Restore quick launch bar in Windows 7/8

The quick launch bar might have been the way most Windows XP users accessed all their data, be it folders they often needed or programs - everything could be put in there. This bar however was abandoned in further Windows versions but can be restored by very simple means.

To do so, right-click on some free space on the task bar and unlock it by removing the check next to Lock the taskbar. Then right-click again and choose Toolbars > New toolbar.... Use the Folder line and enter following:

%userprofile%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch

Click Select Folder to confirm. A toolbar named Quick Launch will have appeared in your task bar. Right-click it and uncheck the options Show Text and Show title, this will give you back the original layout. Move it to the position you want to have it and lock the taskbar again afterwards.

How to create a picture password on Windows 8

Apart from the traditional text string password, Windows 8 offers a new form of securing your user account which is by including touch and/or gestures into the procedure. Spoken directly, you are now able to select a picture where you perform three mouse or touch gestures on (circles, line or dots) that will unlock your account if repeated correctly.

To create such a password open the Charms menu by pointing your mouse to the top or bottom right corner and select Settings. Afterwards click on Control Panel. Then navigate to User Accounts and Family Safety > User Accounts > Change Your Windows Password > Make Changes to my account in PC settings > Create a picture password. On the next screen, browse for a picture you want to use as background for the picture password. When you are asked to, perform three gestures on the picture you chose - you can do circles, dots and lines, where circles that are too small will be recognized as dots and any other form will be transformed into one of those three depending on where start and end-points are and how the lines were drawn.

The gestures you have drawn will shortly blink up afterwards, so you now if it is what you actually wanted to draw. After you have drawn three forms, you have to confirm by drawing them again. You can orient yourself on the forms of the picture but should not do so too closely, since it will be really easy to guess afterwards. In the following picture for example, one should not use the bubbles as line reference but look for other forms or links to use - make it easy rememberable for you but hard to guess for others.

If you forget what you drew or the system, for any reason, simply does not accept what you drew (which usually does not happen that easily) - there is still the option to switch back to the regular text string password on log-in screen.

Pin folders to taskbar on Windows 7/8

By default, if you try pinning folders to the taskbar on Windows 7 or the current version of Windows 8 the folder will be put into the context menu of the taskbar's explorer icon.

To prevent this and stick a folder directly to the taskbar, you need to create a shortcut of the folder you want to pin (right-click and Create shortcut). Afterwards right-click the shortcut and select Properties. On the Target line you will see the path of the object that the shortcut is pointing to - put explorer in front of that path and separate them with a space character (e.g. explorer "C:\New_Folder"). Now click OK and drag the shortcut to the taskbar.

Restore the Start button in Windows 8

Update, 06/04/2012: Start8 as well as ViStart are still working on Windows 8 Release Preview, build 8400.

Probably one of the most annoying things Windows 8 has brought is the removal of the Start button in the bottom left corner - when you now press the Windows key, you are brought right back to the Metro UI. Being the main menu in Windows for many versions, many will have problems to get accustomed to its lack and the new ways of navigating Windows and it might also have greater impact in businesses.

Since the day after the release date of Windows 8 people have been busy scripting third-party solutions to restore the missing menu button and a few good results are already available on the internet.

Start8 by Stardock

Start8 represents a Start menu in the new Metro UI style and therefore replaces the Metro screen completely. It is possible to call it with the Windows key and it also contains a search bar just like the Windows 7 menu that is able to search all your installed apps for the keyword you enter.

Since it still is a new piece of Software it contains some bugs just like Windows 8 itself. Upon right-clicking an app from the app menu to select it, the right part of the menu fades out - but does not fade in again after deselecting the item. Furthermore, the tiles in the bottom right pane of the menu are unclickable - this is not a great problem though because they all are present in the main pane as well. If such a menu is suitable for you depends on you. I find it a bit unpractical since you don't really need the large app list (you cannot scroll through it with the mouse wheel either) but only use the search function.

If you want to try out Start8, you can download it from the Stardock homepage:

ViStart by Lee-Soft

ViStart was originally developed to serve as Vista styled Start menu for Windows XP, but was adjusted to be compatible to Windows 8 after the Consumer Preview release. It looks nearly as the original Vista menu and works almost the same. Other than Start8 it does not disable the Metro interface so you may rather use the Windows key to open it than to hover your mouse over the bottom left corner.

You can download ViStart on the developers homepage (it's also downloadable on other pages, but the developer always provides the latest version):

Care during install: the installer asks for permission to install other software that you definitely won't need, so read carefully and decline all agreements on extra software. If you would like to customize your Start orb, Lee-Soft also provides alternative skins and more on their website.

Add Right-Click Menu to Open Any Folder on Windows

The context menu you gain by right-clicking the desktop is a powerful tool to open any kind of data and program. If you have a folder that you need to access regularly it might be a clever idea to simply pin it to that right-click menu to shorten the access time.

To achieve that you need to add a few keys to the registry. Open it by typing regedit into a run prompt which you get by hitting Windows key + R. In the registry, navigate to the Computer\HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Directory\background\shell key and right-click it to create a new key (New > Key). Give it the name of the command that shall later appear in the menu (Custom Folder in the example above). Afterwards right-click the created key and create another one called command. Left click the command key and change the (Default) value by double-clicking it. It has to be something like

explorer.exe C:\Users\howtoforge\Pictures

Replace the path I used with the one to your folder (embrace it in double-quotes if it contains spaces) and put the explorer.exe in front of it, so the system knows which program to use to open the command.

Enable Peek Preview in Windows 8 Consumer Preview

One of the more useful Aero features of Windows 7 was that you could just hover your mouse over the bottom right corner where the Peek rectangle was positioned and all the windows would become fully transparent so you had a better overview of the desktop.

In the Windows 8 Consumer Preview the only default option to do this is to right-click the taskbar and to select Show the desktop - which is done with two clicks more than before.
To save those two clicks there is an easy way to re-enable Peek preview by right-clicking the space in the bottom right corner where the rectangle used to be and to activate Peek at desktop.

The space will then have the same functions as in Windows 7. If you move the mouse to the very corner however, it will still trigger the Windows 8 Charms menu.

Enter Safe Mode in Windows 8 Consumer Preview

In previous versions of Windows, it was always possible to troubleshoot problems by booting into Safe Mode by hammering on the F8 button on start-up - with Windows 8 CP, this process has become slightly more complicated.

On first glance you may think that safe mode is only to be entered after setting the appropriate options in the msconfig menu accessible by typing the same into a Run prompt. You can do this, however there is also an option you can use on boot - the key combination for that has changed to Shift + F8. So to enter safe mode on boot, hold Shift and hammer your finger on F8 again before the fish appears. If the fish appears without any notion of any repairing attempts, restart again. On the first attempt to do this, it will most likely not work. I needed six or seven attempts to actually get into the advanced boot options, if it does not work for you, try harder! If it did however, you will notice some line stating something about repair. After some possible minutes of auto-repairing the computer itself, Windows 8 finally shows you the advanced troubleshooting menu. Click Advanced Options:

Afterwards select Troubleshoot:

Head for Advanced options:

Afterwards choose Windows Startup Settings:

The next screen shows the actions that will be taken in Safe Mode. Click Restart:

The computer will be rebooted afterwards and you will be taken to the Safe Mode selection screen of the old days:

Take Screenshots in Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Other than in other versions of Windows where you took screenshots by pressing the PrtSc key and then pasting them to Paint or another graphical editor, it is now possible to take screenshots directly on in Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

To do that, just press Windows key + PrtSc and the screenshot will be saved into your pictures folder. For those who prefer the classic method, it is still available the way it was. Furthermore, if you did not know, you can press Alt + PrtSc to capture only the active window. Unfortunately this feature was not (yet) updated to work together with the Windows key method.

Create New Metro Tiles On Windows 8

Since you now won't get around to use the Metro Start-screen on the recently released Windows 8 Consumer preview, it might be good to know how to add some functionality to it.

To add the usual Windows tools or Apps you can just open the Metro menu and right-click some free space. On the appearing menu at the bottom of the screen, choose All Apps. You now get to a list of Windows components and apps, which you can right-click to open their menus. From there, click on Pin to Start:

To pin other programs or folders to the Start-screen, go to the classic desktop and right-click the item you want to have on the Metro screen. Here, you also have the option to Pin to Start.

A way to produce more customized tiles is to create a shortcut on the desktop which you can assign switches to. For example, if the shutdown button is too hidden for you, just create a new shortcut and assign the path shutdown /s to it (for more options, open a cmd and type shutdown /?). Stick it to Metro as described above, give it a nice icon before maybe, and your shutdown button will be far more accessible than the original one.

Shutdown Windows 8

Windows 8 does no longer provide you with an obvious button to shut your machine down, put it to sleep or restart it. You now have the optoins to either shut down with the Ctrl + Alt + Del screen or to find your way through some hot-corner menus to do so. If you choose to try the latter, move your mouse to the top right corner of the screen to activate the appropriate menu, then move the mouse down to the Settings option:

Then click the Power button to open the shut down menu and choose the action of your choice: