Thursday, July 27, 2006

This little tutorial shows how to configure Windows common open/save dialogue to let you change the five default places that appear on the places bar on the left (Recent, Desktop, My Documents, My Computer, My Network Places) with other places that better suits your needs. It applies to Windows version 2000, XP or (hopefully) above.

Computers are ment to ease your work. Computing is a way to get results, not the result itself. That's why your system should go straight to the goal (or place) you want to go to.

One of the most used dialogue in Windows is the "open…" or "save as…" dialogue. In that dialogue you can find the places bar that lets you quickly access several common places in your computer:

Now let's consider the choice of places. Who ever used "Recent" folder when saving or even opening? Moreover, everybody has her personal needs and ways of storing files on their PC (or Network), so how can an arbitrary choice of five places fit all of our needs?

For example, I heavily use network places for I work in a LAN with several file servers. Someone else may not need Network Places at all for her PC is a just another home multimedia device and she doesn't even know what a network place is.

In order to make that bar really useful, you can (not so easily) configure it. Just follow these steps to add places that are really common to you yourself and not to Bill Gates.

Warning: The following instructions are meant for a low-level experienced Windows user, read them carefully and then decide if you can do it or not. Later on you will also find step-by-step instructions on how to reset the system and bring it back to original common dialog.

Configuring places bar:

  1. Decide what to put on the places bar (remember you have a maximum of 5 slots).
  2. Open RegEdit: click "Start" > "Run…" and then digit "regedit" and press OK.
  3. In the tree on the left, select HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Policies.
  4. Create a key "comdlg32" by selecting in the menu Edit > New > Key and then inserting the name of the key.
  5. Inside the new key, create another key "Placesbar" as you did before.
  6. Inside Placesbar key, you can set up the five items. Please note that there is a slight difference between common Windows places (ie. Desktop, My Computer, etc.) or specific places (ie. drives and folders on your PC or network folders).
    1. Create string values or dword values (see below) naming them Place0, Place1, Place2, Place3, Place4.
    2. Adding a common Windows place: select Edit > New > DWORD Value and insert the desired dword. A dword is a value like 0×0000 (Desktop) or 0×000c (My Documents), you can refer to Microsoft specifications for a complete list of dword values and places.
    3. Adding a specific folder: select Edit > New > String Value and insert the desired folder complete path. A path can be "C:\Files\Video" or "K:\" (where K is a network drive you have previously mapped).
  7. Done. Go to any open/save dialogue and check your new places bar.

You can set-up specific folders on your PC if you have a stand-alone workstation or commonly used network places if you work in a network environment. Here is an example of my new places bar, where I decided to have quick access to my Desktop, My Computer and three network places I use daily:

Hey, wait a minute! I have messed up my places bar and I want to go back to my previous one!

No problem, if you want to go back to your default bar you can simply :

  1. Open RegEdit: click "Start" > "Run…" and then digit "regedit" and press OK.
  2. In the tree on the left, select HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ Policies.
  3. Select "comdlg32" key and delete it by selecting in the menu Edit > Delete.

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