Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Vista: how to view Windows Explorer full path, banish breadcrumbs!

If like me you hate that in Vista the address bar in the file manager (Windows Explorer / Computer) shows a line or trail of "bread crumbs" with arrows, instead of the proper full path to the folder you're viewing (hierarchical directory structure), here's a simple tip for how to get the folder path to display.

Alt d (hold down the Alt key, press & release the d key) will make the Windows Explorer address bar show the proper folder path, e.g. K:\videos\GGD. The Esc key gets you back to the bread crumb / arrrows view, if you really must.

The path is even highlighted after you go Alt-d, so you can copy the directory path straight into your clipboard by using Ctrl-c. Easy way to get work round a major annoyance!

True, you can left click to the right of the address bar (after the breadcrumbs lists) to make the full path visible and highlighted. Or rightclick on the breadcrumb line itself to get options to copy the address or edit address (Edit address gives the same results as leftclicking after the breadcrumbs; Copy address as text is more useful than Copy address alone as you can paste the path anywhere else then).

And I acknowledge that the Vista bread crumbs view’s clickable folder path has its uses (the post linked to also points out that you can navigate up a directory by using the Alt up arrow hotkey combo even though the Up Arrow button has vanished from Vista; for anyone interested, an alternative for going up a folder is to hit the Backspace key then Enter/Return).

But, as a keyboard shortcuts fan who doesn’t want to have to move hands away from the keyboard in order to get stuff done, I’m quite pleased to have discovered the Alt-D trick (the hotkey equivalent for clicking to the right of the address bar, effectively), as this issue had really been bugging me.

More handy hotkeys for navigating Explorer:

  • Alt-left arrow (or right arrow) to go back or forwards in your “history” of Explorer use, respectively.
  • Tab takes you from folder pane on the left to the file list on the right, and Shift-Tab back again.

Finding a file by keyboard in Windows Explorer – just type its name, normally

One good change in Vista: if you try to navigate to a file or folder in the Windows Explorer list by typing letters then, as long as you type the letters of the filename fast enough (and subsequent letters of the filename aren’t the same as the previous letter), you can now simply type the first letter then the rest of the file or directory name as most normal human beings would expect. E.g. to go to a file named “consumer” in the list of files I just type “c”, then “o”, then “n” etc until it comes up with the file.

In XP, you have to type only the first letter of the filename, repeatedly, until you get to the file you want. In this case, “c”, “c”, “c”, etc until I’d got past all the other filenames which start with “c” but occur alphabetically before “consumer”! (This method still works in Vista if you really prefer it - just pause a bit before typing the letter, e.g. “c”, again.)

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Thunderbird reminders keep popping up, or can’t dismiss?

UPDATE: if unticking read-only and the cache as described for you doesn't work, try this alternative method if you can't dismiss Google Calendar reminders in Thunderbird and Lightning.

Here’s how to resolve two issues with the Mozilla Thunderbird e-mail / PIM software to do with Google Calendar reminders – at least, if you have the same problems I encountered and you use Thunderbird with the Lightning and Provider for Google Calendar add ons. (For those unfamiliar with Thunderbird or these extensions, they allow you to view, update and sync to your Google Calendar from within Thunderbird as well as access yourGmail.)

1. Thunderbird / Lightning calendar reminders keep popping up constantly?

The same couple of Google Calendar reminders suddenly start popping up all the time, constantly, continuously, and completely refusing to go away no many how much I clicked to try make them disappear. Drove me mad. Lots of other people have had similar problems too.

The fix? Well, I’d previously enabled the calendar’s experimental cache to try it out.

When I disabled the experimental cache, that solved the problem! It is, after all, only experimental, and in this case it shows. So sorting out this issue is quite simple. You probably know how to disable the Lightning cache if you knew how to enable it in the first place, but for those who forgot how...:

How to disable the experimental cache

  1. Go to the calendar view in Thunderbird (click the calendar icon at the bottom left, or menu Go, Calendar, or hold down Ctrl key and press/release 3).

  2. Rightclick on the name of your Google Calendar on the left and choose Properties:

  3. Untick Cache (box outlined in red below), OK, and restart, and that’s it! (personal details in the pic blanked out, obviously)

2. Thunderbird reminders won’t dismiss?

Egg on face for this one, in my case anyway.

After I fixed the continuous pop-ups issue, I found that I wasn’t able to dismiss any reminders at all, and furthermore editing calendar entries in Thunderbird just wouldn’t take. I couldn't change any calendar entries. "An error occurred when writing to calendar..", "Modification failed" and all that.

Some people seem to have resolved this issue by updating to the latest version of Provider, but it didn’t work for me.

Then I realised something – my Google Calendar had somehow been set to read-only! (I think that when I disabled the experimental cache this bit reset itself, or maybe I had accidentally ticked the “Read Only” box when I was disabling the cache).

Unchecking the “Read only” box (you get to it in the same way as you get to the cache option, see the pic in 1.3 above where I've outlined the box in blue) enabled me to dismiss reminders and edit Google calendar items again.

Background – and why use Thunderbird instead of Outlook?

I recently started using the email client Thunderbird, now at version (by Mozilla, the organisation behind the even fabber free browser Firefox), on a Windows Vista computer.

It’s free open source software. Which is a good thing in my view.

I can access all my email accounts in one (which, yes, I know you can also do with Outlook).

The really major benefits are:

  • the IMAP support (syncing of Thunderbird “live” with my Google Mail / Gmail / Google Apps etc email, so changes I make to my email or diary schedule in Thunderbird happen near instantly in Gmail or Google Calendar), and

  • the ability to install third party extensions or add-ons, almost all free, to enhance the functionality /features – e.g. as mentioned I can view and update my Google Calendar in Thunderbird using Lightning and Provider, and it synchronizes automatically.

    (Why do I use Google Calendar? Because I can check and edit it online from anywhere that I can get to a computer with Web browser and internet connection, or indeed from mobile phone / cellphone. My Outlook diary is only available if I’m on my home desktop PC. And I can’t be bothered to carry round a hard copy paper diary with me – extra weight & all, and I’ll probably lose it somewhere!)

In the righthand sidebar of my email view, I can see my emails and a list of soon to be forthcoming calendar events from my Google Calendar, all at the same time in one window (today, tomorrow and "soon"), without having to change views – see below, again I’ve blanked out some info for privacy:

I can get proper alarms / reminders for events with Thunderbird. Alarm reminders from my Google Calendar pop up in Thunderbird in the bottom right hand corner of my screen with a nice little sound, so I can’t possibly miss them.

(Google Calendar reminders are no good to me if I use the calendar through a web browser alone, as the reminder alarm popups don’t pop up till I actually switch over to the browser, so if I’m working in another program and the browser is just in the background, I’ll miss the reminder - which kinda defeats the object! There may be a way to make reminders more prominent even when the browser isn’t the foreground application, but I’ve not had time to figure it out yet.)

Thunderbird wishlist

So to me Thunderbird is approaching the near ideal PIM – just as soon as I can get:

  1. full notes functionality, i.e:
    • the ability to attach notes to individual emails which are fully searchable
    • the ability to add stand alone notes which are searchable (tip: I use draft emails and my Drafts folder for that),and

  2. keyboard shortcuts / hotkeys for all calendar and notes functions.

(Although the ability to tag is helpful, I want full notes / comments: at the moment I use a combo of XNote for popup yellow notes attached to email, and Notary for searchable notes to emails. XNote notes aren’t searchable, Notary isn’t fully compatible with the latest version of Thunderbird, I’ve made it made compatible(ish) using the excellent MR Tech Toolkit but that causes other issues which I have to work around. I’d rather not have to, and have a comprehensive notes add on! I don’t need a tasks function, personally, as I put my todos in my calendar.)

Getting started with Thunderbird

If you've not tried Thunderbird, do consider it. Here are links on:

  1. how to get Thunderbird IMAP to work with your Google Mail / Gmail, and

  2. Google's recommended settings for Thunderbird when using it with Gmail.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Internet Explorer: “Remember my password” ticked, doesn’t remember password?

On trying to visit certain secure websites requiring password authentication, a popup dialog box in Internet Explorer may ask for your user name and password (see the screenshot above, from which I’ve scrubbed out the user name and password!). Now if you tick “Remember my password” box before you hit “OK”, it ought to save your details and fill in the username and password for you automatically the next time you go to that web page.

However, I found that Internet Explorer 7 suddenly stopped auto-completing my details, even though I’d ticked that checkbox previously and even though it was remembering it fine before. (Probably things got messed up when I uninstalled the Google Toolbar, which I did because I couldn’t turn off the new “access your toolbar anywhere!” button).

There are other solutions to get IE to remember your info and autocomplete them again, but (as I’d prefer not to add external web sites to my “Local intranet” unless I absolutely have to) here’s what worked for me to solve the problem on my Windows Vista computer and force IE to save and fill in my user and password details again:

  1. Go to menu Tools, Internet Options and click the Security tab:

  2. Click on Trusted Sites to select it (I’ve highlighted it above), then click Sites (highlighted with red outline).

  3. Click in the “Add this website to the zone” box, clear any current entry (unless it’s for the site you want to login to, of course), type or paste in the full URL (web address) of the site or page you want to log in to, including https:// if that’s in the address, then click Add. Repeat for any other websites you log in to via a pop up box where you want your computer to save and complete your user name and password next time you want to login – I’ve blanked out the details in this screenshot. (You might also want to tick “Require server verification…”):

  4. Then click Close. Don’t click OK yet! (though you can click Apply if you want to).

  5. Next, click “Custom level” (outlined in blue in the screenshot above), and in the next mini window scroll to the very end (User authentication), and click against “Automatic logon with current user name and password”.

  6. Now you can click OK, and OK again.

That should hopefully fix the issue. If not, you’ll need to try some other suggestions and troubleshooting tactics which may involve things like editing your computer's registry, remembering that that link I just gave was for Windows XP so the tips there may or may not work on Vista.

Note: this post only applies to password authentication which uses the separate popupnot to any problems with auto-complete when you’re filling in a form in the body of a Webpage.

Warning: for security reasons many people say you shouldn’t tick that “Remember.. “ box, and they’re probably right. You certainly shouldn’t do that on a public machine. I don’t do it on my laptop or notebook computer – just my home desktop PC, and I know I'm taking a chance if I ever get burgled so even that may not be such a good idea. Don’t say you haven’t been warned of the risk!

Friday, 9 January 2009

Firefox search box too slow (Vista)?

In Windows Vista, if Firefox 3 is too slow, freezes or hangs when you're trying to search by typing a search term in its search bar or search box (outlined in red on the right in the pic below), or in its address bar (on the left) when using a custom Firefox keyword search, you could try the following possible fix for the problem. For me it started when I was searching, rather than typing the web address directly in the browser address bar.


I found the solution outlined in this helpful post so, for non-techies, here's a step by step pictorial guide on how to do it:

  1. In the Firefox address bar, type:
    (as shown on the left in the pic above).
  2. If you get the following warning, click "I'll be careful, I promise!"

  3. In the resulting Filter box, type:
    - and you should get this coming up:

  4. If under the "Value" column for network.dns.disableIPv6 it already says "true", then sorry, your problem must be caused by something else and you'll have to try some other method of troubleshooting.
  5. But if the value of network.dns.disableIPv6 is currently "false", just change it to "true" by doubleclicking on the "network.dns.disableIPv6" line, and you'll get this:


You could then close and restart Firefox first just in case, though I found I didn’t had to.

That solved it for me - searching via the Firefox address bar or search box had suddenly inexplicably started becoming agonisingly slow, hourglassing, not responding or not working at all, but after doing that fix the searching instantly started working properly again. Hope the same trick will work for you if your Firefox search grinds to a halt too!

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,