Windows XP PowerToys
Ever since the release of Windows 95, Microsoft has supplied a set of PowerToys for
each of the major Windows operating-system. PowerToys are small applications that
enhance the operating system's functions in a number of ways, enabling users to boost
productivity, configure the system UI in various ways and, generally, to expand the
operating system's capabilities. Since the initial release, PowerToys has become a
favorite of most users, and the popularity is understandable. It is easy to understand why
users began asking whether PowerToys would be included in Windows XP when the
operating system was still under development. Microsoft didn't disappoint. You can
download PowerToys for Windows XP from either http://www.microsoft.com/downloads
Note Windows XP PowerToys are mainly intended for Windows XP workstations.
However, most of them also run on Windows Server 2003. Further, while they were
not intended for network servers, there are some PowerToys that are useful even
when installed on computers running Windows Server 2003. Particularly worth
mentioning are Open Command Window Here, and Tweak UI.
Open Command Window Here
Open Command Window Here is one of the most valuable PowerToys, allowing you
easily to drop to the command prompt from any Windows Explorer folder. This is a
PowerToy that should be installed even on network servers. After it is installed, the Open
Command Window Here menu item will be available in the right-click menu in any
Windows Explorer folder. Just right-click on a folder, choose Open Command Window
Here, and a command prompt session (with the selected folder as the default directory)
will open. Additionally, if you right-click on a folder icon in a Windows Explorer
window, will also have the Open Command Window Here command available in the
If you like to work at a command prompt, this toy is a must-have.
Tweak UI for Windows XP
The Windows XP version of Tweak UI is the most valuable of all PowerToys included in
the current release. It provides a safe and convenient way of customizing various system
settings, which are not available in the default Windows XP/Windows Server 2003 user
interface. To achieve the same result without Tweak UI, you would need to edit the
system registry. As was mentioned in Chapter 1, this tool provides alternative methods
for editing the Registry, which are usually safer than those using Regedit.exe.
In contrast to all of the previous releases of Tweak UI, which were included as Control
Panel applets, Tweak UI for Windows XP is a standalone executable file. You can place
this EXE file in any folder and start it from there, since it doesn't have to be installed
prior to use. Tweak UI for Windows XP displays a hierarchical tree of available options
in the left pane. After you select an option in the left pane, the right pane will display the
available configuration settings (Fig. 14.1).
Figure 14.1: Tweak UI for Windows XP
Note Before you install Windows XP PowerToys and start playing with this version of
TweakUl, make sure that you have deleted any older copies of TweakUl.
The new Tweak UI enables you to do carry out practically any kind of customization,
including a number of difficult tasks, such as configuring various UI visual effects, error
beeps, cursor shadow, etc.; and configuring the taskbar, shell folders, etc. As was already
mentioned in this chapter, to produce the same result without Tweak UI, would have to
edit the system registry. For example, the Colors category provides you with an easy way
of customizing the colors used by Windows Explorer to display compressed and
encrypted files (Fig. 14.2). As you may recall, the method for achieving the same effect
through editing the system registry was covered in Chapter 4. In addition to changing the
color for compressed and encrypted objects, TweakUI provides the Hot-tracking option,
which enables Windows to display names in a different color when you point to them
with the mouse (provided that you have enabled the single-click user interface). In
contrast to customization of the colors used to display compressed and encrypted objects,
which, as you should remember, modify the AltColor and AltEncryptionColor
REG_BINARY values under the
registry key, the Hot-tracking option modifies the HotTrackingColor string value under
HKCU\Control Panel\Colors registry key.
Figure 14.2: The Colors subcategory of the Explorer category in TweakUI
In concluding our discussion of PowerToys for Windows XP, you should understand that
installing these tools is your choice. Furthermore, we didn't cover all of the Toys included
in this collection in this chapter. Instead, we paid particular attention to the tools that
seem to be the most useful and convenient. If you like the new Windows XP user
interface, you will probably like many of the other Toys not covered here.