Tag Archives: Windows 7

Make your Mac More Like Windows 7 with HyperDock

I’m a Mac, but I used to be a PC.

(Just in case you haven’t seen them, I am referring to the popular series of TV adverts comparing the Apple and Microsoft ways of doing things.)

This is an app review, so it’s not the place for a Mac vs. Windows debate. For the sake of context however, I should say that after switching and enduring a sharp learning curve, I personally came to appreciate and prefer the Mac OS X way of doing things.

Little niggles remained, however. In the course of my working day, I often have many documents open at one time. Windows 7 introduced a great preview feature that shows all of the files open in an application when you hover the mouse over its taskbar icon. Earlier versions of Windows had opened each file in a separate instance of the application, so even without the Windows 7 preview, it was still easy to quickly switch between several different Word documents.

On my Mac, I became frustrated with having to go to the “Window” menu or cycle through windows in an application to quickly move between open documents. I also missed Window 7’s desktop snapping features, particularly the ability to instantly make one window take up exactly half of the screen.

Enter HyperDock, an app that appears to have been specifically designed to add these features to Mac OS X.

Hyperdock for OS X
Hyperdock for OS X

On the evening that I first investigated HyperDock, I was put off by the price. £6.99 ($11 USD) seemed like an awful lot to pay for some OS tweaks, despite a host of 5-star App Store reviews. I put it to the back of my mind. By lunchtime the following day, I realised that I had needed to use the cumbersome way to switch between documents at least ten times. I swallowed the cost and downloaded the app.

Though it’s probably a little histrionic to say that HyperDock has changed my life, it has certainly made it less frustrating. Windows 7’s window preview was a great feature from Microsoft. HyperDock basically provides OS X with the same, but better. The app lets you change the preview size, the animation, the behavior – and even adds some cool extra features such as advanced previews for iTunes and iCal.

HyperDock gives me the window snapping features too. I can now drag a window off to the side to make it take up half the screen – perfect for comparing documents, or using one to refer too while writing. It’s the perfect example of a feature you didn’t know you needed until you had it – and after Windows 7, I was missing it.

To come down firmly on one side of the Windows vs. OS X debate is somewhat missing the point. There are always going to be things that one OS does better than the other. Utilities like HyperDock give you the best of both worlds, and what I like best about this app is that it works seamlessly, without the flaky unpredictability that I associate with Windows UI enhancements that I have tried in the past. It’s turned out to be worth every penny.

How to make your Windows tablet look like Windows Phone 7

I recently noticed that when I told people I bought an ASUS EP121 Eee Slate tablet PC with Windows 7, they usually asked me “What do you do for easy access to nifty apps and news and stuff?” And sadly, it was a question I could not easily answer without adding sarcasm or criticism (a very tough thing to do, mind you).

In all fairness, I did agree that my overpowered, $1,200 multi-touch tablet PC was lacking a nice home-screen user interface like the iOS or Android 3.0. So like all the other problems I had faced in my life, I turned to the internet for help.

Immediately, the internet told me to wait for Windows 8 (which Techerator has been covering already). But unfortunately, I have never been one for waiting for solutions to my life’s problems and, more importantly, I have stopped purchasing operating systems when they are in their product infancy (lesson learned: Windows Millennium Edition). But thankfully, a few short Google searches later I found that the folks at How-to Geek had located a better solution than just waiting for a new OS: use Rainmeter and Omnimo UI to make your Windows 7 desktop look like a Windows Phone 7.

So that is exactly what I did.

Rainmeter and Omnimo

Before
After

Rainmeter is a free program that allows for custom skins to be added to one’s computer desktop for added functionality. All the skins are user-created, and can range from simple battery meters to to-do lists and RSS feeds. If you do enough searching, you’ll find a skin to load into Rainmeter that fits your liking. For my tablet, I followed How-to Geek’s lead and chose Omnimo UI, a custom skin that takes its influence from the Windows Phone 7 OS design and its sleek Segoe UI font. Installation of both Rainmeter and Omnimo UI are accurately detailed in the How-to Geek article, so I will not elaborate too much.

Once installed, Omnimo walks you through the skin selection process and gives you three options: two skins with nifty Windows Phone 7-esque panels and clear text, and the third skin being a blank slate to start from.

If one chooses the pre-built skins, it is important to note that thanks to Omnimo’s features, they are not set in stone. Rather, every single panel and text item can be tweaked, moved, and deleted to suit one’s preferences. Editing a panel can be done by finding the wrench icon located nearby and the deleting can be done by right clicking anywhere on it and going to the “unload skin” option.

So...many....OPTIONS

The right click menu is also where all the other tweaking happens. Panels can be added and subtracted, and whole homescreen skins can be backed up and stored for future reference. The configuration options are extensive and comprehensive, with the only things being excluded are adding one’s personal preferences to the panels.

If one feels ambitious enough to start from scratch, they can use the “WP7” menus to choose panels to add and place them on the screen to their liking. This one above was created in one evening to suit my “Quick demand for what’s happening around the world while eating breakfast” mood.

I will say this, though, creating a custom home-screen is not as easy as it looks due to the fact that some of the panels and editing menus are tiny and tweaking them to exactly your liking can become increasingly frustrating and tedious.

Two tips when dealing with custom panel movements:

  1. Use the tablet pen to move the panels around and edit them (that makes a huge difference).
  2. Lock the panels into place once they are in a suitable location by right clicking on the panel, going to “Manage Skin,” and deselecting “Draggable” in the lower right. Adding shortcuts can also become extensive as the editing menu will not find the icon for you once you add the path of the executable.

So take that, tablet PC objectors. Thanks to Rainmeter and skins like Omnimo, one can have the luxury of an expensive, high-powered tablet with Windows 7 and a clean user interface at the same time. No sarcasm intended.

Windows 8 Can Do A Cold Boot In 8 Seconds Flat

We said what everyone was thinking. A coat of paint on a sub-par system does not a successful operating system make. Okay, my colleague said it better than that, but the message is the same. Regardless, we’d still like to give credit where it’s due and highlight something that Microsoft has done really, really well so far: Start-up time.

Praise be to whoever made this miracle happen, because Windows no longer takes an eternity to load. Now it takes 8 seconds. Yes. I’ll repeat that. 8 seconds. There’s proof in the video below. From fully powered-off to fully powered-on in just under 8 seconds. Even Apple can’t touch that.

Windows 8 has changed the way your computer shuts down. In Windows 7, everything (including the services and devices in the kernel session) are completely turned off. But in 8, the kernel session is put into hibernation mode, rather than being shut down. This allows Windows to avoid restoring the kernel session at every start-up. It’s a change that has improved boot times of PCs by 30-70%.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcH8n_oFf0c

And that is not all folks. The boot process is also going to look better, a detail that may not seem that important until you boot up a MacBook next to a current version of Windows. With Apple, you see a nice spinning wheel with an Apple logo above it, but with the PC, well you’re going to get a mess. Scary scrolling text, jarring screen changes, and finally a couple of graphic screens.

But that’s all changed. Windows 8 will now show the logo of the company that made your computer and follow that up with a graphic windows bootloader. Clean and simple. Two adjectives that Windows have been lacking for a large amount of years. You may have noticed the improved boot screens in the video as well.

But what if you need to do something else during boot up? Like booting into a different operating system? They’ve got a simple user interface for that. They even beautified the screen that allows you to choose which attached media to boot from. Using Windows 7 is starting to look a lot like living in the dark ages. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the ugly, ugly interface that makes up the command prompt. When will this be fixed? Nobody knows. Anyway, I know you don’t believe me, but there is proof in this video:

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_PXsY9E3lc

How to Restore Aero Effects if the Windows Desktop Window Manager Crashes

Aero” is the graphical user interface that Microsoft introduced with Windows Vista and Windows 7. It includes many productivity features for managing your windowed desktop environment, but one of the most noticeable features is the glass-like transparency effect that is typically present on the borders of windows.

Aero window effects working properly

At times, the Desktop Window Manager (DWM) service that runs Aero can crash. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but I’ve most frequently seen it when using applications that are not fully compatible with Windows 7, or when undocking my laptop with a full-screen application open.

Error message shown after the Desktop Window Manager has crashed

When the Desktop Window Manager service crashes, you’ll immediately notice that the Aero transparency effects will disappear.

Aero effects are disabled after the Desktop Window Manager service has crashed

You can fix this problem by restarting your computer, but there’s an easy fix to restart the service and re-enable Aero effects.

Restarting the Desktop Window Manager Service

Step 1: Click the Start (Windows) button and type “run” in the search box. Select the “Run” application that appears in the Programs list.

Note: You can also press the Windows Key + R to access the Run dialog.

Step 2: Type services.msc and press enter.

Step 3: Locate the entry for Desktop Window Manager Session Manager, right click it, and select Restart.

That’s it! The Desktop Window Manager service should now have restarted and Aero effects should be re-enabled.

Optional – Restarting DWM via Command Line

You can also restart the Desktop Window Manager via command line, which is useful if you wanted to create a batch script to automatically restart DWM when it crashes.

To restart DWM via command line, open the command prompt (cmd.exe) and type:

net stop uxsms

Followed by:

net start uxsms

This will have the same effect as restarting the DWM service through the Windows Service Manager application.

How to Close Pidgin Chat Windows with the Escape Key

Pidgin (formerly known as Gaim) is a free, multi-protocol instant messaging application for Windows, Mac, and Linux.  Pidgin is highly customizable and supports popular instant messaging networks like Google Talk, MSN/Windows Live Messenger, AIM, Yahoo! Chat, and can connect to services like Facebook Chat through plugins (or directly through the XMPP messaging protocol).

In recent versions of Pidgin, the developers changed the default “close chat window” hotkey from the Escape key to the combination CTRL + W.  While I understand their reasons for doing this (many desktop applications have standardized CTRL + W as the ubiquitous “Close Window” hotkey), I simply can’t break the habit of closing IM windows with Escape.

Here’s how to change Pidgin’s configuration so Escape closes the IM window instead of CTRL + W.

Update: Reader Miguel submitted a much easier way to use the Escape key to close IM windows. Thanks!

Step 1: In Pidgin, go to Tools –> Preferences.

Step 2: In the Interface tab, enable the checkbox for “Close conversations with the escape key”.

That’s it! This change will make Pidgin recognize Escape as the hotkey to close IM windows. Commence celebration.

The other (more difficult) way to use the Escape key to close IM window

Step 1: Close Pidgin.

Step 2: Windows XP: Navigate to the following directory on your computer (where username is the user you’re logged in as):

C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\.purple\

Windows Vista or Windows 7: Navigate to the following directory on your computer (where username is the user you’re logged in as):

C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\.purple\

Linux/UNIX: Navigate to the following directory:

~/.purple/

Step 3: Locate the file called accels and open it with Notepad (or a similar text editor, I prefer Notepad++).

image

Step 4: Find the line that contains the following code:

; (gtk_accel_path “

/Conversation/Close” “w”)

image

Delete the semicolon (;) and change the line to the following code:

(gtk_accel_path “

/Conversation/Close” “Escape”)

image


Ask Techerator: How can I search by only File Name in Windows 7?

Techerator team:

I’ve just switched from Windows XP/Office 2003 to Windows 7/Office 2010.  Before, I could easily find files in Word & Excel by simply typing a word that I knew was in the filename….

Now with Windows7/Office 2010, by searching in the upper right corner search box, the directory instead lists all the files which have that word anywhere in the body or the title.  It produces a ton more results and makes it hard to find what I want without going down a long list.  Do you know how I can make it search only the titles of files, not the body?

I have to say, this same problem was a bother to me as well. With Windows 7, Microsoft significantly “upgraded” the search functionality with an improved indexing service with the ability to search not only file names, but the actual contents of the files as well.

I’m not trying to say this is a bad feature; it certainly is very useful. I just find it odd that Microsoft would completely remove the old functionality, the ability to search only by file name. Now every user has to re-learn how to find a document to which he or she knows the file name offhand. Fortunately, the functionality is still there, the users just have to work harder.

The key to the new Windows 7 search are “search filters,” which allow the user to specify which part of the file to search in. Start typing a keyword in the search box in the upper right-hand corner of the window, and a little drop-down menu will appear with these search filters. The two visible are probably useful in the most unrealistic of scenarios: “Date modified” and “Size.”

Apparently, you should just know that a search filter called “Name” exists. Using this search filter will only look in the file name (and folder name) for the search, and you won’t have to worry about every single Office document containing the word “hello” appearing in your search results.

So there it is. To search by only filename, prefix your search with name:, followed by the word or words you wish to find. It’s so simple, yet so user-unfriendly. I think I’ll get back to scratching my head about this one.

Fix: “Print driver host for 32bit applications has stopped working” Error in Windows 7

One problem I’ve experienced when using my Windows 7 64-bit computer with networked printers is that I intermittently get the error:

Print driver host for 32bit applications has stopped working

It appears that this problem occurs for most people when printing to network printers, but I was seeing it even when not printing (I would wake my computer from sleep and the message would already be on my screen).

After doing some research, I discovered that this problem seems to be a flaw in Windows.  Apparently, Microsoft did not include a full list of printer drivers on the OEM installation CD, so some printers get installed incorrectly and cause your system to throw this error.

The Fix

Step 1: First off, you need to uninstall any printers that you have on your computer.  Click Start –> Devices and Printers, locate your printer, right click it, and select Remove device.

image

Step 2: Now you’ll need to reinstall the printer as a locally attached network printer (don’t worry, it will work just the same as before).  To do this, click the Add a printer button in the Devices and Printers window from the previous step.

printer1

In the resulting window, select Add a local printer.

printer2

Then click the option for Create a new port and select Standard TCP/IP Port from the dropdown menu.

printer3

Step 3: Type in the networked printer’s hostname or IP address.  The port name will automatically fill itself in with the same information.  Be sure to leave the Query the printer and automatically select the driver to use box unchecked, then click Next.

printer4

Step 4: Click the Windows Update button to retrieve an updated list of printer drivers from Microsoft.  Locate your printer in this list and proceed with the installation – this should fix your problem.

image

If you continue to experience problems with the print driver host for 32-bit applications crashing, try downloading the driver from the printer’s manufacturer and using that in Step 4 by selecting the Have Disk option.

3 Easy Ways to Improve Search in Windows 7

One of my favorite features of Windows 7 is the improved search.  Windows Search is quickly available in the Start menu or in any open Explorer window.

To improve search performance, Windows 7 uses a background indexing feature.  Indexing pre-searches specified locations on your computer and compiles the results into the search index.  When you search, you’re computer is not having to search the entire hard drive, but just the indexing file.

Below are a couple of tips I’ve found to be useful for tweaking the Windows 7 search.

Adding and Removing Indexed Locations

As mentioned above, indexing in Windows 7 allows you to quickly search common locations of your hard drive.  By default, Windows 7 indexes only a couple of key locations on your computer.  Adding your custom file locations can greatly improve your search capabilities in Windows 7.

I have recently added a couple of external hard drives to my computer and would like Windows 7 to always index them.  Here’s how to do this:

Step 1: Navigate to Control Panel > All Control Panel Items > Indexing Options.

Step 2: Click on Modify.

Step 3: Select the new locations to index.  You can either select an entire drive or individual sub-folders of the drive.  Click OK when finished.

The Windows 7 Search will now include my recently added indexed drives.

Searching File Contents of Non-Indexed Locations

Scenario: You need to find a document located on a shared network drive.  You don’t know the name of the file is but you know some of the content of the file.  Since the shared network drive is a non-indexed location, searching in the network drive only produces results as file names without any contents.

Adding the network drive to your indexed locations would allow you to search through file contents, but considering the size of the shared drive and the large number of files located in it, having Windows constantly indexed the network drive would not be a good idea.

Windows 7 allows you to enable searching through file contents of non-indexed locations.

Step 1: In an open Explorer window, select Organize > Folder and search options.

Step 2: Click the Search tab of the new window.

Step 3: Under What to search, click the Always search file names and contents radio button and click OK.

Searching the shared network drive will now present results from file names and file contents.

Specify File Types To Index

Specifying the file types to index can be useful if the locations you are indexing contain many different file types.  Adding or removing specific file types from the search index can improve the search performance.

Follow these steps to add or remove file types from the search index.

Step 1: Navigate to Control Panel > All Control Panel Items > Indexing Options.

Step 2: Click on the Advanced tab of the new window.

Step 3: Select the File Types tab at the top of the next window.

Step 4: Check and un-check the boxes for the file types you wish to index or not to index, respectively.  Click OK when finished.

Step 5: You’ll receive a pop-up stating that Windows needs to rebuild the index and it may take some time.  Click OK to acknowledge the warning and close any remaining open windows.

The changes to the indexed file types won’t be noticed until the index rebuilds.

Make sure to check out our other great guides about Windows 7.

How to Enable Windows 7′s “Aero Snap” Feature in Earlier Versions of Windows

One of my favorite features in Windows 7 is Aero Snap, which automatically resizes and snaps applications to the sides of your screen when you drag them near.  If you’ve got several windows open on one screen, this is a great way to manage your space (and I’ve learned it’s even more useful when working on large screens).

My favorite way to use Aero Snap is with the keyboard – simply press the Windows Key + the left or right arrow on your keyboard and the current application will snap to the side of your screen.

Check out the video below to see how it works:

When I use earlier versions of Windows like Windows XP and Vista, I often find myself missing this feature.  But good news: it can easily be added with AeroSnap BETA.

AeroSnap BETA

AeroSnap BETA is a free download for Windows XP and Vista, and instantly gives you the same Aero Snap functionality seen in Windows 7.  After downloading and installing AeroSnap BETA, a small icon will be present in your system tray.  Right clicking this icon gives you more options.

In the General tab, you can set AeroSnap BETA to start with your system so snapping is always available.  You can also enable hotkeys, which is the best way to use Aero Snap in my opinion.  Pressing WIN + Left Arrow and WIN + Right Arrow will shift the current window to different sections of the screen, going from Right Snapped to Center to Left Snapped.

In the Snapping tab, you can adjust the different types of window snapping and also the width of the regions that the snap is sensitive to.

Adding Aero Snap to your older version of Windows is a great way to add some new functionality to your aging system without buying an entirely new operating system.

Enjoy this tip?  Make sure to check out our other articles about Windows!

Window 7 Tip: Enable the Preview Pane for Quick File Viewing

Navigating through your personal files can sometimes be a nightmare, and it can often times be easier to open individual documents to find exactly what you’re looking for.  After awhile, you can find yourself with multiple open documents, but none of them were the one you were looking for.

By default, you documents will appear in a list or as icons in the Windows file explorer.  The Preview Pane in Windows 7 makes quickly viewing your documents a breeze.

Enabling The Preview Pane

Enable the Preview Pane by clicking the Preview Pane button in your open explorer window.

You can also navigate to Organize > Layout and click on Preview Pane to enable it.

Clicking on a file will now show a preview.  Note that not all files may not be viewable in the Preview Pane.

Below are a couple of examples of what documents look like in the Preview Pane.

Excel file in Preview Pane
Word document in Preview Pane

You cannot edit files through the Preview Pane, but you can copy the contents of the file.

You can re-size the Preview Pane to increase the preview size by clicking and dragging the vertical line separating the Preview Pane from the file list.

Thanks to Erica Johnson for this tip.  If you have any article ideas or other tips, be sure to send them to tips@techerator.com.