Here's a fourth collection of tips for Windows Vista, and thanks again to everyone that's written in with tips. If you don't see your tip here, fear not: I've once again saved a number of tips for the next tips article.
Still more antivirus
A number of readers have also recommended Eset's NOD32. It's not free like AVG Free Edition and Avast, but there's a 30-day trial if you'd like to check it out.
Free Vista firewall
If you're nervous that Vista's built-in firewall isn't enough, fear not, as there's a new and free firewall alternative that, unlike Windows Firewall, offers outbound monitoring. It's called PC Tools Firewall Plus 2.0. And did I mention it was free? Thanks to Victor Sacco for the tip.
Get the Vista Tweak Guide
Matt Shettles recommends the comprehensive TweakGuides Windows Vista Tweaking Companion, a 250 page guide to making Vista work exactly the way you want. There's a free version as well as a higher-quality Deluxe Edition.
Fun with wallpaper
While you can obviously use virtually any image file (in virtually any shell location) as your desktop wallpaper, Jonathan Hayward has a better way. First, copy a set of images into your wallpaper folder (typically C:\Windows\Web\Wallpaper). Then, group-select them all and add a descriptive tag in the Tags field. Then click the Save button that appears in the far right of the Details pane. Now, open the Desktop Background portion of the Personalization control panel (simplest way: Right-click the desktop, choose Personalize, and then click on Desktop Background). In the location pull-down, select Windows Wallpapers. You'll see that your new wallpapers are listed in a group with the same name as the tag you applied. Nice!
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Get nice wallpapers
And speaking of wallpapers, I've got a tip of my own. If you're a fan of the high-quality photographic vistas that Microsoft ships with Windows Vista, you'll want to check out some other photos that were taken by the same guy. His name is Hamad Darwish and he's giving out free high-resolution versions of the Vista desktops that didn't make the cut. They're all excellent.
Find recently edited documents
Windows Vista's new instant search feature has got to be one of the most exciting changes to Windows in years. Case in point: James Woodall says you use Explorer's little-known stacks feature to quickly find all the documents you edited, say, yesterday. Here's how: Open the Documents folder, click the little down-arrow next to the Date modified column header, and choose Stack by Date modified. You'll be presented by a collection of stacks (virtual folders), the first of which is Yesterday. Yep, that's a collection of files that were edited just yesterday.
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Vista's misnamed digital media applications
You'd think that an application named Windows Photo Gallery would be all about managing and editing, well, photos. And while it does do that, Stephen Ball reminded me that Photo Gallery can also be used to manage and view video files. Weird. (You still need Windows Movie Maker to edit those files, however.) Here's a related example: You might think an application named Windows Movie Maker is used to edit, well, movies. And yeah, it does that. But you can also use Movie Maker to edit and create audio files. Go figure.
Fun with display properties
In previous versions of Windows, you could use the Advanced Appearance dialog (accessed via the Appearance tab of the old Display Properties dialog) to change the font sizes of various onscreen elements and other settings. Well, you still can, even if you're using Windows Aero. Here's how: Right-click the desktop, choose Personalize and navigate to Windows Color and Appearance and then click "Open classic appearance properties for more color options." In the Appearance Settings dialog that appears, click Advanced. The resulting dialog should look familiar, and everything still works. You can change the font and size used for icons, the active window, whatever. Thanks to Fox Cutter for the tip.
More file renaming
Sebastiaan Janssen notes that if you're renaming a single file in a folder full of files, you can tap the TAB key when you're done (instead of ENTER). When you do so, you'll begin renaming the next file in the folder. Hit TAB repeatedly to jump through all the files in the current folder.
Got more? Send any tips my way and I'll get them posted in a future follow-up. Thanks!