From The Tips Box: Distraction-Free Word, Gmail Sneak Peeks

Readers offer their best tips for using Word as a distraction-free word processor, getting bigger message sneak peeks in Gmail, and getting around VPNs that route you through firewalled networks.

About the Tips Box: Every day we receive boatloads of great reader tips in our inbox, but for various reasons—maybe they're a bit too niche, maybe we couldn't find a good way to present it, or maybe we just couldn't fit it in — the tip didn't make the front page. From the Tips Box is where we round up some of our favourites for your buffet-style consumption. Got a tip of your own to share? Email it to tips at

Enable Distraction-Free Writing in Microsoft Word

David shares a lesser-known feature about the newest version of Microsoft Word:

After reading the article about the best distraction-free writing tool, I saw that the new Microsoft Word wasn't mentioned. On the Bottom Left is a fullscreen button (the rightmost button), along with options and tools when you're actually in the distraction free zone.

Add Scroll Bars to Gmail's Message Sneak Peeks

Dustin Luck shares a Stylish script that allows for larger "peeks" at your Gmail messages:

I've been enjoying the Gmail "Message Sneak Peek" lab for a while, but the one thing that was bothering me was that it offered such a small peek. To make it more useful (for me at least), I added scroll bars to the sneak peek window with the following Stylish script:

@namespace url(;

@-moz-document domain("") { div.yp { overflow: scroll !important; } }

If you don't already have the Stylish Firefox extension, you'll need it for this to work.

Run VPNs in XP Mode to Avoid Their Filters

Michael tells us how he gets around his work VPN's filters:

Thought people might find this tip useful... it is for people who need to connect to VPNs for work purposes.

The problem:

Usually when you VPN to another network, all your internet traffic is diverted through the VPN, which may happen to be another company you are working for. Often they have firewall filters, that block email sites, IM and online music services (for example). This is a big pain if you are working full time on something that requires a VPN - you cannot utilise your own internet connection! My specific annoyance is that Grooveshark is blocked by my counterpart's VPN, so I can't listen to music while I work.

The solution:

For Windows 7: Use the "XP Mode" feature of Windows 7 (free). This installs a Virtual PC running Windows XP inside Windows 7. Install your VPN software inside the Virtual PC, and work inside the Virtual PC for all tasks that require the VPN. The Virtual PC runs in a window, so you still have access to everything else you normally do. However, you now can use your internet connection firewall free AND work at the same time!

Note: there are obvious alternatives with all other operating systems using this method, and using other software such as VMware.

This technique is now being used by a lot of my colleagues - it really makes a difference. I also realised you can run the virtual apps outside of a VM window meaning it's seamless - the VPN apps open in Windows 7 even though they are running in a VM behind the scenes. Very cool!


    Try unchecking "Use gateway on remote network"... all VPN traffic will run through the VPN, all Internet traffic will run through your local router.

    Your way is obscenely convoluted...

      +1 Totally agree.

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