Monthly Archives: January 2009

Windows 7’s listening recording device feature

One thing I love about new Windows releases is the small features that rarely make it to any marketing materials.  Vista is just loaded with these but I’ve never gotten around to making any posts about them.  Now that 7 (albeit in beta form) is available, there’s lots of new things to discover.

That said, I was perusing the sound control panel earlier today and noticed this gem in the recording properties for my LX-3000 headset:
 

So when I turn this on, anything I say into the headset is then outputted by the speakers.  There’s plenty of possible uses here, and like the description says in the window, you could hook up an audio player to an audio input and use this to have it output to a USB headset or speakers.  I know a lot of devices can already do this when you install the device specific software, but it’s nice to have a generic solution available.  I’m sure there’s lots of other scenarios where this might be useful too, besides the sheer entertainment value of hearing your voice boom out from your speakers (yes, I tried it – for testing of course).

Behind the scenes, I don’t believe there’s anything new here as the WASAPI (Windows Audio Session API) introduced in Vista supports this sort of messing around with audio endpoints but there was never any UI or non-programatic way to do it. 

Another option for this sort of feature that’s been available for a long time is the Audio Repeater utility included with Virtual Audio Cable.  I’ve found plenty of weird and wonderful uses for VAC over the years, but that’s another blog entry. 

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Hiding the main Messenger taskbar button/icon in Windows 7, Vista and XP using Messenger Taskbar Hider

 Introducing Messenger Taskbar Hider
Messenger Taskbar Hider will automatically hide the taskbar icon/button for Windows Live Messenger in Windows 7/Vista and XP.  Additionally in Windows 7, you can just hide the "extra" window generated as well, although if you’re looking for the notification area icon to come back, see "Windows 7 Notes" below. 

Can I still get to the main Messenger window?
Of course, this will only hide the appropriate taskbar button/icon.  You can still keep the Messenger window up on your screen, access it via the Alt-Tab keyboard hotkey, double-click the icon in the notification area (Vista/XP only) or just run Messenger from a shortcut/start menu to bring it up.  Additionally, the taskbar button/icon may appear when you are in focus of the main window so you can still access its system menu; it will disappear again when you switch to another application.  When hiding the extra button/icon in Windows 7, Messenger will operate like it did in previous versions of Windows.

Can I hide other applications/windows?
Messenger Taskbar Hider is actually based on a personal project of mine called Taskbar Hider which allows any application or window to be hidden in the same manner.  I’ll be posting it in the near future. 

Other uses of Messenger Taskbar Hider
Personally, I’ve been using Messenger Taskbar Hider to hide the icon for the main Messenger window so I could keep Messenger on a second monitor at all times without the annoyance of a taskbar button in the way.  Why use a performance-hogging sidebar gadget/widget when you can just have the real Messenger client available at your command?

Windows 7 Notes
Messenger Taskbar Hider will default to just removing the "extra" contact tile window on Windows 7.  You can change this to the full hiding of the main Messenger window by using the option shown under Options below.

Note that if you’re looking to bring back the notification area icon (by the clock), this application will not do this at this time.  Instead simply set Messenger’s msnmsgr.exe executable into Vista compatibility mode.

With Hide extra Windows 7 window mode turned on:
 

Without Messenger Taskbar Hider on Windows 7:

How to use
All you need to do is just run the installer.  It does not require administrative rights to install nor to use (similar to the Google Chrome experience).  It will automatically start and begin working immediately after installation and will set itself to start when you login to Windows.

Options
You can get the Options window by going to the Start menu and searching for Messenger Taskbar Hider (for XP users it will be under the Jonathan Kay All programs group).  The Stop button will stop Messenger Taskbar Hider from running and Check for updates will see if there have been any updates to the application.

You can uncheck ‘Run at startup’ to stop Messenger Taskbar Hider from running when you login to Windows and unchecking the ‘Monthly version check’ will stop Messenger Taskbar Hider from checking once a month for a new version automatically.  On Windows 7 the ‘Hide extra Win7 window only’ option will appear which removes only the extra window that appears on Windows 7 (see above under Windows 7 Notes).

Requirements
Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7
Both 32-bit or 64-bit supported
Windows Live Messenger (any version)

Download

Version history:
1/5/2009  1.0.0.0  Initial Release