Microsoft

SolutionBase: Exploring the best tools in the Microsoft Partner Pack for Windows

Microsoft already includes almost everything but the kitchen sink in Windows XP. The Partner Pack may not be the whole sink, but there are plenty of additional things you can find in it that can be very useful. Here's what you'll find.

In October of 2004, Microsoft very quietly released Microsoft Partner Pack for Windows, a free add-on pack for Windows 98 SE, Windows ME, Windows 2000, and Windows XP that includes 11 applications from Microsoft and a select group of 3rd parties. What makes these applications special is the fact that rely solely on Microsoft .NET technology and modern Smart Client application architectures that extend the operating system's capabilities.

The Microsoft Partner Pack for Windows' 11 applications include a nice mix of productivity, utility, and entertainment applications that are broken down into five following categories:

  • Play
  • Share
  • Protect
  • Explore
  • Do more

Of course, not all of these applications have a place in the enterprise, but there are several applications that are a good fit. And best of all, you can install only those applications that you want. You don't have to install the entire package just to get good ones you're interested in using.

In this article, I explain the special procedure you must follow when downloading the Microsoft Partner Pack for Windows. I'll introduce you to the four of most useful applications that I've found in the Microsoft Partner Pack for Windows. As I do, I'll point each application's coolest features.

Downloading the Partner Pack applications

To download those applications that you're interested in, just point your browser to the Microsoft Partner Pack for Windows Web site. When you arrive there, you'll need to run the Check And Update procedure before you can download any of the applications. Essentially, this procedure makes sure that your operating system has all the necessary components. You'll need the following components:

  • Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1
  • Microsoft Data Access Components 2.8
  • Microsoft J# runtime
  • Direct X 9.0c and managed DirectX
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 SP1

When you click the Get The Microsoft Update for Windows button, you'll be prompted to launch the Prerequisite Installer and will either click Run or Open, depending on what operating system you're running. As the Prerequisite Installer runs, it will determine which components, if any, are needed. If the installer determines that any components are required, it will prompt you to agree to the respective EULA and then download and install the component.

As soon as the Check And Update procedure is complete, you'll discover that the links in the Individual Downloads section are now active and you can download at will. When you click any of the links, you'll see a standard download dialog box and will be prompted to save or run the installation file.ï¿?

Onfolio Express

Since you're reading this article on the TechRepublic Web site, I'm going to assume that spend a lot of time researching various computing and networking related topics on the Internet. If so, chances are good that your Favorites menu is choke full of links to articles and information that you've encountered during your forays. To keep track of all your links, you've probably created topical folders for organization. Even so, remembering what, let alone finding, specific information in the Favorites is a real chore. That's where Onfolio Express comes to the rescue.

Onfolio Express is an intriguing application that is designed to make it super easy for you to manage and organize your internet research. Not only does it allow you to save and organize links to content you find on the Web into what Onfolio calls collection, but it also allows you to manage the content by renaming it, organized it into folders, annotating it with comments, flagging it, sorting it, and even searching your collections.

What's make Onfolio even more awesome is that it not only integrates with Internet Explorer, yet can be run as a standalone application and can even interact seamlessly with Microsoft Office applications as well most other common applications. This means that in addition to organizing your links, Onfolio will allow you to add and associate documents to your collections.

When you run Onfolio for the first time, you're prompted to make a choice as to which version of the program that you want to use. The first option is Onfolio Express, which is completely free but only includes the basic features. If you choose Onfolio Professional, you'll have access to all of the productï¿?s features for a 30-day trial. When the trial period expires, you have the option to purchase a license for $99.95. If you choose not to purchase the license, the Professional edition will revert to the Express edition. As such, thereï¿?s nothing to loose by opting for the Onfolio Professional 30-day trial.

In order to get the most out of Onfolio, I strongly encourage you to watch the online Getting Started Tutorials, shown in Figure A. Theyï¿?re very well done and will teach you a lot in a very short period of time!

Figure A:


Onfolio is an awesome tool to use for keeping track internet-based as well as local content.

Microsoft Time Zone

Do you regularly communicate with people and businesses in cities in other time zones? Wouldnï¿?t it be cool if you could tell at a glance what time it is in those other time zones? Well, that's the whole idea behind the Microsoft Time Zone utility.

Once installed, you'll find the Microsoft Time Zone utility as an icon in the system tray and can configure it to display up to 5 different time zones. Click the icon once and you'll see the My Locations balloon, as shown in Figure B, which shows the time in the cities you've specified.ï¿?

Figure B:


At the click of your mouse, the Microsoft Time Zone utility will display the time in up to 5 different time zones.

eTrust EZ Antivirus 2005

If you support a SOHO network and have a small budget, what could be better that free antivirus software from a recognized leader in the industry. With a copy of eTrust EZ Antivirus 2005 from Computer Associates along with the free 12 months of virus protection updates, that's just what you'll get.

EZ Antivirus 2005 provides you with everything you need to keep your PC safe from viruses, worms, and Trojan horses including automatic, real-time, and scheduled scans of files, downloads, emails and attachments and well as a daily update schedule. And to top it all off, EZ Antivirus 2005 provides you with a super clean user interface that features four simple tabs that provides easy access to a variety of options and features. As you can see in Figure C, each section is highlighted on large buttons with mnemonic icons and very straightforward descriptions.

Figure C:


EZ Antivirus from Computer Associates is a top notch utility that is perfect for a SOHO network.

Microsoft USB Flash Drive Manager

As you probably know, USB flash drive devices are quickly taking over the function once held by 3.5 floppy disks. From the tiny thumb and pen drives to the slightly larger credit card drives, which all vary in capacity from as small as 8MB to as large as 2GB, these new USB flash drives and are really fulfilling the promise of complete freedom and mobility when it comes to transporting large amounts of data. (Keep in mind that as this technology advances, chances are that we'll see even greater capacities.)

Using USB flash drives is a very simple plug and play operation. You simply plug the device into a USB port and in a few moments the device is assigned a drive letter and is available in My Computer. You can then simply copy files back and forth. What could be easier?

The USB Flash Drive Manager is designed to expand this ease of use by providing you with additional ways to manage and share the data you store on your flash drive. The key feature in this tool is the Backup/Restore component essentially allows you to create images of various data sets that you typically store on your flash drive. This can come in handy in a number of situations.

For example, suppose that you save a PowerPoint presentation along with some supporting Excel and Word documents on your flash drive. When you're done with the presentation, you can use the Backup feature to back up those documents to your hard disk, delete them from the flash drive, and then use the flash drive to transport other data. Then, when you need to make the presentation again, you can use the Restore feature, shown in Figure D, to quickly prepare the flash drive. Using the features on Manage Library tab will allow you to rename your backup images, add or delete files from the image, and even add an AutoRun sequence to the image.

Figure D:


The Backup/Restore component of the USB Flash Drive Manager provides you with an easy way to manage sets of data that you typically use your flash drive to transport.

Other features of the USB Flash Drive Manager will allow you to assign a name to your flash drive that appears each time you insert it into your computer, copy files to your flash drive, and even save your Wireless LAN configuration.

The other components

As I mentioned, the Microsoft Partner Pack for Windows comes with 11 applications and I've examined the 4 that I think are the most useful. However, to be fair, I will briefly go over the other 7 applications, in case you might be interested.

Post-it Software Notes

This is the lite version of 3Mï¿?s software edition of their Post-it notes. Using this application you can create and place the little yellow reminders on your computer desktop.

Google Deskbar

The Google Deskbar sits on your taskbar and allows you to quickly perform a search without having to launch your browser first. The results appear in a small window that closes automatically when switch tasks.

Desktop Media Gallery

The Desktop Media Gallery provides you with easy access to a collection of templates and images from PixelMill and Corbis.

PhotoSite

PhotoSite is a photograph management and sharing application that allows you to create a Web site for sharing your digital photos.

PayPal Payment Wizard

The PayPal Payment Wizard integrates with Outlook and Outlook Express and allows you to add PayPal payment buttons to your email messages.

Super Slyder Serpentine

A couple of interesting distractions from the folks at Sandlot Games.

About Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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