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Tools for Power Users - Microsoft PowerToys for Windows XP

written by: Pranav Thadeshwar•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 5/18/2011

These tiny toys will add missing functionality or features to your Windows XP installation. While not full fledged applications, these add-ons are pure bang-for-the-buck since they're completely free and almost always very useful. Check out this list of Windows XP PowerToys.

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    Microsoft PowerToys for Windows XP are a set of add-on applications released by Microsoft to fill some tiny gaps in the functionality of the OS or add features which aren't necessarily important for the general public. If you are a power user though, some of these applications can be very useful in performing tasks which would otherwise require you to pay for third-party applications. Here is a list of PowerToys released by Microsoft for Windows XP:

    • Color Control Panel Applet
    • SyncToy
    • RAW Image Thumbnailer and Viewer
    • ClearType Tuner
    • HTML Slideshow Wizard
    • Open Command Window Here
    • Alt-Tab Replacement
    • Tweak UI
    • Power Calculator
    • Image Resizer
    • CD Slide Show Generator
    • Virtual Desktop Manager
    • Taskbar Magnifier
    • Webcam Timershot
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    Image/Graphics Related Toys

    Color Control Panel Applet: Professional and Hobbyist designers tend to work with multiple color profiles while designing. Changing between these color profiles, setting different profiles for different hardware like printers and monitors, and helping you calibrate your devices to recognize/show colors as per your requirements are some of the features provided by this applet. Once installed, you can find this applet in the Control Panel.

    Image Resizer: Forget having to download special tools to resize your images. This PowerToy will allow you to do that from the right-click menu. Just choose one of the preset sizes or specify your own. This tool also resizes multiple images simultaneously.

    RAW Image Thumbnailer and Viewer: If you own an expensive camera, you're surely heard of RAW images. This special image format cannot be edited in a graphics application directly, since you first have to convert/develop the RAW image into a bitmap image format like JPG or BMP. This PowerToy allows you to view thumbnails, previews, metadata and print these RAW images.

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    Slide Show Related Toys

    CD Slide Show Generator: If you're burning a CD full of images, you can use this slide show generator so that users on other computers will get to view a slideshow when they insert the CD inside their computers. It integrates into XP's CD Burning Wizard to provide this functionality seamlessly. The slideshow CD will work on old Windows computers too.

    HTML Slide Show Wizard: If you'd like to put your photographs/images online instead of on a CD, this tool will come in handy. It will generate a complete HTML gallery for you that you can put online without having to code the pages yourself. Very handy!

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    Tools for Power Users

    SyncToy: If you work with multiple computers, you'll surely want certain files synchronized between them so that you don't have to copy/move them to all the computers yourself. Here's where SyncToy comes in handy. It allows you to set up directories which will be synchronized across all the computers. When you run the toy, it will scan the network for changes in the specified directories and update the files on all the computers to the latest versions.

    Open Command Window Here: If you work with the command prompt, you've been through the usual drill of cd'ing and cd..'ing to get to the folder you want to work with. And if that folder is quite deep, you're going to waste time just navigating to it. This PowerToy will let you simply right click on the folder and give you an option to start a command prompt with that folder directly.

    TweakUI: If you want to modify XP's user interface, look no further than this tool. It has a gold mine of settings to help you tune the user interface of your OS through hundreds of settings. This could easily be the most powerful toy in this set.

    Virtual Desktop Manager: If you've been working with Linux, you must have loved the virtual desktop functionality provided. For people not well versed with Linux, you can now have multiple virtual desktops which can have have different windows. Think of it as having 4 different monitors. So if you're multitasking with lots of applications at the same time, you can move these applications to separate virtual desktops and unclutter your working area. This toy allows you to have 4 virtual desktops which can be managed/switched from the Windows taskbar.

    Power Calculator: For everyone who needs to work with moderately complex math, the Power Calculator will come in handy. It includes support for graphing, functions and conversions.

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    Miscellaneous Toys

    Alt-Tab Replacement: This tool changes the behavior of the Alt+Tab functionality in Windows XP. So now, instead of getting a box with program icons to switch through, you get previews of the actual windows themselves. This is similar to the kind of functionality found in Windows Vista or Windows 7 natively. Unfortunately, unlike the newer versions of Windows, XP's desktop isn't 3D accelerated, so using the Alt-Tab switcher bogs down the system as it creates previews for each window you're cycling through.

    ClearType Tuner: If you're using an LCD as your display device, you should have turned on ClearType in Windows. This functionality uses subpixel rendering (kind of like antialiasing) to provide smooth text on certain displays like LCD or flat-panel. This toy allows you to tune the ClearType settings to match your exact preferences.

    Taskbar Magnifier: If your vision is impaired in any way, this tool will come in very handy. It basically shows a magnified version of whatever you're pointing your mouse on, on the taskbar.

    Webcam Timershot: This tool allows you to setup predefined intervals at which a connected webcam will take pictures, and save them in a specific folder.

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    While not incredibly feature-packed, these small tools will go a long way towards scratching those tiny itches which would either require you to buy a full application or forfeit the functionality. Microsoft has compiled a page where you can find links to all the different PowerToys I've just mentioned. Click here to go to the PowerToys page and then navigate to or download the toys you want.