Outsmart the start menu

Three tips this week to make your computing experience a lot nicer.

Open something more than once; quit scrolling through the Windows 10 start menu; and, kill that space-hogging tools list on the right side of Acrobat Reader.

It’s easy when you know how.

Open more than one

Sometimes it comes in handy to have more than one instance of the same program open.

For example, it’s so much easier to move files from one place to another when you have two file manager windows open.

I often work with more than one Word document at a time, and sometimes with multiple Excel files.

You could just keep going back and forth to your start menu or your documents folder to open things, but there is an easier way to do this.

If the item you want to open is on your taskbar, you already know that clicking it will open it.

If you want to open another instance of it, hold down the shift key while you click on the icon.

You can keep doing that until you have as many windows open as you need (or until you overwhelm your computer and it freezes).

If you want to open more than one instance of file manager, you can do it with the shift-and-click method, or you can just press the Windows key and the letter E (WinKey + E) simultaneously.

Again, you can do that to open as many windows as you need.

Then, you can use the live thumbnail over that icon to move between windows.

Outsmart the Windows 10 start menu

The Windows 10 start menu combines the familiar Windows 7-ish start menu on its left side with the tiles of Windows 8.1.

Allegedly the best of both worlds, it still takes some getting used to.

Down the left side of the menu, the programs and apps appear in alphabetical order.

That’s useful if your frequently used programs all begin with A or B. But if you often use Google Chrome, Sticky Notes, Mozilla Firefox or Word, you’re doing a whole lot of scrolling.

You can pin a program to the Taskbar, or you can pin a program’s tile to the right side of the menu. If you use a program frequently, either or both of those choices are good.

But if you just need to find something quickly now and then, click on any letter you see in the start menu and all the letters will be displayed.

Click on the letter you want, and then on your program.

Never scroll again!

Turn off that stupid panel on the right side of Acrobat Reader DC

Every time I open the new version of Acrobat Reader DC, there’s a list of tools down the right side of the window.

That’s annoying.

I figured out how to hide the tools pane until I need it (which is usually “never”), but it always showed up again every time I opened Reader.

I finally found out how to banish it completely. You have to hide it first, then you have to tell Reader to remember it’s hidden.

To hide the tools pane:

  • Open a PDF in Reader
  • Click on view, show/hide
  • Remove the check mark next to tools pane
  • To keep it hidden next time you open Reader:
  • Click on edit-preferences and then documents
  • In the open settings area, check the box for “remember current state of tools pane”
  • Click on OK

You can always toggle it on and off with the view-show/hide menus, but if you rarely use it, this will keep it turned off.


Take a Mulligan

I think it’s happened to everyone. You’re cleaning up your stuff and you decide to move a bunch of files and folders from one place to another.

Windows asks if you’re sure. You’re really sure! But … it turns out you were really wrong and now your stuff is gone.

The first thing to do is remain calm.

Wait. Did that really happen?

If you delete a file and you realize right away that it was a mistake, press the CTRL and the Z key at the same time. The key combination of CTRL+Z tells Windows to “Undo” the last thing it did. If deleting the file was the last thing you did, you will probably get it back.

If you haven’t emptied your Recycle Bin, double-click on the Recycle Bin to open it and see if you can locate the file.

If so, you can either right-click on it and then click Restore, or just click once on it and then click Restore this item at the top of the window. 

The file will go back to its last location.

If you’ve deleted email, look in the Deleted Items folder in your email program. Email doesn’t go to the Recycle Bin.

Maybe it’s still around

If you don’t realize the mistake until it’s too late to do a CTRL+Z and your stuff isn’t in the recycle bin, there’s a good chance you just moved it inside another folder. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this with music and photos.

But…which folder?

One way to find it is to click on hundreds of folders until you find what you’re looking for.

A better way is to do a computer search. Windows includes a powerful search function. Just look at the top of any Explorer window in any modern version of Windows. Type your search term in there and see if Windows can find your file.  

There are alternatives to the built-in search. Not many of them do what they say they will.

Two of the best I’ve found are Everything, available here. Both tools are free and fast. Both offer a more robust search experience without having to go through all the indexing required by Windows native search.

SearchMyFiles is an excellent tool for finding duplicate files. Both tools work on Windows versions all the way through Windows 10.

If none of that works:

Try a file recovery tool. I’ve had success with Recuva

The program is free, and although the author encourages you to donate, you are under no obligation to do so.

You are also under no obligation to install the toolbars or scanners that might be offered to you when you install the program.  Simply clear the check box(es) and continue with the install.

When you run the program, Recuva will ask you what kind of file you want to recover.

Choose from:

  • Pictures
  • Music
  • Documents
  • Video
  • Compressed files
  • Email (yes, it will recover email!)
  • “Other” which will look for … other files.

Next choose a location from which to recover. If you deleted something from an external drive (like the SD card from your camera), just tell Recuva to search for it on that drive; don’t search your whole computer.

Recuva will search and present you with a list of files it’s found. You can continue to refine the search results from here, or you can restore now if you see the file you’re looking for. Not every file can be restored, even if Recuva can find it. 

You’ll see a green light if chances are good, red if not. Recuva can’t find or restore everything. You still need to back up your files. But Recuva has helped me get some of my customers out of a jam, and it’s a worthwhile tool to have installed.

What about you? Do you have a “go to” way to recover your files? Send email to [email protected] and I’ll share your solution with everyone.

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

Who do you trust?

Trust is a must or your browser’s a bust.

Why did Firefox disable the Web of Trust extension?

I was a big fan of the Web of Trust (WOT) browser extension.

It displayed green, red, and yellow icons next to search results, suggesting which sites were safe, unsafe, and sketchy. But WOT was also collecting search data and selling it on to third parties without notifying us.

You might have noticed it was missing or disabled in Firefox. Mozilla did that because of the data collection/non-disclosure issue, and because when that all came to light, some antispyware/antimalware programs began identifying WOT as spyware.. 

Google also pulled the extension from their Chrome browser. If you have the extension running in any browser, I encourage you to uninstall it unless you are comfortable with your information being sold to advertisers and being attributed directly to you.

Antivirus products including Avast, Norton, Mcafee, and Bitdefender have a built-in web browser extension that will do something like WOT.

So does AVG, but their privacy policy discloses that their free version gathers up information and sells it. That’s why I recommended in September 2015 that we stop using AVG Free antivirus..

I am still looking for a free-standing replacement. If you have one you recommend, please share!

Why can’t I use Google in Edge?

You can, but it’s a challenge to set up.

Microsoft’s Edge browser is built into Windows 10. It’s supposed to replace Internet Explorer, which is hidden deep within the Windows 10 Start Menu.

In contrast, Edge is readily available. When you click the blue lower case “e with a mohawk” icon, Edge opens to MSN.com, or a home page for your computer manufacturer. And when you search for something, Edge uses the Bing search engine.

The first thing you need to know is that you are not required to use Edge for anything except downloading a decent browser like Firefox or Chrome.

You can install and use either or both of those in Windows 10. You can also use Internet Explorer if you want. Click on Start, then scroll to Windows Accessories. You’ll see Internet Explorer there. 

If you want to continue using Edge, you can change your start page to whatever you want and your search engine back to Google (or whatever you want).

This is an unnecessarily complicated procedure in comparison to what you need to do to accomplish this in any other browser, so make yourself a cup of coffee and let’s get started.

Change the page you see when you open Edge

  • Open Edge
  • Click on the three dots
  • Click on Settings
  • Scroll to “Open Microsoft Edge with” and click on “A specific page or pages”
  • Type in the URL for the page you want, for instance http://castanet.net/
  • Click on the icon that looks like a floppy disk to save your choice. (Yep. A floppy disk icon.)
  • Use the “+ Add new page” if you want more than one page when you open Edge

Change the search engine from Bing to something else (in this case, Google)

  • Open Edge
  • Click on the three dots
  • Click on Settings
  • Click on “View advanced settings”
  • In the “Search in the address bar with” section, click on “Change Search Engine”
  • Whoops! When you do that, you have no choices — Just Bing (default)
  • So, you have to go to the address bar and type in the search engine you want, for instance, google.ca, and go to that page.
  • Now go back through the steps until you get to “Change Search Engine” and select “Google Search (discovered)”
  • Click on “Set as default”

In my opinion, this is a disgrace. In Firefox, you can change your default search engine in no more than four clicks. You can change your home page in two clicks, or three at most.

Those changes are almost as straightforward in Google Chrome. It seems obvious that Microsoft buried these settings to keep folks from using anything but Bing.

What do you think? Do you use Edge? Do you use Bing?

News and Notes

Check your HP laptop for a battery recall. See cute pictures of kittens. Readers comment on Works to Word files and speed tests.

HP just recalled laptop batteries. Again.

HP recalled 41,000 batteries last June, and last week they expanded the recall to include another 101,000 batteries sold in the USA, Canada, and Mexico between March 2013 and October 2016. HP’s recall notice states that these batteries pose a fire and burn hazard.

Visit that page to learn if your battery is included in the recall, and if it is, take the precautions listed there: Stop using the battery right now. (You can continue to use the laptop by removing the battery and connecting the power supply.)

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission notification is here.

You can get a Chrome extension that turns Trump into kittens

Well, not literally. The Make America Kittens Again extension for Google Chrome turns pictures of President Trump into pictures of kittens. It doesn’t work on every picture, and it doesn’t work on videos. But it significantly reduces the number of pictures of Donald Trump you’ll see.

To get MAKA:

  • Open Chrome
  • Click on the three dots at the top right to expand the Menu
  • Click on Settings
  • On the Settings page, click on Extensions
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on Get more extensions
  • Search Make America Kittens Again
  • Follow the prompts to add the extension

When you’re finished, you’ll see a red hat in the top of the Chrome window. I had to restart Chrome to make the extension work.

Sadly, you can’t Make America Kittens Again on Facebook. But you can use the Social Fixer app for Chrome or Firefox to create a filter that will hide all the posts about Trump (or any other person, place, or thing).

I mentioned Social Fixer in and earlier column. I’m still using it, and I still like it.

More on Works to Word and speed tests

Lots of feedback on the last couple of columns! Regarding The Need for Speed, reader Al writes:

You could help people (and ISPs) more by explaining the need to test their speed at different locations to better understand their speed.

  • Speed where they normally use their device(s).
  • Speed near their Wifi Router.
  • Speed on a wired connection to their router.

If wired speed is close to their plan, but speed near their Wifi router is poor, maybe time for a router upgrade.

If speed near their Wifi router is good, but poor at their normal location, it may be that the router location should be relocated or they may need an extender.

Great tip!

And regarding the column on Works vs Word files, long-time reader Richard reports that he found and has had great success with a free download of Microsoft Works 9.

Richard downloaded the file, checked it with Malwarebytes, installed it, ran it, and found that he could view and edit his Works documents and spreadsheets from versions of Works older than Version 6, and save them in Office-compatible and OpenOffice-compatible formats on his Windows 10 machine.

Will this work on your computer? I have no idea. The folks at Winworld offer this disclaimer:

Disclaimer: Please note that all our downloads are provided free of charge, and come with no guarantees or warranties of any kind. While we will do our best to assist when possible on the forums, we cannot be held liable for any difficulties you may encounter as a result of using this site or the software contained herein.

I heartily endorse Richard’s method of making sure his download is safe before installing it. If you don’t have Malwarebytes on your computer (or even if you do) you can visit the VirusTotal website and check a file or a website to see if it’s safe. Here’s a quick tutorial.

Thank you so much, everyone who wrote, for the excellent information.

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About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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