Thoughts

I haven’t been able to win many games on ISC lately – but strangely enough, I seem to be winning most of my games in real life. I seem to be losing these games because I make one or two major errors each game. Perhaps my losses on ISC foreshadow a poor performance at Millennium Cup, which I will not have much time to prepare for anyway. I’d obviously like to think of it another way, of course, that my wins in real life mean that I will be winning more in the future :).

The gathering last Saturday was rather enjoyable – I was able to get a few Scrabble games in though I didn’t manage to play other games (to ensure the continuity of the unofficial “mini” that was going on). I don’t think I played well but I was not very serious anyway, but enough on that.

I was rather amused at some failed attempts to use my computer, which I have personalised quite esoterically. Examples include the lack of a Start button (accessible by the Windows key) due to Start Killer, Mozilla Firefox (I guess most people are used to IE) and various keyboard shortcuts (all due to the work of AutoHotkey). One caveat to this is keyboard malfunction – which would indubitably require a forced shutdown and restart. I have experienced this several times before while conversing on ISC – and since ISC has no clickable “send” button I wouldn’t even be able to send a message (using Microsoft Word’s Insert Symbol and copying/ pasting) saying that my keyboard had ceased to function! Meanwhile, here are more interesting tweaks to interest you:

Save browsing space on Firefox

1. If you’re browsing the internet using Firefox (if you’re not, it’s worth getting it, at least until Google Chrome gets extensions), you probably want to see as much as the screen as possible. An extension that you could use to achieve this objective is Personal Menu which hides your “Menu Toolbar”, which will be shown when you press the Alt key. You can also configure it to keep your bookmark menu open when you middle click an entry – very useful if you like to move around your bookmark menu and open many different links.

2. If you want to go further, you might even want to auto-hide your bookmarks bar. Tweaking with Vishal has instructions on how to do it – it can also be done with Smart Bookmarks Bar. I don’t do this myself though as I find the mouseover (to make the bar appear) rather distracting and unproductive.

3. For Sage-Too-users like me (or if you’re accustomed to using the sidebar for something, maybe FireNes) you could autohide your sidebar when you’re not using it – by installing a Stylish (which is the extension needed) script here. (could also userchrome it if you’re tech-savvy, I think)

4. Use a minimalist theme that is both easy on the eye and space-efficient. I’ve recommended some in the past and I haven’t been on the lookout for new themes but you could always do a search

5. Lastly and obviously, disable all the space-eating toolbars, e.g. Google Toolbar and StumbleUpon (which may be pretty fun but it’s not really for me). Make sure that the programs you install don’t add random toolbars to your browser which takes up space without any real use.

Here’s the end result for me, blanking out the Bookmarks Toolbar and skipping number 2 on the list:

Add useful keyboard shortcuts to programs you often run, then save more viewing space

1. First thing to do is to identify which programs you run often (and take a while to navigate to). If you don’t mind a long Start Menu, it might be convenient to pin some of the shortcuts to the it (by dragging the shortcut to the top-left section of the Start menu), but otherwise it would be good to design a keyboard shortcut for it. One way to do this is Launchy which I’ve discussed before but let’s cover AutoHotkey here.

2. To use AutoHotkey, download and install it, then take a look at this sample script:

#NoEnv ; Recommended for performance and compatibility with future AutoHotkey releases.
#SingleInstance force
SendMode Input ; Recommended for new scripts due to its superior speed and reliability.
Ctrl & Numpad3::
Run winword
return

Ignore the first 3 lines (just put them in at the start of every .ahk script you write) – what this script does is allow you to open Microsoft Word by pressing Ctrl and 3 on your number pad together (assuming NumLock is on). So basically, the important part of the script is like this:

[keys]::
Run [shortcut]
return

You can get the list of programmable keys in the Help file for AHK – just put a & between the keys if you want to use more than 1 key to open the shortcut. The address to the shortcut must work as if you’re opening it from the Run dialog. You can programme multiple shortcuts in one .ahk file as long as you use “return” after each shortcut. When you’re done, compile the .ahk file to ensure that there are no typos – and you’ll have a nice .exe file that you can run on startup!

3. Once you’ve gotten your key programs tied to a shortcut, you can save space on your Start Menu, Quick Launch and Desktop. I like to keep my Start Menu short (it has 7 entries on each side) and the “All Programs” section minimal (though it still has 2 columns, because I have many programs). I also clear my Desktop frequently to make sure it isn’t so cluttered.

Hopefully I’ve explained the stuff as clearly as possible :).

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