Tech – for Everyone

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

Customize Your Taskbar

Recently, a geek friend* mentioned to me to me a free, handy utility that lets you ‘tweak’ (aka “customize”) your Windows 7 Taskbar easily.

7 Taskbar Tweaker is portable utility and easy-to-use as well. It features some of the best tweaks available for Windows 7 Taskbar. Below is the list of tweaks available in 7 Taskbar Tweaker:

# Disable grouping of windows by file path or application ID

# Open with while dropping a file on a Taskbar button instead of pinning

# Close or focus a window on middle click instead of running a new instance

# Show standard window menu on right click instead of jump list

# Cycle through windows of a grouped button on left click instead of showing a thumbnail preview

# Disable thumbnail preview

I have not tried it yet myself, but it is recommended in PC World and elsewhere as one of the best ‘tweak tools’. My geek friend also tried to get me to move my Taskbar to the vertical, arguing that on widescreen monitors (in particular) doing so frees up valuable “screen real estate”, and really helps, as he likes to have two window panes open side-by-side when he’s working.

Doing so is easy, simply:
1) right-click on a blank area of the Taskbar..
2) Click on “Lock the Taskbar” to uncheck it.
3) Left click on a blank area of the Taskbar (to “grab” it) and “drag” it to the right, or left, edge of your screen.
(Then, right-click on a blank area of the Taskbar and click on “Lock the Taskbar” to check it again, and keep it in place.)

If this should prove to be “too weird” for you, and you want to revert to ‘normal’ .. simply repeat the process and drag-and-drop to the bottom edge. But my friend swears, once you try it, you won’t go back…

* Here at T4E Headquarters, “geek” is a compliment.

Do you have a ‘tweak tool’ you simply love, and want me to know about? Tell me about it. Leave a comment!

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

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February 9, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, software, tech, tweaks, Vista, Windows 7 | , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Playing With A Fox

Simply Put, Firefox Just Kicks *Hiney*

Back in the days when I was young, and we were enthusiastically impressed with something, we didn’t use the expressions “wicked”, or “awesome”, or “dope”.. or whatever it is the kids are using today. We said that something “rocks!” And when that something was tops in its class, we said it “kicks *gluteus maximus*!”

Today I want to use those superlatives and tell you about a boring old Web browser — something we use everyday. To do other things. Namely, surfing the Internet looking for interesting videos (or.. reading our e-mail). The program I want to talk about is one I have been using for years – maybe you have too – and most readers will recognize the name. So what has me so “jazzed”? I recently discovered that Mozilla’s Firefox browser has something called “Persona’s”, and I think they’re a “real kick in the head”  (I think they are fun).


That screenshot shows you what my Firefox looks like. Today. With a couple of clicks, I have applied the Persona titled “Tiger Eyes”. Persona’s (as Mozilla is calling them) are not a real new concept: in tech, they are sometimes referred to as “skins”, or “themes”. And in fact, you acquire, manage, and apply Persona’s in the Themes tab of the Add ons settings.
Click on Tools > Add ons, and then Themes. Your saved Persona’s/Themes are listed on the left, and a preview is shown on the right. To browse for new ones, click the “Get more Themes” link (bottom).

Add ons

This will take you to the Persona’s Gallery, where there are 1829 pages of Persona’s to choose from. When you are in the Gallery, you can hover your cursor over a Persona “thumbnail”, and it will be temporarily applied to your Firefox so you can easily see how the Theme effects your menus, tabs, etc.
Yes. 1829 pages. And I found at least one “keeper” on every page..!


Today I am ready to conquer the world — and thus the tiger Persona. But this week I also used these Persona’s/Themes…



Semper Fi

And I want you, Dear Reader, to know that in spite of what impression my high-contrast, more masculine, preferences may have given you, I assure you that there are persona’s for kids…

Ice Age

and scads of frilly, “pretty”, pastel, flowers-and-butterflies girly stuff for the ladies…

pink leopard spots

These links will take you to the Gallery, pre-sorted into categories… which might reduce your number of choices down to the high hundreds… I am sure you’ll find one that fits your mood.

Persona Categories:

So check it out. Customize your Firefox and make it more “you” by applying a Persona today. Have some fun. Doing so is free, and it’s easy.

Related: To see my other articles on the features of Firefox, click here.

Unrelated: Do you like free software? Own a loptop? See my current software license giveaway: Software Licence Giveaway

Copyright 2007-2010 © Tech Paul. All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.

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March 15, 2010 Posted by | computers | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Fun and games with Windows XP– Themes*

A “heads up” to my loyal readers — as you are aware, today starts a long Holiday weekend to celebrate the founding of the first nation governed not by Monarchy, but By the People. In the spirit of long weekends, I will not be writing new Tech for Everyone posts (after this one) for a few days but I will repost some of the older, more popular past articles which you may have missed. I will be available for tech help and support at Aplus Computer Aid, however.

Tip of the day: Give XP a “makeover”. One of the “coolest” things about Windows Vista®, in my opinion, is it does not look like boring old XP. Instead of the blue desktop, which dates back to Windows 95, Vista has a rather nice nature photo. The “edges” around windows are ‘modernized’ in Vista and have a smoother “feel”, and so on and so forth. The Vista GUI looks a lot like what Apple users have been used to seeing in OS X.

If you, too, are bored and tired with XP’s utilitarian ‘look’ and are not ready (for whatever reason) to dive into a brand-new operating system, you can “tweak” the look of XP in a myriad of ways and make it a much more modern and pleasant-to-look-at computer. There are pre-built ‘packages’ — called “skins” — that you can download. Windows X offers a “Vista Transformation” utility that fairly mimics the Vista shell (look to Today’s free link) on XP machines. And there are display settings, and “themes” that you can simply change from their defaults, which is what I’m going to describe today.

Today we’re going to explore the Display Properties options — get started by right-clicking on any vacant area of your desktop and selecting Properties. This is the same place we used to create our custom screensaver slideshow in an earlier post.
By default, Display Properties opens to the Theme tab. Use the drop-down arrow in the Themes window, and you will see that we’re basically faced with two choices: the getting old XP Theme, and the even older Windows Classic theme. Don’t be discouraged by this. This is where you would make the changes if you had downloaded a “skin” from the Internet. We will be using the other tabs.

Kill the hill. XP by default shows us a desktop that is either a solid color (blue) or a rolling hill, but XP comes with other (better) choices. Click on the Desktop tab. Now explore the possibilities, using the up-down scroll arrows, of the names listed in the Background box — the previews are displayed on the little PC when you single-click on a name.
You may already see the pictures in your My Pictures folder listed here as well. This is because you can use just about any digital image as your desktop, and the “stretch” option helps the image fit the screen. If this little bundle of possible backgrounds doesn’t satisfy, and you have a specific image in mind, use a graphics manipulation tool (like Photoshop) to resize the image to your screen resolution (Found on the Settings tab. My laptop’s resolution is 1024 x 768 pixels at {the standard} 96dpi, for example) and Save it. Now use the …Browse button to find and open it, and viola!

More tweaks: Now let’s explore the Appearance tab, which allows us to modify to some degree the look of the windows we interact with. Again, we really have the two choices of old and older, and again, a “skin” is the way to make drastic changes, but by clicking the Advanced button there is quite a bit we can adjust, as shown below.


You can ‘tweak’ colors and sizes, and in some cases, behaviors. For more color options, click on the down-arrow on Color1, and a small palette will open: for even more color options, click Other.

By experimenting with these options and ‘tweaks’, you can customize the look of XP and make your computer much more personal. Also, Microsoft has a free “PowerToy” called “TweakUI” which can further open up options for adjustments to XP; to read more about/get it, click here, and scroll to the “today’s free link:” area.

For those of you who want the Vista “look”…

Today’s free link: Windows X offers a tool that makes changes to XP which makes it look and operate quite a bit like Vista. Before you use this utility I strongly advise that you have a full system backup, as I demonstrated in yesterday’s post, just “in case” it proves incompatible with a device driver or Windows Update. Also, I must reiterate my disclaimer in regards to this particular reco’ — I have not done this, as I have been running Vista since early betas, and so I cannot attest to its reliability. If you’re brave, and have a full back up, download the Vista Transformation Pack.

Enjoy your holiday!

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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July 4, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, software, tech, tweaks, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Show off your photos with a screensaver slideshow

If you have seen someone’s customized screensaver and thought to yourself, “that’s really neat…I wonder how they did that?” then this post is for you. The trick is in using Windows’ built-in slideshow feature, and it is a straight-forward and easy adjustment to make.

Tip of the day: To create a custom screensaver slideshow, all you have to do is, basically, turn it on. It will by default show a slideshow of the pictures in your My Pictures folder, but you can point it to any folder which contains images — and here’s where the customization comes into play.

To get started, let’s assume that all you want to do is display your My Pictures folder. This will allow me to demonstrate the first step: turning on a screensaver slideshow. First, right-click on any blank area of your desktop and select Properties (in Vista, “personalize”>”screensaver”). This will open the Display Properties window. Click on the Screen Saver tab. Now go down to the drop-down arrow box labeled Screen saver (which by default should say “Windows XP”) and click on the down arrow to open your list of choices. Select “My Pictures slideshow”. Now instead of the boring black background with a moving XP logo, the screensaver will be your pictures. Click the Preview button to see what it will look like.

While we’re here, let’s take a look at some of the other settings. Here is where you can set how long a period of idle time elapses before the screensaver kicks in. If you’re in an office setting, I would reduce this timer to a low number; and if you’re at home, you might want to adjust it to give yourself a little more time. To redirect the slideshow to a different folder, and to modify your slideshow’s variables (such as how long each picture displays), click the Settings button. You should get a screen like the one pictured below.


As you can see, you can “tweak” your slideshow quite a bit here, and even add transitions between slides. Again, use the previous screen’s Preview button to see how these adjustments will actually play out. If you’re happy, you can quit here, but if you don’t want to display your whole My Pictures folder — but instead, only a subset — or want to use a different folder of pictures, keep reading.

First, open your My Pictures folder (Start >My Documents >My Pictures) and right-click on any blank area. On the menu that opens, select New, and then folder. Give your new folder a name like “slideshow”. Now fill this folder with copies of the pictures you do want to display, by right-click+dragging them into the “slideshow” folder, letting go, and selecting “Copy here”. Repeat this until you have your selections all copied.

Now that you have your slideshow folder all set up, return to the My Screen Saver Properties window (the one pictured above) and click the “…browse” button. Double-click on the “slideshow” folder (you may have to navigate to it: do so by clicking My Document >My Pictures >slideshow), and you’re done. Again, you can use the Preview button to see how it will look.

To make your PC more immune to casual browsing while you’re away from your desk, go back to Display Properties’ (right-click any blank area on your destop and select Properties) Screen Saver tab and put a check in the checkbox labeled “On resume, display Welcome screen.” If you’ve followed my advice from earlier posts, this will require your user password to log in.

Today’s free link: I don’t have my screensaver displaying my own photo’s, I have it set to display a series of “Demotivators” (free for personal use) — an amusing and ironic play on the “motivational” posters that Executive-types love to hang in work areas. If you haven’t seen the Demotivators (and their often spectacular photography) yet, do yourself a favor and click here. And be sure to browse the different categories.

*Original posting:6/26/07

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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April 24, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, Digital Images, how to, PC, tech, tweaks, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , | 4 Comments