Walt Mossberg

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There’s no other major item most of us own that is as confusing, unpredictable and unreliable as our personal computers. Everybody has questions about them, and we aim to help.

Here are a few questions about computers I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability. This week my mailbox contained questions about how to make text appear sharper, slowness in Apple’s Tiger operating system, and synchronizing Internet Explorer Favorites.

If you have a question, send it to me at first offered it last year. In Windows XP, you can dramatically improve the sharpness of text by simply turning on a hidden feature called “ClearType.” Just right-click on the desktop and select “Properties.” Then, select the tab called “Appearance” and press the “Effects …” button. In the screen that appears, check the box reading “Use the following method to smooth edges of screen fonts,” and select “ClearType” in the drop-down list. Next, click on “OK” and the press “Apply.”

ClearType works especially well at sharpening text on LCD monitors, but it also can help in some cases on old-fashioned CRT screens. However, it is available only in Windows XP, not in older versions of Windows such as Windows 98, Windows ME or Windows 2000.

Q: When you first reviewed Apple’s Tiger operating system, you found only one notable flaw: slowness in some functions, especially email. Have the subsequent updates to Tiger improved the speed?

Yes, in my experience. Speed will vary from computer to computer, depending on what is running and how the user works. But I am seeing far fewer instances of spinning beach balls (Apple’s icon representing delays) than I did when the operating system first came out. The built-in Apple Mail program also is running much more crisply for me.

There’s still room for improvement in this area, but in my case, Tiger now runs about as fast as its predecessor, Panther. And Tiger has fewer delays and hang-ups than Windows XP does on my Dell, IBM and Hewlett-Packard computers.

Q: I have a desktop PC and a laptop, both of which run Windows XP. What is the easiest way to have the same Internet Explorer Favorites on both computers?

The easiest, best method would be to use the terrific file synchronization software I recommended last week, FolderShare. Install the software on both computers, designate the folder containing your Favorites on each PC for synchronization, and FolderShare will constantly, instantly and invisibly keep them identical. In fact, the software has a built-in, preconfigured option for synchronizing Internet Explorer Favorites.

* * *

Because of the volume of e-mail I receive, I can’t routinely answer individual questions by e-mail, or consult on individual problems or purchasing decisions. I read all questions I receive and select three each week to answer in the column.

Write to Walter S. Mossberg at mossberg@wsj.com


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