Windows 11 “Default Apps”

So, I installed Windows 11 Home as soon as it was available, because I figured there might be questions about it and I’d rather be the guinea pig than wait for someone else. Given the backup setup I have, if something went wrong it’d be easy to go back to Win10.

The fresh install (Create USB installation media, reboot from that USB, and we’re off) was reasonably quick, and the usual few hours of re-installing software was just the usual slog. As a nice improvement from Linux, Windows installs allow you to just install on one partition of a drive and not erase the whole thing (you can manage this on Linux too, but not without a lot of manual configuration, though I grant that if you’re into Linux you’re into manual configuration anyway). So, my documents partition was untouched and I was able to just carry on after the re-pointing the default c:\users user folder to a separate documents drive d:\ where it belongs on any sane install. Anyway …

A couple of oddities stick out among the few real changes in the O/S.

The start menu is no longer configurable in terms of where the icons are (specifically). They’re in a list of sorted icons, left to right; you can move an item up or down in the list and control where they appear in that sort, but you can’t just move them into groups, or resize them. I guess this isn’t a tragedy, but I have to assume I’m not the only one who likes having a group of stuff in the lower right, or whatever.

Similarly the taskbar tray allows you to say what does and doesn’t appear in the tray, but there’s no “show them all” option (my usual choice). So, whenever there’s a new tray icon that you want to have showing, you have to go into taskbar settings and make it show. Also, the “safely eject USB” icon isn’t shown by default, which it always always should be.

But the worst change I’ve seen (so far) is that you can no longer set apps to be defaults in any reasonable way. Settings > Apps > Default Apps allows you to set defaults by application, file type, or link type. Each of these, though, just brings up a list of extensions/link types that a particular application might open. So, selecting Default Apps > Groove Music results in this representative alphabetical list:

These are just the first few, and only the ones that Groove¬†might be set as the default for. The lists for IrfanView (preferred image editor) and VLC Media Player (preferred video/audio player) are hundreds of items long. To set any of these as pointing to VLC as the default, that individual item has to be clocked on, VLC selected from a dropdown, and the choice OK’d. For each one. For hundreds of each ones. For every program you want to use. I’ve done that for the ones in this screenshot, but they were set to something stupid (paint, windows media player, etc.) initially.

Worse yet (as you could obviously just ignore all the oddball formats you never see in real life anyway) there are at least a few common file formats that are missing. .mp4 doesn’t make an appearance, for example. Neither does m4v, mkv, and on we go. So, every time I want to open a modern video file at the moment, I have to open with and pick VLC from the right-click menu. There doesn’t seem to be a way to set a handler for any of these manually. The right-click menu properties dialogue for recognized extensions works fine, so you can set a default for .aac, but mp4’s property dialogue is missing that option as well. You can right-click to open with, but not properties and change the open with option.

Hopefully somebody will notice this and come up with a better plan.

For the time being, it’s working fine for my purposes. I mainly work off portable apps on encrypted disks, so my main “work” functions don’t depend much on which Windows O/S I’m running. I’ll update with further observations if I notice anything else wonky.


Presenter View for Partial Screen Zoom Sharing

Since Zoom allows you to share part of your screen (Screen Share > Advanced > Portion of Screen) and lets you drag a box around what you want the other folks in the meeting to see, you can use presenter view for your PowerPoint presentations and just share the slide, while having your notes, next slide, and so on available just to you. The point here is that you can do this without a second monitor. Obviously, if you have that second monitor, then just use presentation mode normally, and share that whole screen with Zoom.

In versions of Office before Office 365, Alt-F5 was the “secret shortcut” that would start up a presentation that way (single screen presenter view). Doesn’t work in 365 (or at least not for me, with my particular organization’s settings). Luckily, there is another option, and it’s one I haven’t seen anyone else mention after some googling, so I thought I’d throw it up here.

You can start the presentation in any of the normal ways (F5, the ribbon, the button at the bottom-right of PowerPoint) and get the regular full-screen slide. There is a little hover menu at the bottom left of the screen, with forward, back, pen controls, and so on. This little menu also has a “three dot” submenu that includes, among other things, “Show Presenter View” which does exactly that.

So, not quite as easy as starting with that view and the thrill of a “secret” keyboard shortcut, but still very functional. Of course, this only works on the full desktop install, not on the web version. Actually, it also works on Office 2013, and maybe others in between, for those who (like me, until just now anyway) stuck with the classics.


Fixing Gmail’s UI (a bit)

OK, this is pretty specific, but the new Gmail interface has one “feature” that really annoys me. The “status” display is a large black bar at the bottom of the screen, showing “Message archived” or “Message sent” or whatever. That bar floats on top of the other content, and it’s right over the “Send” button for your next email – and it sits there for a long time!

I’m not sure whose brilliant idea this was, and yes, I did submit a suggestion about changing it (by moving it to the right side of the screen), but I don’t imagine the turnaround time on those suggestions is anything to be amazed by, if there’s any response at all.

Luckily, it turns out there’s a solution on the browser end of things. There’s an extension called “Stylus” that is available for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera (and on github). You can just install it, then “manage” your rules, and create a new rule with the following CSS in it:

.bAp.b8.UC .vh {
right: 0 !important;
left: auto !important;

The end result looks like this:

I think that’s a pretty clear improvement.

If you don’t like adding extensions, or can’t for whatever reason, you can also create a user style sheet (in Firefox and its derivatives, but not in Chrome any longer, apparently). That’s a little more involved, and you have to find and then add some stuff to your user profile, but it’s completely do-able. For anybody who, like me, mostly uses portable Waterfox, this doesn’t even mean digging into the “hidden” stuff in the main user profile on your C:\ drive, as opposed to editing the data for the portable app.

Now, of course, I’m keeping an eye out for other annoying “features” that can be fixed this way. Between this and uBlock, there are ways to get rid of many irritating things.

Now if I can only find a way to stop those modals that open with the page (or when you scroll, or after a time delay) to ask if you want to subscribe to whatever. Does anybody ever do that because they were prompted this way? I’m way more likely not to subscribe because of being hassled about it, but maybe I just have a lower threshold for being annoyed, and being blocked from seeing the content for this kind of thing definitely tops that bar.