Cabinet file (.cab) compression utility.
Command Prompt makecab
makecab [/v[n]] [/d var=value] [/l dir] source [destination]
makecab [/v[n]] [/d var=value] /f directive_file
A cabinet file is a compressed archive commonly used to package application installation files. Cabinets are similar to .zip files, although they have added features such as a rudimentary script system intended to install and register application components.
There are two ways to use the Cabinet Maker. First, you can compress one or more files directly, like this:
makecab \windows\greenstone.bmp greenstone.cab
The preceding code compresses the file greenstone.bmp into the greenstone.cab archive. The new cabinet file, greenstone.cab, is created automatically in the current directory; if it already exists, it is replaced with the new archive. Unfortunately, wildcards (*.*) aren't allowed in the source, so you can specify only one file at a time. This is where the second usage of the Cabinet Maker comes in: instead of specifying options and files directly, a single plain-text file, called a directive file (.ddf), is used. The simplest directive file lists all the files to include. A line beginning with a semicolon is treated as a comment.
Assuming the lines:
;Example directive file
are saved into a file called test.ddf, the makecab command would then look like this:
makecab /f test.ddf
You can specify multiple directive files in the same command, listed one after another.
Diamond Cabinet Builder (diantz.exe) is identical to makecab.exe; it's included only for legacy support.
There are two ways to open Cabinet files and extract their contents. The easiest way is to double-click on any .cab file in Explorer to display a folder view of the contents. You can then drag files out of the .cab file (you cannot add items here, however). The other way is to use the File Expansion Utility (expand.exe).
You also can use WinZip (http://www.winzip.com) to open .cab files, but it's not compatible with all variants of the .cab format, and thus it won't open every .cab file you encounter.
More complicated directive files, including the use of .inf installation routines, are possible with the Cabinet Maker. See http://msdn.microsoft.com for details, including the use of the /v and /d parameters.
"File Expansion Utility," in Chapter 4, and "IExpress," in this chapter
Numerical scientific and nonscientific calculator.
Start All Programs Accessories Calculator
Command Prompt calc
By default, the Calculator starts in Standard mode, containing only the numeric keypad and some basic functions (add, subtract, invert, square root, etc.). Select Scientific from the View menu to use the calculator in Scientific mode, useful for more advanced functions, such as logarithmic, logical, trigonometric, and base functions (see Figure 10-9). Each time you subsequently open the Calculator, it will appear in the previously used mode.
Figure 10-9. The scientific view of the Calculator, which provides access to many more functions than the standard view
Entering data and performing calculations
You can enter data by clicking the buttons or by pressing keys on the keyboard. All keys have keyboard equivalents (see Table 10-1); key mappings that are not quite obvious (such as Log) are documented in Table 10-7. Note that many of the functions in Table 10-1 are available only in Scientific Mode.
Table 10-1. Calculations and keyboard equivalents
Clears all calculations.
Clears the last entry.
Clears the last digit.
Displays the number stored in memory.
Stores the current value in memory.
Adds the current value to the number stored in memory.
Clears the memory.
Changes the sign (negative).
When in Hex mode, you can enter hexadecimal values A-F from the keyboard or by using the A-F buttons on the Calculator. Table 10-2 shows number systems and keyboard equivalents. Table 10-3 and Table 10-4 show binary-mode keyboard equivalents and bitwise (logic) functions and keyboard equivalents, respectively.
Table 10-2. Number systems and keyboard equivalents
Hexadecimal (base 16)
Decimal (base 10)
Octal (base 8)
Binary (base 2)
Table 10-3. Binary-mode keyboard equivalents
16-bit value (low order bit)
8-bit value (low order bit)
Table 10-4. Bitwise (logic) functions and keyboard equivalents
Bitwise exclusive OR
Left-shift (right-shift via Inv + Lsh or >)
Integer (remove the decimal portion)
When in Decimal mode, the Deg, Rad, and Grad radio buttons switch among degrees, radians, and gradients (see Table 10-5).
Table 10-5. Decimal-mode keyboard equivalents
Calculates trigonometric functions in degrees.
Calculates trigonometric functions in radians.
Calculates trigonometric functions in grads.
To perform a statistical calculation, start by entering the first data, then click Sta to open the Statistics Box, click Dat to display the data in the Statistics Box, and then continue entering the data, clicking Dat after each entry. When you've finished entering all the numbers, click the statistical button you want to use (Ave, Sum, or S). The buttons available in the Statistics Box are listed in Table 10-6.
Table 10-6. Statistics Box buttons
Returns the focus to the calculator.
Displays the selected number in the Statistics Box in the Calculator display area.
Clears the selected number (data).
Clears all numbers (data) in the Statistics Box.
Scientific calculation buttons and keyboard equivalents are shown in Table 10-7.
Table 10-7. Scientific calculation buttons and keyboard equivalents
Sets the inverse function for sin, cos, tan, Pl, xy, x2, x3, Ln, log, sum, and s.
Sets the hyperbolic function for sin, cos, and tan.
Turns scientific notation on and off. You can use this only with decimal numbers. Numbers larger than 1015 are always displayed with exponents.
Starts and ends a new level of parentheses. The maximum number of nested parentheses is 25. The current number of levels appears in the box above the ) button.
If the displayed number is in degrees, convert to degree-minute-second format. Use Inv + dms to reverse the operation.
The next digit(s) entered constitute the exponent. The exponent cannot be larger than 9999. Decimal only.
Natural (base e) logarithm. Inv + Ln calculates e raised to the nth power, where n is the current number.
Sine of the displayed number. Inv + sin gives arc sine. Hyp + sin gives hyperbolic sine. Inv + Hyp + sin gives arc hyperbolic sine.
x to the yth power. Inv + xy calculates the yth root of x.
The common (base 10) logarithm. Inv + log yields 10 to the xth power, where x is the displayed number.
Cosine of the displayed number. Inv + cosin gives arc cosine. Hyp + cosin gives hyperbolic cosine. Inv + Hyp + cosin gives arc hyperbolic cosine.
Cubes the displayed number. Inv + x3 gives the cube root.
Factorial of the displayed number.
Tangent of the displayed number. Inv + tan gives arc tan. Hyp + tan gives hyperbolic tan. Inv + Hyp + tan gives arc hyperbolic tan.
Squares the displayed number. Inv + x2 gives the square root.
Reciprocal of displayed number.
The value of pi (3.1415 . . .). Inv + Pi gives 2 pi.
If you convert a fractional decimal number to another number system, only the integer part will be used.
Those serious about calculators will probably notice that there is no Reverse Polish Notation (RPN) mode. Fortunately, there are literally dozens of freely available alternatives on the Web (try AepCalc from http://www.aepryus.com).
Display all the characters and symbols in a particular font. This provides access to symbols not easily accessible with the keyboard.
Start All Programs Accessories System Tools Character Map
Command Prompt charmap
Character Map displays a visual map of all the characters in any font, making it easy to paste them into other documents (see Figure 10-10).
Figure 10-10. Character Map, which lets you access the symbols you can't normally type from the keyboard
To use Character Map:
Select a font from the Font drop-down list. If you're inserting a character into an existing document, you should select the same font that is used in the document.
Find the character you want to use; click once on any cell to magnify its character. If you can't find the desired character, remember to scroll down. If the selected font doesn't have the character you want, try another font.
Double-click the character you want (or click once and then click the Select button) to place the character in the "Characters to copy" box. You can place as many successive characters as you want in this box.
Click Copy to copy the character(s) to the Windows Clipboard.
Switch to your other application, click where you want the character(s) to appear, and paste (using either the Edit menu or Ctrl-V).
If the font in the target application isn't the same as the one you've selected in Character Map, you'll need to highlight the newly inserted character(s) and then change it to the same font you used in Character Map. If the character in your document doesn't look as it did in Character Map, it's because the wrong font is being used.
Effective use of Character Map relies on correct font selection, especially when you're pasting characters into applications that don't support multiple fonts. For example, the default font used in Notepad is Lucida Console (which you can change by going to Notepad Format Font).
Character Map is helpful not only for selecting extended characters in standard fonts, but also for accessing dingbats, such as those found in the Webdings, Wingdings, Symbol, and Marlett fonts.
Character Map is useful for finding out what key combination will produce a nonstandard character in any given font. This can eliminate the need to repeatedly go back to Character Map to retrieve the same character. Select a character in any cell and see the corresponding character code in the status bar. For example, the Yin-Yang symbol in Wingdings is character code 0x5B. Now, this is a hexadecimal code, so you'll need to use the Calculator to convert it to a decimal number. In the Calculator's Scientific mode, click Hex, type the code (not including the 0x prefix--5B in this case), and then click Dec to view the decimal equivalent (91 in this case). To then insert the character into an application using the keyboard, hold down the Alt key and type the code using the numeric keypad (the numbers above the letters won't work). In the case of the Yin-Yang, press Alt and type 91. Appendix C lists some of the most useful character codes.
"Fonts Folder," in Chapter 3, and "Calculator" and "Private Character Editor," in this chapter
Change a variety of program-related settings, including specifying the default programs to use for various file types and protocols, changing AutoPlay settings, and controlling access to certain programs.
Start Default programs
By default, certain programs are associated with certain file types and protocols and will automatically launch when those files and protocols are opened. For example, by default Internet Explorer opens all .html files and Windows Contacts opens all .vcf filesvCard files that contain contact information. So whenever you double-click to open either of those file typesin Windows Explorer, in Windows Mail, or anywhere elsethe default program will launch and open the file.
The Default Programs Control Panel (Figure 10-11) lets you make changes to those defaults, and lets you change a variety of other settings as well, such as whether CDs, DVDs, and other media should auto-play when inserted.
Figure 10-11. The Default Programs Control Panel, where you can change a variety of program and Windows defaults
The Default Programs Control Panel lets you make these changes:
Set your default programs
Many programs can handle a wide variety of file types, but when they are installed, they are not necessarily the default programs for all those file types. Choosing this option lets you change the default associations on a program-by-program basis. When you click it, the screen shown in Figure 10-12 appears. As you can see, only programs that ship as part of Windows Vista are included; you can't use this option to make changes for other programs. (Notable exceptions include third-party email and web programs such as Mozilla Thunderbird and Firefox.)
Figure 10-12. Configuring the default programs for the file types and protocols handled by core Windows Vista applications
Select the program whose defaults you want to check. If the program is not set to open by default all the file types it can handle, you'll be told the total number of file types it can handle, as well as the total number it is set by default to open. To have it open by default all file types it can handle, click "Set this program as default." To choose some file types but not others, click "Choose defaults for this program" and select from the list.
If the program is already set to open by default any file type it can handle, when you highlight the file it will read "This program has all its defaults."
Associate a file type or protocol with a program
Select this to choose, on a file type-by-file type basis, which programs should open various file types. For example, if you want .mp3 files to be opened by the WinAmp freeware program, you would do that in this screen.
When you make this choice, the Set Associations screen, shown in Figure 10-13, appears. For each file extension, you're shown a description of what the file type is, as well as which program will open it by default. To change which program opens the file by default, click "Change program." You'll be shown the recommended default program, as well as other installed programs that can handle the file. If you want to choose a program not on either list, click Browse to locate it.
Figure 10-13. Setting which programs will open file types from the Set Associations screen
Change AutoPlay settings
This lets you choose what action Windows Vista should take when you insert a CD or DVD into a driveuse AutoPlay to play the media, or let you decide which action to take. It also lets you choose which program should play the media. As you can see in Figure 10-14, you can make choices for a wide variety of media and content, ranging from Blu-ray Disc movies, to mixed content on a CD or DVD, to HD DVD movies, and more.
Figure 10-14. Choosing how Windows Vista decides what actions to take when a CD or DVD is inserted into a drive
Set program access and computer defaults
Several years back, Microsoft fell afoul of the U.S. Justice Department, which claimed that the company was illegally using its Windows monopoly power to promote its own software, such as Internet Explorer, over rivals such as Netscape Navigator. As part of that suit's settlement, Microsoft had to allow PC makers to ship Windows with whatever default programs they wanted for web browsing, media playing, and so on. Microsoft also had to allow consumers to easily change those defaults.
Why am I telling you all this? Because that's the reason for this feature's existence. Click the link, and you'll come to the page shown in Figure 10-15, which lets you choose an overall configuration of select programs for your PC, for web browsing, email, media playing, instant messaging, and using Java.
Figure 10-15. Choosing default programs for web browsing, email, media playing, instant messaging, and using Java
Choose Microsoft Windows, and you'll use all of Windows Vista and Microsoft programs. Choose Non-Microsoft, and not only will your system use non-Microsoft programs for all those purposes, but you'll also disable access to the Microsoft programs. Choose Custom to select a mix of Microsoft and non-Microsoft programs, and to enable or disable access to them.
If Windows Vista came preinstalled on a PC you bought, you may see another option here, Computer Manufacturer, which will restore your settings to those chosen by the manufacturer from which you bought your PC.
Windows Vista offers you far less control over file associations than did Windows XP. In Windows XP, you could set multiple associations for files, as well as customize precisely what actions a program should take when it opens a file. You could, for example, set one program to play a file type by default, but a different program to edit the file by default. None of that is possible in Windows Vista, though.
The choices you make in the Default Programs Control Panel are applied to all users of the PC; you cannot choose different settings for different users.
"Windows Media Player," in Chapter 12
Create and modify cover pages for use with Windows Fax and Scan.
Windows Fax and Scan Tools Cover Pages New
Command Prompt fxscover
The Fax Cover Page Editor (Figure 10-16) works like an ordinary drawing/layout program, in that you can indiscriminately place text, shapes, and images on a blank page. Pages created with the Cover Page Editor are used automatically when sending faxes with Windows Fax and Scan.
Figure 10-16. The Fax Cover Page Editor, which, among other things, enables you to support fields to import data such as recipient names
What makes the Cover Page Editor different from other drawing/layout programs to which you might be accustomed is its support for fields. Naturally, it wouldn't do you much good to create a custom cover page for only a single recipient; rather, it is desirable to create a single cover page (or a series of cover pages) that you can use with any number of recipients. Use the Insert menu to place text fields on the page; fields are divided into the following three categories (menus):
Place the name or phone number fields on your cover page, and Windows Fax and Scan will insert those details of the recipient on each fax that is sent out.
The information in the Sender menu does not change from fax to fax; rather, you set it in the Windows Fax and Scan application (discussed later in this chapter) by going to Windows Fax and Scan Tools Sender Information. Note that it's generally preferred to use fields rather than static text, even if the information contained therein is the same for all faxesit not only makes it easier to change later on, but it also means that your cover pages can be used easily by others.
Like items in the Recipient menu, Message details the message change from fax to fax, such as the subject, time, date, and number of pages.
When you've created or modified the cover pages desired, you must save them into a Cover Page (.cov) file, stored, by default, in \Users\username\Documents\Fax\Personal Coverpages. Then, when sending a fax, simply specify the desired Cover Page file, and it will be used as the first page in your outgoing fax.
You may want to preview outgoing faxes immediately after creating or modifying a cover page to make sure information is inserted into the fields properly.
"Windows Fax and Scan"
Create a self-extracting/self-installing package, used to distribute files and install applications.
Command Prompt iexpress
iexpress.exe [/n [/q] [/m]] file [/o:overide file,section]
A self-extracting/self-installing package is actually an application, commonly known as an installer or setup program, that is used to install one or more files onto a Windows system and, optionally, to execute a setup script. IExpress is an interactive program that helps you create these packages, making it easy to, among other things, distribute files to other computers (see Figure 10-17).
Figure 10-17. The IExpress Wizard, which lets you package up a collection of files for easy distribution
Say you want to put together a collection of documents that can be sent to another user, either via email or by using a floppy disk or CD. Rather than simply sending the files separately or compressing them into a .zip file, both of which would require additional instructions (not to mention a reasonably knowledgeable and patient recipient), you can make a full-featured, professional-looking installer with IExpress.
When you start IExpress, the IExpress Wizard guides you through the steps for creating a self-extracting package. The first step prompts for a Self Extraction Directive (.sed) file, a file that contains all the options and files to include. If you don't have one, select "Create new Self Extraction Directive file" and click Next.
The next page, "Package purpose," asks what you want the installer to do with the files on the target computer when the recipient opens the package. If you select the first option, "Extract files and run an installation command," the files will be copied to a temporary folder and a separate installer program that you provide will be launched. If you don't have a separate installation program, choose "Extract files only" and click Next. The last option, "Create compressed files only," is used by application developers to assist in the distribution of application components and is of little use to most users.
The subsequent steps allow you to specify a package title, type welcome and "finished" messages, and even include a license agreement. When you reach the "Packaged files" page, use the Add button to select one or more files to be included in the package; you can choose as many files as you like, and they can be any format. In fact, IExpress will compress the files so that they take up less space (like .zip files). Then, IExpress will ask you to specify a package name, which is the path- and filename of the package (.exe) to be created. IExpress will also optionally save your choices into a Self Extraction Directive (.sed) file, making it easy to re-create this package without having to answer all the aforementioned prompts again.
When the process is complete, you'll end up with a new .exe file that you can run on any Windows system. This package can now be emailed, FTP'd, distributed on a CD or floppy, or even posted on a web site; the recipient won't need any special tools or elaborate instructions to extract the files from the package.
IExpress also has an automated, noninteractive mode for advanced users who want to skip the somewhat cumbersome wizard interface and instead create a package using the following command-line parameters:
The full path and filename of a Self Extraction Directive (.sed) file. If you don't have a .sed file, you'll have to use the wizard interface to create one.
Build package now (file must be specified). If you omit /n, IExpress will open in the interactive wizard interface.
Quiet mode (no prompts); used only with /n.
Use minimized windows; used only with /n.
Specify override .sed file and section.
Override directory for .exe stub.
If you've already created a .sed file (say, c:\stuff\thing.sed) and you want to generate the corresponding package without walking through the wizard or being bothered with any prompts, type the following at a command prompt:
iexpress /n /q c:\stuff\thing.sed
The filename of the resulting package will be as specified in the .sed file.
Self Extraction Directive (.sed) files are just plain-text files, similar in format to Configuration Files (.ini), and you can edit them with a plain text editor, such as Notepad. The easiest way to get started with .sed files is to use the IExpress Wizard to create one and then edit (if necessary) to suit your needs.
"Cabinet (CAB) Maker"
Show an enlarged version of the area of the screen near the mouse cursor.
Start All Programs Accessories Ease of Access Magnifier
Command Prompt magnify
The Microsoft Magnifier is used to assist those with visual impairments by magnifying a portion of the screen. When you start Magnifier, the top 15 percent of the screen turns into an automatic magnifying glass, which follows the mouse cursor around the screen. If you have trouble seeing something on the screen, just float the cursor over it to magnify it (see Figure 10-18).
Figure 10-18. The Magnifier tool, which can follow your mouse cursor, enlarging any portion of the screen you point to
You can resize or move the Magnifier with the mouse. Furthermore, when the Magnifier is first opened, the "Magnifier settings" window appears, allowing you to change the magnification level and choose whether the Magnifier follows the mouse cursor, keyboard focus, or text cursor. To hide the settings window, just minimize it; if you close it, the Magnifier will close.
"Narrator" and "On-Screen Keyboard"
A text-to-speech program intended for visually impaired users.
Start All Programs Accessories Ease of Access Narrator
Command Prompt narrator
The Narrator assists those with visual impairments by using a voice synthesizer and the sound hardware on the user's computer to read aloud text and the titles of screen elements (see Figure 10-19). You can configure the Narrator with these options:
Echo User's Keystrokes
The Narrator will speak each letter, number, and keyboard action as its corresponding key is pressed on the keyboard.
Announce System Messages
The Narrator will speak any Windows Vista system messages as they appear on the screen, as well as the titles of Windows when they are activated and the captions of many types of screen elements.
Announce Scroll Notifications
The Narrator will tell you when the screen scrolls.
Start Narrator Minimized
This will start Narrator minimized to the toolbar.
Figure 10-19. The Narrator, which uses speech to read the captions of various screen elements over your speakers
In addition to these functions, you can use the following keyboard shortcuts to read additional items:
To read an entire window, click the window and then press Ctrl-Shift-Space bar.
To read the caption of the control with the focus, or to read the contents of a text field, press Ctrl-Shift-Enter.
To get a more detailed description of an item, press Ctrl-Shift-Insert.
To read the title bar of a window, press Alt-Home.
To read the status bar of a window, press Alt-End.
To silence the speech, press the Ctrl key by itself.
A far more impressive, related technology is that used in speech recognition software, in which the computer will take dictation, translating anything spoken into a microphone into text on the screen. Although initially developed for physically challenged users, speech recognition has become very popular among all types of users, partly because of the novelty, partly because of the speed (some can type up to 160 words per minute), and partly to help reduce repetitive stress injuries. Windows Vista also comes with a new voice recognition feature, although it's not nearly as sophisticated as NaturallySpeaking (http://www.dragonsys.com) or IBM's ViaVoice (http://www.ibm.com/speech).
"Microsoft Magnifier," "On-Screen Keyboard," and "Windows Speech Recognition"
A rudimentary plain-text editor.
Start All Programs Accessories Notepad
Command Prompt notepad
notepad [/p] [filename]
Notepad is one of the simplest yet most useful tools included with Windows Vista. Those familiar with word processors may find Notepad to be laughably limited at first glance, as it has no support for even the simplest formatting. However, the fact that it supports only text in the documents that it creates is an absolute necessity for many of the tasks for which it is used on a daily basis (see Figure 10-20).
Figure 10-20. Notepad, for editing text files without the bother of a word processor
Among the file types Notepad can edit are .txt files (plain-text files), .reg files (see "Exporting and Importing Registry Data with Patches," in Chapter 13), .bat files (see "Batch Files," in Chapter 14), .ini files (configuration files), .html files (web pages), Unicode, and any other ASCII text-based file type.
Notepad has gained a bit more popularity recently, with the rise of blogging. When you copy and paste text from a word processor, such as Microsoft Word, into some blogging tools, the copied text brings along with it stray bits of code and invisible HTML. This causes problems with the blog. Notepad, on the other hand, handles only text, so it doesn't cause the same problems.
Notepad is the default application for .txt and .log files and is set up as the Edit context menu action for .bat, .inf, and .reg files, among others. Furthermore, via the /p command-line parameter, Notepad is used to print most text-based file types via the Print context menu action.
In some previous versions of Windows, Notepad had a limit as to the size of the documents it could open. The Windows Vista version of Notepad has no such limit, and you can use it to open a file of any size.
Notepad has no intrinsic formatting of its own, so any file that is opened in Notepad is displayed exactly as it is stored on the hard disk, with the proviso that only visible characters will be shown. This means that you can open any file, text-based or otherwise, in Notepad; if you try to open a binary file, however, you'll see mostly gibberish. There are times, though, when this can be useful; if you suspect that an image file or a movie file has the wrong extension, you can open it in Notepad to verify its contents. (Naturally, some experience is required to correctly identify different types of files.)
The Word Wrap feature (Edit Word Wrap) will break apart long lines of text so that they are visible in the Notepad window without horizontal scrolling. However, no permanent changes will be made to the file, so you can use the Word Wrap feature without fear of damaging the integrity of the document.
If you type the text .LOG (in uppercase and including the period) as the first line in a text file, Notepad will automatically place the time and date at the end of the file (with the cursor right below it) every time you open it, forming a simple logfile. Furthermore, you can use the F5 key to manually place a date/timestamp at the current cursor location while editing any file.
Notepad is a simple program, but by no means is it a full-featured text editor. UltraEdit (http://www.ultraedit.com) is a much more sophisticated text editor that you also can use as a hex (binary) editor. NoteTab Pro (http://www.notetab.com) is also far more sophisticated, and it includes a very easy-to-use HTML editor as well.
Add, remove, or configure sources of database management system data.
Control Panel [System and Maintenance] Administrative Tools Data Sources (ODBC)
Command Prompt odbcad32
Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) is a system that connects ODBC-enabled applications to the database management systems that provide the data. You use the ODBC Data Source Administrator to configure your applications so that they can get data from a variety of database management systems. For example, if you're using an application that accesses data in an SQL database, the ODBC Data Source Administrator lets you connect that application to a different data source, such as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or a Paradox database.
In the ODBC Data Source Administrator, the different sources of data are called data providers. To add a new provider, click Add under the User DSN, the System DSN, or the File DSN tab. A list of the available drivers is listed under the Drivers tab; you can install new drivers separately. The Tracing tab allows you to log the communication between applications and the ODBC data sources they use. You use the Connection Pooling tab to improve performance with ODBC servers. Finally, you use the About tab to check the versions of the installed ODBC components.