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Using Control Panel Applications (Without Opening Control Panel)

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J. Peter Bruzzese provides a few ways to access Control Panel mini-applications more quickly than by using the Control Panel itself.
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Time is money. You will never, every use some of the 60 applets (as the mini-applications and dialogs are typically called in Control Panel) you see in Control Panel. Some you will use every day. One cool way to have applets you use often pinned to the Taskbar. To accomplish this, open the program from Control Panel, right-click the icon on the Taskbar, and choose Pin This Program to the Taskbar. Imagine one-click access to any applet you put there. But, what if you have a bunch of applets you want to get at quickly? You probably don't want to clutter up your Taskbar with these items.

Another way to get to your items quickly is to actually make a direct call for it. Some items are files stored in your System32 folder and they have a .cpl extension. If you want to catch a look at these, just open Windows Explorer and weave your way from the Windows folder to the System32 folder. In the Search dialog, type *.cpl and you will see the different Control Panel shortcuts with .cpl extensions. (Figure 1).

If you want to open a Control Panel item quickly without opening the panel itself, just click the Start orb and type the name of the file into the Instant Search box. For example, in the Instant Search box, type powercfg.cpl to open the Power Options.

You can also use the control.exe command to open some legacy control panel commands. For example, if you open a command prompt and type control.exe desktop, you will be taken to Display Properties. You can try other commands, such as color, date/time, international, mouse, keyboard, printers, and fonts.

When a Control Panel item is opened through a command prompt, you can actually instruct it as to which tab you want to open to. For example, if you type control.exe sysdm.cpl, ,3, it will launch the third tab.

Create Your Own Control Panel

Ok, by now you probably just want to get into the real applet side to this topic. But let's just make sure you know all your options.

One final point for you to consider when working with Control Panel applets is that you can create your own Control Panel that only shows you the applets you want.

  1. Click the Start orb and choose All Programs.
  2. Locate the Startup folder. Right-click it and choose Open. This will take you to the Start Menu folder.
  3. Create a new folder called whatever you like. "My Control Panel" would be a good idea.
  4. Now open Control Panel and go to Classic View.
  5. With the two folders side by side, select the applets you like best from Control Panel and move the link over to your new folder. Don't worry, it doesn't actually move the applet; it just creates shortcuts to it in your new folder).
  6. Test your new panel by clicking the Start menu, opening your homemade Control Panel, and then clicking one of the applet links. (Or put the folder on your Quick Launch bar).

Canonical Names of Control Panel Items

Starting with Vista, every item in Control Panel is given a canonical name for it to be launched programmatically. Windows 7 follows up with that same format and the following link shows every Control Panel item (all 60 of them), its Canonical Name, and the GUID for it. (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee330741%28VS.85%29.aspx)

These can be launched from the command prompt (within the %systemroot%\system32 folder) as well by using the control.exe command. For example, type control.exe /name Microsoft.WindowsUpdate

To start a Control Panel item with its canonical name, type %systemroot%\system32\control.exe /name canonicalName

To open a specific page or tab of an item, or to open it with additional parameters, type %systemroot%\system32\control.exe /name canonicalName /page pageName

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