Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Make your cursor easier to see

I have excellent eyesight. I am not saying that to brag, I just want that fact out on the table.. so to speak. But, I have an old, everyday-go-everywhere, laptop with a smaller screen and a cursor that likes to wander and drift.. and sometimes I lose track of it (the cursor, not the laptop). Today’s quick tip will help those of you who sometimes lose track of your cursors too.

Tip of the day: It is easy to forget that almost every aspect of our PCs are adjustable (“tweakable”), and we spend our lives using the default settings: our XP desktop is a rolling hillside: our Taskbar is on the bottom.. one row high: etc., just like it came out of the box. But we can change things by finding the settings and adjusting them; often, these settings are found under “Preferences”, sometimes under “Options”, sometimes “Properties”, and even — oddly enough — under “Settings”.

Today I’m going to show you how I made my cursor easier to keep track of than the (default) white arrow. I’m going to make it black, bigger, and add a ‘finder’ tool to it, but you can select other options.. to your liking.
Start by going into your Control Panel (Start >Control Panel, or Start >Settings >Control Panel) and double-click on the “Mouse” icon. (You may have to switch to “Use Classic view”.) This makes sense when you remember that it is the mouse which moves the cursor.

The mouse Properties window will open. The cursor, and its behavior, are adjusted using the two middle tabs — Pointers, and Pointer Options.
On the Pointers tab, use the drop-down arrow to select a “Scheme” for your cursor. For ease of seeing, I have selected “Black, extra large”. Experiment a little to find one you like, as you can see a ‘preview’ of the “Scheme” on the right. When I click on “Apply”, my cursor will change from a smallish white arrow to a decent-sized black arrow.

Because my old, well-worn laptop doesn’t travel well anymore, sometimes my cursor will — with a mind of its own — jump to one corner of my screen and disappear from view. To help me find it on these occasions I have turned on a ‘cursor finder’ tool.
Now, when I hit my Ctrl key, a series of rings (briefly) appear around the cursor’s position.
To turn this feature on, click on the Pointer Options tab, and place a check in the bottom checkbox. Then click on “Apply”.. and then “OK”.

That’s it. You’re done.

Today’s free link: Those of you who do not have such terrific vision may find the Advanced Magnifier a useful addition to your computer.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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February 7, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, keyboards and mice, PC, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , | 4 Comments

Keyboard troubleshooting: is “Sticky Keys” on?

Yesterday I received a call from someone who was rather distraught and frantic (this happens from time to time at my Tech Support business) because, all of a sudden, they couldn’t type on their computer. Actually, she could type.. but she was getting very strange results.

After determining that she had not recently poured an extra-large Cafe Latte on her keyboard (to read my article on what to do if you do spill on your keyboard, [or, if a single key has stopped responding] click here), and asking some other diagnostic questions, I determined that she had accidentally turned on Windows’ FilterKeys feature and simply needed to turn it off again.
FilterKeys is a subset of keyboard “Accessibility Options” included in Windows to assist people who have difficulties typing. These tools are activated (toggled on and off) by keyboard stroke combinations (shortcuts).

Tip of the day: Understand and use (or make sure they’re turned off) keyboard Accessibility Options. There are several types of help for those with typing difficulties, namely:
StickyKeys is an accessibility feature designed for people who have difficulty holding down two or more keys at a time. When a shortcut requires a key combination such as CTRL+P, StickyKeys will enable you to press one key at a time instead of pressing them simultaneously.
FilterKeys: You can set Windows to ignore keystrokes that occur in rapid succession, or keystrokes that are held down for several seconds unintentionally.
Bounce Keys: If you bounce your fingers on keys inadvertently, Bounce Keys will ignore repeated keystrokes until some time has passed. You choose the time period.
Repeat Keys and Slow Keys: The computer will ignore brief keystrokes according to the time limits you set.

[Note: if your keyboard issue is not related to “Accessibility Options”, you may find additional troubleshooting answers in the Comments section (below). Also, this article may be more appropriate: What To Do When Your Mouse Plays Dead. Or Your Keyboard.]

To access these Options and turn them off or on, go to your Control Panel– click Start >Settings >Control Panel >Accessibility Options.
By default it opens to the keyboard tab. If you are experiencing a sudden onset of bizarre typing behavior, your first step is to visit here and ensure that there are no checks in the three checkboxes, which indicates these Options are in use.
I mentioned that shortcuts ‘activate’ these features — such as Tab+Enter, and a couple of Alt+a letter— and so you may have turned them on unintentionally.

If you do have some difficulty with your typing, such as happens when a Mr. Arthur Itis comes to visit, or/and if you have tremors, here is where you can enable these aids and tweak their settings to get the most benefit from them. Click on the “Settings” button to see the choices. Below is the FilterKeys Settings dialogue.
In the case mentioned, my client had first held down the Shift key long enough to activate FilterKeys (because a finger “rests” there). The lady was an extremely fast typist, and this setting ignored her strokes as being too short. Since she has no use for this tool, I recommended that she uncheck the top checkbox and disable the activating shortcut.

This screenshot shows the settings for StickyKeys, and unless you have trouble holding down more than one key at the same time — such as Ctrl+Alt+Del to activate Task Manager — I suggest you uncheck the top checkbox here as well.

For more on the keyboard Accessibility Options, click here.

Today’s free link: Loyal readers of this daily How To series know that I have a certain sensitivity to how the marvels of today’s technology has had an affect on our civil liberties and privacy. If you share my concerns, you should be aware of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization looking out for us in this arena. Take a look and see the latest headlines and concerns, and see how they’re defending your rights.

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Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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October 24, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, keyboards and mice, PC, privacy, tech, Windows | , , , | 294 Comments