Windows XP PowerToys

· microsoft
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I always found that the Microsoft PowerToys to be very useful, but you never really hear about them. Hence, here is my review of the Microsoft PowerToys for Windows XP.

Microsoft PowerToys is a set of programs provided by Microsoft for the Windows operating system. PowerToys are not integrated into Windows since they are released after the public release of a Windows operating system. They are also not under technical support because they do not undergo the same rigorous testing that the operating system components do.

A few of the features implemented in these add-ons are now features of Windows Vista and/or Windows 7, but as I explained in a previous post “Installing Windows XP on the Fujitsu Amilo Li3710”, I prefer the simplicity and non-bloated-ness of XP over the fancy GUI in Vista and 7.

The first thing that I missed about Linux when I changed back are the virtual desktops. There is a PowerToy to solve this problem.

Virtual Desktop Manager

The Virtual Desktop Manager creates four virtual desktops. Once installed, simply enable by right-clicking the taskbar and enabling the Desktop Manager toolbar. You’re provided with a set of buttons on the right hand side, where you can switch to virtual desktop 1-4, or view all the desktops at once. These actions are also accessible via keyboard shortcuts:

⊞ Win + V: View all workspaces
⊞ Win + 1: View desktop 1
⊞ Win + 2: View desktop 2
⊞ Win + 3: View desktop 3
⊞ Win + 4: View desktop 4

Open Command Window Here

The open command window here opens a Command Prompt instance using the directory you’ve selected in Windows Explorer. Whilst the Command Prompt is nowhere near as useful as a bash shell, it’s very handy to be able to navigate through Windows Explorer to find the working directory you’re after.

Alt-Tab Replacement Switcher

Got a silly number of Windows open? This is a problem I run into quite often, and when they’re all the same application, switching with the taskbar or alt-tab can be hard. You end up going through all your open windows just to find the one you want.

The Alt-Tab Replacement Task Switcher replaces the Alt-Tab window with one that shows previews of the windows that you have open.

Tweak UI

This PowerToy 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. It was originally included with Windows 95 and I had a play with it then.

My favourite setting included here is an Explorer setting, allowing you to remove the shortcut arrow from shortcuts. It makes the icons on your desktop look a lot cleaner. Of course, there are countless other settings in this utility and I’ve not even started on looking at them all.

PowerToy Calc

A calculator, that’s not the mickey mouse calculator that’s included with Windows. It has support for graphing, functions, user-defined variables and constants. Very useful for doing anything that requires more than just plus, minus, multiply and divide. There’s also a calculation history that you can view to keep track on larger calculations.

ISO Image Burner

Previously, there was an ISO image burner included in the PowerToys pack. This PowerToy has been retired, although it’s still available unofficially from Alex Feinman’s website.

Download the PowerToys

If you’d like to try out any of these PowerToys, or some of the others I haven’t covered here, check out: Microsoft PowerToys for Windows XP on the Microsoft Website.

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