Hack 8. Customize the GUI with Tweak UI
Want to bend XP's interface to your will without getting your hands into the Registry or having to excavate through menus three levels deep? Then get this supremely useful freebie from Microsoft and create your own customized version of XP.
There are countless ways to customize XP's interface, including Registry hacks and menus and options hidden four layers deep. But if you're the kind of person who lives in the express lane, juices up on double espressos, and wants to hack away at the interface fast, you need Tweak UI.
Tweak UI lets you tweak not only the interface, as the title suggests, but also many other system settings, such as how Internet Explorer's search works, whether to automate your logon upon system startup, and whether to enable CD autoplay so that the CD immediately starts up whenever you pop it into your drive. In this hack, you'll learn how to use it and apply that knowledge to create a speedy, stripped-down version of XP. Figure 2-1 shows Tweak UI in action, customizing the display of thumbnail pictures in Windows Explorer.
Figure 2-1. Customizing the size and quality of thumbnails in Windows Explorer
I don't have room to show you all the ways you can hack the user interface with Tweak UI, but here are some of the highlights:
Figure 2-2. Displaying your exact version and build of XP on your desktop
There's a lot more as well; to find it all, download it and try it all out.
2.2.1. Create a Speedy, Stripped-Down Interface with Tweak UI
While it might be fun to use Tweak UI to fiddle with the UI, its real power becomes apparent when you use it to create your own customized XP interfaces. For example, you might be the type who is concerned about only one thing when you use your PC: pure functionality. You want to get your work done fast, and you don't want to be bothered by the extra frou-frous that XP throws in your way and that slow down your system. Here's how to create a speedy, stripped-down interface using Tweak UI:
The Mouse section also lets you change the mouse's sensitivity to "hovering"for example, displaying a tool tip when you hover your mouse over an icon. To speed up the hover display, highlight Hover underneath the Mouse section, then decrease the numbers next to "Hover sensitivity" and "Hover time." Test out your settings using the test icon.
Desktop icons take up RAM and clutter your interface, so you want as few of them as possible on your desktop if you want a stripped-down version of XP. You can delete most desktop icons, but some of them such as Outlook and Internet Explorer apparently can't be deleted. However, Tweak UI lets you delete them. Go to the Desktop section and uncheck the boxes next to the icons that you want off the desktop. (You can force the Registry to do the same thing [Hack #13] .)
The Control Panel is filled with applets that you will rarely, if ever, use, and they clutter up the interface, making it more difficult to find the applets you do want to use. To hide applets, go to the Control Panel section and uncheck the boxes next to the applets that you want to hide. (You can force the Registry to do the same thing [Hack #9]. That hack also shows you how you can run the applets, even after you've removed their icons.)
When you right-click the desktop and choose New, you can automatically create a new document by choosing from a submenu. That submenu can offer many choices of which document types to create, depending on the applications you have installed on your PC and how those applications handle their installation process. In many instances, those choices can be little more than clutter because you might rarely need to create new documents of certain types. Strip down that submenu to the essentials so that it has only those document types that you frequently create. Choose Templates, and uncheck the boxes next to the document types you rarely create. For example, most people rarely use the Briefcase [Hack #29], but that is one of your choices, so remove that unless you regularly move files using it. (To add power to the right-click context menu in Explorer, see [Hack #28] .)
If you're the primary person who uses your PC, you can enable autologon so that you're logged on automatically when the system starts. Choose Autologon from the Logon section, check the box next to "Log on automatically at system startup," and make sure your username, domain, and password are correct.