By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1997, Al Fasoldt
Microsoft revised the Windows interface in a big way in 1995. One of the improvements in Windows 95 was the tabbed dialog box—a window of fixed size that shows different contents depending on which tabbed "ear" you've clicked on at the top of the window. Microsoft didn't invent the tabbed dialog box (it is used in IBM's OS/2 operating system, for example), but it did set a standard for the way tabbed dialogs should be used in Windows.
When it is done right, a tabbed dialog box provides a singular advantage over a menued dialog: All primary choices are visible all the time. This lets the user choose one of the tabs without hunting through a menu first.
One of the most common tabbed dialogs in Windows is the Display Properties box, which can be opened by right-clicking the Desktop and choosing Properties or by opening the Control Panel and choosing Display. The default tabs are Background, Screen Saver, Appearance and Settings. You'll see a tab named Plus! if you have Microsoft's Plus! pack installed, and you might have other tabs in the dialog box, too.
Programmers who create tabbed dialogs assign a number to each tab within the code that governs the box's behavior. The numbering scheme determines the order that the tabs assume when you open the dialog. (Tab 0 is always the foreground tab, for example.) It also controls the order of tabs when you move from tab to tab by using the Ctrl-Tab key combination. (Ctrl-Tab brings successive tabs to the foreground in left-to-right order; Shift-Ctrl-Tab does it in the reverse order.)
These numbers have a secondary function. In some cases, you can create a shortcut that opens a tabbed dialog with the tab of your choice in the foreground. I'll tell you how to do that by using the Display Properties dialog as the example. After you've tried out these methods, use the same technique to see which tab numbers open various parts of other Control Panel applets.
Ready? Right click on the desktop and choose New, then choose Shortcut. In the entry line that appears, type this exact string of characters:
Be sure to type it exactly as you see it here, with a space before the comma but no space after it. Click the Next button and type this name for the shortcut: Desktop Appearance. Then click Finish. The shortcut will appear on the Desktop. Move it to a folder or to the Start Menu. (A tip: If you drag the new shortcut to the Start Button, Windows will create a copy of that shortcut in the top level of the Start Menu. You can then delete the shortcut from your Desktop.)
Use the same technique to make other shortcuts that open specific Display Properties tabs. Here are the command strings to use for the shortcuts:
Screen saver configuration tab: desk.cpl ,1
Background, wallpaper tab: desk.cpl
Resolution and colors: desk.cpl ,3
The Background tab is the default, so you don't need to put a number after it. If you insist on using one (for symmetry, maybe, or just because you're obstinate), use 0. (That's a zero.)
I can't guarantee that this method will work for other tabbed dialogs, Try it and see what happens.