Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hide Unused Applets with XP Pro's Group Policy Editor

If you have XP Professional, you don't need to get your hands dirty with the Registry to hide unused applets; instead, you can use XP Professional's exceedingly useful Group Policy Editor to accomplish the same task. The Group Policy Editor is primarily used for setting network and multiuser policies and rights, but it can also be used to customize the way XP looks and works. (For example, to use it to hack away at the Start menu and taskbar, see [Hack #10] .) Run the Group Policy Editor by typing gpedit.msc at the Run prompt or command line.

Once you've run it, go to User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Control Panel, the section that handles the Control Panel. As you can see when you get there, you can do a lot more than hide the Control Panel's unused applets in this section of the Group Policy Editor; you can also control many other aspects of how the Control Panel looks and functions.

Now right-click "Show only specified Control Panel applets," and choose Properties. You'll see the screen pictured in Figure 2-3.

Figure 2-3. Disabling Control Panel applets in the Group Policy Editor

Get ready for a bit of counterintuitive selecting. To disable Control Panel applets, you must choose the Enabled radio button because you're enabling the feature to show only certain Control Panel applets. Strange, but true.

When you do this, you'll hide all applets in the Control Panel, which is a bit draconian. If you don't want to see any applets at all for some odd reason, you're done; just click OK. But you'll most likely want to show some applets, so to add them, click the Show button. The Show Contents screen appears. Click Add, and you're ready to list all the Control Panel applets that you want to appear. For each item that you want to appear, type in its Control Panel filename, which you can find in Table 2-1. For example, if you want the Date and Time dialog box to appear, type in timedate.cpl.

You can also use Tweak UI to hide Control Panel applets.

When you've listed all the Control Panel applets that you want to appear, click OK and exit the Group Policy Editor. Only the applets you've chosen to display will now appear in the Control Panel.

This technique is most useful when you're hiding most of the applets in the Control Panel and you want to display only a few. There's another way to use the Group Policy Editor to hide applets, and it's better suited for when you want to hide only a few applets. In User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Control Panel, double-click "Hide specified Control Panel applets" and choose Enabled. After you click Enabled, choose Show Add and type in the Control Panel filename (which you can find in Table 2-1) for each applet you want to hide. Click OK in each dialog box that appears. When you exit the Group Policy Editor, the specified applets will no longer appear in the Control Panel.

To customize other aspects of how the Control Panel works, follow the same instructions as outlined previouslyright-clicking the item you want to change, choosing Properties, and then picking your options.

How to Run Hidden Applets
Hiding applets cleans up the Control Panel, but leaves you with another problemwhat if you need to run an applet whose icon you've hidden? This is simple to do. At the Run box or command line, type in the name of the applet you want to runsuch as Inetcpl.cpl for the Internet Properties appletsand press Enter. See Table 2-1 for a list of filenames.

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