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Windows XP hints and tips

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The Address toolbar

Several toolbars are available in Windows XP and you can see a list of them if you right click and empty part of the taskbar and select Toolbars from the menu that pops up. Select Address to show the Address toolbar (sometimes it appears at the far right of the taskbar and you have to drag the handle - the dotted bit - to the left to see the whole toolbar).

This address bar can be used in two ways: If you enter the address of a website, such as www.google.com, Internet Explorer starts up and goes straight to that website. The second way to use the toolbar is to enter a path to a drive or folder on the hard disk drive. For example, enter C:\ and Windows Explorer opens and displays the contents of the hard disk drive. The toolbar is quite intelligent and if you enter My Documents an Explorer window opens and displays the contents of the My Documents folder. To send an email to someone, just enter mailto:[email protected] and Outlook Express automatically starts and creates a new email to the person in the address.

Explorer command line switches

When you open a window to view the contents of the hard disk drive, flppy disk, CD, DVD or flash memory drive, you are using Windows Explorer, or more specifically explorer.exe. Click Start, Run and enter explorer.exe and you will see a typical Explorer window open. It is possible to use command line switches with explorer.exe and they could be useful in certain circumstances. Command line switches are parameters that specify certain options or modify the way a program works and many programs have hidden command line switches.

Click Start, Run and enter:

explorer.exe /n

and you will see a new Explorer window open. You will find that it ignores any customisation you have applied, such as hiding the address bar, and it displays a task pane on the left. If you enter the following command, however:

explorer.exe /e

you will find that an Explorer window opens with a folder tree list on the left instead of the task pane. Explorer normally lets you browse around the hard disks and other storage media, but by specifying a root, you can limit this behaviour. For example, suppose you have a folder on drive C: called MyDocs. If you enter:

explorer.exe /root,c:\MyDocs

you will find that this is the topmost folder and the Up button in the toolbar is disabled when this folder is displayed. If you entered

explorer.exe c:\MyDocs

you would see an Explorer window showing the same folder, but you would also be able to use the Up button to access c:\ and then list the disks and other storage media, and browse them.

Create Explorer shortcuts

In the last tip we showed how different Explorer windows could be opened using command line switches. Let's use them to create some custom Explorer shortcuts on the desktop. Right click an empty part of the desktop and select New, Shortcut. Now you can enter the switches you need. For example, to open an Explorer window to view the contents of c:\MyDocs, just enter c:\MyDocs in the location box. To make c:\MyDocs the root, enter explorer.exe /root,c:\MyDocs. Click Next and you will be prompted to name the shortcut. Just enter whatever you want.

A particularly useful shortcut is one that opens a folder to view the contents of another computer on the network. For example, suppose the computer is called Acer and it has shared it's Shared Documents folder as SharedDocs, you can create a shortcut to open it by entering \\Acer\SharedDocs\ in the location box when you create a new desktop shortcut. The double backslash \\ meand the name of the computer on the network follows, so \\Acer tells windows to look for the computer named Acer (you give your computer a name when you install Windows).

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