Things Your Microsoft® Never Told You About WINDOWS®

By Richard Cheshire

Once you've been shown a few things about Windows, you're fine, but until then, you're sleepwalking through heavy traffic! I'm a hacker of nearly 20 years standing, and I'm always amazed how computer manufacturers expect "civilians" to figure out how this stuff works. In fact, you may read an e-mail I recieved on the subject of "pre-newbies" at

As a hacker, people look to me to do "Magical Things". That's right, they think of computers as "magic". Look, I'm not really a magician, but I am willing to show you a few of my conjouring tricks. Send me an e-mail at if you have any comments, flames, or to ask questions.

Windows Stuff

How hard should I work at learning windows?
Wrong attitude! When it comes to learning things on computers, don't work at it. PLAY with it! how do you think the kids learn so fast? Do you think Microsoft gave you solitare with your computer just so you could goof off? By playing that silly little game, you learned more about how to use your mouse than 50 pages in a dry manual would have gotten across to you. No, the thing to do is just start using the software application package (program) that you bought.

Click on the word "File" in the menu bar at the top, and then click on "Save As". When it asks for a file name, tell it "PLAY". Now just go in and play with the thing! Pull down those menu items in the menu bar at the top, and try them out. See what they do - not just what the manual tells you they do. Remember - they can change the software lots faster than they can change the printed manual, so software may not work exactly the way the manual says.

Oh yeah, and if you have to read the manual, it's OK. We hackers call it "Cheating", because if it's thought to be cheating, it's usually more fun!

How do you "change windows"? That is, how do you change between what you're doing in one window, and what you've got going on in another window at the same time.
This is the most frequent thing I run across, and this is the first thing I want to cover. I don't think any application software will tell you about this, because, well, why would you want to leave their wonderful software to do anything else?

When you are in a program or application, and need to operate another program, you do not need to close the application you are in. You can simply open a new Window. There are three ways to do this.

First you can minimize the window (this usually takes you to the desktop), and click on the next application you want to use.

The next method of changing windows is to hold down the ALT key, and while holding it down, tap the TAB key. A small window will appear with the icons of the open windows, and the name of the next window available. Since you're still holding down the ALT key, you can keep tapping the TAB key untill you get to the application you want to change to. Once you get there, let go of the ALT key, and that screen will come up. Again, click away at the next application you want to bring up.

Now that you've completed the task that interupted your original work, you need to "get back to where you once belonged" (I'm sorry, does quoting Beatles lyrics date me?). Just use ALT-TAB to find your way back.

If you need to start a new aplication, then click on the Start button, click up Programs, and chose the next application to bring up. But you don't need to use the mouse if you don't want to! You can hit the Ctrl-ESC sequence to bring up the Start button menu, and then hit the letters that are underlined to access those sub-menu's. In menus of files, hit the first letter of the name given.

How do I send a Word Processing Document or spreadsheet as a Fax?
I know, you're trying to figure out how to get your Fax Software to send that required letter or spreadsheet off to an important client. Actually, the best kept secret of Windows operation is that you simply print the document from that application! The trick is, you print it to the Fax Modem.

If you go to the Control Panel in the Main Program Group, the Printers area will let you add the fax modem as a printer (if the Fax software hasn't done it for you already).

All you have to do then, is go into your Word Processing or Spreadsheet software, bring up the document you wish to fax, and click on File, and in the File Menu, click on Printer Setup. If the "Fax Modem on ComX" (your com port will vary) is not your Default Printer, then click into the printer list, and set the Fax Modem as the "current printer". Click "OK", and then click File and Print, and your Fax Software will come up and ask you "the usual questions" (fill in the "To:", "Phone Number", and other stuff), and you'll hear the modem pick up the line, and send it right out.

I really need to get back to the Desktop. How can I "Minimize" all the windows at once?
This is a "Stupid Mouse Trick" (I prefer "Stupid Keyboard Trick"s - they're faster!). That little "Task Bar" at the bottom of most Win95 screens is the key to the trick. Using the right mouse button, click on a part of the task bar that is not a button. A small menu will appear, and have a choice on it that says, "Minimize all windows". The line under the "M" is significant, because you can just type the letter "M", and it will accomplish the task (or click the mouse on it, of course). All openned windows will then Minimize, and you'll have your Desktop back.

To do it via the keyboard (much faster, in my humble opinion), hit CTRL-ESC (hold down the CTRL button, and tap the ESC key), which brings up the Start Button Menu. Hit ESC so that keyboard control now goes to the Desktop. Hit ALT-M to Minimize all windows, allowing you to bring up the next program from the Desktop.

Once you've got that new program running, just follow the "Changing Windows" strategy.

Do I really have to use my mouse all the time?
Well of course not. Along the Menu bar at the top of each window, a letter of each key-word is underlined. If you hit the underlined letter while holding down the "ALT" key, that menu will pop up. You can then hit the underlined letter of the choice in the menu you want, and that command will be executed. Also, look to see if there is a key-stroke sequence at the right of the command. If so, you might be able to hit that key-stroke sequence to execute the command even more quickly.

For example, If you hit ALT-F (for the File Menu), you will find the "S" in the Save command is underlined.- but next to it, is "CTRL-S", meaning that from the application, if you hold down the CTRL (Control) key, and tap "S", the Save command will execute. CTRL-S is sometimes abbreviated ^S in hacker circles.

How do I delete a file when I want to get rid of it?
It was recently pointed out to me by a reader of this file, that Windows is more than happy to create new files for you all over your hard drive, but little information is given on deleting files. (See? It just might be worthwhile to e-mail me at

Any time you tell Windows to "Open" a file, you are presented with a window showing you the files available in the directory you're looking at. Once you find the file you wish to delete, simply click on it once to highlight it, and hit the <Delete> key. It may ask if you really want to delete the file, but if you hit "Y", it will get rid of the little bugger. The <Delete> key is in the block of keys above the direction arrow keys. If the Num Lock (numeric lock) is off, you can use the <Del> key on the number pad.

Keep in mind that this only puts the file in the "Recycle Bin", which you must later empty to reclaim any disk space the file is taking up. You can really delete the file by holding down the <Shift> key when hitting <Delete>.

I'm connected to the Internet, but nothing happens!
Once you go through "My Network dial-up", or Trumpet Winsock or other dialing program that logs you into your internet provider, it either "goes away" (minimizes to the bottom of your screen), or starts a clock ticking and seemingly does nothing.

What it has done is establish a connection - the pipeline, if you will - between your computer and the Internet provider that all the data will flow through. You now need to bring up other software like your Web Browser (is Netscape or Internet Explorer on your system?), or your E-Mail package (Eudora sound familiar?), or an FTP application to use "File Transfer Protocol" to move files from you to the Internet, or the other way around. All of these programs and more can be running in different "windows" of your machine at the same time. Just don't be surprised that your Web Browser slows down bringing you some graphics, while FTP is trying to download a 3 Megabyte copy of Star Trek. Other applications are using the same "pipeline", and each has to "share" time with the other.

How do I grab a picture on someone's page, and save it to my hard drive?
If you find a picture, or even the background on someone's web page, that you would like to save on your own system, most graphic browsers allow you to "Right Click", or click the right mouse button, when the cursor is over the image you want. There is usually a choice to view the image in it's own page. If you click on that, you can then hit "File", and "Save As", and give the image your own file name. The "Right Click" menu will probebly allow you to directly "Save this image", in which case, it will usually take you right to the choice of file name you wish to give the picture.

Why do I need to format my disks?
A floppy disk is like a "parking lot" for your data, programs, and information. Like a parking lot, you don't really don't know where to park if you haven't got the lines painted on the surface. Formatting a disk is like painting the lines on a parking lot for data.

Modem Stuff

What does X-On/X-Off mean in Settings, Communications?
"X" is an abbriviation for "X-mit", which is itself short for "Transmit". So X-on/X-off means Transmit On, and Transmit Off. Boy I'm glad we cleared that up, and can get on with... Oh, you want to know what that means, now. Boy, a little knowldege and they want to know more. Well, I guess that's what this is all about, anyway

The ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) character set is the actual method for storing characters in binary form for computers. It started life, however, as a code for teletype transmission. Model-33 Teletype machines had a paper tape transmitter (it also had a paper tape punch). If you placed a paper tape in the transmitter, and called another teletype machine, that machine would transmit it's identity (it's "answerback" stored on a plastic wheel in the back of the machine), and then end by sending the Xon character, which meant, "Please turn your paper tape Xmitter ON", and the paper tape would immediately start sending. When sending paper tapes to some retransmission sites (such as to an international Telex relay that resent your message via slower Telex circuts), the character X-off would be sent to turn your paper tape Xmitter OFF untill the character buffer had more room for more of your paper tape transmission.

When having a computer send you an ASCII text file, it appears as if the computer operator has pulled a paper tape, and is sending it to you. So if you want to stop the transmission briefly (like to read the information that's being sent before it scrolls off the screen), send the CTRL-S (X-off) character by holding down the CTRL key, and while holding it down, lightly tap the "S" key. To restart it, send CTRL-Q the same way, but lightly tapping the "Q" key this time.

What is RTS/DTR?
Ready To Send and Data Terminal Ready are lines in the RS-232 interface that connects an external modem to a computer. These are the hardware equivilents to Xon/Xoff, which are considered to be a software protocol. Hardware can react faster than software, so for higher speed modems (above 9600 Baud), RTS/DTR is preferred over Xon/Xoff. Read your documentation (a process called "cheating" by most True Hackers, nomeclature that makes it more fun) for the proper settings to use.

What are all those two-letter codes on my external modem?

Those are the basics. Some fancy modems put on some extra lights to make you think their worth the money you're spending on them. These are actually lights that show the status of signals on the RS-232 connection.

This document is Copyleft 1996, 1997 Richard Cheshire. A "copyleft" means that if anyone asks you for a copy of this information, you are obligated to give one to them - as is, including this Copyleft notice. You may not charge more than the cost of your copying materials without the express permission of the copyleft holder, Richard Cheshire.

Any trademarks used are the property of the respective trademark holder (though I personally don't respect any trademark holder that holds me to putting in a disclaimer this ridiculous).

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