Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 144 / SEPTEMBER 1992 / PAGE S6

12 power software tips. (Compute's Getting Started with Power Computing)
by Mark Minasi

1. Speed up your keyboard with DOS's MODE command. Put mode con delay=1 rate=32 in your AUTOEXEC.BAT, and your keyboard will become more responsive.

2. If you're using a program that offers both menus and speed keys--Word Perfect 5.1 and most Windows programs, for example--learn the speed keys. Most user interfaces that support menus and speed keys put the speed keys next to the menu items. Build the habit of using the speed keys.

3. Don't just read the manual, re-read it. Too many of us learn one way to do something and stick with that way. Take a few minutes every day and review a manual on a program that you think that you really know well; you'll be surprised what you can learn. For example, can you think of some ways to prevent the output of the DIR command from scrolling off the screen? Here are four: DIR/P, DIR/MORE, DIR>DIROUT.TXTEDIT DIROUT.TXT (that redirects the directory output to a file, then views the file with EDIT), and, finally, the brute-force approach of just pressing the Pause key as the data scrolls by. The means to press the Ctrl key and the T key.

4. Build a paper database of software expertise. Get a bunch of 5 by 8 inch file cards, and keep important commands on those cards. Say you've just started learning Word, and you find that you can't seem to remember the keystroke that lets you select a character's font. Start a Word card, and write the command and the keystroke on the card. Do this every time you're stuck on something, and you'll end up with a terrific mini-manual for every application that you use. If you have a tower computer, tape a big envelope on the side of the computer and keep the cards there, or put them under the keyboard where there's usually a small clear space under there.

5. Use the following command to list the files on your hard disk that haven't been backed up: DIR \ /aa /s. This tells the DOS 5.0 DIR command to list all files with the archive attribute, the DOS attribute that signifies that a file hasn't been backed up, and to search the whole disk from the root down.

6. Here's my absolutely last tip about BUFFERS. For years, we've heard discussions about what exactly is the right value for the BUFFERS= command in DOS. The value has always been something of a trade-off; having too many buffers is bad because it steals from your conventional memory, and on slow machines (10 MHz or less) having too many buffers can actually slow performance. Too few buffers, on the other hand, can force the computer to read and re-read data from disk unnecessarily.

Part of the concern about BUFFERS= is no longer valid, as they can now be loaded above conventional memory. When you load DOS=HIGH in CONFIG.SYS, the buffers and file handles load above 1024K. Buffers, however, are a hold over from the days before the general use of disk cache programs. Early disk cache programs had some serious problems, but there's no reason not to use a modern cache such as the old reliable PC-Kwik cache from Multisoft, or the excellent new SMARTDRV.EXE version 4.0, which is included with windows 3.1. (That's either one. I've seen too many AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS pairs that load the SMARTDRV cache program, the cache that comes with the Norton Utilities, and the cache that comes with PC Tools.) These programs remove most of the need for BUFFERS, so just set your BUFFERS=10, and don't worry any more about optimizing your system properly.

7. Speaking of SMARTDRV--the new version 4.0 is not only a better cache than the old SMARTDRV, it's also smarter about working with your system. You shouldn't load SMARTDRV high. If your computer will allow programs to load high, SMARTDRV will automatically load itself high. (PC-Kwik has been doing this for years; soon most utilities will load themselves high.) And notice that SMARTDRV is now in your AUTOEXEC.BAT, not in your CONFIG.SYS. On some computers, SMARTDRV may load in both CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT, although the only reason that you'd load SMARTDRV through the CONFIG.SYS would be if you have a hard disk controller that requires something called double buffering.

8. If you see that the Windows 3.1 installation program has added SMARTDRV to your CONFIG.SYS with the Double Buffer option added, leave it there! And don't load that portion of SMARTDRV (the part that may optionally be in CONFIG.SYS) into upper memory, as it may cause data loss. It's only about 2.5K, and so doesn't take a huge bite out of your conventional memory. Even if you do double-buffer, the lion's share of SMARTDRV still loads high.

9. If you want to force SMARTDRV to load low, use the /L option. The line in AUTOEXEC.BAT would look like SMARTDRV /L.

10. Remember that SMARTDRV delays the actual disk write process, so you can't be entirely sure that your data has been written to disk even if your application claims that it has been. Before turning your computer off, be sure to force SMARTDRV of flush out the cache by entering the command SMARTDRV /C.

11. Here's a double-click tip. Seems like some folks just can't double-click under Windows. They bear down too hard on the mouse, causing it to jump around while they're double-clicking. Sadly, that means that Windows sees the clicks as two separate events.

If you've given up on Windows because you're convinced that you hopelessly suffer from double-clicks-lexia, there's help in Windows 3.1. There are two new commands that can be placed in the [Windows]section of your WIN.INI file: doubleclickheight= and doubleclickwidth=. These set an area within which two clicks can occur and still look like a double-click. The default is 4--the units are screen pixels, so it's a small area. You need only modify your WIN.INI to make that value larger.

To double the doubleclick zone, and these lines to WIN.INI:



12. This last tip's just for fun. If you have Word FordWindows 2.0, try this. Click Tools/Marco..., then type in Spiff, and click Edit. You'll see a Begin line, a blank line, and an End line. Delete the first and third lines, but leave the blank line intact--this may be easier if you turn on paragraph marks (Tools/Options.../Paragraph marks). Now click File/Close, and respond Yes. Then click Help/About..., and you'll see the usual About Wordbox. Click on the Word logo, and weird things will happen. I won't give it all away, but it involves a monster, helpless users, and Word For Windows saving the day.