99 Read Balloons Published 28th Jan 2016

99 Read Balloons

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There are few things I look forward to more than a new release of Windows. Each one comes with a dazzling array of puzzles (admittedly, most being just advanced versions of the same challenges from the previous Windows version with yet more layers of unnecessary complexity or obscurity) as well as less responsive and less useful support channels - after all, it's quite right that (like a good Commodore 64 game) the available help should decrease as you move up the difficulty levels versions).

One such “improvement” on Windows 10 (so good that calling it Windows 9 wouldn't have done it justice) was that so-called "balloon tips" are no longer used. Balloon tips were little popup help boxes, attached to a control such as a listbox or button within a program, which offered useful advice, information or warnings to the user. The notifications could also be displayed from an icon in the Taskbar. Balloons looked something like this:

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An alternative was the 'toaster', which displays popup notifications at the operating system level, like this:

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As of Windows 10, balloon tips are disabled, which means that any application that uses them will see the balloons displayed as toaster popups instead. That's a bit annoying, but what's very annoying is that the behaviour of toast popups is different from balloons. For example, if (say) 99 balloons suddenly fire in quick succession, they will just rapidly replace one another, meaning that you just have to click the last one to remove them all. Toast, on the other hand, stays until you click it or until the timeout passes - so 99 toast popups means 99 clicks or a wait of 8m 15s (assuming a five-second timeout) before you can see the bottom-right hand corner of your screen again.

Fortunately, balloon tips haven't been abolished completely - they've just been hidden away and disabled. Here's the workaround:

  • Press Windows Key + R to display the 'Run' box.
  • Enter 'gpedit.msc' (without the quotation marks) and press Enter to run the Local Group Policy Editor. [If this fails, you're probably running Windows Home Edition - see * below for an alternative method.]
  • Navigate to 'User Configuration' => 'Administrative Templates' => 'Start Menu and Taskbar':

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  • Double-click 'Disable showing balloons notifications as toasts.'.
  • Change from 'Not Configured' to 'Enabled' and press OK.
  • Close the Local Group Policy Editor.
  • Reboot.

And your balloon notifications will once more appear as nature intended.

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Level 10 done! Bring on Windows 11...

* NOTE: If you're running Windows Home Edition, the Group Policy Editor isn't available so you have to edit the Registry directly. This sounds scary, but it's really quite straightforward:

  1. Press Windows Key + R, type 'regedit' (no quotation marks) and click OK.
  2. If this is your first visit to the Registry, take a deep breath, then pretend you're looking at Windows Explorer.
  3. Navigate to 'HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Explorer'. (If the 'Explorer' part doesn't exist, you'll need to create it: left-click the parent folder ('Windows') in the left-hand side of the screen, then right-click the right-hand side, select 'New' => 'Key' and type 'Explorer'.)
  4. Right-click the right-hand side of the screen, click 'New' => 'DWORD' and type (without the quotation marks): 'EnableLegacyBalloonNotifications'.
  5. Right-click this new entry, click 'Modify', type '1' (no quotation marks) and click OK. (See below for screenshot.)
  6. Close the registry and reboot.

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