Shareware puts files where they go

Shareware puts files where they go

Q In a recent column (see Reseller News, July 23, 1997) you said that many applications do not give you a choice of directories in which to save new documents. I have found that by setting the "start in" startup directory in the Windows pif or shortcut, I can make an application use that directory as the default.

A This approach sometimes works with applica- tions that don't offer a choice of data directories. But be careful in assuming that setting the startup directory will work. Some applications fail or exhibit odd behaviour if the startup directory isn't the directory in which the application's program files, DLLs, and configuration files are kept.

Reader P Winter recommends File-Ex, a shareware utility from CottonWood Software ( File-Ex remembers the last directory you saved to or retrieved a file from in each application and returns you there the next time the dialogue box pops up. It also lets you perform many file organising operations from within "File", "Save" and "File Open" dialogue boxes, and use long file names within 16-bit Windows applications.

Debugging tips

Q My Windows 95 systems (a Toshiba portable and a Gateway desktop system) have lost their ability to write to the A: drive. When I try to save a file to the floppy disk (using either "Save As" from an application or Windows Explorer), Windows gives me an error message saying that I do not have access to the A: folder. What can I do to get use of my floppy back?

AThis Win95 bug usually crops up when you remove a floppy disk from the system while a Desktop window is open on it or while it's being viewed in Windows Explorer. Microsoft describes the problem in a knowledge base article at

But the quickest way to resolve the problem isn't mentioned in Knowledge Base. Open an MS-DOS window, make the A: drive the current drive (there should be a diskette present), and hit Ctrl-C. This "magic" keystroke, originally used to log in a CP/M disk before it could be written, resets the floppy disk file system in DOS and still works, rudimentarily, in Win95. After hitting Ctrl-C, you should be able to write to the diskette from both Windows and DOS.

The straight facts

Q Regarding your comment about a Hitachi monitor - you seem to be saying that a straight line is not the shortest distance between two points. This sounds like a scientific breakthrough! Can you offer me more details?

ASome clarification is in order here. In its ad, Hitachi lists the horizontal component of the distance between the dots (0.22mm), but does not take into account the vertical component (0.14mm). This makes the dot pitch seem smaller than it really is. The straight-line distance between dots - the true dot pitch - is the hypotenuse, or third side, of the triangle formed by the horizontal and vertical components. By the Pythagorean theorem, this distance is equal to the square root of 0.22m squared + 0.14mm squared = 0.26mm. This pitch is typical for today's monitors.

DOS is the key

Q How can I increase the size of the drop-down history list associated with the "Run" command on Windows 95's start menu? It seems to remember only the last 25 commands.

AIf you browse the Registry key My Computer\ HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ Software\Microsoft\ Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\RunMRU, you can see that the programmer elected to track commands via a string of lowercase letters, limiting the list to 26 items. Unless Windows Explorer is recoded with a more sophisticated algorithm, it's impossible to expand the list.

Ironically, the best work-around is to use DOS. Simply open a DOS window and invoke DOSKEY. You can do this automatically by putting a shortcut in the startup folder. DOSKEY will save as many commands as its buffer allows, and you can enlarge the space with the /BUFSIZE: option. The only drawback is that the list is lost if you reboot.

Stacking parallel port devices can be dicey Q I use a SyQuest EZ135 cartridge drive that connects to my PC via the parallel port. I was thinking of getting a parallel port CD-ROM drive that connects the same way. Will I have a problem "stacking" these devices on a single parallel port?

AParallel ports were never intended for use by multiple devices. "Dongles", add-on disk drives, printers, CD-ROMs, and other peripherals might work together, but there's no way to be sure without testing.

The best solution is to obtain a SCSI adapter and use SCSI peripherals. SCSI is a stable, industry-standard bus intended to connect multiple devices. It's also much faster than a parallel port.

Bypassing the browser

Q I use Microsoft Internet Explorer's [MSIE's] mail program as my default e-mail application. But to get to it, I have to open MSIE even if I have no intention of browsing the Web. How do I start the mailer (or create a shortcut to do so) without starting MSIE?

ASomehow, when I installed MSIE, my system got a shortcut to Microsoft Internet Mail on the Start/Programs menu. But if this didn't happen for you, try adding a shortcut with the target: C:\WINDOWS\EXPLORER.EXE /root,C:\WINDOWS\InternetMail. (89292102-4755-11cf-9DC 200AA006C2B84). This should create an icon that you can use to invoke the program.

Brett Glass' Help Desk answers business computing questions. To submit a query send an e-mail to

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