Help yourself to another UI shortcut and a screen saver you can see through

This month, I have another duo of resource kit gems for you. Runext.inf makes running command-line routines that need parameters a snap from the GUI, and Clear Screen Saver lets you keep a server's desktop visible without leaving the server insecure.

Some of the best utilities are the simplest. Runext.inf is a great example of that. Here's the scenario: You're using Windows Explorer to browse a directory in My Computer, and you want to start up an executable file in that directory. You can double-click the file to start it. That ability is convenient if you don't have a prebuilt icon for a program or can't remember its exact name.

But now consider how inconvenient the start-the-program-from-the-GUI approach is when you need to feed the program a parameter or two. For example, perhaps you're going to start up WordPad (\winnt\system32\write.exe) and want to specify a document that it should open. From a command line, you could type

C:\winnt\system32\write.exe
  C:\data\myfile.txt

But that's quite a bit of typing. Instead, with runext.inf, you can just right-click the write.exe file and choose Run. A dialog box then appears with a text field that already contains the C:\winnt\system32\write.exe path. You need only fill in the additional parameters—C:\data\myfile.txt, for example—and click OK to run the command.

Runext.inf is a real time-saver if you run programs that need parameters. You can find runext.inf on the Windows 2000 Server Resource Kit Supplement One CD-ROM in the Apps\RunExt folder. Simply right-click the runext.inf file and choose Install. This tool is also available in the Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 Resource Kit Supplement 4.

The second cool tool for this month is Clear Screen Saver. Its value isn't immediately obvious, so let me explain why you'd want to use it.

Now and then, I want to be able to walk away from a computer without logging off. For example, I might want a server to continuously run Performance Monitor, and I'd like to be able to glance at the Performance Monitor screen as I walk past the machine. Or maybe I'd just like to leave a workstation running because it's doing computationally intensive work, such as rendering a 3-D image, that I'd like to keep tabs on.

I could leave the session up and running and a screen saver with password protection to guard it, but then I wouldn't be able to glance at the screen as I walked by—I'd have to move the mouse to stop the screen saver and type my password before I could see the screen. Of course, I could choose not to install a screen saver on the system so that the computer's desktop would remain visible. But that approach would require me to log on and walk away, which isn't a good idea from a security standpoint.

Therein lies the genius of Clear Screen Saver. It's a screen saver that you can password-protect, but when the screen saver kicks in, it doesn't change the screen. You see the desktop as it would appear if the screen saver weren't running. The best part is that even though you're logged on, your session is secure: If someone tries to sit down and do something at the keyboard, the screen saver demands a password.

Clear Screen Saver is on the Win2K resource kit Supplement One CD-ROM in the Apps\clearscreensaver folder. That folder contains just two files: Clear Screen Saver.scr and ClearSaverSvc.exe. Copy them both to C:\winnt\system32. The .exe file is a service; to install it, type

clearsaversvc -i

Or, if you've already copied that file from the resource kit CD-ROM and have installed runext.inf, simply right-click clearsaversvc.exe, choose Run, add the -i switch, and press Enter.