Adding Desktop Icons And Customising Them
The only icons on the desktop you will find after a clean install of Vista is that of the Recycle Bin. We love our desktops, and it’s one of the quickest ways to access programs. To get icons of the other necessary programs in Vista like the Computer and Network, right-click on the desktop and select Personalize. Click on Change desktop icons in the left pane. Check the boxes for the icons that you require on the desktop. Click OK.
The same window also allows you to set custom icons for each item. Click on the icon that needs to be changed and click the Change Icon button. Select the icon of your choice and click OK.
Disabling Folders And Links In The Start Menu
The Vista Start Menu has links to almost everything: Music, Games, Pictures, Documents, etc. You may not need all of these, or you may need to add some more shortcuts. To remove these links, right-click on the taskbar and click on Properties. Click on the Start Menu tab. Here you can choose to set the Start Menu to look like older Windows versions, you can choose to select the Classic Start menu by clicking the radio box. To remove the unnecessary items, click on Customize next to Start menu. To disable the links, check the radio box—Don’t display this item for the items you want removed. Click OK when done.
Changing Power Button Characteristics
Vista has this useful option of allowing the user to choose the function that the Power button on your computer performs. Go to Start > Control Panel and (if you’re using the Classic View) double-click on Power Options > Choose what the power button does. To do this from the standard Control Panel view, go to System and Maintenance > Power Options > Choose what the power button does. Once you’ve got here, you will find that the options are disabled by default, so click on Change settings that are currently unavailable. Click on the dropdown for the Power button settings. Choose from Sleep, Hibernate and Shut down. Click Save Changes when you’re done.
Accessing The File Menu
One of the characteristics of Vista is that there might not be any File menu in some of the applications such as Windows Explorer for example. At any time to access this menu, press [Alt]. To permanently enable the menus, open Windows Explorer. Go to Organize > Folder and Search Options. Click on the View tab and check the box for Always show menus. Click OK.
Search The Internet Quickly
Microsoft has implemented the search bar within the Start Menu in Windows Vista. Its main purpose is to access files and programs quickly but it can be used to search the Internet as well. Click on the Start button or press the Windows key on your keyboard. Enter the keywords in the search field. Click on Search the Internet to use the default search engine (Live Search). In Windows Explorer, the search field normally searches the local drive. Pressing [Shift] [Enter] after entering the keyword will open up a new browser window with results of the search in the default search engine.
Adding New Search Engines To The List
You just learnt how to use the Start Menu to search the Net. You can also change the default search engine Vista uses. To do this, start Internet Explorer. Click on the dropdown in the Search field and click Find More Providers. A page should load with a list of some search engines. Click on the search engine you want to use. A confirmation window will pop up. Click Add Provider. If you want to make it your default search engine, check the “Make this my default search provider” box. Click OK. Now all Internet searches done by you will be handled by the new default search engine.
Automating Drive Defragging Sessions
Defragging is a must. Vista has an inbuilt scheduling feature that allows you to set when you want your drives to be defragged. Start Disk Defragmenter.
Click on Modify Schedule and select when you want the defragging to take place. You can set the frequency, the day and time for the defragment process.
Turn Off Unnecessary Features
Vista comes bundled with a whole lot of features you don’t always need.
These can be turned off to save resources and speed up the computer a bit. Go to Start > Control Panel > Programs > Turn Windows Features on or off. A list of installed components will be displayed and the ones not required like Tablet PC Optional Components and Fax and Scan can be removed. Uncheck the boxes for these components and click OK.
An Advanced Right-click Menu
The right-click is the quickest way to access and work with files. The Vista right-click menu has a few more options that are hidden away. To be able to use these, hold down [Shift] when right-clicking. If you do this to a folder, you can launch a command prompt at that location. You will now be able to copy the path of a file or a folder using that menu much quicker than usual.
Removing Vista And Its Boot Loader
If you have Vista and XP in dual-boot and want to get rid of Vista, its boot loader is an obstacle. To get rid of Vista, insert your Windows XP CD and boot from it. Remember to set your first boot device as your CD/DVD drive. Press a key when it tells you to during boot up. When prompted, press [R] to load the Recovery console. Confirm your Windows installation by entering the number. Enter your Administrator password at the prompt. On the prompt, type fixmbr and then type fixboot.
Reboot and you should be able to boot into Windows XP. Make sure you have backed up all critical files. Then format the partition on which Vista was installed to clear out Vista.
Another way to do this is to insert your Windows Vista CD and boot into Windows XP as usual. Go to Start > Run, type X:\boot\bootsec.exe /nt52 ALL /force. (Replace X with your CD/DVD drive letter). Reboot and format the Vista partition.
Using Parental Control
Not only can parental control in Vista safeguard your children from inappropriate content, it can also regulate the way they use the computer. Go to Start > Control Panel > User Accounts and Family Safety and click on Set up parental controls.
You can create a new account for your children by clicking on Create a new user account or just choose an existing account. Here, click On, enforce current settings. Other setting that you will find here are time limits, and program, Internet and game access restrictions.
Recently Opened Items
As in Windows XP, Vista has a small list that shows all files that were opened recently. By default, the value is set to 15. This number can be changed through a registry tweak. Start registry editor (Start > Run > regedit). Browse to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\
Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer. Here, right-click in the right pane and create a new 32-bit DWORD called MaxRecentDocs. Double-click on the entry and give it a Decimal type value of how many ever entries you want in the recently opened file list. Reboot when you’re done and the changes will be applied.
If you do not want to have a list of recently opened files at all, the easier way is to right-click on the taskbar and click on Properties. Click on the Start Menu tab and uncheck the “Store and display a list of recently opened files” box.
If you set Vista to index all files on your drive, this can take quite a while. Chances are, you will not be searching for INI files in the C:\Windows\system32 anytime soon. You can speed up the process by selecting only the most important locations to be indexed. Get to the Indexing Options by going to Start > Control Panel > System and Maintenance > Indexing Options. Now, go to Modify > Show all locations. Here you can select which folders you want indexed. Clicking on Advanced in the Indexing Options window will let you set filters for file types as well.
|Bring gadgets sidebar into focus||[Windows] [Spacebar]|
|Cycle between gadgets||[Windows] [G]|
|Launch nth Quicklaunch application||[Windows] [Application number in Quicklaunch]|
|Cycle between 3D objects||[Windows] [Tab]|
|Cycle through programs in taskbar||[Windows] [T]|
|Quickly viewing file details in Explorer||[Ctrl] [Mouse scroll]|
|Show all subfolders under a folder||[Num Lock] [*]|
Adobe Flash CS3
The latest version of Adobe Flash is part of the CS3 badge. It’s got a new look and we’re bringing you a whole bunch of tweaks for Flash novices.
Customize Your Toolbars
Toolbars are the quickest way to access tools, but Flash has so many tools that it’s not possible to have all of them visible together. Adobe’s products are notorious for having tools with sub-tools hidden in them. These can be accessed by holding down the left-click on a particular tool in the toolbar. These tools usually have a small tag on the right-bottom of the icon as an indicator.
Adobe Flash CS3 allows you to add custom sub-tools to any existing tool. Just click on Edit > Edit Tools Panel and select the tool that you want to add the sub-tool to.
Choose one from the list of available tools and click Add and then click OK when done. You can also remove sub-tools that may have come by default with Flash CS3 if you want to.
The Onion mode in Flash is kind of like using the transparent sheet paper used by animators before computers came along. It allows you to get a reference of previous frames so as to be able to plot changes in the frames accurately. The Onion mode can be enabled by clicking on the Onion Skin button at the bottom of the timeline window. If you just want the outlines of the objects to be shown, then click on the Onion Skin Outlines button which is to the right of the Onion Skin button.
Tweak Compression Settings
While working on Flash, you can import objects that weren’t designed in Flash, such as images or videos. This can add to file sizes in Flash animations though. You can access compression settings by going to File > Publish Settings > Flash. You can modify the JPEG quality and the audio quality here. Other ways of getting smaller Flash file sizes is to set fairly low frame rates if your animation has no fast motions.
The preview feature will tell you how the project is coming along. Depending on the number of objects and layers, the performance of the preview can suffer and you might get really low frame rates.
Flash gives you the option to choose the quality of the preview too. Go to View > Preview Mode and choose from one of the modes listed there.
Quick Hide Toolbars
Like every other advanced graphics designing tool, Flash CS3 too has toolbars which eat up a lot of valuable workspace. Depending on the resolution of your monitor, you might end up with very little working space. To get more space you can disable the toolbars by pressing [F4]. Pressing [F4] again will bring back the toolbars. The CS3 family of products also have toolbars that can be made more compact by clicking on the arrows at the title of each toolbar.
The Pen Tool
You might think that any freehand drawings done using the Pencil or Brush tool can’t be edited easily. Flash is much more flexible than that. Clicking the pen tool displays the path for the freehand drawing and you can in fact add, remove and move control points in it. When you use the Eraser, new control points are automatically created to form a new modified shape.
Animations And Keyframes
Animations in 3D or 2D are made up of a sequence of keyframes, each with objects in them. Flash, like other animation packages, works in the same manner, and creating animations means you need to create keyframes wherever there’s some kind of significant change made. To create a keyframe, right-click in the time line and click on Insert keyframe.
Making Better Use Of The Timeline Window
The timeline plays an important part in helping you keep track of everything going on in an animation. It allows you to jump to different positions and make changes to the animation. It looks rather simple but there are different faces to it. Click on the right top icon of the timeline window. Here, you can change the position of the window and the size of its contents. The most useful feature is evident when you choose the Preview mode. The timeline window now shows a frame-by-frame preview instead of just keyframes.
The Undo tool is useful to fix any errors that may have occurred while working in Flash. Undo does take some amount of system resources by keeping track of all of the steps on the way. Fortunately, you can set the limit on how many undos one can execute. Go to Edit > Preferences. Change the values for the number of levels allowed and click OK.
Using Custom Workspaces
Every individual has his or her own way of working and arranging tools. Every kind of workspace layout is suitable for a particular kind of work. Use the workspace tool to save any workspace layout that you’ve made. Click on Window > Workspace > Save current to save a workspace. To access the workspace at any time, click on Window > Workspace and then select your custom workspace.
Importing Files In Library
Importing images and other media into the library in Flash is a good practice. It’s easier to manage and access files rather than directly importing single files into the stage. Click on File > Import > Import to library. Now you can simply drag and drop elements to your project and at the same time you get a small preview of the same.
Flash CS3 can also directly open up Flash projects on sites instead of downloading the files on your local machine first and then opening them. Click on File > Open from Site. Choose the site on which you have the project hosted. Enter the password. Sites can be added by clicking on File > Edit Sites.
Flash is the latest in the Adobe family of products. Integration between all the products has been built into it as well. When you try and import a Photoshop file (PSD), for example, you will be displayed all the layers in the file and you get to choose which ones you want to import. You can import each of the layers as separate keyframes or layers.
Exporting Animations To Movies
Flash isn’t used for just Web content. Flash is actually used by a lot of other media like in TV advertising. Keeping that in mind, the developers of Flash have allowed the user to export animations as standard video formats. When your animation is ready, click on File > Export > Export Movie. Choose the format and enter a filename and location. Click Save. Depending on the format, you will be asked to set compression settings and the codecs to be used.
Disabling The Launch Screen
The Welcome or Launch screen is the one that pops up as soon as you start Flash CS3. It’s useful in loading up different kinds of projects and templates for platforms such as mobile devices. Instead of having to select your recently saved project every single time, you can have your last open file load up by itself. Go to Edit > Preferences.
Click on the On launch dropdown menu and choose Last Documents Open. If you want no files open, choose No Document. Click OK to save.
Using Images Instead Of Colour As Fill
Instead of having plain colours for objects, you can make use of images instead. Click on the Color window to the right, choose the Color tab. Click the Type dropdown and choose Bitmap. Click the Import button and select the image you want to use. Now use any of the painting tools—Brush or the Paint Bucket Tool to color objects and the image will be applied in place of color. You can also use this feature to have images as fill colors while creating new objects as well.
Video Encoding In Flash CS3
Adobe Flash CS3 comes along with a video encoding utility which is useful in converting videos from almost every format into Flash. Click on Adobe Flash CS3 Video Encoder from the Start Menu to start it. Click on Add to add the videos for conversion. Click on the Settings button to set parameters for the conversion. You can quickly choose from one of the readymade presets available by selecting one from the dropdown menu. Use the sliders to set the region you want to encode and set video and audio compression settings using the Video and Audio tabs. Click OK when done. Click Start Queue to start the conversion process.
If you are planning to use a video in the Flash project, you can also import a video into Flash CS3 itself by clicking on File > Import > Import Video. Here you are asked to enter the location of the file and where it would eventually be deployed—web server, Flash Media Server, etc. Clicking Next shows up a window similar to that of the Flash CS3 Video Encoder after which you’re asked to select the template for the player.
Using The History Window
The History feature, like in Photoshop, keeps track of all the actions you’ve executed in Flash. At anytime you wish,
you can jump back to any step by clicking on that step. The history window might not always be visible but you can enable it by clicking on the Window menu and then on Other Panels > History.
Layers To Organise Elements
Using layers while designing is useful in grouping elements and making changes to them without any confusion. To add new layers in Flash CS3, right click on the timeline window and click Insert Layer.
Every object in Flash has a number of control points which give it a distinct shape. Sometimes there can be too many redundant points especially in cases where you have used an eraser to erase certain portions of an object. An optimising feature is built into Flash CS3 which can be accessed by first clicking on an object using the Selection tool. Click on Modify > Shape > Optimize. Set a level of smoothing and click OK. If you find the object is losing any serious characteristic shape, then undo the move. It’s also a good habit to use the Smooth and Straighten tools from the Main toolbar. They can be used to bring down the number of nodes or make the objects smoother.
The spell checking feature can help those embarrassing slipups from making their way on to the Internet. Run the spell checking feature by clicking on Text > Check Spelling.
You can setup the spell checking feature much better and also specify more dictionaries of other languages and custom dictionaries of your own by clicking on the Text menu and then on Spelling Setup.
The Snapping, Ruler and Guides feature are there to help create designs accurately with ease. Snapping can be set on by clicking on View > Snapping.
Click on Edit Snapping in that sub-menu how you would like the mouse pointer to snap to. The Ruler feature is required to be able to set guides which are similar to grids but which can be modified and created as per your needs.
To create a new guide, click on View > Rulers. Once the ruler has been enabled, left click on one of the rulers and drag it out where you want a guide line to be set. Do the same steps with the two rulers with as many guide lines as you wish to create. If you wish to remove a guide line, then click on the guide line and drag it out of the window. Make sure you have the snapping feature set to Guides. Now when you move your mouse pointer near a guide it should latch on to them automatically.
Motion And Shape Tweening
The problem with animating one frame after another is that it’s very slow to create and it’s not perfect so the resulting animation isn’t as smooth as expected. There are two features called motion tween and shape tween to counter this problem.
The shape and motion tween feature allow the user to set a starting and ending position or shape for an object. All the frames in between are generated by Flash CS3. To do this, first create the keyframes and place or modify the shape of the objects. Then, click on Insert > Timeline > Create Motion Tween or Create Shape Tween if you modified the shape.
Media Player Classic
Media Player Classic might look like the old Microsoft Windows Media Player 6, but is in fact one of the most used media players around. At around a megabyte in size, the player is much more compact than VLC or any of the others. Let’s look at some of the most important and useful features that also make MPC the player of choice for many. We’ll be using the last stable release—126.96.36.199. You can find it in on one of our CDs or download it for free from http://sourceforge.net/
Make It Default
We’ve already told you why Media Player Classic is so good. If you want to have Media Player Classic as your default video player, then click on View > Options.
Click Formats and from the list, choose the formats you want Media Player Classic to play for you. If you want all videos to be played in MPC, click the Video button to the bottom right. Click OK.
Fixing Audio Delay
Sometimes we come across videos with some delay in audio playback. With High Definition focussed codec’s like H.264, the lower end machines are unable to cope, and a lot of audio delay might be noticed.
To compensate this delay, click on View > Options. Click on Internal Filters > Audio Switcher. Enter a value for Audio Shift in ms (milliseconds). Enter a positive value to have the audio delayed or a negative value to have the video delayed. Click OK.
If the audio in a video isn’t loud enough even after increasing all the Windows volume control sliders to the max, you can have Media Player Classic boost it even further. Click on View > Options. Click on Internal Filters > Audio Switcher. Drag the boost slider to increase the volume. Be aware that these changes can create very drastic changes in the volume so be cautious while setting the amount of amplification. Playing back any media with normal amount of amplication might result in very loud audio.
Control From A Web Interface
Media Player Classic has inbuilt components that allow you to use a remote control or even remote access it through a Web browser. For Web-based remote access go to View > Options > Player > Web Interface. Click on Listen on port to enable it. You can change the port as well if you want something easier to remember. Now from a remote PC or even if you have a mobile phone with access to your PC, access http://YOUR.MACHINE
.IP:13579 (or whatever port you set) through a web browser. A couple of alternate Web interface links can also be used that are present on that page.
If you access MPC using a remote, under Options click on Keys and check the box for WinLIRC and uICE—you may require a compliant remote control though.
Ever had a moment on video that you would love to capture but never knew how—[Print Screen] almost always results in a black screen. MPC allows you to capture single screenshots by clicking on File > Save Image. Select from BMP or JPG, enter a file name and click Save. If you want thumbnails from the entire video clip, click File > Save Thumbnails. Enter a filename and the number of rows and columns you want. Click Save. An image sheet with the thumbnails and information on the video file will be saved.
When you aren’t watching a video in full screen mode, you can have it running as a window on one corner of your screen. Pressing  disables the playback progress bar. The best thing to do if you want a video playing back while you’re doing something else—say browsing or chatting is to press . This disables all the title and menus bars and only shows the video. Move the window to the position of your choice and press [Ctrl] [T]. This puts the MPC window on top of all other applications. If the window is too big in size, press [Alt]  /  /  /  for different preset sizes. You can also set a custom size by clicking and dragging the edges of the window. Pressing  brings back the default MPC layout and [Ctrl] [T] again will disable the On Top mode.
When you’re viewing more than one video, you would want to be to queue up videos. Press [Ctrl]  to enable the playlist or click on View > Playlist. Drag and drop videos from your folders into this window. While watching a video, pressing [Page Up] loads the next video in the playlist. [Page Down] does the opposite.
Media Player Classic has supported subtitles for quite a while now. However, there are a few changes to the renderer that need to be done before you can actually view them. Click on View > Options. Choose DirectShow VMR7 or VMR9 (renderless). Click OK and restart Media Player Classic. Now open the movie you want to watch. Click on File > Load Subtitle and point it to the subtitle file you have downloaded. Start the movie and the subtitles will be displayed.
You can customise the way the subtitles are rendered. Go to View > Options > Subtitles > Default Style. Here you can set the subtitles settings such as the position, font, colour, transparency, etc.
|Volume Up||Up arrow|
|Volume Down||Down arrow|
|Full Screen||Alt Enter|
|Zoom In||Numpad 9 (Page Up)|
|Zoom Out||Numpad 1 (End)|
|Increase Width||Numpad 6|
|Decrease Width||Numpad 4|
|Increase Height||Numpad 8|
|Decrease Height||Numpad 2|
|Center view||Ctrl Numpad 5|