These are some tips I’ve been meaning to post over the last few weeks. I’ve been using my Vista laptop all day lately so I’m finding more and more of this type of stuff.
Audio Skipping in Windows Media Player
I’ve been spending a few days plugging away at the keyboard and listening to some MP3s with Windows Media Player. I noticed almost immediately that every song would start skipping or stuttering about ten to twenty seconds before the end of the song. This was really starting to annoy me, and at first I suspected the crossfade feature in Media Player but that turned out to be already switched off.
The cause of the problem turned out to be the Vista sound enhancements. These are found by opening the Control Panel, choosing Hardware and Sound, and then choosing Sound. In the Playback tab there will be some devices depending on your hardware. In the Speaker/Headphones properties there is an Enhancements tab. Even though in my case none of the listed enhancements were ticked, I still had to tick to “Disable all enhancements” before the problem went away.
Saving Window Sizes When You Close And Reopen Them
Straight away I got frustrated with my Windows Explorer and other windows opening up at small sizes and needing to be stretched to my usual size every time. Windows XP used to just remember this stuff for you.
The solution is simple enough though. Once you’ve got a window at the size you want it you just hold the Alt key on your keyboard when you close the window. The next time you open it up it will be the same size as you left it.
Setting Folder Views For All Folders
Vista by default has various folder views depending on the type of content in the folder (music, pictures, videos, documents, etc). This is neat, but its annoying at the same time because for the most part I want folders to default to the Details view with a nice wide “Name” column for long file names. I was hunting all over the place for the old Windows XP “Apply to all folders” button.
I finally found it by using the Vista Help and Support (which is actually really good!). The Folder Options dialog has been moved to Control Panel in Appearance and Personalisation. You can use this to re-enable the menu strip in Windows Explorer for the usual File, View, Tools etc. It also gives you the familiar “Apply to all folders” button so you can set up your Explorer columns just the way you like and have new folders appear that way by default.
Windows Explorer Right-Click Menu
On the topic of Windows Explorer, Microsoft has kindly built-in two neat features that were previously only available by installing Resource Kit utilities. By holding the left Shift key when you right-click on a folder you get menu options to “Open Command Window Here” and “Copy as Path”.
These are really handy and I use them almost daily, for example when you have drilled deep down the folder hierarchy and want to quickly open a CMD prompt to issue some commands, or when you are copying long paths into documents or notes.
Handy Sidebar Gadget
There are a lot of Sidebar gadgets appearing on the web. Some are good, some are rubbish, few are genuinely as useful (to me) as this one – the Microsoft Office 2007 Recently Used Documents gadget. It sits neatly in the sidebar listing your most recent three documents, and has a great fly-out window for a longer list to re-open documents from.
Vista Sidebar gadgets are an interesting new toy for people who are into scripting. Between this and Powershell we’ve finally got some big new things to play with. I’m hoping I can throw a few useful gadgets out there for people in the near future.
Vista, Internet Explorer 7, and Outlook Web Access
IE7 on Vista doesn’t play nice with OWA on Exchange Server 2003 without some updates. Everything works fine in the Basic view, but the Premium view has trouble replying or composing new messages. The first step to fixing this is to update your Exchange Server 2003 installation with the patch in the Microsoft KB article here…
There is a restart required, but you may get away without one if you first stop IIS.
After the restart (or not, depending on how you went) when you log back into OWA you will see a warning that the S/MIME control on your computer is now out of date with the version on the server.
Open the Options window in OWA and you will see a glowing blue “Reinstall” button in the Email Security section.
Once you click the button you are prompted to run or save (I just choose to run it) the update, and then you are asked to close Internet Explorer so the update can be completed.
Once you log back in to OWA you should be able to reply and compose new messages again.
Note: if you only run the S/MIME update without updating the Exchange server you may find Internet Explorer crashes whenever you try to use OWA.
Windows SBS 2003, Vista, and Office 2007
Finally just a quick tip for anyone considering deploying Vista/Office 2007 to their Small Business Server environment. There is an update available from Microsoft to update the SBS Client Deployment tools as well as some other compatibility issues between the products.