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Alan's Tips: Make Win XP More Like Win 98

I upgraded from Win 98 SE to Win XP and although XP seems more
robust, the fonts and general appearance of my applications and the
desktop do not have the clarity and contrast of Windows 98 SE.  Also
some of the items that were easy to find in Window 98 SE have been
"conveniently moved" and there are even more "useful" prompts and
"helpful" warnings.  Any way to make it look and act more like 98 SE?
Why adapt to another Windows GUI for no express advantage/purpose ?

Some people like the look and feel of WinXP; it certainly is trying to take advantage of the larger resolutions that people are typically using these days; Win 95/98 was designed in an era when a majority of users were running screens in 640x480 resolution on 14 or 15" monitors. Now 17" monitors running at 1024x768 are the norm, and the Win95/98 toolbar, icons, and screen elements like minimize and close icons can seem tiny.

Moreover, Microsoft redesigned the Start Menu and Control Panels, with a new design that they hope will make both easier to use.

However, if you're happy with the look and feel of the 'classic' Windows, you may find these revisions less efficient. Moreover, all the XP 'eye candy' take processor power; turn them off and you'll find your system feels faster.

Some things to do:
  • Open the display properties, either by right-clicking on the Desktop and picking Properties, or by double-clicking the Display icon in Control Panel. Go to the Appearance tab and click on the Effects button. Experiment with the various options including turning off transition effects for menu and tooltips, using large icons, using shadows under menus, and showing window contents while dragging.
  • In that Appearance tab, set the Windows and Buttons option to Windows Classic, and make the font size Normal.
  • In the Desktop tab, click on Customize Desktop and restore all those standard icons to the Desktop: My Computer, Recycle Bin, etc.
  • In the Themes tab, select the Windows Classic theme.
  • Right-click on the Taskbar. Make sure the [ x ] Lock the Taskbar option is unchecked, then add the QuickLaunch Toolbar if desired. Click on Properties.
  • Turning off the [ x ] Group similar Taskbar icons option will restore the Win98-style Taskbar behaviour. Turning off the [ x ] Hide Inactive Icons option will give you back the Win98-style clutter in the system tray in the lower-right corner. (Personally, I consider both of these XP options improvements over the earlier style).
  • Click on the Start Menu tab; you can choose to restore the Windows Classic-style Start Menu.
  • Open the Control Panel. In the left-hand column, you'll see the option to Switch to Classic View. If you choose this, it changes to Switch to Category View. Using the View menu's Folder Options menu item, you can get rid of the left-hand column by selecting to use Windows Classic Folders
You can mix and match these changes, choosing to keep those Win XP interface features that you like, while restoring the Windows-Classic features that you prefer. Personally, I use an old-style Start Menu and Control Panel, and have restored icons to my Desktop and a QuickLaunch Toolbar, while keeping Win XP-style large, rounded window bars and widgets.


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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan