1.5.1. Find Missing Program Windows

THE ANNOYANCE: Certain programs never seem to open successfully. If I double-click a JPG file, for instance, my image viewer never launchesI see its icon in the Taskbar, but that's it. Clicking the icon doesn't do anything; the only thing that has any effect is right-clicking it and selecting Close to make it go away.

THE FIX: Although it may seem that the program has crashed, it's probably opening off-screen. Most programs can remember their last position and size, but few are smart enough to realize that they can't be seen. To find out if an application has opened off-screen, click its Taskbar icon so that it appears pushed in, and then press Alt-Space. If a little menu appears, use the cursor keys to select Move, and then press Enter. At this point, a gray rectangle should appear somewhere on your screen; use your cursor keys to move the rectangle so that it's roughly centered on the desktop, and then press Enter. With any luck, the missing window should magically appear.

If you don't see the menu, minimize all open windows and see if there's a dialog box for the program hiding behind them (in which case, you can click OK or whatever to make it go away). If there's no dialog box, uninstall and then reinstall the program. Still no luck? Contact the manufacturer of the misbehaving application for help.

Evils of DDE

Underneath the purring Windows interface is a wellhidden facility called DDE (short for Dynamic Data Exchange) that allows applications to communicate with one another. DDE frequently comes into play when you double-click documents in Windows Explorer, in an open folder window, or on the desktop. If the application associated with a document is not running, Explorer launches the application and the document simultaneously. But if the application is already running, Explorer merely sends a DDE message to the application, instructing it to open the document on its own. This should ensure that only one copy (instance) of a program is open at any given time.

Unfortunately, DDE ends up causing the exact problem it was designed to prevent. In some cases, Explorer opens a document and its application (like it's supposed to), and then sends a DDE message to the application instructing it to open a second copy of the file. The solution? Disable DDE. Although you can't turn off DDE entirely (nor would you want to), you can solve the problem by selectively disabling DDE support for certain file types, as explained in "Seeing Double Windows."

1.5.2. Seeing Double Windows

THE ANNOYANCE: Whenever I double-click a document in Windows Explorer or on the desktop, it opens in two identical windows. Is Windows really that stupid?

THE FIX: Yes, my son, Windows really is that stupid. Luckily, the fix is simple enough, but you must first determine the type of file that causes the problem.

In Windows Explorer, select Tools Folder Options or open the Folder Options control panel, and choose the File Types tab. Find the appropriate filename extension in the list, and click the Advanced button. (If you see a Restore button here, click it to reveal the elusive Advanced button, and then click Advanced.)

Note: You'll need to know the extension (e.g., .doc or .wpd) of the offending file, which Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom, has hidden by default. To make filename extensions visible in Windows Explorer, go to Tools Folder Options, click the View tab, and select "Show hidden files and folders."

In the subsequent dialog box (shown in Figure 1-19), highlight the bold item in the listin this case, Openand click the Edit button. In the "Editing action for type" window, uncheck the Use DDE box (see the "Evils of DDE" sidebar), and then click OK in each successive dialog box to confirm your choice. The duplicate windows should never return (at least until you reinstall the application, and in so doing, reinstall the DDE setting).

Figure 1-19. The DDE option for some file types causes all sorts of problems, most of which can be solved by simply turning it off.

1.5.3. Make Old Windows New Again

THE ANNOYANCE: I'm using an older program that's really showing its age. How can I make it look like the rest of my applications?

THE FIX: The style you choose in Display Properties affects not only the title bars of your applications, but also the push buttons, menus, toolbars, drop-down lists, and other screen elements in most, if not all, programs that run in Windows. Some older applications, though, may not know to take advantage of these new features.

To force a single application to update all of its push buttons, menus, and so on, type the following into a plain-text editor such as Notepad:

	<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="yes"?>
	<assembly xmlns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:asm.v1" manifestVersion="
	1.0"><assemblyIdentity version="" processorArchitecture="X86"
	name="COMPANYNAME.PRODUCTNAME.PROGRAMNAME" type="win32"/><description>MY
	<dependency><dependentAssembly><assemblyIdentity type="win32"
	name="Microsoft.Windows.Common-Controls" version=""
	processorArchitecture="X86" publicKeyToken="6595b64144ccf1df"
	language="*" /></dependentAssembly></dependency></assembly>

Note: The capitalized text after "name=" can be customized, but the rest of the text must appear exactly as shown. If you don't feel like typing all this yourself, you can download the text from

Save this text into the same folder as the application you're customizing, and give it the same name as the main executable (.exe) file, followed by .manifest. For example, if you were trying to update an old version of Adobe Photoshop (photoshp.exe) installed in the c:\Program Files\Adobe\Photoshop folder, you'd save this text file in the same folder, as Photoshp.exe.manifest.

The next time you start the application, it should look more up to date. Not all programs can be forced to use styles this way, though, and those that support it may not do so properly.