The Windows
XP PowerToys are set of applications and utilities
that you can download and install for free from Microsoft. They are not
officially part of the operating system, but Microsoft makes them available as
enhancements to the released product. In many cases, the functionality they
provide is something that should have been available in Windows all along, but
for some reason is not. As such, many of the Power Toys should be considered
essential to the proper functioning of the OS. Here is a list of 10 of the more
useful free utilities you can download at the Windows XP Power Toys site.


Note

Keep in
mind that while Microsoft ensures that the PowerToys for
Windows XP work as described, it stops short of guaranteeing the package.
Furthermore, the toys aren’t officially supported by Microsoft, which means
that Microsoft Technical Support won’t answer questions on problems with the PowerToys.


Table A

PowerToys

Description

Tweak UI

This
utility allows you access to various user interface options and settings not
available in the normal Windows XP control panel, like mouse and taskbar
settings.

Clear
Type Tuner

This
utility helps you tune the shape and width of the fonts on your screen to
better match your particular eye using ClearType
Technology. This is a must for anyone with less than perfect vision.

Alt-Tab
Replacement

For many
power users the Alt-Tab keyboard shortcut for switching between running applications
is a vital part of their interaction with Windows XP. Besides showing the
icon of the application being switched to, this Alt-Tab Replacement Power Toy
adds a thumbnail preview of what the window looks like making the switch that
more intuitive.

Image Resizer

Whether
you are dealing with digital photographs of your children’s birthday party or
screenshots for a million-dollar presentation, there will come a time when
you will want to change the size of an image. This utility places that
functionality in the right-click menu for any image file you can access
through Windows Explorer.

SyncToy

The
newest Windows XP PowerToy is the SynToy, which was released in
August 2005. This utility lets you synchronize two file folders on the same
PC or different PC’s across a network.

RAW Image
Thumbnailer and Viewer

With this
feature addition to Windows Explorer you can manipulate images in the RAW format as easily as you can JPEG or GIF images. The
RAW format is the default format produced by most digital cameras.

Open
Command Window Here

Sometimes
you just can’t get around it—sometimes you need to use a command line to do a
job and do it right. This little utility will open a command line prompt in
the selected directory rather than the root directory, which is the default.

Power
Calculator

While the
calculator app that ships with Windows XP is adequate for basic math
calculations, you will often find yourself looking for some additional
functionality. The Power Calculator provides those additional features
including functions, graphing, precision settings, and basic, but useful,
conversions.

Virtual
Desktop Manager

Power
users tend to have numerous applications running at the same time. During a
major project for example, the number of applications running can be
difficult to manage. With the Virtual Desktop Manager PowerToy
you can create up to four separate virtual desktops, each with its own set of
running applications. This powerful tool can help you manage your time and
increase your overall efficiency.

HTML and
CD Slide Show Wizard

This last
tool is really two separate PowerToys that do the
same thing, only in different places. These slide show wizards
help you set up an image gallery as a basic slide show on either a CD-ROM or
in HTML. This handy utility is good for automating simple presentations that
don’t need the extra features available in PowerPoint for example.


Installation

Installing
the PowerToys for Windows XP is easy. Double-click
the PowerToySetup.exe installation file, and the install wizard will begin the
procedure. When you get to the Setup Type page, you can choose either the
Complete or Custom setup options.