Windows XP Tips and Tricks

From an article by Chris Pirillo @

1.You can rename several files at one time within Explorer. A long overdue feature, in my opinion.

2.The tiles view is there for getting quick picture dimensions -- a wonderful thing for those of us who work with the Web. When you select an image, its dimensions will also be displayed in the Status bar (if it's turned on).

3.Check out the Details view if you have a ton of similar files in the folder. In one glance, you can view the number of pages, bitrate, details, and so on. Of course, it depends on what it is you're trying to view.

4.ClearType is a great reason to upgrade to XP. While it does have a noticeable impact on 2D performance, the view is spectacular. It's not just for LCD screens, contrary to popular belief. Font smoothing is so 20th century.

5.Your removable drives are automatically added to the SendTo menu. I can't figure out how to get them out of there, as I never really use my floppy or Zip drives.

6.EXIF support is built into the Explorer shell. This allows you to see embedded information from untouched digital photos. This is another awesome feature for shutterbugs.

7.Details view in MP3 folders is a must. It's very much like WiMP in the sense that you can view all sorts of song details from within the Explorer window.

8.Being a neat freak, I appreciated the new Align to Grid feature for the Windows desktop. Now I don't have to right-click and Arrange every time I move a stupid icon. Try as you might, you can't drag desktop icons off of the screen with this option turned on.

9.Man, you've got to play with the Show in Groups Arrange option. It's neat, and depending on how you have the folder set up, it will provide different sorting options (alphabetically by file type, general file type, and so on). Very, very cool.

10.When you see the shutdown dialog pop up, hold onto the Shift key if you want to flip energy saving modes (from Suspend to Hibernate).

11.WiMP will now grab cover shots and detailed information for your DVDs.

12.When you put in a CD with MP3s on it, XP asks you what you want to do with it. It does the same basic thing when you insert a picture CD or plug in a digital camera. Very friendly.

13.Icons in the System Tray are now displayed in high color. It's about time! Oddly enough, when you configure the System Tray (by right-clicking on the Taskbar and selecting Properties), in the Notification area, someone forgot to update the old icons for Paint, Network, Calculator, and so on. I get paid to notice these things, you know.

14.Zip file support is finally built into the OS. Yes, I know Me had it, too, but I hate that OS.

15.No powertoys ship with the Windows XP CD, although they will be available from Microsoft's site after October 25. They are a must for any user, experienced or not. Super Fast User Switcher, PowerToy Calculator, Alt-Tab replacement, Virtual Desktop Manager, Photo Toys, TweakUI, Command Window Here, Slideshow generator, Magnifier, HTML Generator, and TimerShot.

16.ID3v2 is supported throughout the OS (in WiMP 8.0 as well as in the Explorer shell). To edit an MP3's information, pull up its properties and flip to the Summary tab.

17.You can store/save your current Theme to the My Documents folder. On the surface, this feature appears to be backwards compatible with classic Desktop Themes.

18.I think I've rebooted this computer less than 10 times, yet XP's boot process (from BIOS to desktop) is faster than it's ever been. Let me time the sucker. Hold on -- this should only take a minute. I take that back! It took me 45 seconds to get back up and running again.

19.MSConfig is back, baby. Windows 2000 users will appreciate its return. Of course, X-Setup works just fine on XP, too.

20.In folders designated for pictures, the Tasks pane will give you an option to print them. Choose your images, layout, printer, and so on. If you have a photo printer, this is a spectacular feature. If you choose not to work with the Tasks pane, you can simply open an image in the Windows Viewer and print from there to get to the same wizard.

21.You'd be surprised at how much alpha blending of icons improves the experience. No matter what wallpaper or background color you're using, they will always look smooth.

22.SNTP/NTP time synchronization is now built into the Date and Time applet. With it, you can connect to any Internet time-server. Never miss a meeting again!

23.When Explorer crashes, the icons are restored in the System Tray. Finally. I verified this the other day when I ran into that weird gray screen problem.

24.XP comes with a basic slideshow screen saver -- perfect for showing off your recent vacation photos.

25.The Task Manager now has Networking performance indicators. Right-click on the Taskbar and select Task Manager for more.

26.You can now turn off thumbnail caching to save disk space (via Folder Options). With TweakUI, you can change the default dimensions of the thumbnail images.

27.Internet Explorer now has built-in support for Google (as long as you're using the search assistant).

28.They finally updated the card backs in Solitaire. Considering how many people play it on a regular basis, it's a notable improvement.

29.Go directly to the Start Menu properties by right-clicking on the Start Button. Switch to the "classic" Start Menu if the new one annoys you. The "Highlight newly installed programs" feature is nice for download maniacs.

30.XP's movie maker truly sucks; you can't do ANYTHING with it. No transitions beyond a simple fade, no export options other than Windows Media, and so on. Save your money and get a true video editor. Better yet -- use iMovie on the Mac.

Just don't think you're gonna film a businessman flying around your neighborhood and wind up producing an award-winning film using Windows XP. It ain't gonna happen with this crapplet.

31.Microsoft's marketing campaign is a bit misleading; you can't play DVD movies without purchasing a third-party decoder first. While MP3s can be played out of the box, ripping music into this audio format is possible only through (again) third-party software.

32.Even with XP's built-in Internet Connection Firewall features, I still recommend Tiny Personal Firewall (freeware).

33.Most of you have heard about the automatic grouping of open applications in the Taskbar (when you have several instances running, Windows will put them under the same Taskbar button). Here's something else I discovered: open Internet Explorer, then Notepad, then Internet Explorer again. Look at that. It puts the same apps next to each other, no matter the order in which they were opened.

34.Someone at Microsoft forgot to update the individual Administrative Tools and Offline webpages folder icons. They're still ugly. Under the "Customize" tab of the folder properties dialog, you can assign a different icon for each and every folder. Sweet!

35.The Windows help system has a wealth of new features. In one swoop, you can perform queries against the local database as well as the Microsoft Knowledge Base. However, I don't think the MSKB integration is working yet. For one, it doesn't return any results on basic terms. Plus, it defaults to searching for Windows 2000 specific issues. Anyway, click the last icon in the toolbar (the document with a red checkmark in it). Tweak away!

36.The OS only comes with three Visual Styles -- which are lame to begin with. The Plus! site may have more available in time, but who really knows?

37.I thought it was rather shortsighted that XP doesn't allow you to associate WMA sounds to your events. I mean, they're shoving the format down your throat in every other application. Why not here, too? Anyway, system (default) sounds have received a much-needed upgrade

38.In Windows 2000, you really couldn't make a boot disk. Sure, you could create a set of setup disks, but nothing like a simple boot floppy. Right-click on the Floppy drive icon, select format, then place a checkmark in the "Create an MS-DOS startup disk." The MSDOS.SYS file contains W98EBD -- which leads me to believe that the files were taken from Windows 98. This won't do you much good if you have an NTFS drive.

39.When was the last time you forgot your password? Uh, don't forget it for Windows XP until you create a password recovery disk. Under Related Tasks in the User Accounts Control Panel applet, click Prevent a forgotten password.

40.The Kodak Imaging Application that came with other versions of Windows has been replaced by the Windows Picture and Fax Viewer. It has a few built-in options, but you can't easily view the image at its full size. While this replacement is good enough, I miss the Kodak app already.

41.People think XP doesn't support plug-ins. That's not true -- it stopped supporting Netscape-style plug-ins, but Apple updated its QuickTime control within days of IE6's release.

42.Yes, you can hide inactive System Tray icons, but why on Earth didn't they line up the double-arrow indicators with those in the main Taskbar area? Another oversight by the design team, I'm certain.

43.Window transparency works much better in XP than it ever did in 2000. Again, this speed difference could be attributed to the video driver being used.

44.Microsoft should have licensed Quicktime and RealMedia decoders. Every one of these companies wants to install its jukebox on my system. Bah humbug! At least they included the classic 6.4 player (accessible by entering MPLAYER2 on the Run command line).

45.Passport is all over the place in Windows XP. However, you don't have to sign up for a new email account if you don't want to. Just use your current email address, and make a Passport password for it. Since I'm not sure what Microsoft plans on doing with Passport, I just used my secret Hotmail account. You can change this any time via the User Accounts applet in the Control Panel.

46.Managing file associations is a dream. Right-click on a file, locate the updated Open With cascading menu (which now uses a program's default icon), then click Choose Program if you want to change how the file is opened. Plus, if you don't know what program to associate a file with, there's a nice hyperlink included in the dialog to take you to a helpful Microsoft webpage.

47.The desktop properties dialog is extensive, but scattered. For instance, the Themes tab is the first one you see, yet you have to flip to the Appearance tab in order to change how your interface works.

48.The volume mixer looks weird. Call me a stickler for details, but the Main play control is not the same width as the other controls. Not to mention, they didn't replace the yellow speaker icons for the other controls. And as if that wasn't enough, you can no longer tap ESC to quickly close the window. They should have left well enough alone.

49.Are you the type of person who notices speed increases (and decreases)? Well, as far as file operations are concerned, this is the snappiest version of Windows I've ever used. In Windows 2000, I'd select a few files on the desktop, delete them, and then two seconds later, their icons would disappear. When I do the same thing in XP, the removal is immediate. Likewise, it takes far less time for me to open the Recycle Bin when it's filled with items now.

50.The default search "doggie" is annoying for power users; thank goodness the new TweakUI will allow you to easily switch back to the "classic" Windows 2000 search feature. I don't know if this is a bug I uncovered; when I browse for a folder when I'm doing a Search, it shows me two My Documents folders. They each have the same folder structure inside of them


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