10 hidden benefits of Windows 2000 Professional

By David Pogue, Computer World |  Operating Systems

I've never actually heard a satisfying rationale for the death of the software manual -- except that they're expensive. But come on, in the quantities Microsoft would need for Windows 2000 Professional, a printed manual would cost, what, $1 per box? In any case, we're left with online help: no illustrations, no real-world examples and no sense of humor. And you can't read it in the bathroom.

So, to remedy this, here are 10 things about Windows 2000 Professional that you should know -- and should be able to find quickly in that missing manual. These features aren't actually missing from the online help. They're there, just buried side-by-side with thousands of other features. No, what Microsoft left out was any sense of the features' relative importance. (In the marketing department's view, of course, every feature is a blockbuster.) The joy of producing a "missing manual," on the other hand, is to help separate the wheat from the chaff, to put the charms and annoyances of Microsoft's corporate operating system into perspective.

Here, then, are 10 of my Windows 2000 favorites:

1. Indexing services

Any version of Windows can search for words inside your files, regardless of their names. But it's dog slow.

Windows 2000's Indexing Services feature, on the other hand, works by cataloging your text-based documents: text and HTML documents, Microsoft Office files and

e-mail. After creating this index, Windows 2000 can pinpoint text or file properties with impressive speed.

By default, this feature is turned off -- and utterly buried in the online help -- it's left to you to create the index and harness the power of this feature.

2. Expanded Start Menu submenus

Most people open a Control Panel applet the long way: by choosing Start -> Settings -> Control Panel, waiting for the window to open, scrolling to the applet they want and then double-clicking it. It's infinitely simpler just to turn on the Expand Control Panel feature of Windows 2000 in the Start Menu & Task Bar Properties dialog box. The result: You can just choose a specific control panel's name directly from the resulting Control Panel submenu.

3. Opening the Control Panel window

So what if, after turning on the Expand option for the Control Panel listing, you want to open the Control Panel window itself? Easy. After opening the Start -> Settings menu, right-click the words Control Panel and choose Open from the shortcut menu.

4. Keystroke power

The Properties dialog box for a shortcut offers a place where you can assign a keystroke to the shortcut's file, program, folder, printer, networked computer or disk. Thereafter, you can summon the corresponding window to your screen, no matter what you're doing on the PC, by pressing that simple keystroke -- a huge timesaver.

5. The Windows logo key does cool stuff

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