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10 tips and tweaks for Vista experts

Was my last batch of Vista tweaks too basic for you? Check out these 10 expert tweaks for Windows Vista RC2. No beginner-level stuff here.

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Topic: Windows
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1 of 10 David Grober/ZDNet
Windows power users know that a command prompt (Cmd.exe) is the fastest way to many tasks–much faster than digging through menus and tabbed dialog boxes. In Windows Vista, this is more true than ever, thanks to User Account Control. To get maximum mileage out of the command prompt, add a shortcut to the Start menu and configure it to run as an Administrator. Here's how:
  1. Click Start and type cmd in the Search box. This should produce a list consisting of one entry: the shortcut to the Windows Command Processor, cmd.
  2. Right-click the cmd shortcut and choose Pin to Start Menu.
  3. Click Start again. Right-click the Command Prompt shortcut you just added to the Start menu and choose Properties.
  4. Click the Advanced button and click to select the Run as administrator checkbox.
  5. Click OK to save your changes.

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2 of 10 David Grober/ZDNet
When you work with files and folders in Windows Explorer, get in the habit of holding down Shift as you right-click an item. The screen shots here show the normal shortcut menus for a file and folder on top, with the Shift-enhanced shortcut menus below each one. Using this shortcut, you can add any file to the Start menu or the Quick Launch bar, open a Command Prompt window rooted in the selected folder, or copy the full path for a file or folder to the Clipboard.
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3 of 10 David Grober/ZDNet
There's a strong correlation between high display resolutions and eyestrain. All that small text can give anyone a headache. The solution is not to dial back screen resolution but rather to increase text size intelligently. Start in Control Panel and type Adjust font size in the Search box at the top right, which will take you directly to the link for the DPI Scaling utility shown here. The preset value of 120 DPI is too big for my taste, so I click the Custom DPI button and use the slider control to bump the size up to a more restrained 110 DPI. Feel free to experiment.
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4 of 10 David Grober/ZDNet
The Snipping Tool shown here was originally designed for Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. Now that Tablet PC features are built into all premium versions of Windows Vista (everything except Vista Home Basic), you can take advantage of this cool tool on any desktop or notebook. It lets you capture all or part of a screen and paste it into an e-mail message or document or save it as a graphics file.
Type snip into the Start menu Search box to quickly find the Snipping Tool shortcut. Right-click that shortcut and pin it to the Start menu or add it to the Quick Launch bar for easy access. When you run the Snipping Tool, click the drop-down arrow next to the New button to select what you want to copy: a portion of the screen, a window, or the full screen. Click the Options button to open a dialog box where you can specify custom settings. I recommend getting rid of the red ink border; you might want to ditch the prompt to save files each time you exit the tool as well.
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5 of 10 David Grober/ZDNet
Windows Vista has no shortage of diagnostic tools. The System Health Report is one of the most useful. It takes input from the Performance and Reliability Monitor and turns it into a well-organized, information-packed report that does a good job of spotlighting potential problems. To run this report, open Control Panel, click System and Maintenance, and then click Performance Information and Tools. In the Tasks list along the left, click Advanced tools. The last item on the resulting list is Generate a system health report. Each report gathers information for roughly 60 seconds, so it's easy to run several reports. To establish a baseline, run a report immediately after startup, with no programs running except those that start up automatically. You can run additional reports while you run particularly stressful programs to see whether the load is overtaxing your system.
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6 of 10 David Grober/ZDNet
If your PC is built using an Intel motherboard with High Definition Audio support, you can take advantage of some cool enhancements. Open the Sound option in Control Panel, select the Speakers icon on the Playback tab, and click the Properties button. The Enhancements tab includes a set of options you can use to control bass levels, create virtual surround sound on a two-speaker system, correct for crummy room acoustics, and change loudness settings.
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7 of 10 David Grober/ZDNet
The Quick Launch bar has been around forever, but it's a little more useful in Vista. For starters, it's much easier to add programs to the Quick Launch bar, thanks to the new Add to Quick Launch shortcut menu option (see Tip #2 for more details). First things first, though: Make sure the Quick Launch bar isn't hidden; if you can't see it, right-click any empty space on the taskbar, choose Toolbars, and click Quick Launch. Don't feel like aiming at those tiny icons with the mouse pointer? Use the shortcut keys instead. Each of the first ten shortcuts on the Quick Launch bar has its own custom keyboard shortcut. Press the Windows key plus the number 1 to launch or switch to the first item on the Quick Launch bar. Press Windows key+2 for the second, and so on. For shortcut number 10, use Windows key+0.
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8 of 10 David Grober/ZDNet
The blinking cursor that indicates where you can type text is as thin as Kate Moss, which sometimes make for frustrating moments when you can't locate the blinking thing. So make it easier to see: Open Control Panel, type optimize visual display in the Search box, and click the shortcut to see the dialog box shown here. Bumping the size of the cursor from 1 to 2 makes a noticeable difference; going all the way to 11 would really make it impossible to miss.
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9 of 10 David Grober/ZDNet
The Security Center icon in the notification area is a nag. There's just no other word for it. And if you're confident that your security settings are in order, you really don't need the nagging. To make Security Center disappear into the background, open its icon in Control Panel and click Change the way Security Center alerts me in the Tasks pane on the left. In the resulting dialog box, choose Don't notify me and don't display the icon (not recommended).
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10 of 10 David Grober/ZDNet
It's about time notebook users got an easy-to-access control panel for common configuration options. Vista's Mobility Center gives you the ability to quickly enable or disable an external monitor, enable or disable a wireless adapter, check your battery level, and much more. To configure your notebook so Mobility Center is always available, add its shortcut to the Startup group. To open or switch to Mobility Center, use its keyboard shortcut: Windows logo key+X.
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