Each release of the Windows client OS has been accompanied by a set of add-on utilities known as PowerToys, and Windows XP continues this trend. PowerToys offer a variety of enhancements to the base OS. Microsoft PowerToys for Windows XP is a set of 10 separate downloads that you can obtain from http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/pro/downloads/powertoys.asp. This month, I introduce you to 10 of the XP PowerToys.

10. Open Command Window Here—I use the Open Command Window Here utility, my perpetual favorite, many times a day. This utility adds the Open Command Window Here option to the Windows Explorer context menu. Selecting this option opens a command window that points to the currently selected folder in Windows Explorer.

9. CD Slide Show Generator—Microsoft has always emphasized XP's graphical capabilities, and the CD Slide Show Generator (and several other XP PowerToys) reflects this emphasis. The CD Slide Show Generator adds an option to XP's CD-burning menu to create a slide show of the images burned on the CD. You can run the generated CD slide show on Windows 2000, Windows NT, and Windows 9x systems as well.

8. HTML Slide Show Wizard—The HTML Slide Show Wizard steps you through the process of creating an HTML-based slide show from digital pictures that you've saved on your system. You can easily upload the resulting slide show to the Web for display in Web browsers.

7. Taskbar Magnifier—The Taskbar Magnifier utility lets you magnify a portion of the screen. To use the Taskbar Magnifier, you right-click the taskbar, select Toolbars, then choose Taskbar Magnifier. The utility opens a window on the taskbar that magnifies anything under the mouse pointer.

6. Webcam Timershot—Working in conjunction with an attached WebCam or other image-capturing device, the Webcam Timershot utility takes a series of snapshots at predetermined time intervals. The utility then saves those snapshots on the hard disk.

5. Alt-Tab Replacement—The Alt-Tab Replacement utility provides a better version of the Switch To window that XP displays when you press the Alt+Tab key combination. In addition to showing the application icons, Alt-Tab Replacement shows a preview of the open page, which lets you more easily discern between multiple windows that the same application has opened.

4. Image Resizer—Imager Resizer is another graphically oriented utility in the XP PowerToys set. Image Resizer adds a Resize Pictures option to the Windows Explorer context menu. This option lets you copy graphical images stored on your hard disk and save them in the Windows wallpaper size of Large (1024*768), Medium (800*600), Small (640*480), or Handheld PC (240*320).

3. Power Calculator—If you've ever wished that the Windows Calculator were more capable, this PowerToy is for you. The Power Calculator replaces the anemic Windows Calculator with a calculator on steroids. In addition to other features, the Power Calculator provides a savable tape, the ability to calculate Trig and Log functions, and the ability to graph results.

2. Tweak UI—Tweak UI is a handy utility that has been around for several Windows OS releases. Tweak UI has always provided many useful features that power users appreciate, such as the ability to customize mouse settings, reset the CD AutoPlay setting, and customize Windows Explorer. Tweak UI for XP adds the ability to customize taskbar groupings and control the programs that appear on the Start menu.

1. Virtual Desktop Manager—Probably the coolest new utility in the XP PowerToys set, the Virtual Desktop Manager lets you create as many as four virtual desktops that are simultaneously active. To use the Virtual Desktop Manager, you right-click the taskbar, select Toolbars, then choose Desktop Manager. A Desktop Manager toolbar will appear on the taskbar. By clicking the toolbar's four desktop icons, you can switch between multiple virtual desktops.