Living with Windows 7 (and XP)

I'm pretty much a unix person at heart. I like most of the concepts that come with it, it's not like I care much about what kernel I use, Linux, FreeBSD whatever. What is nice though is the general concept of how you work and interact with a lot of the applications. Piping between processes in your shell or having that nice mark-some-text-with-your-mouse-to-copy is part of the things I just like with unix-style system.

Now, I'm forced to use windows occasionally (or quite a lot actually) as computers at work are WinXP and I do run a Win7 computer at home (together with a few Linux boxes).

What I've come to realize is that a lot of the things that are troubling with Windows for me, can easily be fixed. It is things like focus-follows-mouse, select to copy, the lack of some really nice programs and so on. Given some (not so long) time one can easily customize their windows setup to mimic the behavior of your regular unixish system and make your computer a whole lot more useful.

Let's start with focus-follows-mouse, a feature I absolutely positively can not live without.

On Windows 7, it's quite easy, you merely enter the control panel, find that "Ease of access center", go to "Make the mouse easier to use" and check the "Activate window by hovering over it with the mouse". Unfortunately, this includes a delay of a few seconds before switchover between windows will occur - a most disturbing feature. No worries though, this can be changed using regedit. Launch regedit, go find HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\UserPreferenceMask and subtract 40 from the first value there. Ie, on my system it was set to DF (which I guess it is on a lot of computers) and you only need to change that to 9F. Next up is changing HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\ActiveWndTrkTimeout where you merely change the value to 50. This changes the time from when you actually have your mouse over a window to when it gets focused to 50 milliseconds. That's the way I like it, if you want something else, please do experiment but note that setting it to 0 will cause some problems with the taskbar! :)

This fixes a few inherent problems of the default windows installation. Still a lot of functionality I would find on my regular nix-system is missing. So what better than to start out with a great editor - in my case that is vim, hands down. Thank you Bram Molenaaar!
Naturally, there is a Windows version and I recommend installing it! Having learnt a few shortcuts in Vim, it truly is one of the best editors on the market!

Vim + sloppy focus makes Windows totally livable!

If you want to go for the whole X11 feeling shebang, you might be interested in X-Mouse, a tricky application fixing stuff like copy-on-select and so forth. I'm told that it will bring focus-follows-mouse on older Windows (not Win7 though). Report your success story! :)

Further, vimperator is an addon for Firefox making it behave like vim in a lot of aspects. It takes some getting used too (though not much if you are a vim user already) and it really eases up and makes your day to day web experience a lot better! Check it out, just search for vimperator in the addons menu.

Secondshell is an application enabling things like Alt + mouse drag to move windows or Alt right-click to resize them. I've only tried this on Windows XP so far, but it is a nice application!