September 28, 1999

By Karen Kenworthy


Goodbye, and Hello!

Welcome to the new Power Tools newsletter! Many of you have written to say how disappointed you are the print edition of Windows Magazine is no more. You can add me to the list of mourners. WINDOWS Magazine was a special place to work, and I'll always treasure the time I spent there.

But even this cloud has a silver lining. WINDOWS Magazine may be gone, but its web site,, lives on [sigh -- at least it did for a couple of years]. And I'll continue writing and talking about my Power Tools, both on the web and here in my newsletter.

Window Watcher

I'll have more to say about this newsletter, and my web site, soon. But now, let's get down to business! Let's get to know my latest Power Tool, Karen's Window Watcher.

Even before I wrote this program, I knew my computer had a secret life. In addition to the work I assign it, my little friend constantly runs programs and performs tasks I know nothing about. Sure, I've been told this is perfectly normal, even necessary. A computer must do a lot of work behind the scenes, to put on the big show I see every day. None of this need concern me.

But I'm nosey. I wrote Karen's Window Watcher to find our what my computer was up to. When it runs, it displays a small window (you can see an example at my web site at The window lists the title bar text of every window of every program my computer is currently running.

So what, you say? You can see all the windows on your screen? Guess again. Many programs create hidden windows. Some of those windows may eventually be displayed, but some never see the light of day. And a few programs never display any windows on your screen. Without the Window Watcher, you might never know these invisible windows, and the programs that create them, exist. How many hidden windows are lurking under your computer's desktop? As I writ this I can see eight windows on my computer's screen. But my copy of Windows Watcher has found another 242 windows I didn't know about!

Every Windows program must have at least one window, called its top-level window. In addition, it may also create other windows, called child windows. Some child windows are elaborate, even having children of their own. Other child windows are very simple, consisting of a single button, checkbox, or other Windows control.

The Window Watcher lets you decide which types of windows you'll see. Place a checkmark in its "Display child windows" checkbox, and you'll see all windows, both top-level and children. Child windows are listed immediately below their parent, indented a few characters. Clear the checkbox, and only top-level windows are displayed. Another checkbox turns Windows Watcher's "Auto Update" feature on and off. When this feature is on, the list of windows is automatically refreshed every two seconds. When off, you can manually refresh the list by clicking the Watcher's "Refresh" button.

If you'd like to see what your computer is up to, download your copy of the Window Watcher at As always, it's free. You'll also find the program's Visual Basic 6.0 source code, if you want to see how it works, or add features of your own. Whatever you do, all I ask is don't keep it a secret. :)

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