SolutionBase: Manage color on Windows XP with the Color Control Panel Applet

Things aren't always as they appear. This is doubly true when you talk about color on Windows XP. Sometimes what you seen on screen isn't what you get when you print it out. Here's how to get control of color on XP using the Color Control Panel Applet.

With more and more people using Windows XP to work with digital photos and images, it's important to results that contain accurate colors. One way that you can improve the quality of pictures and graphics is to use the Color Control Panel Applet for Windows XP.

What is the Color Control Panel Applet

Many people are not familiar with the Color Control Panel Applet because it is not included with Windows XP. It is a free add-on from Microsoft that can be used to take advantage of color technology built into Windows XP known as Image Color Management (ICM) 2.0. Once the applet is installed, you can use it to perform the following tasks:

  • Install and uninstall color profiles
  • Inspect, rename, and compare two different color profiles
  • View a 3D graphics plot of color profile gamuts
  • Associate color profiles with devices such as printers, monitors, and scanners
  • Apply custom color gamut adjustments to one or more displays "on the fly"
  • Set up display calibration reminders at intervals you specify

Author's Note

In this daily drill down I will outline the steps you need to complete in order to install the Color Control Panel Applet as well as how to configure the various color settings. This article assumes you are running Windows XP.

System requirements

Before you install the Color Control Panel Applet, you should be aware of the system requirements. It is only supported for use on Windows XP (Home or Professional Editions) with Service Pack 2.

There are no specific hardware requirements, other than your system must meet the minimum hardware requirements for Windows XP and have a connection to the Internet. Finally, the Microsoft.NET Framework version 1.1 is required. If it is not already installed on your computer, it will automatically be installed when you run Setup for the Color Control Panel Applet.

Installing the Color Control Panel Applet

Once you have met the system requirements, you are ready to install the Color Control Panel Applet for Windows XP. You can download the program from Microsoft's Web Site. Under Download, click WinColorSetup.exe.

Once you select the download, you will be taken to another Web page. Before you can begin the download, you must click Continue to validate your copy of Windows XP. Once the validation process is complete (and assuming your copy of Windows XP is genuine), you can click the Download button. From the File Download - Security Warning dialog box that appears, click Save and specify where you want to save the setup file. Click Close when the download is complete.

Before you launch the setup of the Color Control Panel Applet, Microsoft suggests that you adhere to the following guidelines to make the installation process go more smoothly.

  • Make sure that all the latest updates for Windows XP are installed on your system. You can visit the Windows Update Web site to see if any required updates are missing.
  • Exit any programs that you may have open. The setup program may alter system files that are shared amongst multiple programs.
  • Log onto Windows XP with a user account that has administrative privileges.

The installation process is very simple. When you are ready to begin, locate and double click the executable you saved earlier on your computer called WinColorSetup. From the Security Warning dialog box, click Run. At this point, Setup will install any missing components such as the Microsoft.NET Framework version 1.1. If necessary, click Install and click OK to add this component. It can take several minutes and you will need to restart the system in order to complete the installation.

Once the system restarts, click Run from the Security Warning dialog box and click Next. The wizard will walk you through the rest of the installation process as described below:

  1. Read over and accept the license agreement and click Next.
  2. By default, the program is installed to the C:\Program Files\Pro Imaging Powertoys\Microsoft Color Control Panel Applet for Windows XP directory. Click Change to select a different location or click Next to accept the default.
  3. Click Install to begin the installation.
  4. Click Finish.

Using the color applet

After setup is complete, you can manage all of your color settings using the color applet that is added to the Control Panel as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

The Color Applet is added to the Control Panel.

Double click the applet to access the Color Settings dialog box shown in Figure B. From the Color tab, you can configure Image Color Management (ICM) and Display Calibration. Under Image Color Management, Windows will list the color management modules (CMMs) that are installed. These modules are used by ICM to perform color conversions and mappings between devices that are using color profiles. Windows XP does include a CMM while certain applications may install additional ones.

In order to maintain the color consistency of your computer monitor, it may have to be calibrated periodically. Under Display Calibration, you can configure Windows XP to remind you after a specified number of days that it is time to recalibrate.

Figure B

The Color Settings dialog box

The Profiles tab shown in Figure C allows you to install and manage color profiles. A color profile is similar in concept to a user profile. It stores specific information about color characteristics of devices and how to map colors between them. The color profiles can be used by applications to ensure the consistency of colors between devices such as monitors, printers, and so on. You can switch between color profiles based on the device that you are using.

If you select a color profile from the list, some of the profile information is displayed such as what type or class of profile it is (such as printer or monitor), where it is stored, the version, and the size. By clicking the magnifying glass in the corner of the dialog box, the Color Plot dialog box will appear and you can view the profile's gamut. If multiple color profiles are installed, click the Compare check box and select a color profile to compare against the current profile.

Figure C

The Profiles tab is used to install and manage color profiles.

The Devices tab shown in Figure D is used to view the ICM-compatible devices on the computer and the color profiles that are currently associated with each device. As you can see, the devices are grouped by type. You can use the drop down arrow to see all the devices of a specific type, such as Printers, that are currently installed.

Once you select a device from the list, you can see the color profiles that are associated with it. This list can be modified using the Add and Remove buttons. You can also select a specific profile and set it as the default color profile for a device.

Finally, at the bottom of the dialog box, you can configure the Printer Profile Selection. There are two choices available: Automatic or Manual. If Automatic is selected (and it is be default), windows will determine which color profile to use. Conversely, you can manually select the color profile. Keep in mind though that some programs, such as Photoshop, may ignore this setting and use its own method for selecting a color profile to use.

Figure D

The Devices tab is used to view ICM-compatible devices and associated color profiles.

That's all there is to it

If you want to have access to advanced color management in Windows XP, then you should install the Color Control Panel Applet. Installing applet is not difficult as long as you complete the required pre-installation tasks. The Color applet that is added to the Control Panel will make it easier for you to manage advanced color settings.