click any window edge and choose one of your custom commands to see the window instantly snap into place (and size).