Best Practice Ezine #121 – NCPA for Network Connections

Ezine #121 – NCPA for Network Connections

Where do my Ezine tips come from?  The answers vary, information from trawling forums, ideas from delegates on my training courses, and of course, tips from my readers.  However, this week’s tip, NCPA for Network Connections, I invented myself.

Background to NCPA

Here is the background to how my tip evolved.  Windows Key + Pause / Break is my favorite keyboard shortcut.  As you may know, this combination takes us to the System Icon.  For years I have lamented that there is no similar shortcut to the Network Connections folder.  In Vista, the ‘drill-down’ to find the TCP/IP properties has become so tortuous that I re-opened my investigation for a keyboard shortcut.  My breakthrough came when I rediscovered the .cpl files.  Now we have reached the heart of my tip, create a keyboard shortcut to ncpa.cpl, and thus launch the Network Connection folder quickly.

Instructions: How to Create a Network Connection Shortcut

1) Right-click on the desktop

2) Click: New –> Shortcut

3) Type the location of the item: ncpa.cpl 
    (If necessary browse to the Windows\system32 folder)

4) Choose a suitable name, e.g. ‘Network Connection’
   (Rather than leaving the name as ncpa.cpl)

5) Right-click, select Properties and seek the dialog box called Shortcut Key.
    Simply over-type ‘None’ with the combination that suits you, for example:
    Ctrl +Shift +N.

6) Now you are ready to test my new keyboard shortcut, press Ctrl +Shift +N

7) The Network Connections folder should launch.How to add a shortcut to XP's Taskbar

Option 1:  Click on Change Icon, scroll through the pics
               Select an Icon that looks like a network

Option 2: Drag the Network shortcut on to the Taskbar.
             (See screenshot).

Somewhat like reverse engineering, I am finding that tips I discover for Vista also work for XP.  What is disconcerting is that I have been using XP (and Windows Server 2003) for years, without realizing that there lots of little tips and tweaks that I did not know existed.

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No Text Label for Shortcuts

When I showed this NCPA idea to my old friend ‘Mad’ Mick, he surprised me – again.  He said, ‘Guy, your idea is not bad, but I want just the Network Connection icon; I don’t want any text label.  After a quick search of the internet, I discovered that if you rename any icon as a blank character, which corresponds to ASCII decimal 255, then to all intents and purposes, eureka, it removes the text label from the shortcut.

At the risk of teaching my grandfathers to suck eggs, as you rename the icon, hold down the left Alt key while you type 255 on the numeric keyboard.  When I showed ‘Mad’ Mick this tip, he could not get it to work.  It transpired that he was pressing the right Alt Gr key (should be the LEFT Alt), and he had his Num Lock off (should be ON).  To compound matters, Mick was trying my tip on his Laptop; it turned out that to activate the keypad on a Sony Vaio, you need to press the FN key, while selecting the appropriate key with a funny little blue number.

Being Mick, he now wanted all his desktop shortcuts with just icons and no labels.  The problem was that you can have only one icon named ASCII 255, we tried ASCII 0 and even ASCII 32, but none of the other numbers produced a blank.  Mick voted ASCII 96 as the best of the rest.

Note 1: Hannu says that there is no limit on the number of shortcuts that you can have using ASCII 255.

Note 2: Clint’s suggestion is, if there is a problem renaming multiple shortcuts, then just repeat Alt 255 Alt 255…..

Note 3: Brian chips in: ‘When I’m helping users, I tell them to Click Start – Run, type ncpa.cpl and click OK.
           Since the location of cpl files is in %PATH% environment variable, Windows will find it.’

More .cpl Shortcuts

You have probably guessed, that .cpl extension means a Control Panel applet.  My original task was simply to search for *.cpl.  I challenge you to try this search, and thus generate a supply of applets, which are suitable to create shortcuts.  As I hinted earlier, while this technique works for XP, it is more spectacular in Vista because there are more Control Panel elements.  My point is that in Vista it’s more difficult to find the applets that you visit often, therefore a keyboard shortcut is more valuable.

Ten more useful .CPL files.  N.B. These are from Vista, not all are available for XP.

  1. Appwiz.cpl (Programs and Features replaces Add or Remove Programs)

  2. Collab.cpl (People Near Me)

  3. Firewall.cpl

  4. Hdwwiz.cpl  (Add Hardware Wizard)

  5. Intl.cpl (Regional Settings)

  6. Mmsys.cpl (Sound)  Also Setasio.cpl.

    [NCPA.cpl] (Network Connections – see above)

  7. Powercfg.cpl (Power Settings)

  8. Sysdm.cpl (System Properties)

  9. Telephon.cpl

  10. Wscui.cpl  (Windows Security Console)

See more on .CPL ‘Searches’ in Vista

See how to create a Windows 8 Metro tile from a shortcut.

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Will and Guy’s Humour

We have tracked down some important new windows help messages.Vista Jokes

See more interesting network computer utilities

E195 Router Security  • E158 Network Apps  • E153 Network Utilities  • E149 Performance Monitor

E138 Network Utilities  • E137 IPv6  •E121 NCPA for Network Connections  • E111 Mobile Devices

E98 Nmap  •E16 Perfmon  •Network Performance Monitor  • Kiwi Syslog Server Review  • Ezines