Microsoft PowerToys

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.


PowerToys for Windows 95

This was the first version of Microsoft PowerToys and included many tools for advanced users. One of the best known ones is TweakUI - a tool that is used to customize the user interface and advanced settings in Windows. It does this by modifying the registry. A total of 15 "PowerToys" were included in this package. They include:

  • CabView - To open cabinet files like ordinary folders
  • CDAutoPlay - To make AutoPlay work on any non-audio CD
  • Command Prompt Here - To start a command prompt from any folder in Windows Explorer by right-clicking (native in Windows Vista onwards)
  • Contents Menu - To access folders and files from a context menu without having to open their folders
  • Desktop Menu- To open items on the desktop from a menu on the Taskbar
  • Explore From Here - To open Windows Explorer view from any folder such that that folder acts as the root level folder
  • FindX - To add drag-and-drop capabilities to Find (now called Search) menu
  • FlexiCD - To play an audio CD from the Taskbar.
  • Quick Res - To quickly change the screen resolution
  • Round Clock - An analog round clock without a square window
  • Send To X - Shell extensions which add several commonly accessed locations such as clipboard, desktop, command-line or any folder to the Send To context menu in Explorer
  • Shortcut Target Menu - To access the target file a shortcut is pointing to from the context menu or directly cut, copy, delete the target, create shortcut to the target or view its properties.
  • Telephony Location Selector - For mobile computer users to change their dialing location from the Taskbar
  • Tweak UI - To customize the user interface, including menu speed, window animation and other settings
  • Xmouse 1.2 - To make the window focus follow the mouse without requiring to click the window to make it active

The Windows 95 Power Toys set was developed by the Windows Shell Development Team. Most Windows 95 PowerToys worked correctly up to Windows XP but do not install or work correctly beginning with Windows Vista due to extensive changes to the shell and the introduction of User Account Control. Also, on 64-bit operating systems, these 32-bit shell extensions cannot work.

Windows 95 Kernel Toys

After the huge success of the Windows 95 PowerToys, the Microsoft Windows Kernel Development Team released a set of tools for power users called Windows 95 Kernel Toys. Six tools were included in this package, including a Windows Task Manager-like application called WinTop, and a utility called Keyboard Remap, which allowed the user to reassign functions to keys on the keyboard. The kernel toys include:

  • MS-DOS Mode Configuration Wizard Customization Tool - To configure Windows startup files without having to manually edit CONFIG.SYS or AUTOEXEC.BAT files
  • Keyboard Remap - To reassign functions to keys on the keyboard
  • Logo Key Control - To configure MS-DOS games so that Windows will ignore the Windows logo key while the game is running
  • Conventional Memory Tracker - To unwrap the memory used by the "vmm32" program
  • Windows Process Watcher (WinTop) - To watch how much of CPU resources are taken by individual programs
  • Time Zone Editor - To create and edit time zone entries for the Date/Time Control Panel applet

PowerToys for Windows XP

PowerToys for Windows XP is the second version of the PowerToys set, and is a major change from the Windows 95 version. The tools are now included in separate downloads rather than in a single compressed executable file. Many tools[which?] that were distributed with Windows 95 PowerToys are no longer part of this release as some functionality of the Windows 95 PowerToys has been incorporated into later versions of Windows, such as the ability to treat .CAB files like ordinary folders.

Included applications

The following PowerToys for Windows XP are now available:[1]

  • Alt-Tab Replacement Task Switcher replaces the simpler Alt-Tab switcher with a more visual one which shows live window previews.
  • CD Slide Show Generator generates a slideshow from photos burned to a CD.
  • ClearType Tuner allows customizing ClearType settings to make it easier to read text on the screen.
  • Color Control Panel Applet allows managing color profiles, changing color profile associations for devices, viewing detailed properties for color profiles (including a 3D rendering of the color space gamut).
  • HTML Slide Show Wizard generates an HTML slideshow presentation.
  • Image Resizer allows right-clicking on multiple image files inside Windows Explorer to batch resize them.
  • Open Command Window Here allows starting a command prompt from any folder in Windows Explorer by right-clicking.

PowerToys Power Calculator
  • Power Calculator is a more advanced graphical calculator application than the built-in Windows Calculator; it can evaluate more complex expressions, draw a Cartesian or polar graph of a function or convert units of measurements. Power Calculator can store and reuse pre-defined functions, of any arity. For example, a function can be set by cube(x) = x * x * x, and later it can be used in an expression like 5 + cube(4).[2] It does not evaluate every time an operator is entered. Rather, the entire expression must be entered for calculation. In the Numeric mode, it presents a visual keypad, in all other modes the expression has to be typed in. A scrolling text area maintains a history of all calculations. The advanced view allows declaring and graphing functions, along with a list of all the saved functions. A flyout window provides the option of choosing either a Cartesian co-ordinate system or polar co-ordinates. It can also save a list of variables for use in expression. Unit conversions of the following types are supported: length, mass, time, velocity, and temperature. PowerToy Calc has support for typing calculations using Reverse Polish Notation (RPN). It can calculate up to 500 precision levels beyond the decimal point and supports complex numbers. [3]
  • RAW Image Thumbnailer and Viewer provides thumbnails, previews, printing, and metadata display for RAW images from within Windows Explorer.
  • SyncToy allows synchronizing files and folders.
  • Taskbar Magnifier magnifies part of the screen from the taskbar.
  • Tweak UI customizes Windows XP's user interface and advanced settings.
  • Virtual Desktop Manager allows switching between four virtual desktops from the taskbar.
  • Webcam Timershot takes pictures at specified time intervals from a webcam.

Retired components

The following PowerToys for Windows XP are now retired:[1]

  • Background Switcher added a slideshow tab to Display properties and allows automatically changing the desktop wallpaper periodically. Although, Background Switcher is now retired, a replacement, known as Wallpaper Changer, is now available from Microsoft.[4]
  • Internet Explorer Find Bar added toolbar to Internet Explorer that allowed users to search for keywords in a web page. This feature is now natively supported by Internet Explorer 8.[5]
  • ISO Image Burner burned ISO images to an Optical disc recorder. This feature is now integrated into Windows 7.[6] In addition, Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit includes two similar tools (CDBurn.exe and DVDBurn.exe).[7] Although Microsoft has retired this Power Toy, it is now available as the unauthorized ISO Recorder Power Toy.
  • Shell Audio Player was a Windows Media Player-based compact player which allows playing music from the taskbar.
  • Super-Fast User Switcher allowed Fast User Switching or logging on to a different account using the Windows key+Q combination without requiring to switch to the logon screen.
  • Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel could mount an ISO image as a virtual drive.[8] It was designed for Windows XP, but it also worked with Windows Server 2003.[9] It was a free alternative to software such as Alcohol 120%.[10]

PowerToys for other Microsoft products

Microsoft has also released PowerToys for Windows XP Tablet PC Edition[11] and Windows XP Media Center Edition[12]. As part of the Windows Media Player Bonus Pack, another set of PowerToys for Windows Media Player was released. Finally, Microsoft has also released Windows Mobile PowerToys for Developers[13], Visual Studio[14][15][16] and Microsoft Office OneNote.[17][18]


  1. ^ a b "PowerToys for Windows XP". Microsoft Corporation. 25 September 2008 (Last update). Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  2. ^ MalekTips - Download a Free Graphing Calculator
  3. ^ PowerCalc in Windows 7
  4. ^ "Download details: Windows XP Creativity Fun Pack PowerToys Wallpaper Changer". Microsoft Corporation. 22 April 2003. Retrieved 10 January 2010. 
  5. ^ "Internet Explorer 8: Features (Section: Better Find on Page)". Internet Explorer 8 web site. Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved 8 January 2010. "Internet Explorer 8 includes a completely redesigned Find On Page toolbar, which is activated by pressing Ctrl-F or choosing Find On Page from the Edit menu or Search box drop-down." 
  6. ^ LeBlanc, Brandon (13 April 2009). "Burn ISO Images Natively in Windows 7". Windows Experience Blog. Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved 8 January 2010. 
  7. ^ "Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools". Microsoft Corporation. 28 April 2003. Retrieved 14 April 2010. "Cdburn.exe: ISO CD-ROM Burner Tool [~snip] Dvdburn.exe: ISO DVD Burner Tool" 
  8. ^ Lowe, Scott (18 December 2008). "How to use CD & DVD image files without burning discs". Microsoft Musings. Retrieved 8 January 2010. 
  9. ^ Lowe, Scott (19 December 2006). "How to back up without the hassle of physical media". TechGuides. TechRepublic.,39044904,61975618,00.htm. Retrieved 8 January 2010. 
  10. ^ "XP: Small, Free Way to Use and Mount Images (ISO files) Without Burning Them". TECH-RECIPES. 27 August 2004. Retrieved 8 January 2010. 
  11. ^ "Microsoft PowerToys for Windows XP Tablet PC Edition". Microsoft Corporation. 29 June 2004. Retrieved 7 January 2010. 
  12. ^ "Microsoft PowerToys for Windows XP Media Center Edition". Microsoft Corporation. 17 January 2005. Retrieved 7 January 2010. 
  13. ^ "Download details: Windows Mobile Developer Power Toys". Microsoft Corporation. 2 February 2009. Retrieved 7 January 2010. 
  14. ^ Kelley, Jeremy. "Welcome to Power Toys Pack Installer". CodePlex. Retrieved 7 January 2010. 
  15. ^ Ford, Sara. "Power Toys WebLog". Microsoft Developer Network. Retrieved 7 January 2010. 
  16. ^ "Visual Studio Power Toys are Back". 25 June 2008. Retrieved 7 January 2010. 
  17. ^ "PowerToys for OneNote 2003". Microsoft Office web site. Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved 7 January 2010. 
  18. ^ Guin, John. "PowerToys for OneNote". OneNote Testing. Microsoft Developer Network. Retrieved 7 January 2010. 

External links

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