Vista Hands On #19: Get one-click access to Vista network properties

Vista Hands On #19: Get one-click access to Vista network properties

Summary: When people complain about the redesigned user interface in Windows Vista, the poster child for the “it’s too complicated” crowd is the Network and Sharing Center. The most common complaint? It takes too many clicks to access proerties for a network connection. Here's how to set up an efficient alternative interface.


When people complain about the redesigned user interface in Windows Vista, the poster child for the “it’s too complicated” crowd is the Network and Sharing Center. And when you probe for more specifics, the complaint usually boils down to this, as expressed by Jason Hiner at TechRepublic:

Vista has clearly attempted to follow Apple’s footsteps by making Windows more intuitive for [the] novice user. However, unlike OS X, Windows has done so at the price of slowing down power users because it now often takes more clicks to do average tasks than it did in previous versions of Windows. For example, clicking into the properties page for a network interface takes 1-2 clicks in Windows XP and 5-6 clicks in Windows Vista. That kind of interface tweaking is not only an annoyance but also a productivity hit for business users.

For Microsoft’s UI designers, this seems like a can’t-win design decision. Most people set up a network connection once and then rarely need to tweak its properties again. But corporate users who lug portable PCs between home and office might need to tweak settings more often. If you want easy access to the properties for a specific network connection, it’s easy to set up an efficient alternative interface. Here’s how:

1. Open the Network and Sharing Center. (Right-click the network icon in the notification area of the taskbar and choose Network and Sharing Center from the menu, or open the Network folder and click the Network and Sharing Center button on the Command Bar. Or use Control Panel’s Network options to get there.)

2. In the Tasks list on the left side of the Network and Sharing Center window, click Manage Network Connections.

VistaÂ’s Network and Sharing Center

3. Right-click the connection icon you want to enable for quick access and choose Create Shortcut.

Network connection shortcut menu

4. When prompted, confirm that you want to create the shortcut on the desktop.

Create network connection shortcut

5. Drag the newly created shortcut from the desktop and drop it on the Start menu or the Quick Launch bar.

You now have a shortcut that opens the Status window for the chosen connection. To adjust settings for that connection, click the Properties button at the bottom of the Status dialog box.

Want more direct access to the selected connection? Drag the connection icon directly onto the Start button, without creating a shortcut first. That creates a special link on the Start menu that works exactly like its counterpart in the Network Connections folder. You can right-click it to enable or disable a connection, or click to open the Properties dialog box for the connection instead of viewing its status.

If you’re unhappy with the Network and Sharing Center, click the Talkback button and tell me why. If I can find a faster way to accomplish what you’re trying to do, I’ll print it in a later installment.

[Want more Vista tips? Catch up with earlier installments in the Hands On Vista collection.]

Topics: Operating Systems, Microsoft, Networking, Software, Windows

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  • automatic settings

    vista always seems to mark the newly discovered network as public and unsafe to share printers/folders and yet not connected to the internet. as the dhcp server gave the computer a private ip address and a public dns address, where was vista looking? not only has it guessed completely wrong, but the network connection is now completely useless as no local or internet resources can be reached with those settings.
    • Secure by default

      You should be allowed under default settings to connect to the Internet, but Public is the default because that's the only way to ensure security. When you save the connection, Vista should remember its private/public settings and use those settings next time. If you're seeing something different, it sounds like a bug.
      Ed Bott
      • remembered settings

        yes after I adjust the settings for this network, but I am a net tech so if my laptop was vista I would be saving settings (after the multiple extra clicks mentioned in the article) for almost 100 different networks so far. I have seen this secure by default before and laugh. server 2003 won't file or print share until changes are made, makes the server mostly useless (still auth's users)
        • Confused

          You don't have to do any of this stuff when you connect to a new network. The network settings are applied automatically when you plug in or connect a wireless card. You click Public or Private in the dialog box that pops up and you're done. So I'm not sure I understand what the issue is.

          Also, if you're doing this on corporate networks you can define network settings by group policy and apply them automatically. If this is an issue for you it sounds like you need to do some management on the domain side.
          Ed Bott
        • Are you serious?

          Security by default is a bad thing? There is a very good reason why things are turned off by default, I can't see how someone seriously think a server should just share up its harddrive, or anythign else for that matter, on a fresh install.
          • default security

            I can see having to setup the shared folders and shared printers, but having to turn on file/printer sharing first. its a server what did they think I was going to use it for?

            my last issue with vista default network settings may have been the customer picking the wrong choice when first connected so when I connected I had to adjust before it would work. I'm not sure what the customer picked but no file/print sharing and no internet were the settings, what's left (why have network)?
          • File/Printer serving

            What did they think you were going to use it for? Maybe a domain controller, and application server, a database server, an ISA server, and DHCP server, a who knows what. Server does not mean file and print. Out of the 15 or so I'm running, 8 of them do file/print serving; the rest don't. So if it was enabled by default, I'd have to unenable it on half my servers, which is just as hard as enabling on the other half since it's not enabled by default.

            And it's not really that hard, either way. The Configure Your Server wizard is almost annoying in how eager it is to help you set things up the way you want them. Security by default is absolutely the way to go.
          • Analogy:

            Bear with me if you will.

            Imagine *if* when the Pentagon opened all those many years ago, the Government of the day had *open days* at the new home of *national security*. By open days i mean *OPEN DAYS*. Imagine if all governemnt officials from nations friendly to the U.S. as well as those governments hostile to America, were allowed to have their representatives visit on the open days to see: how, what, why and where all the top secret files, data and archives were to be stored in the building as well as what all that data related to. To place a proverbial *cherry on top*, these persons were given free, unsupervised access - round the clock (during the open days) to the entire building.

            Now translate that principle if you will to a fresh install of Enterprise Server 2003 (or similar MS NOS) into a business network. Basically, it's the equivalent of having an *open slather* on the Server. The *whole principle* of secure by default is underpinned by *making sure the security is there from the outset*. The basic assumption from a systems design/implementation point of view has to revolve around the *worst case scenario*, i.e. the most vulnerable time for a server installation is when it is first up and unconfigured. This furthermore explains why there is an almost *fundamental need for a precautionary set of default settings*.

            If by this point in this *topical exchange* there are still persons questioning the *on by default* principle, then i would seriously begin to question whether such folk ought to be involved in any sort of network administration work at all - let alone discussing the matter in a technical forum.

    • Network Connection Control Panel

      The other alternative is to put ncpa.cpl in to the Run box, you could then make a shortcut on your desktop or start menu.

      One stop shop for all your network connections.
  • RE: Vista Hands On #19: Get one-click access to Vista network properties

    Why exactly are so many steps necessitated just to get Windows Vista network settings?

    If thats Microsoft's idea of intuitive they can keep it, the interface inferiorities that Microsoft continues to suffer from have been fixed elsewhere for some time, most things they do have.
  • Still one shortcoming

    Sadly, choosing Properties from the shortcut's context menu brings up the sheet for the *shortcut*, so getting to the actual *connection* properties is still a two-step process.

    Something else that may be helpful: from Network and Sharing Center, click manage network connections. Once this opens, right-click the word "Network Connections" in the location bar and choose Copy Address. Now right-click on the desktop and choose Paste Shortcut. Voila; one-step access to your list of connections.
    • Use the second technique

      Drag the shortcut directly onto the Start menu and the right-click menus work as you want them to.
      Ed Bott
  • Remember me?

    I've made several posts on your blog and others about my installation of Vista not recognizing USB devices. Turns out my driver database was corrupt. Microsoft support didn't suggest this problem, I found it by Googling the exact text from the error message. Anyway, Ed, you suggested some remedies a while ago, and I thought I would give you (and others) an update on the off chance you remember.


    I like Vista, Sam I Am. I'm not thrilled with the performance, but I like the interface much better than XP.
    Michael Of Atlanta
  • RE: Vista Hands On #19: Get one-click access to Vista network properties

    I just wish they had left the hover information alone on the icon in the taskbar. It contained usable information in Win2k and XP, like total packets exchanged and in the case of a modem connection, your connect speed.
  • Message has been deleted.

  • Thanks Ed. Can you fix System Restore?

    Good tip - now if they could get System Restore back to one screen as it was in XP.