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How should I set up my computer? (Part IV)

So far in this series (parts I, II and III) I began setting up my
new computer; connected it safely to the internet, updated software, and
tweaked the Windows XP Task Bar, Start Menu, Startup Programs, and Services to
my liking.

Now we’ll start installing. Given all the tweaking I’ve done so far, the
first thing I install should really be no surprise at all.

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Tweak UI. It’s one of those “don’t
leave home without it” utilities that exposes a number of windows features and
characteristics that aren’t otherwise easily customizable.

After installing it, I use it to make the following changes:

  • Explorer, Shortcut, I select a “Light
    arrow” as the shortcut overlay. I use shortcuts often and find the default
    just a little too distracting.

  • Desktop, First Icon I set to My
    Computer
    . As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m not a big fan of “My
    Documents” and use it very little.

  • My Computer, Auto Play,
    Drives, I unselect my DVD drive, and the drives
    associated with my USB memory card reader. Autoplay is nice in concept, and
    works for many people. I just do too many things with these devices and the
    Autoplay functionality is, for me, more often an annoyance and just not worth
    it. TweakUI is the way to turn it off. (I’ve discussed this
    before in How do
    I *really* disable auto-play in Windows XP?
    .)

  • Logon, Unread Mail, I deselect “show
    unread mail on welcome screen” for all users. It’s never right, I haven’t
    bothered to figure out if I can get it to work properly with Outlook,
    and even if I could it’s just not useful to me. (I’ve discussed this before in

    How do I turn off the unread message count on the Windows XP login
    screen?
    .)

Obviously there are plenty of other tweaks that can be made using TweakUI. I
suggest spending a few minutes exploring what it can do.

OK, my first real application? Office 2003. I let Office setup run
with the default settings all the way through. Then I immediately
visit the Microsoft Office web site and
check for updates. Sure enough, there was a service pack and other updates so I
downloaded and installed those.

Interestingly enough Office Update also had me download the GDI detection
tool which warned me that it had detected a vulnerability. Apparently this was
in error, as not only had SP2 (already on my machine) fixed it, but following
the suggested steps of visiting both Windows Update and Office
Update
again produced no additional downloads.

The first application I start tweaking after installing Office is Outlook.
But that’s large enough that I’ll dedicate the next article in this series to
that. Next up are my tweaks to Microsoft Word.

Into Word’s Tools, Options dialog we go. I
make the following changes from the defaults:

  • In the View tab:

    • uncheck “Startup Task Pane”. It doesn’t help me at all, and just takes up
      precious screen real estate.
    • uncheck Smart Tags. Does anyone really know what these are, really? And
      when they’re on, have you used them? Not me.
    • set Field Shading to “Always”. Fields are a very useful and powerful
      feature in word that allow you to insert automated text that might include the
      document name, your name, the table of contents and a whole lot more.
      Personally, I want them to look different when I’m editing so I know what I’m
      dealing with.
  • In the General tab:

    • turn on “Provide feedback with sound”, and if needed, I’ll download the
      sounds from the Microsoft Office web
      site
      later.
    • set the recently used file list to its maximum: 9. I wish I could set it
      higher.
  • In the Edit tab:
    • Turn off “When selecting automatically select entire word”. That setting
      just annoys the heck out of me.
  • In the Print tab:

    • I turn off background printing. This is mostly out of habit from the days
      where it could cause problems, but I like to know that when Word says it’s done
      printing it’s actually done printing.
  • In the Save tab:

    • Turn off “Allow background saves”, for much the same reason as background
      printing.
    • Confirm that “Allow fast saves” is off. This is
      actually a security hole, as far as I’m concerned. With fast save turned on,
      old portions of your document that you believe you’ve deleted or replaced can
      actually remain within the file.
  • In the File Locations tab:

    • I set new paths for Documents, Clip art pictures, and Templates. I have my
      own collection of each in a standard location on each machine I work on.
  • In the Spelling & Grammar tab:

    • I add my custom dictionary, removing the standard one
    • Turn off “Check grammar as you type” and “Check grammar with spelling”.
      Grammar is, in some ways, very subjective, and the grammar checker has rarely
      helped me when I’ve tried it.

Now that Word has been tweaked, I drag Word’s menu item down to the Quickstart
toolbar on my task bar, holding the CTRL key when I release it to make a copy
of the shortcut there.

Two final Office-related tweaks: I turn off the Office Clipboard by
unchecking all “Show When …” in its options the first time it appears. I just
don’t find it that useful, and don’t want it to show up uninvited. And
eventually Office’s “Customer Experience Improvement Program” will show in
status bar. Click that and run it, and then hit OK to get rid of it.

That was just Word. The next article in this series will be dedicated to
they myriad of settings and customizations I do to the program I live in most:
Microsoft Outlook.

The Setting Up Series:

Do this

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