Prevent Desktop Icon Scrunch

By Mr. Modem

Q. The icons on my Windows Desktop are all scrunched up on the left side of the screen. When I try to move one, it moves but then it goes right back to where it was. Can you help, Mr. M?

A. The good news is that your icons arent possessed, nor are they staging a coup to take over your computer. Your Desktop icons are being controlled by a setting called AutoArrange. To disable this feature, right-click a blank area of the Desktop, select Arrange Icons, then remove the check mark beside AutoArrange. With AutoArrange disabled, you can move your icons wherever you want, and they will stay put.

I keep mine set to Align to Grid which allows me to drag icons to any location, but it keeps them neat and tidy on the Desktop. If you havent used the Align-to-Grid option, give it a try. Neat and tidy is a good thing.

Q. When I click Start > All Programs on my XP computer, I cant see all the programs because there are so many of them. How I can change it to allow me to see everything?

A. Right-click a blank spot on your Taskbar and select Properties. In the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties window, click the Start Menu tab, then the first Customize button beside Start Menu.

Click the Advanced tab and remove the check mark beside Scroll Programs. Click OK twice to save and exit. As a result of this change, your Start Menu will appear in several columns instead of one scrolling column.

The process is virtually identical in Windows 7, but you'll find many additional customization options in the Customize Start Menu dialog box.

Q. Ive seen the term "root directory" used as it relates to my computer, but it sounds more like a gardening term than anything else. What is it?

A. The root directory is the starting point of your file folder structure. It's actually your C: drive, without any folders. It's known as the root, because if you think of your hard drive folder structure as a tree (it used to be called a directory tree) you'll get the picture. The root is the base of the tree from which many folders sprout. The only difference between a computer directory tree and a real tree is that the computer tree hangs upside down, with the root at the top.

To see this in action, launch Windows Explorer by pressing the Windows Key + E or right-click Start > Explore. In the left pane youll see your hard drive directory tree. The Local Disk (C: ) is the root directory. Click that and other folders will branch out below it.

Mr. Modem's Sites of the Week

Color Clouds
With the possible exception of a 27 widescreen HDTV LED monitor, few things possess the breathtaking beauty of clouds, and in particular the high-flying phenomenon known as nacreous clouds. Here you can browse a gallery of these rare, iridescent, ethereal clouds, also known as mother-of-pearl clouds, which occur high in the stratosphere.

Panoramic Photographs
While there are many different types of photography, including Mrs. Modems patented finger-in-front-of-the-lens technique, panoramic photography has a large, sweeping feel to it. This photographic collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress, contains thousands of panoramic images of American landscapes, cityscapes, and portraits. View the photos by clicking specific topical sections, such as Bridges, Canals, Dams, Fairs, Expositions, and many more.

The United States in the 1930s
The third decade of the 20th Century was a unique time between World Wars, when the U.S. was suffering through The Great Depression. This site presents a fascinating retrospective, courtesy of the University of Virginia. You can literally spend hours browsing the sites many sections which showcase the film, radio, print, advertising, and pop culture of the decade.

For plain-English answers to your questions by email, plus helpful PC tips, subscribe to Mr. Modems Weekly Newsletter. For information, visit