You Asked Us December 1998

by Alan Zisman (c) 1998. First published in Vancouver Computes, December 1998

Mimi Milstein asked Alan Zisman:

 I would like to place a shortcut of "MY DOCUMENTS" at the first level of "MY COMPUTER". [something to do with a repetitive task between my husband's and my own networked computers]

 I have tried all the conventional ways of creating such a shortcut (even placing it on the desktop and dragging it into "MY COMPUTER", but nothing seems to work.

 Is it simply a NO-NO to attempt such a thing?

Alan replied:

Windows 9x uses a number of virtual folders-- in some cases, like MY COMPUTER or the Printer folder, they're really not folders at all... in others (the Desktop, the Font folder, and My Documents), they are actual folders (i.e. physical DOS directories) that have are treated by the
operating system as if they were special.

My Computer, as a window that includes drives, the Control Panel, Printer folder, and a few other items, is not a real folder/directory. As such, you're unable to do some of the things that you normally can do-- such as drag and drop a shortcut icon there.

On the other hand, if your various computers are networked, perhaps a simpler (and certainly a do-able solution) would be to set My Documents on your computer as a mapped network drive on your husband's computer... that way, it would appear as a drive letter in his My Computer, Explorer, etc.

You do that in the following way:

1) If you have not enabled file sharing on your computer-- open Control Panel/Network, and click on the FILE AND PRINT SHARING button. Enable file sharing.

2) After restarting, in Explorer or My Computer, right-click on your My Documents folder, and choose Sharing from the popup menu. You can share the folder as read-only or as read-write, and can enable password access if desired (depending on how much you trust your husband).

3) On your husband's computer, open Network Neighborhood-- you may have to double-click on Entire Network, which should let you see your computer's name. Double-clicking on it should show you any shared drives or folders, such as My Documents. Right-click on it, and choose Map from the popup
menu. This allows you to choose a drive letter for it. Following that, it should appear as a drive icon in My Computer.

  • If you want, the same process will allow your husband's My Document folder to appear as a mapped drive on your computer's My Computer (sic).

Robert L. Kunz wondered:

Is there any way I can find out what format a certain cell  has in Excel? In the old Lotus days, it used to show the  format near the top of the screen when you selected a cell.
 For example, it would show (P2) for a 2-decimal percentage  or F3 for a 3-decimal fixed value or (D4) for a particular  date format.

 In Excel 5.0, I would like to find out how some cells are  currently formatted.

Alan responded:

A little tedious, but click on one of the cells in question, and then go to
the appropriate Format menu choice... the dialogue box will show you the
current choice for the selected cell.

Gordon Wong wondered:

My Windows 95 taskbar has suddenly become "fat".  How do I get it back to its old skinny self?

Alan answered:

That's an easy one-- just rest your cursor along the top edge, and pull it back to the desired width.

Similarly, if it ends up on the top or side of the screen, you can pull it back to the bottom (unless you like it in another position)!

?The King? pondered:

In Windows98 there is a option in your bios or windows setup there is an option for powering down the  hard drive after a specified time when it is not in use. Is  it better to leave the hard drive running or powering it down to make the hard drive last longer? I usually leave the computer on only if I plan to use it within that day otherwise I turn it off . Another question is , is it better to leave the computer on all the time or shut it off when not in use?

Alan pontificated:

There's no right answer in terms of shutting down vs. power saving... today's hard drives aren't big power users anyway-- you'll get more dramatic power savings if you have a PowerSmart monitor-- though you can get the same results by simply turning the monitor off.

I'd agree with what you're already doing-- leaving the computer on if you're using it later that day-- but either set the monitor to automatically power off, or turn it off, when you're going to be gone for a while. (Just remember to turn the monitor back on rather than resetting the computer when you come back!)

If you use Win98?s Power Management to set the hard drive and CPU 'to go to sleep' when you're gone, that's OK too... but then shutting the system down overnight is also fine. Restarting it the next morning lets you start the day with your memory and resources reset, letting the machine run more efficiently.

(On the other hand, it's also handy to use Win98's Scheduled Tasks accessory, letting it automatically run ScanDisk, Defrag, and other system maintenance tools overnight).

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