Inside Outlook Express

Tips and Ideas

Explorer Toolbar Tips

I have written many times that I find the new Explorer Toolbars to be the single, best feature of Internet Explorer 4.0, but I haven't always explained why I think that. In this article I hope to show you why by showing you how. I'll step you through setting up some very useful Toolbars that I use every day. 

There is already an Explorer Toolbar open by default after installing IE4. That's the Quick Launch bar, nestled between the Start Button and the normal Windows Taskbar. The fun begins when you right-click a blank area on the Taskbar and select Toolbars. A sub-menu offers you the choice to open Address, Links, Desktop, Quick Launch, and New Toolbar. 

To begin, select Address. Now click-hold on the title and drag it to the top of the screen. The Address bar now appears across the top of the display. Right-click on the title, and select Always on Top, and again to select Auto Hide. Anything you type into this Address bar will be remembered between sessions, so I like to use it for infrequently accessed folders, especially the ones with long path names. A good example is the Outlook Express Mail folder. It doesn't need to be accessed very often, but when you need it, it's buried rather far down. The default path is this:
C:\Windows\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook Express\Mail

Next, try creating a system control Toolbar. Open the Desktop as a Toolbar first, then drag its title to the right side of the screen. If you keep only a few items there, right-click and uncheck Show Text, and again to set View| Large. Now right-click on a blank spot below the icons, and open a New Toolbar. A folder browser opens, so select the Dial-Up Networking folder. Repeat this process and add Printers, My Computer, and Control Panel. Each of these can retain independent settings for View| Size, Show Text, or Show Title. To switch to any Toolbar that is hidden by another frame of the Toolbar, just double-click its title. You can also rearrange the frames of the Toolbar by dragging the title up or down. 

Now that you're getting the hang of Toolbars, I suggest you make a Windows folder called My Toolbars, and put it somewhere you can access quickly from the folder-browser window (I keep mine at D:\Toolbars). You can make sub-folders for specific Toolbars, which will contain shortcuts to your applications. But I want to share with you my own Messaging Toolbar, because it contains some very useful tricks that are not well documented. Note that some of this requires that Outlook Express be configured as your default mail program.

Make a sub-folder in My Toolbars named Messaging. Drag the new folder to the left side of the screen, and it will open as a Toolbar. This is much faster than the right-click menu method. In the open window view of Messaging, right-click and add a new shortcut, with this command line: 
Name the shortcut Write Mail. You now have instant, one-click access to a blank, new Mail message from anywhere in Windows. If you want to do the same for a new News message, just start one in Outlook Express, click File| Save As, and save the blank news message to the Messaging folder as Write News. It will appear in the Toolbar immediately (you might have to right-click the Toolbar and select Refresh). You can use this technique to save blank messages with non-default stationery, or in Plain Text.

You can also create shortcuts pre-addressed to friends, family or even groups. To save a shortcut to a Group, open a new message in Outlook Express, put the Group in the To: field, and then File| Save As to save it to the Messaging folder. For pre-addressing messages with the default stationery, it's easier to use a mailto: shortcut, by simply adding the email address: mailto:somebody@some.where. If you have assigned a unique Nickname in the Windows Address Book (WAB), you can also use it in the shortcut (mailto:coolcat). You can assign each shortcut its own distinctive icon (right-click the shortcut, Properties, Change Icon). You could even use a scanned photo of the person as an icon (create it as <name>.bmp, then rename it to <name>.ico). 

If you use multiple Address Books (WAB's), Browse to the folder you want to hold all of your WAB's (like D:\Address Books). You can drag and drop names between open WAB's. I keep two extra WAB's, one named Work and one named Personal. I suggest you keep all your WAB's in a separate Address Books folder. Then you can drag shortcuts to them (and to the default WAB) into your Messaging folder, and assign each WAB shortcut a distinctive icon. (for more on multiple WAB's, see below)

You now have a MUCH enhanced shell for working in Windows. With all of your Toolbars set to Always on Top and Auto Hide, every edge of your screen is loaded with one-click access to the tools you need. And they are all instantly accessible from anywhere in Windows (except Full Screen Browser Mode). For even more fun and functionality, be sure to install the Powertoys from Microsoft. You'll gain some great new right-click context menu options. 

Miscellaneous Toolbar Tips: 

You can open any folder as a Toolbar by dragging it to the Taskbar.

Toolbars can be docked to any side of the display, and new Toolbars may be added to each. You can also drag a Toolbar onto the desktop, causing the Toolbar to become a floating bar. This can be set to Always on Top, but not to Auto Hide.

Every right-click context menu option is available for every shortcut on a Toolbar, except for the Rename option. To rename an item in a Toolbar, you must right-click a blank spot on the Toolbar, and choose Open. Rename the item in the open window.

If you change the contents of a folder and the Toolbar does not show the change immediately, right-click on the Toolbar and select Refresh.

If a Toolbar is set to Auto Hide, it is difficult to drag and drop new items on to it. Right-click the Toolbar and de-select Auto Hide, drag and drop, then reset the Auto Hide. If you are fast, you can also display the Toolbar, click on a blank spot, then quickly drag an icon onto it, before it closes. I'm amazed at how much my dragging dexterity has improved. :-)

You can drag a shortcut from one Toolbar to another. You can also drag a Toolbar to another edge of the screen.

You can re-arrange shortcuts on a Toolbar. To move a shortcut to the right side of another, drag it until you see the underline bar on the icon that is to the left of the desired location.

If you dislike the Start Menu, create a folder for your most used applications and open it as a Toolbar. Or just open the Programs folder on the Start Menu as a Toolbar. If you anchor it on the left side, and enlarge it to its maximum size, you'll find that it's much faster than the Start Menu. 

A folder inside a Toolbar can be opened as a sub-Toolbar by using Ctrl-left click. All of its sub-folders can also be opened in this manner. The default view for sub-Toolbars is Large. Right-click the sub-Toolbar to View| Small. This setting will be remembered, but not forever.

If you use the My Documents folder, it makes a most wonderful Toolbar.

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