It's back! Here's the sixth collection of tips for Windows Vista. Thanks, as always, to everyone that's written in with tips. If you don't see your tip here, fear not: I'm still collecting tips for future tips articles.

Take in the Vista

If you buy a retail version of Vista, or otherwise acquire a Vista install DVD of some kind, you're not limited to using the version you bought: Microsoft allows you to install almost any version of Vista--Vista Home Basic, Home Basic N, Home Premium, Business, Business N, or Ultimate editions--using any Vista install DVD. There's just one limitation: If you install a version of Vista you didn't purchase, you only have 30 days (by default) to run the OS before it will move into reduced functionality mode. (If you do install the version you purchased, you can activate Vista before that happens.) Here's how to do it: Boot your system with the Vista install DVD, advance to the Install Windows screen, and click Install Now. At the screen where you enter your product key, don't do so. Setup will let you select the product edition to install. Be careful reading the next dialog that appears because it's awkwardly worded. (Apparently, Microsoft wants you to be very careful before you install the wrong version.)

Take in the Vista for an extended amount of time

If that 30 days isn't enough time for your evaluation, various people have explained ways you can bypass Vista's activation requirements for an almost infinite amount of time if you don't mind keeping up with the process. The best explanation I've seen comes courtesy of my Windows Vista Secrets co-author Brian Livingston, who describes the process in all its gory detail in his newsletter article, Microsoft allows bypass of Vista activation.

Non-destructive disk partitioning

Windows has long included its own disk partitioning tool, Disk Management, which buried deep in the Computer Management console, but its been upgraded in Windows Vista to support a very important new feature, reports Dan Ross: Disk Management can now non-destructively resize partitions--make them larger or smaller--allowing you to make space for other partitions or delete an unused partition and consolidate the extra space into a single partition. This works only with non-dynamic NTFS-formatted partitions (which is the default in Vista). You can access Disk Management in various ways, but the quickest way is to open the Start Menu, right-click Computer, and choose Manage. You'll see Disk Management on the left, under Storage.

More on the new renaming

In Still More Windows Vista Tips, we discussed how Vista won't select a file's extension when you rename it, which is pretty helpful. But Scott Bressler notes that you can, of course, edit the file extension if you'd like as well. You just need to select it separately, as only the actual file name is selected by default.

See it in slow motion

If you'd like to see some of Vista's best effects in slow motion, Edo Mangelaars has the solution: Add an entry to the Registry. Then, simply hold down the SHIFT key. For example, when triggering Flip 3D with the Windows Key+TAB key combination, also hold down SHIFT to see it happen much more slowly. You can also use this while minimizing a window or restoring a window from the taskbar.

To make it happen, tap Windows Key+R to bring up the Run dialog and enter the following text:

reg add HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\DWM /v AnimationsShiftKey /t REG_DWORD /d 1

A command line window will open asking you if you'd like to add this value to the Registry. Type Y and hit Enter. You may need to restart before it works.

Mobile users: Quick-start Mobility Center

Windows Vista's new Mobility Center is a neat addition for mobile users: It only works on notebook computers and Tablet PCs. If you're running such a system, you can quickly launch Mobility Center with the Windows Key + X keyboard shortcut. Thanks to Josh Anderson for the tip.

Get the path

Mark Haney notes that while Vista's spiffy new Explorer windows hide the current path using the useful new breadcrumb functionality in the Address Bar, you can still get to the path if you want, so you can copy and paste it and perform other operations. To do so, simply open virtually any Explorer windows and click inside the Address Bar to the right of the rightmost breadcrumb entry. The path will appear, and be selected. (Note that this tip won't work for certain special shell locations like Computer and Network.)

Force Vista to remember window sizes

While Windows XP was a real step back from its predecessors when it came to windows remembering their size and screen position, Windows Vista improves things somewhat. That said, Vista still loses window settings occasionally. Khafra has a solution: Size and position the window as you want it, and then hold down the CTRL key when you click its Close window button. It should reappear next time correctly.

Take nicer screenshots

Windows Vista's Aero windows and effects are nice, but they make it difficult to take screenshots when all you want is an individual window. Michael McGovern recommends a free utility called Windows Clippings, by Kenny Kerr. This neat tool captures individual windows (and sub-windows), and can even retain window shadows and other effects. It's a nifty looking solution, and it's absolutely free.

Copy files more efficiently

Remember when the old File Manager application in Windows 3.x would let you split the view in half so you could more easily copy files and folders from one location to another? No? Well, maybe I'm just getting old, but ever since Microsoft replaced File Manager with Explorer, I've missed that functionality. In previous versions of Windows, you could sort of emulate File Manager using various window positioning shortcuts, and in Vista they're even better. Samuel Macuta says the best way to experience this is to open two Explorer windows, CTRL+click each in the taskbar, and then right-click one of the buttons and choose Show Windows Side By Side (or Show Windows Stacked). Now you can drag and drop files and folders to your heart's content, and while it's no File Manager, it's not too shabby.

Hide the drive letters

One of the things that got lost during Vista's development was the move towards a drive letter-less future. Well, you can see the future today, sort of, and turn off Vista's display of drive letters. James Tenniswood says you can do this by opening Computer, selecting Organize, Folder and Search Options, and then View, and then unchecking the option titled Show drive letters in Advanced settings. Ye Gods. It's like a Mac. But with software.

Quick-launch applicatons

And, finally, Abheeru on Shaw offers up a great way to quickly launch your favorite applications: Assign keyboard shortcuts. Here's how: Right-click the application for which you'd like a keyboard shortcut in the Start Menu and choose Properties. Then, in the Properties window, select the Shortcut key field and tap the key sequence you'd like. (I use CTRL + ALT + W for Microsoft Word, for example, and CTRL + ALT + E for Microsoft Excel.) Click OK, and you're good to go.

Got tips? Send any tips my way and I'll get them posted in a future follow-up. Thanks!