Editorial (pet peeve resolved)

We techies are simple souls.

Look at me now; I’m happy, very happy, and all because I just solved one of my pet peeves.

Now all techies have a long list of computer annoyances, little things that drive them mad.

But this particular annoyance was driving me bananas. I suspect it may be driving you bananas as well.

When you read this newsletter (or any newsletter), wouldn’t it be nice to be able to read an interesting item, click the link and then continue reading the newsletter without being interrupted by being switched over to your browser?

That said, wouldn’t it be even better to be able to read through the whole issue, clicking links of interest and have them all fetch in your browser in the background, ready for you to read when you’ve finished the newsletter?

Well I’ve found a way to do it.  More accurately, a satisfactory way. I’ve tried several other solutions in the past but they were more trouble than they were worth.

This two-part solution however, works really well. Here’s what you do:

First, you must set up your email program so that it stays in the foreground. That is, the email window stays on top when you click a link in an email message rather than gets buried under your browser window. Secondly, you need to setup your browser to stack up multiple sessions.

The Windows operating system allows any open window to be set up so that it’s always on top. However almost no email readers allow you to set that attribute. To do this, you need a third party utility.

I’ve found two: the first called Heldup is free and you can get it here: http://www.johnmacintyre.ca/%5CHeldUp.asp

The second is called Actual Title Buttons, cost $19.95 and is available at http://www.actualtools.com/titlebuttons/.

Both work equally well but differ in convenience of use. With Heldup, the way you set a window permanently on top is by clicking a task tray icon and then dragging the icon to the window title bar. With Actual Title Buttons, you just click a button that’s added to every window title bar next to the maximize, minimize and close buttons.

This latter system works way better. So much better that I suspect you may well be tempted to fork out the 20 bucks. If you do, you’ll get a side benefit; Actual Title Buttons also allows you to minimize any application to the system tray and can make any window transparent. There’s a free trial version, so I suggest you give it a test drive.

The next stage is to set your browser up to convert a series of link clicks into multiple sessions in multiple windows.

Now, you can get Internet Explorer to do this by a combination of option settings and registry fixes but it’s not worth it. Firstly it makes normal day-to-day usage of IE inconvenient. Secondly, IE doesn?t support tabbed windows so all those sessions get piled up in a mess in your task bar.

Much better is to install the freeware program MyIE2. You can think of this as a kind of shell that sits on top of IE that provides tabbed windows along with a wide range of other features missing from IE. It doesn’t interfere with IE itself and you can use the two programs together if you wish. But I can assure you that once you’ve used MyIE2, you’ll never go back to plain vanilla Internet Explorer again.

MyIE2 is free and is small download at 560KB. You can get it here http://www.myie2.com/html_en/home.htm

Once you install MyIE2, select Options/MyIE2 options/Window/New. On this panel you set the actions that initiate a new window. Make sure "local files" is selected. Incidentally, I deselect all the other options except "Middle mouse button clicks on links" That way, MyIE2 behaves just like IE with link clicks opening in the same window but when I want a link to open in a new tabbed window, I just click with my scroll wheel.

Next, set MyIE2 as your default browser by selecting Options/Default browser/Set as default browser. You can, of course, reset IE as your default browser in the same way.

As an aside, MyIE2 has lots of options and it might take you some time to get it operate exactly as you want. But persevere because what you’ll end up with is a browser customized to your exact needs.  For guidance, check out the excellent FAQ in Help.

That’s it. Now, next time you read a newsletter, just set your email reader window to stay on top, then click away on those interesting links and they’ll all be there, stacked up ready for you to view, once you’ve finished reading the newsletter.

Oh happy days.

Gizmo Richards

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2003-09-17: