By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1997, The Syracuse Newspapers
Windows 95 is remarkably complete for a modern computer operating system. But it also benefits in many ways from inexpensive enhancements.
Some of these operating-system boosters fill some of the gaps Microsoft left when it designed Windows 95, while others add extra features that make Windows easier or more enjoyable to use.
In previous articles, I've mentioned perhaps the most important system utility in the first category _ Tweak UI, a program that lets you fine-tune more than two dozen settings that control the Windows user interface (the "UI'' of the name). Tweak UI is part of Microsoft's free Power Toys programs. You'll find a link to the Power Toys on a page at my Web site, http://www.dreamscape.com/afasoldt/files.html.
This week and next I'll share my list of other outstanding enhancements. This is a personal list. I use all the programs I'm recommending here.
Stiletto is an amazing program. It has a dozen major features and a few hundred minor ones. It lets you create toolbar-like launch buttons, it can send keystrokes to running programs, it can schedule tasks while you are away and show you reminders of anything you choose, and it can pop up menus alongside your mouse that match the menus of the program in the foreground.
It can also force any window to open at a specified place and size, and it will let you send single and double clicks by just holding down the left mouse button or clicking the right button. There's much more: Stiletto can save and restore your desktop icon positions, will push buttons for you, can hide certain windows, can keep windows from disappearing off the edge of the screen and will let you roll up a window into its title bar with a single mouse click.
And more: Stiletto can force any program to hold its execution until other events occur (such as a successful modem connection), for example. It can also do one of my favorite Stiletto tricks, popping up the Windows Start Menu at any spot on the screen when you press and hold the mouse button or hold down a key for more than half a second. Stiletto can also pop up a list of all windows (including ones created by the operating system that you ordinarily can't see) so you can close any of them or bring any moribund ones back to life.
Zip Magic makes Windows treat ZIP files (compressed collections of files, identified by their "ZIP" filename extension) as standard folders. These folders can be opened, copied, renamed and deleted, and the contents of these virtual folders can be treated just as you'd treat the contents of real folders.
Once you start using Zip Magic (or its predecessor, Zip Folders), you are likely to agree with me that no other way of handling ZIPs makes as much sense. Zip Magic can be easily configured to turn off its ZIPs-as-folders function when certain programs are handling ZIP files _ so that your e-mail software, for example, will know that what appears to be a folder is actually a ZIP file that can be mailed. Zip Magic even provides a simple way to assign hotkeys that will toggle its main functions at any time.
A bonus: The software comes with an outstanding File Manager replacement called the Zip Magic Archive Manager. The only problem with this program is its name: It's not just an archive manager. It's a full replacement for File Manager (one that handles long filenames perfectly, of course) that works much better than the old Windows File Manager at nearly everything.
It's also a great replacement for the Windows Explorer for just about anything you want to do _ copying files, moving items, creating folders, viewing the contents of files, launching programs (it has a launch menu), opening favorite folders (it has a "Favorites" button) and a great deal more. Unlike Microsoft's brain-dead Explorer, which can't even figure out how to keep its own settings for window sizes and many other options, the Zip Magic Archive Manager knows how to behave all the time.
When Zip Magic is enabled, ZIP files are folders. You treat them just as you treat folders. There is no difference. So you don't need an "archive manager" any more than you need a "folder manager." Use the Archive Manager as a replacement for File Manager instead.
I've used the Mijenix method of handling ZIP files ever since the first release of Zip Folders, the predecessor to Zip Magic. I haven't used a normal ZIP utility (such as WinZip or PKZIP) for more than a year, and never will need to use one of those lesser programs ever again.
Next week: Shove-It, NewPad, RegClean, Snadboy's Revelation and more.