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Window Manager
Brian Livingston
Readers use a wide variety of macro utility programs and tricks to automate Windows

WHENEVER I WRITE about a Windows utility I like, my readers never fail to send me messages about programs that do the same thing faster, better, cheaper, or free.

My Aug. 2 column was no exception. I wrote that I was finally retiring the creaky old Recorder applet I've been using since Windows 3.1. I've replaced it with the $34.95 Macro Express, a much more powerful utility. (See "Macro Express utility can help automate routine Windows tasks and repetitive typing," A free evaluation copy of Macro Express is available at

One thing I found out from all the e-mail in my inbox was that I'm not the only person who has used the old Recorder all these years. There are plenty of other readers who like to insert addresses or other boilerplate text into documents -- without typing manually every time.

But a real automation tool does more than just insert blocks of text. Ideally, it can run a macro at a certain time of day, support pop-up menus, and perform other tasks you would like to have handled for you.

Some of my readers raved about CE Software's QuicKeys. This utility has had a long history on the Mac, but is now available for Windows 95/98 and Windows NT 4.0 and higher.

Peter Kaufman, a technology worker for Merrill Lynch, writes, "I, like you, used the Recorder from Win 3.1 to do some rudimentary tasks on some NT boxes I was managing at the time." Now that QuicKeys is available on Wintel, however, he says, "It's worth its weight in gold." The product is downloadable for $39.95, with a retail price of $49.95.

Information about the Windows version of QuicKeys is available at Once there, click "See How the Competition Stacks Up," and you will get a handy features chart.

This chart describes dozens of tasks you can automate with a good macro utility. For example, you can create a few hot keys to turn your audio volume up and down instead of having to mouse around for a control panel. (The authors of the five competing products might disagree with some of the judgments made in QuicKeys' chart -- but at least it gives you some basis for comparison.)

Colin Messitt swears by SmartBoard 2000. (He'd better like it; he's the program's author.) SmartBoard is a kind of Clipboard on steroids. It stores multiple objects for you and allows you to paste them into applications later, even after restarting Windows. You can password protect items in case you wish to store sensitive information such as passwords, credit card information, and so forth.

Information on SmartBoard can be found at The product costs $24.95.

Jeffrey Worthen recommends WinKey, a free program. This utility allows you to define macros for the "Windows" key, found on new keyboards, in combination with other keys that aren't already assigned to anything. For example, Windows+F10 opens an NT-style "Process Manager" in Windows 95/98. See

Speaking of the Windows key, a number of readers quibbled with my redefining the sacred Help key (F1) so it minimizes all my applications. Readers complained, "Why don't you do the same thing with Windows+M?"

Because it's two keystrokes instead of one, of course -- and besides, I'm not buying a new keyboard just to get a Windows key.

Robert Rucinski had the best tip on this subject. It's common knowledge that a "Minimize All" icon appears on the Task Bar in Windows 98. (I could mouse down and click this icon to minimize all windows, but I find it faster to hit a single key.)

Rucinski points out a little-known fact: The "Minimize All" functionality of this icon is actually provided by a tiny text-file script called Show Desktop.scf. This file appears in the Windows/System folder and in later versions of Internet Explorer. Once you find this file, you can drag it onto a toolbar and write batch files that run the script any time you want to minimize all applications.

Readers Kaufman, Messitt, Worthen, and Rucinski will each receive a free copy of Windows 98 Secrets for being the first to send me tips that I have printed.


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