Old Favorites

Win95 Explorer

Judy Gertler

Michael Newcomb

Nearly everybody cheered when the Program Manager and File Manager vanished from Windows 95. It was confusing to have file management and program/document launching handled by two separate programs; one used icons to represent files, and the other used icons to represent pointers to files.

To help clear up the confusion, Microsoft combined the functionality of Program Manager and File Manager into a single piece of software, called the Explorer. Explorer actually performs a lot of the functions you associate with the Win95 desktop: it manages file windows, folder windows, control panels, and much more. All of these functions invoke the same program, they just do it with different command line options.

You probably have a number of favorite directories that you examine frequently. Out of the box, if you want to examine a specific directory, you must click on the Start menu, wander to Programs / Explorer, then clatter through the (sometimes very large) drive and directory tree to get where you want to go. That can be very time-consuming if you do it several times a day, especially if you're networked.

Needless to say, I have a better way. This tip is actually a sort of corollary to the "Document Palette" technique I described last month; if you understood that, this will be a piece of cake.

The final objective is an "Explore" item at the top of the Start menu. This item will contain quick-access shortcuts to your favorite directories. Begin by starting the Explorer and navigating to your Windows 95 directory. Open the "Start Menu" folder. You should see a folder called "Programs" and possibly some other stuff.

Inside the Start Menu folder, create a new folder called "Explore." This folder will contain all your folder and drive shortcuts. I actually went further and added a second-level folder under "Explore" called "Drives"; this contains shortcuts that explore my most commonly-used drive letters.

Your Explore folder or folders will contain a series of shortcuts that invoke Explorer. You can add shortcuts for as many drives and directories as you like, and customize how the explored object will look by setting the right command-line options. The basic procedure is:

The Explorer can show a folder in an amazing variety of different ways depending on the selected command line options. As far as I know, the full list of options is not documented anywhere, but you can figure them out with a little work and some time spent poring over the Win95 Resource Kit.

I know of four different options (/N, /E, /ROOT, and /SELECT) which can be used in several permutations. Weirdly, if you use any options, they must be followed by commas, something I've never seen in a Windows program before, but there you are. Table 1 contains some Explorer command lines and tells what they do. Parenthetically, you don't have to use any options: the command EXPLORER G:\WIN95, for example, opens the G:\WIN95 folder just as if it was double-clicked from the "My Computer" window.

Table 1. Explorer Command Lines
Explorer Command LineEffect
explorer "c:\Patsy and Edina"Opens a normal "Mac Style" folder view of the directory "Patsy and Edina"
explorer /e, "g:\win95"Opens a normal "tree view" window with "g:\win95" as the current directory.
explorer /e, /root, "g:\win95\system"Opens a "tree view" window, but shows "g:\win95\system" as the root of the tree. Everything "above" this directory (including other drives) is invisible.
explorer /e, /select, "g:\win95\system"Opens a normal "tree view" window with "g:\win95" as the current directory. The "system" subdirectory will be selected in the right window.

Note: If you have the "My Computer / View / Options..." Folder page set to "Browse folders by using a single window that changes as you open each folder," you may want to add the /n option to the explorer command line. This overrides the default behavior and forces a new Explorer window to open. For example: explorer /n, /e, "d:\Saffron"

An important side-note is that folder names containing spaces must be enclosed in double quotes. It's probably good practice to enclose all folder names in double quotes just to avoid problems, especially since it's not much extra work.

Creating Drive Shortcuts

For my Explore Drives submenu, I used the command line: EXPLORER /N, /E, /ROOT, "X:\" where x is the drive letter. This creates a window with the selected drive as the "root" of the directory tree. By doing this, you avoid all the extraneous clutter ("My Computer," "Network Neighborhood," etc.) that Explorer is wont to add to the directory tree.

To create the submenu, I built one Explorer shortcut in the usual way, copied it, and pasted it several times. After the copies were made, I renamed each one to the relevant letter, then altered its Properties to point to the root of the drive.

Fun Win95 Fact

Program Manager isn't actually gone. Take a look in your Windows 95 directory.

Michael Newcomb

Microsoft Fax Fix

If you use the Microsoft Fax applet supplied with Windows 95, you may run into a very peculiar problem. You create a cover sheet and use it merrily for weeks, then one fine day, you go to send a fax, and there are no cover sheets in the list. Thinking that the cover sheets merely got lost somehow, you attempt to add them back with the "Browse..." button, but every time you try, the Fax applet says, "That cover sheet is already in the list."

It's a Catch-22. The applet says that there are no cover sheets available, but you can't add any new cover sheets. The horror!

Actually, there's a simple (but extremely unintuitive) cure. The problem stems from the "Archive" bit on the cover page files. For reasons known only to Bill, the cover page files must have their Archive bits set. If the Archive bits are cleared for any reason, the files will not show up in the cover page list, and you won't be able add them back.

The archive bits can be reset several ways. The simplest is to highlight the cover page files one by one in the Explorer (generally in your Win95 directory, they end in .CPE), click with the right mouse button, open the Properties dialog box, check the Archive box on the General page, and then click OK.

Another way to set the archive bits is with the nasty DOS command ATTRIB. Change to the directories where your fax cover files live, then type:

attrib +A *.cpe

This will set the Archive bits of all files with the .CPE extension.

You may well ask how the Archive bits get cleared in the first place. After all, weren't they set when you created or altered the file? The answer is usually backup software. With the best of intentions, most backup programs clear the Archive bit on all files that they save. They do this to permit incremental backups, where only files that have been changed will be saved. This effect can sometimes be disabled, but it may be more trouble than just resetting the Archive bits after you back up. You do back up regularly, don't you?

Pitfall Pitfalls

I recently found a bug in Activision's generally excellent adaptation of the legendary video game "Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure." The first time you start the game, you may see a series digital-video splash screens followed by what appears to be a system lockup. There is apparently a bug in the program's on-line registration sequence (which starts automatically on the first launch) that can cause the program to crash. You can close Pitfall using <Ctrl> + <Alt> + <Delete> and then choosing "End Task," but this isn't nearly as much fun as actually playing the game.

To avoid the crash, hit <Esc> as soon as the splash screen opens. If you let the splash screen run (and show the endless animated company logos which you don't want to see anyway), Pitfall will crash. I am not sure how widespread the problem is, but I've seen it on at least two systems.

This bug can be especially frustrating if you run Win95, because the Pitfall CD will launch as soon as you put it in your CD-ROM drive. If you aren't quick-fingered, you will never get to play!

Other than this one problem, which only affects something nobody cares about, I have found Pitfall to be a terrific adaptation of an arcade standby, though you need a joystick to really enjoy it. Good luck getting past the jaguar!

After After Dark

Berkeley Systems may well be the most famous maker of screen savers, those little bits of software that prevent unused CPU cycles from building up on your system and causing it to explode. They have an excellent screen saver engine for Windows 3.1, and I have long been a fan of their ingenious timewasters.

They are now advertising a screen saver (version 3.2 of the engine) that's allegedly designed for both Win95 and Windows 3.x. I had so much trouble with this product that I had to uninstall it. I would strongly recommend avoiding After Dark on Windows 95, at least until Berkeley gets its act together. Among the problems:

Like all too much software released soon after Win95 arrived, AD 3.2's design makes only the most trivial concessions to Windows 95. For example, it still installs itself by writing things into WIN.INI and SYSTEM.INI. When it crashes--and it probably will--you get Win16 "Close / Ignore" error boxes rather than "real" Win32 crash dialogs (ideally, of course, we'd get no crash boxes at all).

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