Desktop and Accessibility Options

Windows 2000 contains a number of small changes to the desktop environment in terms of both interaction and accessibility features. The desktop settings that can be controlled by a user include settings relating to the keyboard, mouse, display, sound, toolbars, and the start menu. These settings are all stored as part of the user’s profile, and are outlined individually below.

Keyboard – The keyboard applet in Control Panel controls settings relating to keyboard functionality including cursor blink rate, character repeat rate and delay, as well as another place from which to control input locales, as discussed earlier.

Mouse – Allows you to control hand-orientation of the mouse, as well as pointer, motion, double-click speed, and hardware.

Display – Allows configuration of the background display, screen savers, window appearance, active desktop, effects (such as fade or scroll) as well as color configuration and screen area resolution.

Sounds and Multimedia – Allows configuration of system sounds, volume, and schemes.

Toolbars – Windows 2000 allows you to show additional toolbars from the taskbar at the bottom of the screen. Right-click the taskbar and choose the toolbars option to allow you to view a number of different toolbars including links, an address bar, a desktop bar, the quick-launch bar (onto which you can drag shortcuts to programs you use most often), and others that you define.

Start Menu – The Start menu is Windows 2000 can be changed by dragging items on or off of it. Furthermore, the Start Menu can ‘learn’ from you, and will display only those items that you use most frequently. This feature is called personalized menus, and can be turned off. The configuration of the Start menu is handled via the Taskbar and Start menu program, found under the Settings option on the Start menu. This allows advanced menu configuration, including the ability to show or hide the Administrative tools, as well as the ability to expand shortcuts such as Control Panel, in order to be able to also view the tools within from the menu.

Windows 2000 also supports a variety of accessibility options for users with visual, hearing, and motion impairments. These settings can be controlled from a two different places – the Accessibility menu and Control Panel. The Accessibility Options applet in Control Panel allows you to set the options relating to the keyboard, sound, display, and mouse. Each is looked at below, according to tab:

Keyboard – Contains options for setting Sticky keys (where you can press combinations of keys, such as CTRL+ALT+DEL, one key at a time), Filter Keys (which will ignore brief or repeated keystrokes), and Toggle Keys (which provides a tone when you hit CapsLock, NumLock or ScrollLock).

Sounds – Contains options for setting Sound Sentry (which will display a box onscreen when the system makes a sound) and Show Sounds (which will have programs display captions for any speech or sounds made).

Display – Contains an option to display the screen fonts and colors in High Contrast, making things easier to read.

Mouse – Contains an option to set Mouse Keys, which allows your keyboard’s numeric keypad to control the pointer.

General – The General tab contains settings that allow you to control accessibility features, such as turning off features after 5 minutes of not being used, or making the settings applicable to all users on a system.
Windows 2000 also provides a few new tools on the Accessibility menu, as outlined below:

Narrator – This tool actually speaks the contents of things like menu items, text, and so forth.

On-Screen Keyboard – This tool displays the keyboard on-screen, allowing users to press buttons with the mouse instead of the physical keyboard.

Magnifier – This tool actually magnifies part of the screen by splitting it into two panes. The upper pane displays a magnified version of whatever the mouse is currently pointing at in the lower pane.

Accessibility Wizard – Essentially, this tool allows you to create a custom accessibility profile for a user, using any of the accessibility options discussed. These options can also be saved to an .acw file, and then be distributed to other uses that need a similar configuration.

Note that by default, the saved acw file will have an associated access control list that gives the user who created it and the administrator access. If you want any other users to use this acw file, you will need to modify the permissions associated with it.

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.