Vanquish more Windows annoyances

The more time and effort Microsoft spends "improving" Windows, the more annoying the OS becomes. These eight tips will exorcise some of the gremlins vexing Windows XP and 2000.

Don't lose your focus

The annoyance: So there you are, minding your own business, typing a document, e-mail, or instant message on your computer. You glance away from the screen for a moment. When you look back, you realize you haven't really entered your last lines of text. Without your knowledge, a new window or dialog box has popped up, and some of your text has been entered there--or nowhere.

Applications that steal your PC's focus are more than just annoying: They can be disastrous if the focus-stealing dialog box asks to perform a potentially harmful operation and you happen to press <Enter> or type y, which the dialog takes as a "yes" before you even see the request. You may also have dismissed an important scheduling alert without realizing it.

The fix: No bulletproof solution exists, but the following may help you maintain your focus in Windows XP and 2000.

If it isn't already on your system, download and install Microsoft's free Tweak UI utility. In Windows XP, open Tweak UI (either by clicking its shortcut on the Start menu or by choosing Start, Run, typing tweakui, and pressing <Enter>), and use the tree pane on the left to navigate to General, Focus. In Windows 2000, double-click the Tweak UI icon in Control Panel and click the General tab. In both versions, make sure 'Prevent applications from stealing focus' is checked. You can also specify whether the taskbar button should flash (and how many times) when the would-be focus grabber wants your attention. Click OK.

Some Tweak UI settings get changed back when a program subsequently modifies the Registry. To make sure the focus lock is in effect every time you start Windows, start Notepad or another text editor. On the first line, type Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 and press <Enter> twice. Type [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop] and press <Enter>. Finally, type "ForegroundLockTimeout"=dword:00030d40 (no spaces) and press <Enter>. Select File, Save As, name the file with the .reg extension (for example, focus.reg), and save it to a location of your choice. Make a note of the path to the file.

Next, choose Start, Programs (or All Programs), right-click the Startup menu, and choose Open. In an empty area of the Startup folder, right-click and choose New, Shortcut. In the Create Shortcut wizard, browse to your .reg file, select it, and click OK. Place quotes before and after the entry, and then press <Home>. Type regedit.exe /s followed by a space in front of the first quotation mark in your entry. When completed, the entry should read something like this: regedit.exe /s "C:\Registry files\focus.reg" (your path may differ). Click Next, type a name for your shortcut, and click Finish. Now every time you log on, this shortcut will reinstate the anti-focus-stealing setting.

Regrettably, even this technique won't stop all the focus stealing. If you find that one application in particular is doing most of the attention grabbing, consider replacing it with an equivalent program.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Scott Dunn

PC World
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

PC World Evaluation Team Review - MSI GT75 TITAN

"I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it."

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?