72. PowerToys let users customize
By Andrew D. Wright
Most readers are familiar with Microsoft's Windows Operating System
and know that it can be customized a great deal to suit the needs of
the user. Probably fewer are aware that there are a number of tools
created by Microsoft to help with this. These are called "PowerToys"
and we'll take a look at some of them here.
Microsoft's Windows PowerToys are a free download from the Microsoft
website, but since Microsoft does not consider them to be an
official part of Windows, they do not provide any additional
technical support for them. Most of these PowerToys are for Windows
Probably the most famous PowerToy is TweakUI. This powerful user
interface tool was first released after Windows 95 came out and
allows a user to change everything from how the mouse behaves to the
appearance of desktop icons. Do you want to clear your document
history on shutdown automatically? Turn off AutoPlay on your CD or
DVD drives? Repair incorrectly displayed desktop icons? TweakUI does
this and dozens of other tasks from setting up automatic logging on
to the computer to customizing what icons are shown in Control Panel.
Another handy PowerToy is the replacement for Alt-Tab task
switching. The new Alt-Tab not only switches from one open task to
another but also shows a preview window for each task. This is very
useful when you have multiple windows of the same application open.
The Virtual Desktop Manager gives Windows XP users a new ability
which Linux users have had all along: the power to switch between
different desktops at the same time for the same logged in user.
With this PowerToy, you can have four different desktops - each with
its own wallpaper - and click from one to another with a handy
taskbar button. You can select whether you want to share open
applications between desktops or not, and a preview button will show
you all four desktops at the same time.
The Taskbar Magnifier is a particularly useful PowerToy. It takes a
piece of your taskbar and shows a magnified view of the area around
your mouse pointer. You can select from 8x, 4x, 2x and even 1x
magnifying power and resize the magnifier area on your taskbar as
large or small as you wish. This is just the thing for when you come
across some small type you need to read.
While not strictly speaking a PowerToy, there is a new Windows XP
version of the familiar MSCONFIG system startup manager tool that
has shipped with Windows since Windows 98. This new version keeps
the old familiar format but adds a new tab for Tools. This new tab
puts more than a dozen different control options for Windows XP in
one easy to find place.
Windows XP PowerToys (includes TweakUI for Windows XP):
TweakUI for Windows 2000, Windows NT, Windows Millennium Edition,
Windows 98 and Windows 95:
New MSCONFIG for Windows XP:
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Originally published 13 November 2005