Why did we create Varpanel? What does it do? Why should you care? Read on to find the answers...
Varpanel is a tool all about simplifying the management of environment variables on Windows. Varpanel was created in much the same way as HashTab - we were irritated by something and couldnt' find anything out there to address the problem, so we fixed it ourselves. If you are thinking "this sounds like a giant waste of time" then (nerd alert) you probably haven't had the pleasure of needing to frequently modify environment variables. If you are, then you probably cringe at this dialogue (if you can find it):
This is the default environment variable editor that comes with Windows 7. There are a few problems with this dialog:
1. It’s too small! It’s hard to find what you are looking for because you can’t see very many variables at once and their values are mostly chopped off
2. To make #1 worse, you can’t resize it
3. It’s hard to find on Windows XP. You go to Computer -> Properties -> Advanced -> Environment Variables. On Windows 7 you can just type “Environment Variable” at the start menu and you get control panel links so this isn’t really as much of a problem
If those were the only those problems we wouldn’t have spent the time to create Varpanel. The worst part of the default environment variable editor is this guy:
This dialog is tiny and editing long variable values is painful using this UI. If you have ever needed to make changes to your path, and you’ve copied the value and pasted it into notepad so that you could actually LOOK at it, then Varpanel is for you. If you don’t feel the pain right now, then you probably don’t care about Varpanel and you should just stop reading this.
Varpanel is a functional replacement for the built-in environment variable editor. It is a Control Panel applet. Hence Var for environment variables, panel for Control Panel applet. How does Varpanel address the above problems?
1. Resize. All dialogs are completely resizeable
2. Search. You can search for text in environment variable names and values to find what you are looking for
3. Smarts. Varpanel knows about environment variables by name. It knows that PATH is a list of paths separated by semi-colons. It knows that JAVA_HOME specifies exactly one PATH. Based on the type of the environment variable Varpanel allows you to invoke an appropriate editor
4. Updates. Varpanel anonymously contacts a web service to download new environment variable metadata when it is available. So as more environment variable definitions are added, Varpanel gets smarter.
That’s all. It’s a pretty simple solution to a minor irritation. Here’s an image of Varpanel in action:
Here’s how you edit your PATH with Varpanel. Notice that all the paths are fully visible and you can browse for paths if you don’t want to type:
The Varpanel installer will put three files on your system and will not install desktop or start menu shortcuts. You will find it in Control Panel under the name “Environment Variables” and you can search for it that way from the start menu in Windows 7:
Let us know what you think..