If you’ve already heard of Microsoft’s Power Toys, chances are that you have installed them on your Windows XP machine. For the uninitiated, Power Toys add fantastic functionality to Windows. Many users feel that the Power Toys features should come as part of the standard Windows installation.
Note: although Microsoft makes these Power Toys freely available, it does not support them in any way. If you use them, you do so without support.
Previous versions of Power Toys were packaged in a single file, but the Windows XP version requires you to download each of the 10 components individually. The benefit of individual downloads is that you select the components you wish to install, and save time downloading.
Here we give an overview of each Toy’s capabilities, and if you decide to download one, you can get if from www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/home/downloads/powerToys.asp.
After downloading Power Toys, installation is fairly painless process. First you must uninstall any Power Toys that were not designed for Windows XP using the Add/Remove programs utility. Then, double-click the Power Toys file that you want to install and follow the instructions. Depending on the Toy, the installation process will create a shortcut in the Start Menu, add an option to the right-click context menu, or add extra functionality to an existing Windows XP feature.
Here is an overview of each of the 10 Power Toys available. Use this as a guide to see which will be of most use to you.
The ToysOpen Command Window Here: This Power Toy allows you to open a command window by right-clicking any system folder and selecting the option from the context menu. The useful part is that the command window that opens will point to the folder you are currently in.
Alt-Tab Replacement: With this Toy, Alt-Tab browsing is taken to the next level. In addition to a panel of icons indicating currently opened programs, you will also get a thumbnail of each program’s open window as you browse through them. This is especially useful when multiple instances of a program are running. You may notice some delay as the thumbnails are generated. (See FIGURE 1).
Tweak UI: This is the killer Power Toy that all Windows XP users really should install. Tweak UI gives you access to system settings that are not exposed in the Windows XP default user interface, including mouse settings, Explorer settings, taskbar settings, and more (see FIGURE 2).
Power Calculator: If you have a need for a more powerful calculator than the standard Windows one, then the Power Calculator is for you. You can graph and evaluate functions as well as perform many different types of conversions.
Image Resizer: With this Toy, image resizing has never been easier. Simply select the images you wish to resize, right-click and choose the Resize option. You can then select from four predefined sizes or set a custom size.
CD Slide Show Generator: This Power Toy adds additional funct-ionality to Windows XP’s standard CD burning wizard. An additional step allows you to create an autorun file that will present images as a slideshow. This is particularly useful when creating a CD that will be used on computers that don’t have Windows XP’s slideshow features.
HTML Slide Show Wizard: In the same way that the CD Slide Show Generator allows you to create a slide show of images burned to CD, this Toy allows you to create HTML slide shows of your images.
Virtual Desktop Manager: The Virtual Desktop Manager allows you to manage up to four desktops from the Windows taskbar. If you open a whole pile of programs and like to be super organised, this Toy may beneficial.
Webcam Timershot: What use you would have for this Power Toy is beyond me. All it does is capture pictures at specified time intervals from your webcam and save them to a specified location. It could be used as a low-end surveillance camera, perhaps.
Taskbar Magnifier: If you have ever had a need to use Windows XP’s standard magnifier feature, you may want to check this one out. Otherwise, forget about it.