Hassle-Free PC: Find old e-mail messages

The hassle: I hang on to valuable messages, sometimes for years. The problem is, the subject lines are often worthless. That makes it difficult for me to remember what the e-mail was about.

The fix: I have the same pack rat mentality, but I know a quick trick. Just edit the contents of the subject field and add descriptive words. Then save the message for easier sorting and searching. This approach is also good for clarifying a cryptic subject before forwarding a message.

In most e-mail apps, it's easy. Outlook and OE let you edit the subject line in place and save the message. Ditto for Eudora. It's tougher with Web-based services. In Hotmail, for example, you have to open the message, click Forward (or Reply), change the subject, click Save as Draft, and then move the message to another folder. Oy vey.

Quick Bonus Tip:Editing the subject is handy, but get this--some e-mail apps also let you edit the message body, which is useful for proving to your boss that he did authorize your 20 percent raise. [Editor's note: Fat chance.] In Outlook, with the message open, choose Edit, Edit Message. Then start typing away. As with subject-line changes, Outlook will prompt you to save before you close the window. In Eudora, click the pencil icon on the toolbar.

The hassle: I forgot the password I use to log on as administrator. Now I can't do monthly maintenance, such as dumping useless programs on my home computer.

The fix: You have a few ways to retrieve your administrator password. Kelly Theriot's method is free, but it's tricky and certain to make you dizzy. The Login Recovery site will do the dirty work for free, but it takes two days (if you pay a US$20 fee, the job gets done in 10 minutes). Your best bet is to spring for NT Access, a US$70 app from Sunbelt Software. Next time, write the password on a sticky note. (Just kidding.)

The hassle: I need to send CDs filled with sensitive data to coworkers by snail mail. I'm worried about security, so I compress the files and create a password. But this adds a time-consuming step.

The fix: EncryptEase is a smarter-than-average CD-R with embedded software that automatically compresses, encrypts, and protects files with a password of your choosing, and then burns them onto the disc. You can burn additional files (up to 20 more times) until the disc is full. It's faster than doing the task yourself, because the software handles the entire process. These puppies aren't cheap, though--they cost about US$6 each.

The hassle: Whenever I output something on my shared printer, an annoying yellow confirmation bubble pops up to tell me the document printed. It won't go away unless I click on it. Can I turn that option off?

The fix: Some people are always kvetching, but this complaint sounds legit. Head over to the 'Printers and Faxes' window, click File, Server Properties, and select the Advanced tab. Near the bottom of the dialog box, uncheck Notify when remote documents are printed.

Slicker searching in Outlook

Got messages you know are around but can't find? Use Lookout, a downloadable freebie from, of all companies, Microsoft. Lookout is quicker to access than separate search tools--such as Google Desktop Search--because it becomes part of Outlook's toolbar. For ferreting out e-mail, Lookout is way faster and smarter than Outlook's Find function. For instance, it pokes into attachments and the content of PDF files; also, it allows you to search with wild cards and Boolean expressions, and to restrict searches to just last week, say, or to attachments only.

PC World U.S. Contributing Editor Steve Bass writes the Tips & Tweaks blog and is the author of PC Annoyances, published by O'Reilly. Contact him at hasslefreepc@pcworld.com.

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