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Windows 98, your way

July 29, 1998
Web posted at: 2:55 PM EDT

by Valerie Ryan

(IDG) -- If you are concerned with the aesthetic side of your operating system, then these Windows 98 customization tips are for you. We'll show you how to change your folder backgrounds, turn your Quick Launch toolbar into a floating palette, and alter desktop icons.

Beauty Is in the Eye of the Folder

If you're bored with the plain white background in your folders, you can easily change it. Just as you can spiff up your desktop with colors and images, you can turn any folder into a decorative window.

To do this, first open the folder you'd like to redecorate and select View, Customize this Folder. In the dialog box that appears, select Choose a Background Picture and click Next. From the list that appears, select a background picture for the folder from the list, or click the Browse button to navigate your way to a picture on your hard drive. When you find it, click Open. You'll go back to the dialog box. Once there, click Next, then click Finish, and enjoy the folder's new view.

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Back to the Basics

If you miss the simplicity of a plain white folder background, you can change it back with one quick setting tweak. Just open the folder and select View, Customize this Folder. In the dialog box that appears, select Remove Customization, click Next twice, click Finish, and you've got your old window back.

It's a bird...It's a toolbar...It's a palette!

By default, the Quick Launch toolbar sits to the right of the Start button. But if you've added so many shortcuts to this toolbar that you can't possibly see them all at once (without making it so big that it monopolizes the entire Taskbar), perhaps you'd prefer to transform this toolbar into a floating palette. Once it's free from the Taskbar, you can size this palette to fit the number of shortcuts inside and set its Always on Top option so that it's never out of sight. The result is instant access to all your shortcuts from anywhere.

To turn your Quick Launch toolbar into a floating palette, click the bar on its left edge, drag it out to a blank area on the desktop, and let go. Now you can resize this new palette just as you would any window. Hold your mouse pointer over its edge, and when the pointer changes to a double-pointed arrow, click and drag in any direction. Then right-click its title bar and select Always on Top.

It's a bird...It's a palette...It's a toolbar again!

Change your mind and want your toolbar back on the Taskbar? Click and drag the palette down to the Taskbar until it expands to the full width of the screen, then let go. By default, this places the toolbar on the right edge of the Taskbar. To move the toolbar back to its original position (next to the Start button), hold the mouse pointer over the bar's left edge until it changes to a double-pointed arrow. Now click and drag the bar back to a position just to the right of the Start button (the Quick Launch toolbar will jump into place when you do this) and let go.

Finally, you'll probably need to resize the toolbar that's to the right of the Quick Launch toolbar (most likely the one that contains open window items). Hold your mouse pointer over this toolbar's left edge, and then click and drag it right until you reach the edge of the Quick Launch toolbar. Taskbar order has officially been restored.

Quick Change Icons

Want to change the icons used to represent My Computer, My Documents, Network Neighborhood, or the Recycle Bin? You can make these changes right from the Display Properties dialog box.

Right-click the desktop and select Properties. The Display Properties dialog box appears. Click the Effects tab. In the row of Desktop icons, select the icon you'd like to change, then click the Change Icon button. The result is a dialog box of icons from the current icon file (meaning the file containing the icon you're about to change). If you see an icon you like, select it and click OK. Otherwise, click the Browse button, navigate your way to another icon file (such as \Windows\System\Shell32.dll or \Windows\System\Pifmgr.dll), select the icon you want to use, and click OK. Back at the Display Properties dialog box, click OK, and your new icon will appear on the desktop.

Tip: To switch an icon back to its default, go to the Effects tab of the Display Properties dialog box, select the icon, click Default Icon, and click OK.

Edited by Lisa Moskowitz. For more Windows 98 tips delivered directly to your in-box, click the TipWorld link below.
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