technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
Simple gray rule

Stiletto lets you customize and automate Windows

Technofile for Sept. 20, 1998

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1998, The Syracuse Newspapers

I love my version of Windows.

Not Microsoft’s version. Mine.

In my version, I close any window with a quick right click on the title bar. I get a pop-up menu customized for every program on my computer if I hold the left button down for more than a second. I roll up windows with a right click on the minimize button, and I make everything on the desktop hide away with a double right click.

In my version of Windows, I reboot Windows (without rebooting the PC) by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Insert. I instantly run my screen saver by tapping the Caps Lock key. I press Alt-I to insert my full name and address into any document. I get the Start Menu to pop open right next to my mouse, anywhere on the screen, just by tapping the Shift key. Windows don’t take up space on the Taskbar when they’re minimized; they all slip back into the System Tray at the right.

I my version, any time my mail program runs, my little freeware calendar opens up in a corner of the screen. My wallpaper changes itself at random. Chimes greet me every half hour. A sweet-voiced bell rings when I have 10 minutes left before I have to leave for work. A swift click forces all my Desktop icons to behave. Dialog boxes that Windows shows me when I save or open files are large enough to show hundreds of files.

Microsoft’s Windows doesn’t do that. Mine does a lot more. They’re all things that Microsoft’s Windows 95 and Windows 98 can’t do. I’m describing only a few of the hundreds of customizations I’ve made.

I do it all through one program, Stiletto, created by Bruce Switzer of Toronto. It’s the most versatile utility you can add to Windows 95 or 98 and Windows NT. (A less advanced version is also available for Windows 3.1.) I’ve been using Stiletto for years, updating my copy as revised versions become available. As amazing as Stiletto is—able to do the jobs of a dozen or more separate add-on programs—just as astonishing is the price. It costs only $22.

You can try Stiletto for free by downloading it from the Stiletto home page, The free version is exactly the same as the one you pay for, with nothing disabled. You get to try it for 30 days.

Stiletto is listed on many Windows file-download sites as a "program launcher" or "button-bar creator." But calling Stiletto a program launcher is like calling a BMW a spark plug. Stiletto does let you create launch buttons, but I find that function the least important item in Stiletto’s bag of tricks—especially since Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 4 provides an outstanding button bar already. (A button bar gives you a one-click way to launch programs or open file-and-folder windows.)

No, Stiletto’s big attractions are more impressive than mere button clicking. Here are just a few of the main things Stiletto can do:

  1. Control how and when programs run. Stiletto can schedule programs to run at specific times and even run some programs only when other ones start or end. The scheduler can also disable certain programs whenever other ones run, automatically, and it can be used as a simple reminder utility.

  2. Press buttons automatically. You can tell Stiletto to automatically press a button if your mouse pointer hovers over it for longer than a specified time. Stiletto will also click buttons in specific windows every time those windows appear, and it can hide (or minimize to the Tray) any window, without any action from the user.

  3. Insert phrases or even entire documents into any window (usually, a word-processor screen) with the press of a key. There is no limit to how many snippets of words and phrases you can store.

  4. Create menus on the fly that are specialized for any program. This is exceptionally handy. Right clicking within Microsoft Word, for example, can open a special menu with any options you want.

  5. Send keystrokes automatically or manually (with a hotkey) to any program. Among other things, I use this function to send "Alt-F4" (the close-window key combination in Windows) when I press Alt-Q. (Alt-Q is much easier to press with one hand.) You can tell Stiletto to send keystrokes only to some windows or to any window under your mouse.

  6. Track recent folders, so you can open them just as you can open recent documents in the standard Windows setup.

  7. Create any number of menus out of folders. These menus can show icons, as the Start Menu does, or they can show just a list of names, to speed up the display. This means you can create your own Start Menu and have it pop open much faster than the one built into Windows.

There is so much more to Stiletto that I feel as if I am cheating Bruce Switzer out of his excellent work by mentioning only this much. Do yourself a favor and find out what else Stiletto can do by downloading it.

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