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Q: A few months ago, I installed a software package called Safeworld as a pop-up blocker and spam filter. Ever since I installed it, an Explorer window, pointing to the Safeworld folder, opens up whenever I reboot the PC. I've looked in Startup and folder properties and cannot figure out how to stop the Explorer window from opening when I boot. I'm running XP Home Edition. Can you help?

-- Gary Benitz

A: Your question sounds like one of those annoying pop-up ads that offer to sell software that kills pop-ups. A lot of these outrageous scams perform what is called a browser hijack that sets the victim's home page so it always points to whatever Web address the perpetrator desires.

The lesson is never, ever and under any circumstances respond to anything that appears in a pop-up message. Sometimes just a click on the yes button can unleash a virus or worm. Other times the victim gets pitched products that aren't needed or do damage.

But when I checked out your case I was happy to find that what you are seeing is a feature of a substantial piece of software that automatically loads itself at boot-up to watch for pop-ups as soon as the computer logs on to the Internet. It does this in the form of a Web browser, and there is a way to use the software itself to hide that in Safeworld's own options.

Give a right-click to the icon the software puts in your system tray and you can hide the startup in the future.

Let me add that these kinds of standalone pop-up blockers are going the way of buggy whips as Microsoft's new Service Pack 2 for Windows XP includes that function.

Getting rid of Excel display

Q: I am using Microsoft Excel 2002 spreadsheet software and I have a small, nagging concern. When I first open Excel, for maybe 5 seconds, it displays on the right of my screen, a summary of most recent files used, and other tidbits like templates. However, as it continues opening, this block of info disappears and I have to use the File command to see my last-used files. What settings have I messed up? It has been this way since I installed Excel. Also, Word does the same thing . . . opens with a window on the right and then the window disappears.

-- Rod Morrow

A: I'd wager that more people would like to know how to get rid of that display on the right-hand side of Excel and Word than share your desire to see them. Happily, I can serve both camps with the same advice.

The Startup Pane that you describe can be activated or disabled by clicking on Tools and then Options in both Excel and Word. After selecting Options, go to the View tab in both programs and you will find the check box to toggle the display. Most people find themselves using the close box in the Startup Pane every time we go to work on a document and wish it would go away. I'll bet you'll join us after a few hours with the feature restored.

The good news is that both Word and Excel will instantly display the Startup Pane when one taps Control F1. That's far better than having to click the pane shut each time, which is necessary because it covers too much of the display, particularly in Word, as you'll soon see.

Contact Jim Coates via e-mail at

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