Options menu helps users to change programs

"Bill Gates isn't worth 50 billion dollars for being stupid," is the First Rule of Computing. This means that if you think you should be able to change how a program works, you probably can.

The "Options" menu is the way to do this. The Options menu gives us literally hundreds of choices as to how a particular program functions. And there are Options or Preferences menus in almost all programs. It is an experience to browse the Options menus to see all the things that can be customized to make a particular program function the way you want.

As an example, in the Outlook Express e-mail program, Options are under Tools in the menu bar. Clicking on Options brings up a large menu of choices each under a separate tab. Under Maintenance, I have placed a check in the box that says, "empty messages from deleted items on exit." This means that when I delete an unwanted e-mail message from the Inbox, it goes to the "deleted items" folder where I can retrieve it if deleting it was a mistake. However, when I leave Outlook Express, the deleted items folder automatically empties. This way I don't accumulate hundreds of deleted messages.

Similarly, under the Read tab, I have checked, "read all messages in plain text." This changes how e-mail messages are read on my computer so that any possible virus code inside the e-mail isn't executed. Inserted images show up as attachments and I don't see colored text but I have added a little bit of virus protection.

The Internet Explorer browser has its own set of Options, found under Tools in the menu bar. Under the General tab, there is a button that says, "Delete Cookies." Clicking this removes all the cookies that have accumulated during browsing. Similarly, the button, "Delete Files" empties all the Internet Temporary files and there can be hundreds of these. Another button will, "Clear History." This empties all the tracks of where you have been browsing. All teenagers know about this button. Deleting any of these three items makes no difference in how browsing works, though, deleting cookies means some web sites may ask you to sign in again since, with the cookie gone, they don't recognize you.

Not all options have to do with the Internet. Microsoft Word has hundreds of ways to customize how it works: Click on Tools, Options. Adobe Photoshop Elements 2 has their options under Edit, Preferences.

Some options are a bit more obscure. To discover and/or change how your Windows computer starts, click Start, Run and type "msconfig" (without the quotation marks), and a screen will appear showing the startup sequence. Changing these may not be for the fainthearted but it does give a choice of how the computer operates. Other options appear in Start, Programs, Accessories.

The point of all this is that almost any program can be customized to operate the way you wish. Bill Gates and others have seen to it that their programs are versatile in their operation to meet the particular needs of most users. Take a few minutes to browse the Options in your own programs to see the many choices that are available to you.

If you would like to hear more about Options, or other computer topics, visit "Coffee and Computers" at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. 'C' Street, any Friday morning starting at 9 a.m. Bring your questions or just come in and visit.

In the mean time, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing.


Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

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