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Jotting down notes with Notepad is only slightly more advanced than chiseling in stone, but we still find ourselves using the rudimentary editor for scrawling quick grocery lists and composing HTML code. With Notepad++ (free, http://tinyurl.com/552wn), we can do both at the same time! A tabbed interface is just one of the many features included, along with an almost endless array of coding options, drag and drop documents, multiview features, and much more.
No sooner was it released than Microsoft pulled the plug on a utility called My Private Folder. The password-protected folder sat on your desktop, encrypting any files you put inside it. So why doesn’t MS offer it anymore? With no backdoor access, IT professionals feared facing the wrath of users who had forgotten their passwords, and parents fretted over what files their kids might be hiding. If you’re OK with those risks, you can still download the utility from http://tinyurl.com/kxdxs.
Putting your PC into Standby conserves power without shutting down your computer, but if there’s a power outage, any open programs and unsaved work will be lost. Using Hibernation tackles this issue by first taking a snapshot of your desktop and saving it to your hard drive before powering down, but Microsoft neglected to include a Hibernate button in the shut-down dialog box. To fix this, first make sure you’ve enabled hibernation under Power Options in the Control Panel. Next, go into the registry and navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows and create a new key called System (right-click Windows and select New > Key). Highlight System and create another key called Shutdown (you should now be in HKLM \SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\System\Shutdown). Now create a DWORD value named ShowHibernationButton and change the Data from 0 to 1. You should now see the Hibernate button in the Shutdown dialog. If not, you’ll need to request a hotfix from Microsoft at http://tinyurl.com/ccbpw.
Capable photo-editing suites are often too expensive if all you’re interested in is the occasional doodle, and the learning curve requires a further time investment. Solve both problems with Paint.NET (free, www.getpaint.net), which combines the ease of use found in MS Paint with enough functionality to release your inner Rembrandt!
Who wants boring old icons when you can make your own? Fire up any photo-editing program and create a new 48x48 pixel image, or resize an existing photo. Save the image as a bitmap and change the file extension to .ico (e.g., MPC.ico).
To apply your custom icon, right-click a folder on your hard drive, select Properties, then Customize, then Change Icon. Or if you prefer to change system icons, open Display Properties and click Customize Desktop under the Desktop tab. You can change icons for all file types by opening My Computer, clicking Tools, Folder Options, File Types, Advanced, then Change Icon.
Dreamscene enables Vista Ultimate owners to set video clips as wallpaper, and with the help of VideoLAN (free, www.videolan.org/vlc), you can get the same effect on XP. Select the video you want to display, right-click while it’s playing, and select Wallpaper. Create a playlist with multiple video clips and then configure VideoLAN to loop your selections by clicking Tools, Preferences, Playlist, and checking Repeat All.
If you don’t have a backup routine in place, then get one. Now. Then install Microsoft’s SyncToy v2.0 Beta (free, http://tinyurl.com/2cu9fh) to back up files from one folder to another on different hard drives, or across a network or an external device. SyncToy even keeps track of renamed files, so you won’t end up with duplicates.
Life would be so much easier if all video clips adopted a unified standard, but instead we’re forced to hunt down codec after codec to play an assortment of videos. At least, that’s how we used to do it, until we found ffdshow tryouts (http://ffdshow-tryout.sourceforge.net/). Ffdshow sports an expansive codec library, several filters, and the ability to display pertinent details about the file it’s playing. CPU-utilization monitoring and the ability to grab screenshots add icing to the cake.
Tired of the same old boot screen? Change it up! There are two methods for altering XP’s boot logo—one involves risky system-file edits that put your OS at risk, the other entails downloading BootSkin (free, http://tinyurl.com/358lj). Play it safe with the latter and click your way to a new boot screen with one of the bundled logos. Don’t see one you like? Choose from hundreds more available for download or follow the tutorial at http://tinyurl.com/367khw and make your own!