Altering Windows’ right-click “edit” and “view” actions

This used to be simple to do, a few releases of Windows ago, but now that windows has been improved, it’s not so simple.  You can fairly easily change the default action for “open”, but edit?? Not so simple.  Perusal of net.wisdom on the subject usually yields registry hacks and the like.  Big fail for Microsoft for removing this ability.

However, all is not lost!  Enter Default Programs Editor – yay!  This little program is really great. It does a lot and is easy to use. It’s your one stop shop for customizing things the way you want them to work.  I downloaded it, ran it, changed the edit functionality I wanted for a specific file type, and then tossed off a donation to the author because it’s so nice to see a simple solution with no adware or other junk, and a decent user interface.

Give it a try!

Default Programs Editor: File Types page

Got a window and you don’t know what it is? Try Process Explorer! (SysInternals ROCKS)

I have to hand it to the "SysInternals" folks at Microsoft – they sure come up with some great stuff.  I just used this one: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb896653

I had a spurious windows with no title bar and no chrome (border,minimize,maximize & close box), just a text input box – very suspicious, especially since there have been malware threats that masquerade as IME (see http://threatpost.com/new-trojan-disguised-windows-ime-070610).

So, I ran this tool, dragged it’s "target" (next to the binoculars) onto the suspect window, and it instantly identified it as a child window of that bug-ridden annoyance known as "Adobe Reader".  I right-clicked on the entry, picked "end process" and poof! window is gone.  VERY nice indeed.

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The stock Windows "Resource Monitor" tool (buried in “task manager”, with a link on the "performance" tab to launch it) is a little more refined and gives you similar information, but lacks features like the "target" which you can drag-and-drop on any window to identify it.  Process Explorer also has some other niche tools which you might find handy from time to time.

They have a handy package called the sysinternals “suite” which contains most of the tools (including Process Monitor) all in one 13MB download.

Other utilities worth of note in the package include BgInfo (great for servers), Desktops, and Diskmon.  MoveFile is also handy if you have a pesky file which won’t delete – you can tell it to delete at the next reboot and usually that does the trick.  There is also a windows version of “whois” which unix geeks are probably familiar with.  This lets you quickly see who owns an Internet domain name.  ZoomIt is a nice tool for augmenting presentations, letting you zoom in and draw annotations (you see this used a lot in Microsoft tutorial videos).

“My documents” folder renaming on a network share

This is a very annoying Windows 2008 R2 bug which was reported way back in 2010 but still there is no fix from Microsoft.  Here’s an example from the educational sector.

Here’s the symptom:  You have a bunch of users and want to keep their “my documents” folders on a network share so that it can be easily backed up, and so if their computer dies, it’s no big deal.

You create the share, we’ll call it “UserData” and share it out to all the workstations.  Then, you go to each windows 7 workstation in turn and start redirecting each user’s “my documents” to a folder with their name in that share.  So “Stan” would get a “Stan” folder inside “UserData”. Nice and tidy.  All of your users now have their own personal sub-directory and it’s easy to see who owns what data.  It’s also easy to back up and restore.

At some time later on (not sure what the trigger is, but it seems it has to do with when the user logs off), this folder is mysteriously renamed to “my documents”.  Now, you have a ton of folders in “UserData” which apparently have the same name (“My Documents”), and you don’t know who owns what data!!!  The links from the Windows 7 PCs seem to stay intact, but it’s impossible to manage at the server level.

Sure, one solution is to have “UserData/Stan” and put a “my documents” folder in there.  But why should I do that?  When you do the “my documents” redirect, it allows you to pick a folder as the redirect target.  If the folder name you’ve picked is not acceptable, you shouldn’t be able to pick it.  But there is no such error or warning.  Everything seems fine until some random time when the system decides to “fix” it for you.

This is what I refer to as “arrogant code”.  Somebody at Microsoft made a conscious decision that they know better than you do, and regardless what you wanted to rename that folder, they will impose their iron will and rename it the way THEY want it.  This isn’t a bug where somebody made a typo in the code.  This is a very poor consciously made behavioral decision.  One might wonder… why?  Why is some engineer at Microsoft overriding the customer’s decision? 

Are you sure? Really sure? Recycle Bin paranoia

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Why yes, I AM sure, that’s why I selected “delete” in the first place.  Now don’t get me wrong, I think it’s good to confirm things which may be questionable, such as “Are you sure you want to launch the ICBM?”.  However, deleting a file doesn’t really delete it.  It just puts it into the “Recycle Bin”.  If you really didn’t mean to do that, or have pangs of regret a few minutes later, you can get it back.  So why do we need to be pestered for confirmation of an undoable event?  Answer: We don’t, it’s just inane.

Here’s an excerpt from Tim’s UI Guidelines (coming soon to a theater near you):

Don’t pester the user.  Confirm actions that cannot be reversed, but otherwise allow the user to do what they want, when they want.

Microsoft? Are you listening?