Ever hear of Microsoftís PowerToys? Well, Microsoft has developed a series of small programs (some times called ďAppletsĒ) which it calls PowerToys. They have actually been around since Windows 95, each version of Windows having itís own set. If you are using Windows XP Ė and you should be Ė the set of PowerToys can greatly enhance some of the things you do on the computer.
PowerToys are free downloads from the Microsoft site and they are easy to install and easy to use. (Did you hear me Ė I said FREE. Microsoft is so benevolent). The key is to know which ones to install and use and which ones are useless. I will list the PowerToys and tell you which ones I have installed and use, and which ones I have installed and then uninstalled because they are useless.
Before I begin, you may just want to run out to the Microsoft site and peruse the various PowerToys. Then hop back here and read about whether you should download it. Of course, you can install them all if you want Ė even the worthless ones, and then uninstall those that you are convinced you will never use again. That's what I did. (Well - I downloaded most of them!).
Hereís the PowerToys Website:
OK Ė so some of you didnít go peruse them Ė thatís OK! I will be very brief with my comments about the various PowerToys Ė thereís a lot of them. Here we goÖ
Color Control Panel Applet
This applet helps you control colors on your screen and how they print. The key word here is Professional-level photographer. Iím not. So I uninstalled this PowerToy. You may actually like it.
This PowerToy is relatively new (Aug, 2005) and it is actually somewhat useful. You can synchronize 2 folders that are duplicates so that when you make a change to a file in one folder, it automatically updates that duplicate file in the sync-ed folder. It makes it easy to maintain backup folders of important files. A neat PowerToy that I kept.
RAW Image Thumbnailer and Viewer
Hereís another one for an aspiring photographer. This PowerToy (updated in December of 2005) will give the ability to view raw files without having to launch Photoshop or other bundled software. Got a Canon Digital Rebel XT 8MP Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 Lens? Then you may want to use this PowerToy. I didnít even download it.
If you use an LCD monitor, you can fine-tune the type on your screen and sharpen it up. It actually works. If you use a CRT monitor (the older type monitor), forget it Ė it wonít help. Itís a good download.
HTML Slide Show Wizard
This is a cool PowerToy that allows you to make a slide show that can be viewed on a website, or viewed with Internet Explorer if you donít have a website. I think itís pretty cool Ė and you donít have to be a website guru to use it.
Open Command Window Here
Use your right=mouse button to open a Command Window. If you are a geek, you will probably love this one. If you donít know what Iím talking about, forget it. (OK Ė if you really want to know what a Command Window is, click on Start, then click on All Programs, then click on Accessories, then click on Command Prompt).
I was excited about this one at first. I frequently use the Alt-Tab keys to switch to a different application. With this PowerToy, you press Alt-Tab and it shows you a thumb-nail of each open application so you can switch to the correct one. It ainít that great Ė itís slow and burdensome. So I uninstalled it and continue to use the unenhanced Alt-Tab keys. If you not in a hurry (like I am all the time), you may like it.
This is probably the most popular PowerToy. You can do a ton of stuff with it. You can customize system settings, like mouse settings, Taskbar settings, Explorer settings, and much more. Definitely download and install this one.
Need more than just simple math calculations? This PowerToy does all the advanced stuff like graph and evaluate functions. If you know what this is all about, go for it. I didnít.
This is a handy little PowerToy. Just right-click on a file of a graphic and select Resize Picture. Then you can resize the picture to the size of your choosing. You can also resize a group of pictures. This is great for quickly resizing picts for send as attachments or for just making them more manageable. Get this one!
CD Slide Show Generator
This PowerToys is similar to the HTML Slide Show Wizard except that it makes neat little slide shows that can be save on a CD. Itís fun and neat to create your own slide show of your favorite picts. A cool PowerToy.
Virtual Desktop Manager
This is the PowerToy for the person who has everything. It allows you to open applications on 4 different desktops and then switch to the different desktops. Itís frivilous and kind of a waste of computer resources. But who knows Ė you may like frivolous things, so try it!
With this PowerToy, you can magnify part of the screen from the taskbar. Itís kinda like the Magnifier tool that you find in the Accessories Folder (Start - All Programs - Accessories - Accessibility). If you have eyesight problems, it could be useful.
Uh Oh Ė I donít have a webcam Ė so I never downloaded this PowerToy. But it sounds neat. It is a little utility that improves the functionailiy of your webcam. Lots of impressive options. Go for it if you use a webcam.
Thatís it Ė but one last thing. Some of these XP Power toys actually work with earlier versions of Windows. If you run Windows 2000 or Windows 98/ME, check some of them out Ė they just may work for you.
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