Windows Vista is possibly the most feature-rich operating system (ok, from the Microsoft stable). But it's perennially hungry for resources. Install it on a PC with 1 GB RAM and a crash is inevitable. The XP interface, on the other hand, is familiar, lighter on resources and is a workhorse. But does moving to XP mean you have to give up the fancy Vista applications? Not necessarily. Microsoft offers PowerToys, a collection of utilities, that works easily on XP. These are useful, mostly light, enhance XP, and most importantly, are free.
1. Alt-Tab replacement | Size: 534 KB
Alt-Tab is one keyboard shortcut that even tech newbies pick up to navigate through open windows and programs. PowerToys offers an enhancement of this shortcut; download the Alt-Tab Replacement and you can see a thumbnail preview of windows in the task list in addition to the icon of the application window you are switching to.
Download from: http://download.microsoft.com/download/whistler/Install/2/WXP/EN-US/TaskswitchPowertoySetup.exe
2. Virtual desktop manager | Size: 550 KB
This utility allows you to have up to four virtual desktops, all accessible and managed through the Windows taskbar. If you have several applications running or many windows open on your desktop, this tool can make managing them much easier. Make sure to go through the properties after installing it to customise it for yourself.
Download from: http://download.microsoft.com/download/whistler/Install/2/WXP/EN-US/DeskmanPowertoySetup.exe
3. RAW image thumbnail and viewer | Size: 5.8 MB
This is a very useful tool for photographers and designers. It allows you to view, organise and print photos captured in RAW image formats from supported Canon and Nikon digital cameras. You can also work with digital RAW files in Windows Explorer in the same way as you do with JPEG file formats.
Download from: http://www.microsoft.com/prophoto/downloads/raw.aspx
4. Image resizer | Size: 521 KB
This PowerToy enables you to resize one or many image files with a right click and reduce it to one-tenth its original size—and still provide an excellent image. When resizing, you can pick from one of the four standard sizes or a size that you specify. You can also choose to resize the original image or create a new one.
Download from: http://download.microsoft.com/download/whistler/Install/2/WXP/EN-US/ImageResizerPowertoySetup.exe
5. SyncToy | Size: 1.1 MB
As the name suggests, SyncToy synchronises files and directories created by your digital cameras, e-mail, cell phones, portable media players, camcorders, PDAs and laptops. It is an easy-to-use customisable program that does the heavy lifting involved in copying, moving and alignment of various directories.
Download from: http://www.microsoft.com/prophoto/downloads/synctoybeta.aspx
6. Power calculator | Size: 624 KB
This should make anyone seem like a geek: a Power Calculator that goes way beyond the capabilities of the normal Windows calculator. You can use it for graph functions and can generate outputs in binary, hexadecimal and decimal systems. In addition, it has lots of built-in trignometric and logarithmic functions. The calculator even has a conversion feature for altering length, mass, time, velocity and temperature units.
Download from: http://download.microsoft.com/download/whistler/Install/2/WXP/EN-US/PowerCalcPowertoySetup.exe
7. HTML slide show wizard | Size: 416 KB
This wizard lets you create an HTML slide show for your digital pictures, which can later be transferred to your Website, blog or online profile for your family and friends to view. Follow the steps of the wizard to select and arrange your pictures, choose from a few simple options, and then save a Web-ready HTML slide show to a folder specified by you.
8. ClearType Tuner | Size: 2 MB
This is one of the most helpful features available, especially for those who work on the computer at a stretch. It uses ClearType technology to make it easier to read text on the screen. ClearType delivers improved font display quality over traditional forms of font smoothing or anti-aliasing. It also enhances readability on colour LCD displays, such as those in laptops and high-quality flat panels.
Download from: http://download.microsoft.com/download/b/7/0/b7019730-0fa3-47a9-a159-98b80c185aad/setup.exe
9. Tweak UI | Size: 147 KB
This is a full-fledged customisation utility that allows you to control just about every aspect of the Windows XP user interface. This is just one of the several things you can do: if you want to control the behaviour of your mouse, you can change the hover time or the number of lines that are scrolled when you move the scroll wheel.
Download from: http://download.microsoft.com/download/f/c/a/fca6767b-9ed9-45a6-b352-839afb2a2679/TweakUiPowertoySetup.exe
10. Colour control | Size: 1.4 MB
Again, a good utility for photographers and designers, who know the importance of getting consistent and accurate colours from file to print to Web, and the problems that one can face in calibrating. The Color Control Panel Applet adds a new 'Color' item to the control panel, providing viewing and editing colour management settings.
Download from: http://www.microsoft.com/ prophoto/downloads/colorcontrol.aspx