ISSUE 492: The high-tech office- March
Time spent on Desktop spring cleaning
can easily simplify your electronic life
My wife might be surprised to hear me say it,
but really, I'm a neat freak.
Well, maybe you wouldn't think so looking at the top
of my office desk, but my Desktop sure is tidy. That is, my computer
Not for me, one of those Desktops with icons and
folders strewn around, making it a chore to locate anything. And my
Start Menu -- at the very top, a sub-menu titled "Check Here First,"
with my 10 or so most-used applications or documents. (On my Mac, it's
in the Apple Menu.)
That menu contains easy-to-find links to what I use at
least 90 per cent of the time. And everything else is carefully stashed
away in one of a half-dozen or so sub-menus, lower down: Applications,
Internet, Utilities, Reference, oh yeah -- and Games. (I'm too busy to
play games. Really I am. But the computer is at home, and there's this
All too often, though, I find myself at other
computers where this isn't the case, where even the owner has a hard
time finding how to start a program, because they've installed a lot of
software, and I choose the Default or Typical installation option, and
clicked okay to everything.
The result is columns and columns of sub-folders, each
typically containing a ReadMe icon (even if you did read it once, do
you really need that icon forever?), a link to the help file (do you
need this when you're not running the program?), and inside the program
you don't need the icon to access help (and how helpful is it, anyway
-- perhaps a subject for a future column). There's often an Uninstall
icon, redundant since you can use Control Panel for the same function.
And there's the program's icon -- the only one you actually need.
The result is menus that go on and on. Windows 98 made
it even harder to find things. Instead of multiple columns, it gives
users a single long column, with a triangle at the bottom indicating
there's still more buried at the end (an old Mac trick, showing that
not everything Microsoft "borrows" from Apple is an
improvement). And with Windows 98, the menu items can get out of
alphabetical order, making things even harder to find.
You can clean up. Start with that messy
Desktop. Make folders to group those icons -- right-click on an empty
spot (there still are some empty spots, I hope!). A menu pops up.
Choose New, then Folder. Type in a name. Drag appropriate icons and
drop them on top of the folder -- they'll disappear inside.
There's a similar trick to tidy up an out-of-control
Start Menu. Right-click on the Start Button, and choose Open from the
pop-up menu. You'll see a folder labeled Programs along with
any icons that are currently sitting on top of the Start Menu. Make
yourself a folder for your most used items, the same way you made ones
on the Desktop -- again, right-click on an empty spot, this time within
the window, and choose New, then Folder.
Double-click to open up that Programs folder
-- you'll see icons and folders that are the contents of the main
section of the Start Menu. Think of how you want to categorize them,
and make yourself folders for each category, then start dragging the
icons and dropping them into the appropriate folders. While you're at
it, feel free to delete the icons for those never-used ReadMe, Help and
Uninstall icons. When you see a program that you use often, click on Edit
then Copy, navigate over to that folder you
made for your personal favourites and click on Edit then Paste
to get a copy there.
The changes you make will immediately be reflected in
the actual Start Menu. If you make a mistake, you can immediately
correct it with the Edit/Undo menu choice. Trust me. It will be
easier to find the software you use, and you'll have that same inner
glow that you get when you've cleaned your car.
(Mac users can do much the same, tidying the Apple
Menu and their Desktops.)
And while you're tidying up, do you have a collection
of boxes that your computer and monitor and printer and more came in,
filling your storage? (Much worse -- do you have boxes from 20 or more
computer systems?) Or do you have vague feelings of guilt from ditching
the boxes, and wondering if you should have kept them?
My advice: if space permits, hang onto the boxes for a
couple of months, ideally until the end of the warranty period, just in
case you might want to ship something back to the manufacturer. If
you've purchased an office-full of PCs, hang onto a couple of boxes --
it's unlikely you'll need to ship all 20 systems back. Flatten the
boxes, but hang onto the Styrofoam inserts.
Once the warranty period is up, feel free to ditch
them. For real freedom from guilt, recycle the cardboard.
And having tidied up your computer desktop and
your storage space, think how good you'll feel! *