Tweak UI is not new ... it has been available for users since Windows 98 came
out, and is part of Microsoft's PowerToys group of utilities. PowerToys were originally developed by Microsoft's Windows 95 programmers to
allow them to "play" with the interface without having to toy with the
system registry. But despite shipping PowerToys with Windows 98 (it is found on original
copies of the Windows 98 CD-ROM), Microsoft won't accept responsibility for it's
use. Microsoft's website states clearly that the "productivity tools called
PowerToys ... are unsupported tools".
In short, use them at your own risk. It didn't help that the Tweak UI that
came with the Windows 98 CD-ROM is buggy. If you want to try Tweak UI, it is best you download the latest version,
Tweak UI 1.33, from Microsoft (point your browser towards "http://www.microsoft.com/ntworkstation/downloads/PowerToys/Networking/NTTweakUI.asp"
- I checked ... it's still there).
A word of caution though: Tweak UI allows you to make major (but fun) changes
to your Windows operating system. The utility gives you access, albeit indirectly, to the Windows Registry, and
tampering with the Registry always carries a certain amount of risk if you don't
know enough to undo the changes.
Basically, if you are a computing novice and are not about to risk the health
of your system, then forget about Tweak UI ... it is not for the faint-hearted
and risk-adverse. If you are game for more control over Windows, read on.
How to obtain a copy of Tweak UI
Users of Windows 98 should not have to look far for Tweak UI ... version
1.25 of the utility should be found on the Windows 98 CD-ROM (the actual
location may vary, but it should be in the folder marked Tools or PowerToys). However, version 1.25 is buggy, and will not work very well with Windows 95.
If you have an Internet connection, hop over to Microsoft (Uniform Resource
Locator, or URL, given above) and download Tweak UI 1.33. It is a small zipped
file (between 65kb to 110kb) and is self-extracting. This version works with Windows 95, Windows 98 (Second Edition as well),
Windows ME, Windows NT 4.0, and Windows 2000.
Oh yeah, back-up your current Registry settings before you install Tweak UI
... just in case.
Installing the utility
Once you have downloaded or located Tweak UI, it's time to install it.
Locate the file called TweakUI.inf (the .inf extension means that it is an
information file ... kind of tells Windows what to do). If you downloaded it from the Internet, C:\WINDOWS\TEMP is the default
location. Right-click the file's icon, and choose Install. Once the installation is complete, an "Introducing Tweak UI" Help
window pops up. Close it to complete the installation.
And a-Tweaking we go
Once installed, and once you are ready to start tweaking, go to Start,
Settings, Control Panel and click on the Tweak UI icon to launch the utility. Launching Tweak UI brings up a dialogue box with a series of tabs along the
Absolute power (well, almost!)
Let's examine Tweak UI, one tab at a time. By the way, the options and
features available depend on the version of Windows your computer is running,
and whether it is part of a network or not (for example, if you are using
Windows ME, you'll get an additional IE tab). For the purpose of this article, I ran Tweak UI on a networked computer
running the earliest version of Windows that the utility can be used in: Windows
By default, Tweak UI opens with the Mouse tab selected.
Mouse: Click on this tab and you will find settings that you can adjust
to alter the way you point and click your way around Windows. If you are tired of the speed in which pop-up menus, well, pop up, make use
of The Menu Speed area. Under Mouse Sensitivity you can change your double-click and drag settings.
If you are using a scroll mouse, you can also turn the scrolling wheel on or
off, adjust how fast it scrolls through a page, or even set your mouse to
automatically go to the default setting.
General: Next to Mouse we have this tab that allows you enable or disable
on-screen effects such as Smooth Scrolling, Window Animation, and Beeps On
Errors. Previous versions allowed you to set Windows to display its version number on
your desktop for quick reference, and had a Special Folders option that allows
you to tell Windows where to store common program files. I presume these were
removed to make for a less buggy Tweak UI.
Explorer: The features here can be fun to play with. The Shortcut Overlay
feature gives you several options for displaying shortcut icons, and the Startup
area lets you display a Tip of the Day on startup. In the Settings portion of
the tab you can make further modifications.
Desktop: Choose from a variety of special Desktop icons you can save as
files to any folder or rename. Folders that are checked are displayed on the Desktop ... if you want to hide
a folder, such as Recycle Bin or Network Neighbourhood, click on the appropriate
the box to remove its check mark and it goes away. A word of caution: Be careful about removing Desktop icons, as this can cause
some Windows features to stop working. It has happened to me before (yes, I was
very young and overly enthusiastic once).
My Computer: Uncheck drives you don't want displayed in your My Computer
window. For most users there is really no need to play with this feature. Also, although I haven't encountered this personally, certain computer
experts warn that using this feature can prevent you from using the Explore or
Open commands in My Computer.
Control Panel: This is another tab with features that you should be
careful with. You can add or remove both standard and third-party Control Panel
icons by removing check marks or adding them next to the proper .CPL files. Before you tamper with this, I suggest that you create a shortcut for the
.CPL file first, so that you can still access the files even when the Control
Panel doesn't show them anymore.
Log On: In previous versions of Tweak UI, this was called the Network
tab. It logs you onto any network that uses Client for Microsoft Networks
automatically each time you start Windows. Keep in mind that your logon password won't be encrypted if you use this
option. It also prevents you from using the Clear Last User option on the Tweak
UI Paranoia tab. If you have reason to believe that security is a concern with regards to your
computer (say, someone in your office may be snooping around your workstation),
skip this option.
New: This tab contains options on which types of New documents you can
create on the Desktop when you right-click and select New.
Add/Remove: This tab maintains the list of programs you can uninstall
from the Add/Remove Programs dialogue box in Control Panel. You may be familiar with the case where programs already uninstalled still
have entries in the Control Panel's Add/Remove programs feature. With Tweak UI, you can dispense with the entries.
Click on an obsolete entry and select Remove. You can also change the parameters for the uninstall option ... click on a
program, select Edit, and change the description for the program or the path to
its uninstaller. Use the New command to manually add a program to the list if you know the
path to the uninstall program.
Boot: Boot controls startup options, such as allowing and disallowing
function keys such as F4 to boot the previous operating system.
Repair: This tab fixes problems with icons, file associations, the FONTS
folder, Regedit, system files, etc. Select the repair you want and click the Repair button to perform the option
you select. If you have had to reinstall Windows to fix problems before, this feature may
save you that step. I have used this feature a few times, but to really fix problems, nothing
beats a clean install.
Paranoia: The very useful, and most famous, tab in Tweak UI ... the
Paranoia tab. It allows you to hide your activities from other computer users, such as
clearing your Internet Explorer history and Document history files each time
someone logs onto your computer. Paranoia also enables and disables Windows' penchant for playing audio and
data CDs automatically, and saves Illegal Operations errors to a file called
Can we turn back the clock?
What if you have made various tweaks and decide you don't like them, and
want to reverse it? In many cases, you can actually reverse the changes you make with Tweak UI
... you may have noticed that on several tabs there is a Restore Factory
Settings button. Not all tabs contain this button ... those that don't make permanent changes.
The final word
Tweak UI users have a level on control over Windows that non-users don't.
For those willing to take the risk, Tweak UI is great fun. It's not really THAT risky, actually, especially if you know what you are
doing, but whether you are a veteran PC user looking for a better computer
experience or a novice eager to try new things, tread lightly ... avoid making
changes that you don't fully understand. In general, however, you can perform plenty of tweaks without causing serious
harm to your computer or to Windows.
Above all, enjoy the power you that Tweak UI grants you.