Saturday, 5 July 2008


Whenever I have to work on a new computer for any length of time, I'll start to customize it. Naturally, I have the most customizations on my home computer; my work machine comes a close second, and any other machine I work on will have some of my customization footprint left behind.

I won't refuse to work on a machine until it suits me - I don't have the time to put all my tweaks on every box I touch, but I will add my personal touches as and when I need them.

Looking at other peoples must-have utilities, registry hacks, and firefox plugins, I will often look down the list and not see a single thing that interests me. Because I don't install something that "could be useful", but rather go hunting when and where I find a niche. I'll think "wouldn't it be good if there was a program or tweak or plugin that did xyz?" And if I can't find the add-on that I'm looking for, I'll write it for myself.

The majority of my customizations are to help me get to what I want as quickly as possible.

My first customization is switching the start menu to classic mode. The "favourites" list is too ephemeral for my liking. I like my shortcuts to stay where I put them!

Once I've tried searching for a file a few times with windows explorer, I'll install TweakUI, one of Microsoft's PowerToys, because I'll quickly get fed up of having to specify that I want to search through "All files and folders" every time I search. There are lots of things that can be tweaked with TweakUI, but "Use classic search in explorer" is the main tweak that I use.

Winkey is a must have. I can set up any keyboard shortcut I want using the windows key and other modifiers in conjunction.

In winkey I'll have Windows + i = firefox (the "i" stands for "Internet"). Windows + n = notepad (indispensable to a programmer - none of this wysiwyg milarky!). Windows + s = command prompt ("s" stands for "shell"). Windows + C = Calculator. Out of the box you get Windows + F12 = regedit, and windows + 1, windows + 2, windows + 3 etc corresponding with your drives c:\ d:\, etc.

If I have some network drives mapped in My Computer and I'm disconnected from the network (and sometimes even when I am connected to the network) the My Computer window becomes slow to start up. Once I have winkey access to my drives, I have very little need for the My Computer icon. In fact, if the icon is available on my desktop, I can accidentally double-click it, and instantly regret it when I have to wait 30 seconds before my computer becomes responsive again. So I'll go back into tweakUI and remove the My Computer icon from my desktop.

In firefox, I will always install the Adblock extension (I hate ads!). I will always install the google toolbar for firefox. I will always tell the tabs bar to be visible all the time. (If the tab bar only pops up when a second tab is opened, the contents of the entire page shifts downwards and breaks my concentration).

Baregrep is a lovely gui grep tool which I can use to find files containing certain strings.

Certain apps "forget" that they were maximized, and when they are run again, they start up "almost" maximized. So when I click the hotspot at the top right of a maximized window (the X) to close the window, I end up closing the window behind the one I intended to! Extremely annoying! So I install AutoSizer to make sure that those apps which exhibit this behaviour always open maximized.

That's about all of my customizations that I can remember. If I remember any more I'll add to this list.

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