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April 8, 1996

Three new uses for your keyboard's lowly Shift key

For years, Microsoft Corp. has used the Shift key on your keyboard to change the meaning of various commands and menu items. These alterations haven't always been well-documented.

Windows 95 has even more of these little-known Shift key combinations. There are probably dozens of them -- some well-documented, others not. In any case, here are some of the ones that I've found to be useful for the greatest number of people.

Open With. You probably know that when you click your right mouse button on an object in the Explorer, you'll see a context menu. If the object is associated with a particular application, the context menu will include special actions you can perform on that object. For example, if the object is a compressed Zip file, the context menu might include actions such as Decompress or View.

It's less well known that right-clicking an object that isn't associated with any application will result in a context menu featuring an Open With menu choice. Clicking this choice displays a new dialog box listing all the applications Windows knows about and asking you which application the object should be opened with.

You can force Windows 95 to display the Open With dialog box even if a file is associated with a particular application. Simply hold down the Shift key while right-clicking the file.

By the way, you won't see the Open With choice if you've added the file type called Unknown to your list of file types. I described how to do this with a Registry edit in my Feb. 5 column. (See "Associate unknown file types and gain right mouse control".)

Explorer View. You may be in the habit of cruising through files and folders using the My Computer icon on the Desktop. When you double-click the My Computer icon, you get a window called Folder View. This view defaults to showing a large icon for each file or folder. If you click View, Options, Folder, and choose "Browse folders by using a single window," the Folder View window will change to display the contents of any folder you double-click. (If you have the toolbar off, which is the default, there is no obvious way to go back to a parent folder after you've displayed a child folder. The trick is to press the backspace key to go back up one level.)

At this point in the Folder View, if you hold down the Shift key when double-clicking a folder, you'll open a new Explorer View. Since the Explorer View shows a hierarchical tree in a separate, left-hand pane, this view is much handier than the Folder View when you wish to copy or move files, for example.

Recycle Bin. A new feature of Windows 95 is the Recycle Bin. When you right-click a file, then click Delete, the file is not actually deleted but is sent into a Recycle Bin. (Files deleted from floppy disks are really deleted.) The files remain in the Recycle Bin until you reach its storage limit, after which they really are deleted. You set the storage limit by right-clicking the Recycle Bin icon on the desktop, then clicking Properties.

If you have turned on "Display delete confirmation" in this dialog box, you'll be asked if you want to send files to the Recycle Bin every time you click Delete. The way to bypass this confirmation is to hold down the Shift key when you click Delete. (Typing Shift-Delete on your keyboard has the same effect.) Deleting a file, rather than recycling it, is a good idea if you have your Recycle Bin set to a low limit, such as 2MB, and want to really delete a 2MB file.

Brian Livingston is the coauthor of the new Windows 95 Secrets and author of three other Windows books (IDG Books). Send tips to or fax: (206) 282-1248.

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Copyright © 1996 by InfoWorld Publishing Company


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