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Power Toys for Windows XP

For those of you who use Windows, Microsoft offers a set of “Power Toys,” programs which are very useful addons to Windows (although be forewarned, Microsoft also provides no support for them). They can be found here.

I’ve used TweakUI in the past to modify system attributes and was searching for a copy to put on my new laptop and stumbled on the rest. I’ve installed a few:

  1. Cleartype Tuner – Ok if you don’t want to install any of the other stuff, seriously consider installing this. Your eyes will thank you to no end. It activates the Cleartype Technology that comes with Windows but is never activated which will improve the anti-aliasing of your text and allows you to customize just how you want the text to look. It cuts down on eyestrain incredibly and just plain makes text look better. I can’t really describe how, you have to see it for yourself.
  2. Synctoy – is something that they should’ve put in Windows to begin with, but it essentialy allows you to sync two folders or devices so that their files can be the same or that you can regularly push updates onto one or the other — or anything at all. Now I don’t have to manually keep my mp3 player in sync with my music folder 🙂
  3. Alt-Tab Replacement – I don’t often get Mac envy, but I seriously love Expose. This isn’t Expose, but it gives screenshots of the windows when you use the Alt-Tab shortcut to move between windows. It has a strange way of dealing with chat program windows, but other than that it makes it easier to navigate between say — Firefox windows
  4. TweakUI – Lets you modify almost anything that can be modified in Windows or Internet Explorer that you normally can’t touch. Want the Internet Explorer titlebar to say “Microsoft sucks”? You can do that. Want it to say “bow down to Ben”? You can do that too. (And other more interesting/important changes as well)
  5. Power Calculator – Not a very elegant tool, but it has basic symbolic manipulation and graphing calculator functionality. I don’t particularly like it (so I uninstalled it immediately) especially as you can get decent, hassle-free freeware graphing software like Graphmatica, or just use Mathematica or MATLAB to do stuff.
  6. Open Command Window Here – I like DOS. A lot. This gives me an easy way to get to the command prompt at a specific folder just by right-clicking. Hence, Ben is happy.
  7. Virtual Desktop Manager – It is a pretty basic virtual desktop manager which lets you operate multiple desktops at once. I don’t like how there’s no good hotkey to cycle between different desktops, nor is there a good way to transfer windows between desktops, so I uninstalled it and installed Virtual Dimension which does provide all the functions that I want (although no preview of all desktops feature) and is pretty simple to use. I have only found use for this when I’m doing research and need to manage bajillions of open windows, but if that sounds like something you want/need, I would recommend trying Virtual Dimension.

There are a bunch of other Power Toys like Image Resizer (which allows you to resize multiple images at once) and HTML slideshow (which lets you create HTML slideshows of photos quickly) and Webcam timershot (has your webcam take pictures every given interval and stores them somewhere) which I just haven’t found to be particularly relevant or useful, but you should feel free to give them a try.

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