Tweak Vista Icons, Add Shortcuts With Hassle-Free PC
Rick Broida, PC World
Add Windows 7-Style Icons to Vista
As most Windows watchers know by now, Windows 7 has some cool interface tweaks, starting with large, eye-pleasing program icons that take up residence in the taskbar. Of course, this is little more than an update to the Quick Launch feature that debuted in Windows XP. And believe it or not, Vista users can easily bring that Windows 7 look to their own taskbars. Here's how:
I'll admit I'm not so ga-ga over Windows 7's interface changes as some folks, but as a longtime Quick Launch fan, I'm definitely liking these larger icons.
Add a VPN Shortcut to the Vista Desktop
Here's something annoying about Vista: When you set up a new VPN connection (which many people do so they can log onto their office networks from home), you don't get the option to "create a desktop shortcut" like you did with Windows XP.
Fortunately, there's a simple workaround. I'm going to assume you already know how to get your VPN connection up and running. Once you're tied into the VPN, follow these steps to create a shortcut:
Now just double-click the shortcut icon and presto: You can sign right into your VPN.
Resize Vista's Taskbar Preview Thumbnails
Much as I love the idea behind Vista's window-preview thumbnails, which pop up when you mouse over any running program in the taskbar, I find them almost useless. Why? Because the thumbnails themselves are too small.
This is especially problematic on system's with large, high-resolution monitors. On my 22-inch LCD, for instance, the thumbnails rarely give me a clue as to what's actually inside the program.
Fortunately, I've discovered the awesome Vista Thumbnail Sizer, a free utility that lets you make thumbnails just about any size you want.
After extracting the .zip file, open the 32bits or 64bits folder (depending on which version of Vista you have), then run the AveThumbnailSizer application. Use the two sliders to set the maximum width and height for your thumbnails. I've got mine at around 550, but you should experiment until you find the settings you like best.
Fortunately, the changes are instantaneous: After you move a slider, you can mouse over any program to see the newly resized thumbnail.
When you're done, click Start AveVistaThumbnailSizer with Windows so that your settings stay in effect after you reboot.
Note that Vista's Aero effects must be turned on for this program (and, indeed, Vista's window preview) to work.
Add Windows Explorer to the Quick Launch Toolbar
It surprises many users to learn that Internet Explorer and Windows Explorer are not the same thing. The latter is a file manager--not the greatest one in the world, but definitely a handy tool for browsing, moving, copying, and deleting files.
Why, then, does Microsoft insist on making it so hard to find? In Windows XP and Vista, you have to click your way through to the Accessories folder to find it. Alternately, you can hit Windows-E on your keyboard or right-click the Start button and choose Explore. But those options don't really help novice users learn that Windows Explorer, well, exists.
That's one reason I'm keen on Windows 7: Microsoft finally gives Explorer a high-profile spot, right on the taskbar. Thankfully, you don't need to wait for Windows 7 to get your own one-click Explorer icon. Instead, you can add it to the Quick Launch toolbar. Here's how:
That's it! Now a single click of the Explorer icon launches the program. If you want to change its icon, right-click it, click Properties, Change Icon, and make your selection.