Now you can make Notepad print plain text files using your preferred settings
WE ALL HAVE to handle plain text files from time to time, and we know that printing files with the built-in Notepad applet in Windows should be called "pain text." Fortunately, I've found a way to bend Notepad to your will so you can make it work the way you want it to work.
The problem with Notepad is that it does not save your settings for the "look" of your text files. Every time you print a file with Notepad, it blindly slaps on a header with the file name of the document (or, worse, "Unti-tled") and a footer saying "Page 1." And Notepad defaults to margin settings that don't accommodate a typical 80-column text file.
If you want a quick hard copy of your plain text files, the formatting change may distract from their content. You can change Notepad's header, footer, and margins, but you must tweak its Page Setup dialog box each and every time.
Now you can get some control over this kind of configuration problem. You may wish to dispense with headers and footers or define your own. And you may want narrower margins so those 80-column lines don't wrap.
Yes, I know there are much better text editors than Notepad. (I like Editpad myself; for information, see www.editpadpro.net.)
But you can't always count on a Notepad substitute being available on every Windows machine you use. Fortunately, the undocumented Notepad feature I'm about to show you is easy enough that you can implement it on any Windows system.
To my surprise, I've found that this hidden feature of Notepad has been present since at least Windows 98. But extensive queries in half a dozen Internet search engines reveal no mention of it in computer-user magazines. This proves there are still secrets to be extracted from Windows. Readers, take this as a challenge to find and send me even more.
To make Notepad's Page Setup settings "sticky," take the following steps:
Step 1. Close all copies of Notepad that are running.
Step 2. In Windows 98 or Windows Me, click Start, Run, type "regedit," and then click OK. In Windows 2000, click Start, Run, type "regedt32," and then click OK.
Step 3. In Registry Editor, double-click the folder icons to open the following branch: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft. Under the Microsoft branch, select the Notepad folder. In the right pane, double-click the word fSavePageSettings. In the DWord edit box that appears, change the value 0 (zero) to 1 (one). Click OK to save this value (as either a decimal or a hex value; it doesn't matter).
Step 4. Close the Registry Editor.
Step 5. Open Notepad. Click File, Page Setup. Write down the margin, header, and footer values, then change them. Click OK, and then close Notepad. Now restart Notepad and click File, Page Setup again.
In Windows 98 and 2000, your header and footer values will still be the ones you set. In Windows 2000, any new margin settings you defined will also be saved. (Windows 2000's version of Notepad has another nice feature: You can set the default font from its Format menu, rather than hacking the Registry.)
Now that your preferences will stay put, you can put a lot of handy things in your headers and footers. You can have Notepad automatically insert the date or time, for example. Header information can be aligned left, aligned right, or centered, and so on.
To see the commands that control these elements, run Help in Notepad, click the Index tab, then double-click Headers.
Once you've got Notepad's settings right, try this trick: Open Windows Explorer and right-click a text file. On the context menu that appears, click Print. You no longer need to open Notepad first to tell it your preferences. Notepad remembers them for you.
Reader Terry Lechler will receive a free copy of Windows Me Secrets for being the first to send me a tip I printed.
California, here I come
I'll be the featured speaker this week at the San Francisco PC Users' Group meeting. The event begins at 7:00 p.m. Tues., Jan. 16, in the San Francisco Community College District Office auditorium at 33 Gough Street (one-half block south of Market Street).
The group is open to the public and free to members and first-time guests. (It's $4 for repeat guests.)
My topic will be "The newest threats to your PC from the Internet."
For more information, go to www.sfpcug.org/generalmtg.html.
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Brian Livingston's latest book is Windows Me Secrets (IDG Books). Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. He regrets that he cannot answer individual questions.