When you run into the ways you wish Windows would
work, here are some end runs that might get what you
In the interests of promoting cross-platform détente
, last month we looked at some of the ways that Windows 95’s Control Panels
operate in similar fashion to the Mac’s Control Panels and related system
Windows really is similar to the Mac–less than Mac fans will admit, but more
than most are willing to learn. Therefore part of that theme will continue this
month as we look at ways in which Windows doesn’t work, and Mac-like ways to get
around those pesky error messages when they appear.
Taking it to task
When Windows 95 won’t let you drag a document onto a button on its
handy-dandy Taskbar, you become a victim of non-intuitive user design. It seems
perfectly sensible that this would work, yet you feel Microsoft has here echoed
Vizzini in "The Princess Bride, " "You’d like to think that, wouldn’t you?"
Nevertheless you can get what you want by subterfuge, also known as an
"undocumented feature": Drag the document to the Taskbar button, but hold the
mouse button down a bit; the program window will become un- minimized, and you
can drag your document into its restored window. This is a handy way to paste
graphics into a Word
document, because if the document doesn’t match the program, the former will
become an embedded object in the latter. This is similar to the new feature
called spring-loaded folders in Mac OS 8.
"Would you like to replace...?"
When a Windows 95 user grabs a mess of files to copy into a folder, she may
get a message that says, "This folder already contains a file called &
#145;File.’ Would you like to replace...?" Mac users who get this message still
get no clue which file (or files) is the duplicate; after selecting Cancel, they
have to use trial and error to narrow down the file in question, a procedure
that can take quite a while.
Windows 95 people, on the other hand, can select Yes to All (not recommended
save for the reckless) or Cancel (identical to the Mac’s OK and Cancel buttons),
but also Yes or No; either one allows Windows 95 to continue copying the batch
of files while also flagging other duplicates for approval or disapproval.
"If you change a filename extension, the file may become unusable." So says
Windows 95 keeps a vigilant eye on registered filename extensions (DOC for
Word, for instance). Any change to a file’s extension can break the
registered link that allows the file to open or even be recognized. It’s best,
therefore, to hide registered filename extensions by selecting the Explorer’s
View menu, choosing Options, selecting the View tab, and clicking on the bottom
checkbox. You can still change filename extensions manually (adding DOS-style
file extensions won’t affect the files’ true, registered extensions). Another
benefit is that Windows 95 won’t prompt you to enter extensions when saving a
The Mac stores file creators and types in the data fork, which can’t be
modified without deliberate effort and a file-editing utility. Windows has
always offered more flexibility when creating or changing filename extensions.
Mind your P’s and Q’s
The Mac used to have a third- party extension called On the Road that lets
laptop users queue up files to print or fax when they got back to their network
connections. The product hasn’t been supported in years, however.
Windows 95 has a built-in feature that lets folks do the same thing. Just
right-click on the printer icon and select Work Offline from the popup menu,
then print as you normally would. After you reconnect to your network, uncheck
Work Offline and the files that have been spooled to disk will float out of your
Don’t get bugged
If you don’t have a commercial anti-virus utility installed right now, get
one right away. MacAfee or Dr. Solomon purvey the most reliable remedies.
Viruses have been a pervasive threat for years, but recently
Word macro viruses have become a pestilence that can infest your hard disk
unless you have an up-to-date virus killer. In recent weeks, a new virus
infecting Macs (and, inevitably, PCs) can now damage JPG, GIF, and other
graphics files. Moreover, it is spreading like wildfire through networks on
I can’t emphasize the cautions in the following paragraph enough. Despite
seeing it mentioned in every computer magazine and repeating it frequently
myself to everyone over the years, I constantly run into individuals and work
groups whose files get trashed because they either lacked virus protection or
failed to keep it up- to-date.
Dump your shareware antidotes, because they don’t offer adequate protection.
Subscribe to your antivirus program’s mailing list so that you receive update
notices as soon as they are released, and install the updates immediately. If
you’re in business, or just care about your reputation as a computer user, don’t
be the Typhoid Mary that infects an associate’s PC–or his entire company
network. Unless you have a bug zapper patrolling your files, it’s only a matter
of time: You will catch a virus, and you will unwittingly infect
After a delay of about six weeks, Microsoft’s embattled Windows 98 upgrade
began shipping as we were going to press. Because it won’t meet with 100 percent
adoption by a long shot, we’ll continue to discuss Windows 95 in this column,
though naturally the new kid on the block will get more attention as time goes
on. (Windows NT will receive its equal time next month.)
So, what’s in Windows 98? How good is it? And should you upgrade?
As always in the computer world, it depends. So let’s take the first
• Windows 98 is "new and improved," so it ought to run better (that is, with
fewer crashes) than Windows 95. Fans of the latest and greatest will want it.
• Windows 98 supports multiple monitors, so that makes it a natural for a
whopping two percent of the PC market.
• Microsoft’s newest OS will enable users to install components via the
Internet, which will simplify upgrades for individual as well as corporate
• Windows 98 will have more than 1,200 drivers–the same drivers as Windows NT
5.0–when it arrives. This will allow a closer approximation of Plug and Play
then Windows 95. If Windows has the device driver, chances are you will be able
to autodetect your new peripheral. So if your organization plans to take the
Windows NT migration path, you might consider Windows 98 as an intermediate
deployment strategy–or just stick with Windows 95 until the big NT date, which
is perhaps only 12 months distant.
Microsoft has said in hushed tones for years (and now openly advises
corporate buyers) that Windows NT is the enterprise OS of the future; Windows 98
will be left to the consumer market. It’s likely that PC makers will follow this
strategy, so users of business systems will inevitably migrate to Windows NT
while only Windows 98 will be available to the home and home- business PC buyer.
However, this flies in the face of the fact that most of Windows 98’s technical
benefits–such as the Windows Batch 98 installation-script creator& #150;will be
of primary interest to corporate users and IT departments, and will remain
transparent to consumer buyers.
Market analysis firm IDC predicts that 12.8 million units of Windows 98 will
ship in the second half of this year. Compare this with the 19.5 million copies
of Windows 95 that shipped in its first 12 months after its release. What this
means is anybody’s guess. Mine is that Windows 98 will mainly go to the early
adopters, and to anyone who buys a desktop or laptop machine that just happens
to have Windows 98 installed. Many corporate buyers will wait for NT 5.0.