Fast fixes for three Windows irritations

Turn off Caps Lock with your Shift key, add an Address bar to your Quick Launch tray, and change your default image editor.

Dennis O'Reilly Former CNET contributor
Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.
Dennis O'Reilly
3 min read

I got a kick out of the recent headlines stating that Microsoft wants to make the next version of Windows less annoying than Vista. Talk about setting the bar low!

Most of the things that bug me about Windows are easy to fix--the lack of a Run option on Vista's Start menu is an example. To put Run back on the menu, right click the Start button, choose Properties, click Customize under the Start Menu tab, scroll to and check "Run command," and click OK twice.

Here are three other Windows irritations that I finally got around to addressing, though a cure for the first one has eluded me.

Shift to unlock the Caps Lock key
There are plenty of keyboard-remapping utilities that can disable the Caps Lock key and make other changes to your keyboard layout. You can also find downloadable Registry files (.reg) that disable Caps Lock, the Windows key, Insert, and other keys people find useless.

I tried a half-dozen of each, and none of them worked with my HP laptop, the machine whose Caps Lock key I'm forever hitting by accident. It's a shame that there's no easy way to disable this key, which does me absolutely no good.

Yet Vista and XP let you turn off Caps Lock not by pressing the key a second time, but by pressing the Shift key, which is the way the keys work on typewriters. I'm sure there was an army of former Royal and IBM Selectric users clamoring for this option!

In case you're curious, you change this setting in Vista by opening the Regional and Language Settings applet in Control Panel (not the Keyboard applet, of course). Click the Keyboards and Languages tab, choose "Change keyboards," and click the Advanced Key Settings tab. (The options are slightly different in XP, and you may need to add a second keyboard via the settings under the General tab.)

Under "To turn off Caps Lock," select "Press the SHIFT key" and click OK twice.

Windows Vista's Text Services and Input Languages dialog box
Use the Shift key to turn off Caps Lock by changing this setting in Vista's Regional and Language Settings applet. Microsoft

Put an Address bar in your taskbar
I'd be lost without my Address bar, which I rely on more than shortcuts and bookmarks to return to sites, files, and folders. I can get to a lot of these resources in Vista simply by pressing the Windows key, typing their name, and pressing Enter once Windows retrieves them.

But I'm much more accustomed to clicking the little arrow to the right of the Address bar text box to select the file or URL from the list that pops up. Or I can just start typing the URL or file name and choose it from those that appear.

To place an Address bar next to your system tray, right-click anywhere in the taskbar and choose Toolbars > Address. (Make sure Lock the Taskbar is unchecked.)

You can resize and move the Address bar--or any other taskbar item--or the entire taskbar, for that matter. I stick with the smallest possible taskbar at the bottom of the screen, but some people like having their taskbar run vertically along the left or right side of their monitor.

Reset your default image editor
I'm a fan of Paint, the simple, no-nonsense image editor built into Windows. Unfortunately, Windows keeps wanting to make Windows Photo Gallery or some other app the default program for opening JPEGs and other image files on my PC.

To change the program that opens by default when you double-click a file of a certain type, right-click the file and choose Open With > Choose Default Program. Select one of the options in the resulting dialog box, or click the Browse button, navigate to the executable file of the program you want to make the default for that file type, and click Open. Make sure "Always use the selected program to open this type of file" is checked (it's selected by default).