This weekend, Microsoft alerted me to the pending release of four new Fun Packs for Windows XP. The freely downloadable packs are designed to help users be more creative with the built-in digital media and communications features in the company's most recent client OS. These special spring-themed Fun Packs add features and functionality to Windows Media Player (WMP) 9 Series, Windows Movie Maker 2, and the digital photography and Web browsing functionality in XP. There are also two new PowerToys for XP, the company tells me.

Starting Tuesday, April 22, XP users who download the free Fun Packs will receive the following extras:

- a Web blog plug-in, 3-D Alchemy visualizations, and spring-themed 3-D Picture Viz add-ons for WMP 9.

- six new video titles, three music tracks, five music transitions, and 50 sound effects for Windows Movie Maker 2.

- fifteen new greeting card templates for special springtime occasions, such as Mother's Day, Father's Day, weddings, and graduations.

- five new title slides for Plus! Photo Story, part of Microsoft Plus! Digital Media Edition.

- more than 70 Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) Favorites that connect users to a wide range of spring-themed Web sites. Microsoft tells me these sites can help you to find the perfect gift for Mother's Day, buy a digital camera, plan a hike, start a garden, get a start on baseball season, and much more.

- two new Windows XP PowerToys. The Video Screen Saver PowerToy lets you play any Windows Media Video (WMV) file as your XP screensaver, and the Automatic Desktop Wallpaper Changer PowerToy provides revolving desktop-wallpaper functionality.

The new Fun Packs, as well as some recently updated content about using Windows Movie Maker 2 and the other digital media and communications features in XP, will be available Tuesday on the Microsoft Web site.