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Control Panel tips and secrets

The Control Panel is where you will find a large number of configuration settings for Windows and it is a place that you will frequently visit. It is a good idea to get to know it and to be able to use it efficiently to find the things you need. In this article we will examine the different ways that the Control Panel contents can be displayed and how to quickly search for the item you need.

Access the Control Panel through the Start menu and it's useful to know that its contents can be viewed in different ways. One of the simplest ways of changing the view is to use the menu link on the right which offers Category, Large and Small Icons. Category view doesn't show everything and Large Icons is just too big. Choose Small Icons to view everything.

At the top of the window is a box that says Control Panel, All Control Panel Items separated by arrows. Click the arrow on the right to see a list of items in alphabetical order and select one to go there. Click the middle arrow to view categories of items.

You may find it easier to find the item you want in this list. Selecting an item, such as Programs, shows all the Control Panel items relevent to that category.

In the top right corner of the window is the search box and this is very useful indeed. Click in it and type a single letter 'a'. You'll see a long list of Control Panel items, menus, functions and features. In fact, everything that contains the letter 'a', which is pretty much everything as it is a common letter. Delete the 'a' and try the other vowels, e, i, o and u. They all produce long lists of items because they are so common.

These long lists of items are OK, but if you are looking for something specific then you need to enter a more specific search term into the search box. For example, if you want to turn something on or off, such as the screen saver, then type 'turn' into the search box. You should enter 'enable' if you want a Control Panel setting that enables something (or turns it on in other words). Alternatively, you can enter 'disable' if you want to turn something off or stop something from happening.

If you want to change some setting to do with the screen then type 'screen' into the search box, if it's a security setting then type 'security', or if it's something to do with the sound then type 'sound'. The search facility is really useful and you should experiment with it and get to know it. You'll find things in the Control Panel you never knew existed.

The Control Panel looks like an application, but it's really just an Explorer window. Tap the Alt key and you'll see the menu bar. Many menus aren't applicable, but a few are.

You don't even need the Control Panel open to search for items. Click Start and type 'enable' or something similar. The search results displayed in the Start menu have a Control Panel category. If you see the item you want then click it.

If there is a Control Panel item that you access a lot, such as Programs and Features, just click and drag it out of the Control Panel window and drop it on the desktop. A shortcut is created that takes you straight to the item when it is double clicked.