Section 2.1. FOLDERS

2.1.1. Show Folder Tree Lines

THE ANNOYANCE: Windows Explorer used to have dotted lines connecting the folders in the folder tree. How can I show these lines in Windows XP?

THE FIX: In Windows Explorer, go to Tools Folder Options, click the View tab, and uncheck the "Display simple folder view in Explorer's Folders list" box. Click OK, and the folder lines will reappear in Windows Explorer, as shown in Figure 2-1.

Note: Windows Explorer is typically seen in its two-pane format, with a folder tree on the left and the contents of the currently selected folder on the right. With the "simple folder view" option enabled, Windows Explorer automatically expands a folder branch when you highlight a folder to show all the folders contained therein. Disable this option, and you'll have to click the little plus signs [+] or double-click the folder names to expand branches.

Figure 2-1. Lines in the folder tree help show relationships between folders.

2.1.2. Get the Details View Every Time

THE ANNOYANCE: I like the Details view because it shows all the information about my files at once, but I hate having to go to View Details every time, only to have Windows Explorer forget my preference when I switch folders.

THE FIX: Windows Explorer won't change the default view settings unless you ask it to. Start by customizing a folder view: select the Details view (or whatever view you like), and choose a sort order by clicking the column headers or by going to View Arrange Icons by. You can even go to View Choose Detailsor right-click a column headingto choose which columns appear in the Details view. (See "Sort Photos Chronologically" in Chapter 3 for a nifty way to use one of the extra Details columns here.)

When you're done customizing, go to Tools Folder Options, choose the View tab, and click the "Apply to All Folders" button. Check the "Remember each folder's view settings" box, and click OK.

Sooner or later, senility will appear to strike and Explorer will start indiscriminately forgetting your view settings in some folders. To fix the problem, find a folder that still matches your preferences, return to the Folder Options window, and click "Apply to All Folders" again. For more on this problem, see the next annoyance.

Note: Explorer remembers different preferences for single-folder windows and two-pane folder-tree windows. Once you've used the "Apply to All Folders" button in, say, a two-pane Explorer window, go ahead and double-click a folder icon on your desktop (or right-click a folder in the tree and select Open) and customize the single-folder window that appears as you see fit. Then repeat the above steps to save those settings as the default for that window type.

2.1.3. Remember Settings for More Folders

THE ANNOYANCE: I turned on the "Remember each folder's view settings" checkbox, as described in "Get the Details View Every Time," but it doesn't take long for Explorer to forget the settings I've set for a specific folder.

THE FIX: Explorer stores folder view settings in the Registry and, alas, not in the folders themselves. This awkward design has two rather silly drawbacks. First, if you move or rename a folder, its view settings revert to Explorer's defaults. Second, by default the view settings can be stored for a maximum of only 400 folders on your system. While this may seem like a lot, this limit can quickly be consumed, particularly since an individual folder eats up an additional slot in the Registry each time it's moved or renamed.

To raise the limit, you'll need to mess around in the Registry. Open the Registry Editor (go to Start Run and type regedit), and then navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Shell. Create a new value by selecting Edit New DWORD Value, and, in the right pane, type BagMRU Size for the name. Double-click the new value, select the Decimal option, type the number of folders you'd like Explorer to remember (e.g., 5000) in the "Value data" field, and click OK. Next, repeat the process for the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\ShellNoRoam key. Close the Registry Editor when you're done.

2.1.4. Jump to a Subfolder

THE ANNOYANCE: I'm trying to get to a folder about seven layers deep, and it's a hassle to have to wait for Windows to update the display as I expand each folder. Isn't there a way to jump to a subfolder without wading through all of its parent folders?

THE FIX: There are a few ways to do this. The easiest is to highlight the top-level folder in the tree and press the asterisk (*) key. This will expand the selected folder, all of its subfolders, all of their subfolders, and so on. Then, type the first few letters of the target folder to jump to it.

Note: Best not to use this trick on a folder with a lot of subfolders, such as the root directory or, say, Program Files. Explorer will take its sweet time reading the whole branch, which should give you a pretty good idea of why they're collapsed in the first place. As there's no way to abort the procedure, you'll be waiting quite a while before you can start navigating to any of those subfolders!

Alternatively, if you know the full path of the folder, just type it into Explorer's address bar and press Enter. Windows will even help you by filling in likely candidates as you type (see Figure 2-2); press the down arrow key to pick a folder from the list.

Figure 2-2. Windows Explorer helps you type folder paths to quickly jump to buried subfolders.

Yet another shortcut is to press F3 or Ctrl-F to open the Search pane (see "Search in a New Window" for a way to preserve your current view while searching). Click the "All files and folders" link, type the folder name in the "All or part of the filename" field, and press Enter. Double-click the folder when it appears in the Search Results window to open it.

2.1.5. Shrink the Address Bar

THE ANNOYANCE: I have a small screen, and the address bar and the Standard Buttons toolbar take up too much space. I got rid of the toolbar, but I'd like to keep the address bar. Is there a way to make it smaller?

THE FIX: With screen real estate at a premium (even on large displays), anything you can do to minimize clutter is helpful. The trick is to stuff the address bar into that unused space to the right of Explorer's main menu (File, Edit, View, etc.), as shown in Figure 2-3.

Note: If you don't see the address bar in Windows Explorer, go to View Toolbars Address Bar.

Right-click any part of the menu or the gray part of the address bar, and if there's a checkmark next to "Lock the Toolbars," click it to turn it off. Then grab the word "Address" with your mouse and drag the bar to the right side of the menu. Since some folders (such as Network Connections in the Control Panel) have extra menus, make sure to leave a little space to the right of the Help menu to accommodate them. When you're done, right-click the bar and select "Lock the Toolbars" to turn the lock back on.

Figure 2-3. Stuff the address bar into the menu bar to save space.

2.1.6. Copy a Folder Path to the Clipboard

THE ANNOYANCE: I want to send someone an email with the location of a file on our network. How do I do this without having to type the path manually?

THE FIX: Go to View Folder Options, choose the View tab, check the "Display the full path in the address bar" box, and click OK. Navigate to the folder you want to copy, and the full path of the selected folder will appear in the address bar above. Click the text in the address bar once (it should already be highlighted, as shown in Figure 2-4), and press Ctrl-C to copy it. Then press Ctrl-V to paste the text into your email.

Figure 2-4. Use the address bar to copy the current folder path to the clipboard.

An add-on can help here, too. Among other things, Creative Element Power Tools ( lets you right-click any folder (or file, for that matter) and select Copy Filename to place the name and entire path on the clipboard. You can then press Ctrl-V to paste it any-where you like.

2.1.7. Print a Folder Listing

THE ANNOYANCE: I need a printout of the contents of a folder, but Explorer doesn't have a Print function. Do I have to resort to the Print Screen key on my keyboard?

THE FIX: In the days of DOS, pressing the Print Screen key would send all the text on your screen to your printer. But in Windows, this key simply takes a screenshot of the entire display and puts it on the clipboard as a bitmap. (Hint: press Alt-Print Screen to snap just the active window.)

Fortunately, there's a better way, but it involves a little preparation. Open Notepad, and type the following:

	dir /o:gn "%1" >c:\filelisting.txt
	notepad /p c:\filelisting.txt

When you're done, select File Save and name the file printfolder.bat. (The .bat filename extension is important.)

Next, in Windows Explorer, go to Tools Folder Options, and choose the File Types tab. Highlight "(NONE)/Folder" in the list, and click the Advanced button. Then click the New button in the Edit File Type dialog. In the Action field, type Print Listing, and below, in the "Application used to perform action" field, type the full path and filename of the printfolder.bat file you just created (e.g., c:\stuff\printfolder.bat). Click OK and then OK again, and click the Close button when you're done.

Thereafter, right-click any folder and select Print Listing to run the batch file and print an alphabetized listing of the folder contents.

If you don't want to fuss with the batch file, use Creative Element Power Tools: just right-click any folder and select Print Folder Contents, or select Copy Folder Contents if you want to paste the listing into another program. (Both tools also calculate the sizes of all subfolderssomething you can't do in Explorer without an add-on program.) To get a list of only the selected files, as opposed to all the files in a folder, in Power Tools right-click and select Copy Filename. The Copy Filename tool doesn't calculate your folder sizes, but it works in search results and will even include the full path of each selected file. If you still need to print, just paste the listing into any application and print away.

2.1.8. Print a File from Explorer

THE ANNOYANCE: I need to print a variety of documents on a regular basis, but it's a hassle to open each document in its own application just to print it. There's gotta be a faster way.

THE FIX: Depending on the file type, odds are the feature you want is right at hand. In Explorer, just right-click a document and select Print to send it to the printer.

Now, the printing of documents is the responsibility of individual applications, so if you don't see a Print option for a particular file type, it means there's no application configured for this task. To add a Print option to a file type that doesn't have it, go to View Folder Options in Explorer, and choose the File Types tab. Select the type in the list, and click the Advanced button. Click New, type Print in the Action field, and then click Browse. Locate the application that opens files of this type (e.g., Notepad for .txt files, Microsoft Word for .doc files), and then click Open. After the path and filename in the "Application used to perform action" field, add a space and then type /p %1.

Note: The %1 is a placeholder, which Explorer will replace with the name of the file you've right-clicked. The /p parameter is usually all that is required to instruct the program to print the file, although your application may need a different parameter. Look up "command-line parameters" in your application's documentation for details.

Click OK and then OK again, and click the Close button when you're done. Now, right-click a document that matches the file type you just customized and select Print, and you should get a printout of the file shortly!

2.1.9. Show the Folder Size

THE ANNOYANCE: Explorer shows the collective size of the files in a folder down in the Status bar, but this statistic never includes the subfolders. Why doesn't Explorer show the size of all the contents of a folder?

THE FIX: It does, but not in the Status bar. Right-click a folder and select Properties, and Explorer will calculate the size of the folder and all its contentsincluding subfoldersreporting both the total number of bytes and the actual disk space consumed. (The latter is always a larger number because files, no matter how small, consume disk space in discrete chunks called clusters.) Of course, this gets rather time-consuming if you want to check the sizes of more than a handful of folders.

To display folder sizes right in Windows Explorer (Figure 2-5), install the free Folder Size for Windows extension, available at Open Windows Explorer, navigate to any folder on your hard disk, and select View Details. Right-click any column header (or go to View Choose Details), and place a checkmark next to Folder Size. This gives you a new Folder Size heading that shows the sizes of both individual files and the contents of folders (you can turn off the Size column now, since the file size display will be redundant).

Note: Due to a limitation in Windows XP's support for "column handlers" like the Folder Size extension, you won't be able to sort Explorer listings reliably by clicking the Folder Size column header. As a partial fix, a second column, Folder Size Sort, is also included in the package. Although it omits the comma separators and "KB" designation, it can properly sort files by size.

Figure 2-5. Use the Folder Size extension to show the size of folders and all their contents in a new column in Windows Explorer.

At this point, you can rearrange and resize the columns by dragging them with your mouse. If you want to make this new setup the default, so that the Folder Size column shows up for all folders, see "Get the Details View Every Time."

2.1.10. Navigate Folders with the Keyboard

THE ANNOYANCE: I hate using the mouse when I don't have to; is there a way to navigate in Windows Explorer with the keyboard?

THE FIX: The less you touch that rodent, the better; keyboarding is faster, too! Highlight any folder with the arrow keys and then press Enter to open it. To jump to the parent (containing folder) of the current folder, press Backspace.

In the folder tree, move from folder to folder with the up and down arrow keys; use the plus (+) key or the right arrow key to expand a folder branch, or the minus (-) key or the left arrow key to collapse it. (The left arrow key will also jump to the parent if the selected folder is already collapsed.)

Windows Explorer also maintains a "history," like Internet Explorer. Hold down the Alt key and press the left arrow key to jump to any folder you've previously viewed. Once you've gone back in time, so to speak, you can move forward by holding Alt and pressing the right arrow key.

Note: You can jump to any folder by typing the first few letters of its name, as long as it's visible on the tree (not collapsed). See the sidebar "Helpful Explorer Keystrokes" for more on this and other useful shortcuts.

And there's more! Use the Tab key to jump between the folder tree, the file listing, and the address bar (use Ctrl-Tab to go backwards). Press Enter to open the selected item, F2 to rename it, or Alt-Enter to open its Properties sheet (a.k.a. right-click Properties).

Selecting files and folders with the keyboard is easy, too. To select a range of files, hold down the Shift key while using the up or down arrow keys. To select nonadjacent files, hold down the Ctrl key while pressing the up or down arrow keys, and then hit the spacebar to select or deselect a file.

Helpful Explorer Keystrokes

Certain keyboard shortcuts can be real timesavers in Explorer, especially when used in conjunction with the mouse. The following tips assume you're using standard double-clicking. If you've chosen to have icons respond to a single click, just replace "double-click" here with "single-click."

  • Hold the Alt key while double-clicking a file or folder to view the Properties sheet for that object. Although this is often quicker than right-clicking and selecting Properties, the right-click menualso known as the context menuhas a bunch of other options, most of which are not accessible with keystrokes.

  • Hold the Shift key while double-clicking a folder icon to open an Explorer window at that location (as opposed to a single-folder window). Be careful when using this, because Shift is also used to select multiple files. The best way is to select the folder first.

  • Press Backspace in an open folder window or in Explorer to go to the parent folder.

  • Hold the Shift key while clicking on the close button [X] to close all open folder windows in the chain that was used to get to that folder. (This, of course, makes sense only in the single-folder view and with the "Open each folder in its own window" option turned on.)

  • Select one icon, then hold the Shift key while clicking another icon in the same folder to select it and all the items in between.

  • Hold the Ctrl key while clicking to select or deselect multiple files or folders, one by one. Note that you can't select more than one folder in the folder tree pane of Explorer, but you can in the right pane. You can also use Ctrl key to modify your selection. For example, if you've used the Shift key or a rubber band to select the first five objects in a folder, you can hold Ctrl while dragging a second rubber band to highlight additional files without losing your original selection.

  • Press Ctrl-A to quickly select all of the contents of a folder: both files and folders.

  • In Explorer or any single-folder window (even in the folder tree pane), press a letter key to quickly jump to the first file or folder starting with that letter. Continue typing to jump further. For example, pressing the T key in your \Windows folder will jump to the Tasks folder. Press T again to jump to the next object that starts with T. Or, press T and then quickly press A to skip all the Ts and jump to taskman.exe. If there's enough of a delay between the T and the A keys, Explorer will forget about the T, and you'll jump to the first entry that starts with A.

  • Press F6 to jump between the file pane and the address bar (if it's visible). In Internet Explorer (or Netscape or one of the Mozilla browsers, for that matter), use F6 to jump between the address bar and the page you're viewing.

From Windows XP Annoyances for Geeks, 2nd Edition

2.1.11. Hide the Tasks Pane

THE ANNOYANCE: I never use any of those silly links in the "File and Folder Tasks" and "Other Places" boxes on the left side of most single-folder windows (Figure 2-6). Can I get rid of them and get back some screen space?

THE FIX: Absolutely! Go to Tools Folder Options, select the "Use Windows classic folders" option, and click OK. You won't be missing anything, either; just about every feature in the Tasks pane is accessible in Explorer's menus or by right-clicking.

Figure 2-6. Save space by doing away with the Tasks pane.

Note: The only one thing you can't do without the Tasks pane is turn on or off the Category view in the Control Panel. With the Tasks pane visible, go to Tools Folder Options, select "Show common tasks in folders," open the Control Panel, and click "Switch to Classic View" to show all Control Panel icons together (or click "Switch to Category View" to hide the icons behind the handful of Control Panel categories).

2.1.12. Get Back the Folder Tree

THE ANNOYANCE: Sometimes when I'm looking at a single-folder window, I want to use the tree so I can jump to other nearby folders. But it's cumbersome to go to View Explorer Bar Folders just to show the tree, and the delay each time I open the Explorer Bar menu is intolerable. Is there a faster way?

THE FIX: You've probably noticed that "Folders" is the only entry in the View Explorer Bar menu that lacks a keyboard shortcut, which is odd, given that it's easily the most useful feature in the bunch. While you can't summon the folder tree with the keyboard, or do anything about that delay, you can click the Folders button on the toolbar to show or hide the folder tree. If your toolbar doesn't have this button, you can add it; if you've turned off the toolbar to reduce clutter, you can turn it back on but slim it down so it contains only the Folders button (as shown in Figure 2-7).

Figure 2-7. Use this button to quickly show or hide the folder tree.

Here's how to customize the toolbar. First, double-click a folder icon on your desktop to open a single-folder window. (Since Windows Explorer saves different toolbars for single-folder windows and folder-tree windows, make sure to do this in a single-folder window, as opposed to one that already has the folder tree.) Display the standard toolbar if it isn't already visible by selecting View Toolbars Standard Buttons.

Right-click the toolbar and select Customize. The buttons currently on the toolbar appear on the right side of this window. To add a Folders button, select it in the "Available toolbar buttons" list and click the Add button. To create a minimalist one-button (Folders) toolbar, highlight each of the other items in the "Current toolbar buttons" list in turn and click the Remove button to take it off the bar. Keep doing this until there's nothing left except for the yellow Folders button. From the two drop-down menus below, select "No text labels" and "Small icons," respectively, and click the Close button when you're done. Finally, move the lone button so it appears next to the menu; use the steps for moving the address bar discussed in "Shrink the Address Bar," earlier in this chapter.

From now on, you can click the Folders button to show or hide the folder tree in any single-folder window.

2.1.13. Open Explorer in a Custom Folder

THE ANNOYANCE: Every time I open Windows Explorer, it opens the My Documents folder and leaves the rest of my hard disk hidden inside the My Computer branch. I'd rather have it go to the drive list in My Computer, or directly to a folder I use more often. How do I do this?

THE FIX: Of course, you can create a shortcut to a folder by selecting the folder in Explorer, then dragging the control menu icon (the little box in the upper-left corner of any window) onto the desktop. But if you double-click this shortcut, all you'll get is a single-folder window. If you want a full-fledged Explorer window complete with the folder tree, try this.

First, create a brand new shortcut by right-clicking an empty area on the desktop and selecting New Shortcut. For the location, type:

	explorer.exe/n,/e,,"c:\my folder"

Make sure to include the space after .exe, the three commas as shown (without spaces), and quotation marks around your folder path; naturally, replace c:\my folder with the folder you'd like to have Explorer display. Or, to open directly to your drive list in My Computer, add the /select parameter between the second and third commas, and specify c:\ as the destination path, like the path shown in Figure 2-8. Click Next, type Windows Explorer (or any name that makes sense to you) for the shortcut name, and click Finish.

Figure 2-8. Create a new shortcut to open Windows Explorer in a custom folder.

To open Windows Explorer to the new location, just double-click the shortcut. For more convenient launching, put it in your Start menu, in the Quick Launch toolbar, or on the Windows desktop.

2.1.14. Keep Explorer from Vanishing

THE ANNOYANCE: Windows Explorer keeps crashing; worse, it takes all the other Explorer windows with iteven the desktop! How can this cascade crash be stopped?

THE FIX: By default, the same instance of Explorer handles the desktop, the Start menu, and all open Explorer and single-folder windows. That is, only one copy of the explorer.exe application is ever in memory. This means that if one Explorer window crashes, they all crash.

To fix this, go to Tools Folder Options, choose the View tab, check the "Launch folder windows in a separate process" box, and click OK. Thereafter, each Explorer window will represent a separate instance of the program. Although this consumes a little more memory and may slightly increase the time it takes to open Explorer windows, you won't notice the difference at all if you're using a fast computer. (See the "Restore the Desktop" sidebar for another side effect.)

Restore the Desktop

There's a little program that runs invisibly in the back-ground that automatically restarts Explorer if it ever crashes; this ensures that you're never without your desktop or Start menu.

If you turn on the "Launch folder windows in a separate process" option, it sort of breaks this feature. If your desktop ever disappears and doesn't come back, press Ctrl-Alt-Del to display the Task Manager. Choose the Processes tab, click the Image Name column heading to sort the list alphabetically, highlight explorer.exe in the list, and click the End Process button; do this for every instance of Explorer you see. When you're done, restart Windows Explorer by going to File New Task (Run), typing explorer, and clicking OK.

2.1.15. Delete an Undeletable Folder

THE ANNOYANCE: I'm trying to delete a folder, but Windows says it's being used by "another person." Are we talking gremlins here, or has someone broken into my PC to read my manifesto on platypus cloning?

THE FIX: All this means is that there's a running application that either has a file open in that folder or has placed a lock on the folder because the last file it saved was stored there. (The latter can happen even if the folder is empty.) Just close the application in question (or close all open windows if you're not sure which one it is), and try deleting the folder again.

You'll get a similar error if the folder contains a program file (i.e., an .exe or .dll file) belonging to an application that's currently running. As you'd expect, closing the application should make it possible to delete the file, and thus the folder. The tricky part is when the file is a component of a background process (so there's no visible window to close), part of a stealthy spyware process (see Chapter 4), or part of a program that has crashed. If you suspect the problem is connected to a hidden process, restart Windows and then delete the folder. If you suspect spyware, scour your system with up-to-date antispyware software, such as Spybot - Search & Destroy (free, or Ad-Aware SE Personal (free,

If you still can't delete the folder, try Safe Mode. Restart your computer, and just after the system beep but before the Windows startup logo appears, press the F8 key to display the Windows Advanced Options Menu. Use the arrow keys to highlight Safe Mode, and then press Enter. Windows will then load in a hobbled state, loading only essential programs and drivers. At this point you should be able to delete the folder with no problem. Restart your PC when you're done, and Windows will load normally.

If this doesn't work you can use the "Delete in-use files" tool, part of Creative Element Power Tools ( If there's a file you can't get rid of, just right-click it, select Delete In-Use File, and then restart your PC. The next time Windows loads, all files queued for deletion will be removed before any programs that use them load.

2.1.16. Clean Up Context Menus

THE ANNOYANCE: I installed a new program, and it immediately added a new entry to Explorer's right-click menu for folders. How can I get rid of this pest?

THE FIX: If the application's authors followed good programming practices, they should have included an option that lets you remove this right-click entry. (Check the program's documentation for specifics.) But odds are it ain't there.

Note: Before you muck with the Registry, back up the entire ContextMenuHandlers key by highlighting it, selecting File Export, and saving the key as a .reg file on your desktop. To restore the backup should something go wrong, just double-click the .reg file.

In Windows Explorer, go to Tools Folder Options, and choose the File Types tab. Highlight "Folder" in the list, and click the Advanced button. If the entry you want to remove appears here, highlight it and click the Remove button. Otherwise, close the window.

This leaves the Registry as the only means of cleaning up your context menus. Open the Registry Editor (go to Start Run and type regedit), and navigate to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Folder\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers. Expand the branch, and you'll see a handful of subkeys immediately below ContextMenuHandlers (see Figure 2-9), each of which corresponds to at least one entry in your folders' context menus.

Figure 2-9. Some stubborn context menu items can only be removed with the Registry Editor.

The purpose of some subkeys in ContextMenuHandlers will be obvious, while others will appear only as nonsensical strings of numbers and letters. If you see a key that is clearly responsible for the errant context menu item, go ahead and delete it. Otherwise, highlight each key, and look at the values in the pane on the right for clues.

If you encounter a numeric key like {616c1f06-bad8-11d2-b355-00104b642749} (see Figure 2-9), it's a ClassID, or a pointer to a registered program component referenced elsewhere in your Registry. To find out what it does, highlight the key in question, press F2 to select the name, press Ctrl-C to copy the name, and then press Esc. Next, press Ctrl-F to open the Find dialog, Ctrl-V to paste the string into the "Find what" field, and press Enter to begin a search. As you search through the Registry, you'll find references to the same ClassID in other file types; stop when you get to the first instance you find that isn't located under a ContextMenuHandlers key. Most likely, you'll end up in a key that looks like HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\CLSID\{616c1f06-bad8-11d2-b355-00104b642749}. The name of the program should appear in the right pane (see Figure 2-10); if not, expand the branch and look through the subkeys for clues.

Figure 2-10. Search the Registry for a ClassID to find out what it's for.

Note: If you can't find the key responsible, go to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers and repeat the above process (or, if you're hunting for an item that appears in files' context menus, conduct your search in HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers).

If the program to which the ClassID is pointing matches the context menu item you want to delete, return to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Folder\shellex\ContextMenuHandlers and delete the errant subkey there (leaving the one in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\CLSID intact).

2.1.17. Customize Folder Icons

THE ANNOYANCE: The standard yellow folder icons make me feel jaundiced. Is there any way to pick a more aesthetically pleasing icon?

THE FIX: Unfortunately, Explorer only lets you customize the icons for individual foldersyou can't make a blanket change without the help of a third-party application.

Missing the Customize Tab?

Don't see the Customize tab in the Properties window for a folder? Put it back by opening the Registry Editor (go to Start Run and type regedit) and navigating to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\shellex\PropertySheetHandlers. Create a new key (Edit New Key), and type {ef43ecfe-2ab9-4632-bf21-58909dd177f0} for its name.

Next, navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer. Double-click the NoCustomizeThisFolder value in the right pane, type 0 (zero) in the "Value data" field, and click OK. Do the same for the NoCustomizeWebView and ClassicShell values. (If any of these values are absent, skip 'em.) Finally, navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer and set the same three keys to 0 (skip this step if this key is missing on your system). Close the Registry Editor when you're done, restart Windows, and try again.

Right-click a folder whose icon you'd like to change, select Properties, and choose the Customize tab, shown in Figure 2-11 (see the "Missing the Customize Tab?" sidebar if it's not there). Click the Change Icon button, and then choose an .ico, .dll, or .exe file containing the icon you'd like to use for this folder. Click OK when you're done.

Figure 2-11. Use the Customize tab to customize individual folder icons.

Another approach: back on the Customize tab, click the Choose Picture button to choose a photo to superimpose over the standard folder icon in Explorer's Thumbnail view.

If you want to change the default folder icon for all folders, try the Microangelo On Display utility ($24.95, Among other things, On Display allows you to customize nearly every icon found in Windows XP, including the default icon used for all folders.

2.1.18. Faster Folder Fix

THE ANNOYANCE: It takes forever to open a particular folder in Windows Explorer. Does the fact that it contains 4,000 files have anything to do with it?

THE FIX: Why, yesthe more files a folder contains, the longer it will take for Explorer to display it. Your first order of business is to run Disk Defragmenter (go to Start Run and type dfrg.msc) to rearrange the physical data on your hard drive so that it can be read more efficiently. Once that's done, Explorer should load the folder much more quickly.

The other thing you can do is to separate the files into several folders. Organize them alphabetically, for instance, by placing files that start with an A, B, C, or D into a folder called A-D. Do the same with E-H, I-L, and so on. Not only will Explorer display each subfolder in less time, but it might make it easier to find individual files.