Ten fixes for Vista's worst features

Windows Vista is loaded with features, but they don't all work as they should. Here's how to tweak, modify, cope with, or work around the operating system's biggest blunders.

Sloppy Screen Shots

Vista made a significant improvement over XP in taking screen shots by adding a Snipping Tool that can capture a single window, a rectangle, or a free-form shape. But it still can't show what the mouse pointer is doing, and it lacks a timer. Without a timer, it's pretty hard to capture a drop-down menu.


I take my screen shots (and I take a lot of them) with NTWind Software's $25 WinSnap. Yes, it can capture the mouse pointer, and you can set a delay (in milliseconds, if you want to be precise). One particularly cool feature: It can capture the multiple windows in an application while ignoring everything else on the screen (although this doesn't always work). It even has tools for handling the color and look of the shot. And it's portable, so you don't have to install it.

Dragging Folders, Files, and Programs to the Start Menu

Here's a case where Vista's developers took a feature that worked beautifully in Windows XP, and ruined it. In XP, if you wanted Start-menu access to a program, file, or folder, all you needed to do was drag the item to the Start button and then to your desired location in the Start menu; Windows would then create a shortcut.

Try that in Vista, and it actually moves the file, program, or folder to the Start-menu folder. I'd be hard-pressed to imagine a situation where that's desirable.

No real solutions are available, but here are a couple of kludgy workarounds.

1. Drop it on the Start button rather than in the menu: This action creates a shortcut, but it appears on the left pane, rather than in the All Programs section. And if the item is a folder, the shortcut doesn't act as a cascading submenu.

2. Use the context menu: Right-drag rather than left-drag the object to the desired location in the Start menu. When you release the button, select Create Shortcuts Here from the resulting menu.

Folders in the Start Menu's Right Pane

Vista's redesigned Start menu added another great place for easily accessing a few important folders: the Start menu's right pane. The icons are big and convenient, and you can set each icon to act as a link or a menu.

But the only folders you can put there are the few that Microsoft permits you to put there (Documents, Music, and so on).

Here are two fixes.

1. Make your special folder an official special folder: You can tell Windows that the folder you really want access to is your photo or music folder, and get it on the pane that way. For details, see "Can I add XP-like expanding folder shortcuts to Vista's Start menu?"


2. Use Vista Start Menu: Dennis Nazarenko's free program (there's also a Pro version that costs $20) replaces Windows' Start menu with a larger, more versatile, and — to be honest — ugly alternative. You can control what folders and other items appear on the main menu. Other cool features include keyboard shortcut labels that, by default, are visible only when you bring up the menu with the keyboard. You can download Vista Start Menu.

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Lincoln Spector

PC World (US online)
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