The history of the Windows PowerToys


During the development of Windows 95, as with the development of any project, the people working on the project write side programs to test the features they are adding or to prototype a feature. After Windows 95 shipped, some of those programs were collected into the first edition of the Windows 95 Power Toys.

As I recall, the first edition contained the following toys:

CabView
This was a handy internal tool which also served as a test of the shell folder design.
CDAutoPlay, DeskMenu, FlexiCD, QuickRes
These were side toys originally written by shell developers for their own personal use.
Command Prompt Here, Explore From Here
These were proof-of-concept toys which tested the shell command extension design.
Round Clock
This was a program to test regional windows.
Shortcut Target Menu
This was a feature idea that didn't quite make it.

I wasn't around when the decision was made to package these toys up and ship them, so I don't know what the rule was for deciding what was PowerToy-worthy and what wasn't. Nor do I know where the name PowerToy came from. (Probably somebody just made it up because it sounded neat.)

Upon the enormous success of the PowerToys, a second edition was developed. This time, people knew that they were writing a PowerToy, as opposed to the first edition of the PowerToys which was merely cobbled together from stuff lying around. The second edition of the Windows 95 PowerToys added FindX, Send To X, the Telephony Locator Selector, XMouse, and Tweak UI.

Later, the kernel team released their own set of toys, known as the Windows 95 Kernel Toys. Alas, the original blurb text is not on the Microsoft downloads site, but here's an archived copy. (In reality, it was I who wrote all of the Kernel Toys, except for the Time Zone Editor, which came from the Windows NT Resource Kit. I also wrote the somewhat whimsical original blurb.)

This was all back in the day when it was easy to put up something for download. No digital signatures, no virus checking, no paperwork. Just throw it up there and watch what happens. Today, things are very different. Putting something up for download is a complicated process with forms to fill out in triplicate and dark rooms with card readers. I wouldn't be surprised if an abandoned salt mine in Montana were somehow involved.

Nowadays, every team at Microsoft seems to have their own PowerToys, trading on the good name of the Windows shell team who invented the whole PowerToys idea. (As far as I can tell, we don't get any royalties from other divisions calling their toys "PowerToys".) A quick check reveals the following PowerToys available for download from Microsoft; I may have missed some.

(Plus, of course, the Windows XP PowerToys, which does come from the shell team. The Internet Explorer team originally called their stuff PowerToys, but they later changed the name to Web Accessories, perhaps to avoid the very confusion I'm discussing here.)

What's frustrating is that since they are all called "PowerToys", questions about them tend to go to the shell team, since we are the ones who invented PowerToys. We frequently have to reply, "Oh, no, you're having a problem with the XYZ PowerToys, not the classic Windows PowerToys. We're the folks who do the classic Windows PowerToys."

Even the blog name "PowerToys" has been co-opted by the Visual Studio team to promote their Powertoys for Visual Studio 2003.

Some people claim that Tweak UI was written because Microsoft got tired of responding to customer complaints. I don't know where they got that from. Tweak UI was written because I felt like writing it.

That page also says that sometimes PowerToys vanish without warning. That's true. A few years ago, all the Windows XP PowerToys were taken down so they could be given a security review. Some of them didn't survive and didn't come back. Other times, a PowerToy will be pulled because a serious bug was found. Since PowerToys are spare-time projects, it can take a very long time for a bug to get fixed, tested, and re-published. For example, the HTML Slide Show Wizard was pulled after a (somewhat obscure) data-loss bug was found. Fixing the bug itself took just a few days, but testing and filling out all the associated paperwork took six months.

There's no moral to this story. Just a quick history lesson.

Comments (81)
  1. typhoon121 says:

    very cool blog entry now if only the powertoys could be updated on a regular basis

  2. Thanks for making the PowerTools available – particularly TweekUI. TweekUI is always the first thing I install on a new PC so I can get all those obscure settings working just the way I want them to. I am sure it has saved me many hours of digging though the registry trying to find out how to fix some trivial annoyance.

    Jonathan

  3. Jonathan says:

    FYI – "Microsoft PowerToys for Windows XP Tablet PC Edition" link goes wrong site.

  4. tweakui says:

    A question many people has asked themself: Why isnt tweakui shipped with os?

    There’s also Windows Mobile Developer Power Toys. Recommended download for pocketpc-developers!

    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=74473fd6-1dcc-47aa-ab28-6a2b006edfe9&displaylang=en

  5. Hmm.

    Step 1: Convince Softies that your pet shell- or possibly kernel-related thingy (e.g., gratuitous chevrons all over the place) is interesting.

    Step 2: Ensure that Softies have tons of free time (hmm — maybe talk to BillG about scrapping this Longhorn thing).

    Step 3: Profit.

  6. GregM says:

    I really miss the zoom "in/zoom out", "add to trusted zone" and "add to restricted zone" tool I used to have with IE5. The page you linked to is also for IE5, though it doesn’t have the zone controls (which I think were in a separate download). Do you happen to know if there’s a similar site for IE6 as well?

    Thanks!

  7. quanta says:

    I remember as a kid, chuckling at that whimsical README.txt. The DOSWINKEY.INF was very useful for playing FPSs like Doom. TweakUI was a godsend for correcting all kinds of Windows annoyances (menu response time anyone?). It showed me that despite the marketdroids best efforts, the engineers at Microsoft still "kept it real".

    I still think Windows NT Time Zone Editor is one of the strangest things ever made. Whose country is so political unstable they need to change their time zones??

  8. Not Raymond says:

    I can imagine some reasons TweakUI isn’t shipped with the OS.

    One, Microsoft supports the OS for all kinds of users. The more gadgets you add that make it easy for confused users to break their systems, the more users will break their systems and be dissatisfied (or call Microsoft support).

    Two, Microsoft has development processes. They design applications, test code, review it, do usability work, translate the UI, have issue tracking and change control, etc. Because TweakUI didn’t go through all this, it probably isn’t ready for prime time, no matter how good a developer Raymond is. Certainly not for Russian speakers, anyway.

    Which raises the question — where are the Swedish and Mandarin localizations of TweakUI?

  9. Mike Dunn says:

    On a fresh OS install, the first two things I install are WinZip followed by TweakUI. Back when I was doing QA and before Ghost was around, I had to rebuild machines often and I got quite adept at flying through TweakUI’s tabs and hitting all the right checkboxes.

  10. DaveP says:

    The main page for Web Accessories is here:

    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/previous/webaccess/default.mspx

    Zoom In/Zoom Out is part of "Internet Explorer 5 Web Accessories"

    Add to trusted zone is part of "Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 Power Tweaks Web Accessories".

    "Microsoft Web Developer Accessories" is also pretty cool, cause it has "View Partial Source" – which is also handy for viewing HTML after Javascript has had its way with the DOM.

    They mostly work on IE6.

  11. AC says:

    Raymond, I must also thank you for TweakUI. TweakUI is so amazingly helpful. I also vote for its inclusion in the system (although I know that such votes don’t count where Montana salt mines are involved).

    As I write this on Win 2K box, I just took a look on the TweakUI control panel. And I have a question, not directly related (I know, suggestion box would be better, but then this comment would contain only "me too"): why can’t the dialogs from control panels or from file properties etc be seen in the taskbar. When there are more application opened, and the user opens some file properties, or control panel, then click on another application and covering the dialog, it’s almost impossible to get the dialog back using the mouse. I know there’s Alt-Tab, but nothing on the taskbar. Since these windows belong to Explorer (just a guess, haven’t checked) why not get them all topmost at least by clicking on the empty taskbar space? Anybody knows about some traces of solution in newer Windows?

  12. Anonymous Coward says:

    Thank you very much for these tools!

    For people who don’t know, the good folks at http://www.sysinternals.com have taken up the mantle of kernel tools.

    Process Explorer is fantastic for working out what is going on on your machine. It even shows you threads within processes and can download symbols to give you function names. It even shows threads in ‘System’ which amount to device drivers. Using that I was able to work out that when doing compiling C++ code, the stupid virus checked was using 40% of CPU all hidden as some threads in System.

    The various other monitors (registry, file, network, serial) are good. I even use the contig program for those occassions when the normal defragger doesn’t want to do much.

  13. I like TweakUI too.

    And please don’t take out the "auto login" feature of it in some "security review"! :-)

  14. Leonardo Brondani Schenkel says:

    Dave: it would be great if Windows did that (it does not). But depending if the state in question is applying DST or not, people would still have to remember to tick/untick the checkbox that configures if Windows will automatically correct for DST or not.

    This also raises an interesing question: if I update the DST rules in Windows and I have old files with the modification date in previous year DST, and the same date this year is not DST (or vice-versa), the time of the files will be one-hour off. That is not Windows fault; it’s the fault of the stupid politicians. (This could be corrected if Windows DST rules were temporal. I think Unix timezone rules are.)

  15. Jonathan says:

    quanta: In Israel, DST is decided year-by-year, after a short arm-wrestle between the religious parties (who want it to end sooner – I think it’s about some prayers they have to say really early morning, around September) and the left-winged parties (who want later).

  16. Where can I download the Media Player powertoy. The download page you linked to does not have a download link.

  17. Mutexed says:

    I miss the original HTML printer driver PowerToy.

  18. Daev says:

    You wrote the original Windows 95 Kernel Toys? Wonderful! Perhaps you can answer this question that boggled me for years: How did WinTop work?

    Anyone who tried to get the CPU time of a process on Win95/98/ME knew that the appropriate Win32 API functions weren’t available. And yet there was WinTop, spilling every process’s CPU time to the screen once per second. (And only once per second; that wasn’t configurable.)

    It engendered much envious speculation among us developers about how you did it. Feel like spilling the beans?

  19. Sven says:

    Raymond, I’m waiting for the x64 version of TweakUI. Unfortunately the x32 version doesn’t run on Windows XP x64. :o(

  20. Raymond Chen says:

    Daev: GetLastUpdatedThreadExecTime.

    Sven: I thought I threw together one for x64 beta testers. I haven’t had time to work on Tweak UI in years. This blogging thing sucks up all my time now.

  21. Raymond Chen wrote the original Tweak UI for Windows 95. In a post on his most excellent blog, The Old New Thing, he tells the history of the Windows PowerToys. It’s fun reading, especially given that this is the 10th anniversary of Windows 95. But I’m linking to it here because it also includes this most excellent list of all the other PowerToys that have since snuck out of other groups at Microsoft and are available for various Windows platforms: Microsoft PowerToys for Windows XP Tablet PC Edition PowerToys for the Pocket PC PowerToys Fun Pack PowerToys for Microsoft Office OneNote 2003 Microsoft PowerToys for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004 PowerToys for Windows Media Player for Windows XP Windows XP Creativity Fun Pack PowerToys Wallpaper Changer (Plus, of course, the Windows XP PowerToys, which does come from the shell team. The Internet Explorer team originally called their stuff PowerToys, but they later changed the name to Web Accessories, perhaps to avoid the very confusion I’m discussing here.) Until I read this post, I didn’t know that Raymond also wrote the original Kernel Toys for Windows 95. Nor did I know that Raymond wrote the whimsical blurb that introduced the original PowerToys. But I’m not surprised, given the cleaver, clear writing and insight that is the hallmark of Raymond’s blog….

  22. Raymond Chen says:

    "Am I mistaken?" Or I could be the one who’s mistaken. I don’t have all this stuff memorized.

  23. boxmonkey says:

    "I haven’t had time to work on Tweak UI in years. This blogging thing sucks up all my time now."

    As much as I enjoy this blog, I must insist that you stop blogging this instant. ;)

  24. Mike Dimmick says:

    Then thanks, because I’ve always thought the standard arrow overlay for shortcuts way too obtrusive. I much prefer ‘light arrow’.

    I’m still using SendToX – Send To > Clipboard As Name is the feature I use most often. I used to use Explore From Here a lot, too, but recently I just use the standard Explore option. Having the ability to turn Folders on since IE 4 (IIRC – certainly not in the original Win95/NT 4.0 Explorer) also helps.

  25. George (ex-msft) says:

    I remember back when I did Windows 95 tech support, there were five of us that spent a few hours a day resolving calls nobody else could solve.

    Some guy had spent two weeks with several support guys because he couldn’t see his CD-ROM after he added a new hard drive. He was furious. I called him, settled him down, and then went straight to TweakUI (he first claimed he didn’t know what is was) and then straight to the NoDrives option and had him uncheck everything. He hung up on me, certainly realizing he’d done this to himself.

    Project Managers point to calls like that as reasons to cut complicated features. Personally, I can recall ten times as many calls that could have been shortened had I had more tools on the customers machine.

    Sometimes in the Win2k or XP timeframe I’d moved to test and Raymond wrote, at my request, a new short shell extension that I won’t name lest he get barraged by requests for it. I’m sure some weasel PM is still out there making excuses for this often-requested feature to never be made public.

    Thanks Raymond.

    -g

  26. Anonymous says:

    » A Look At PowerToys  InsideMicrosoft – part of the Blog News Channel

  27. David Larsen says:

    "Back when I was doing QA and before Ghost was around,"

    Didn’t Ghostsoft release the first version in 1993 before they got bought by Binary Research in 1995?

  28. Aside from TweakUI itself, the absolutely hands down most useful PowerToy were "Send To Any Folder" and "Send to Clipboard". The first one because Explorer didn’t have those nifty "Copy To" and "Move To" commands built-in, and the second because it’s brilliant that you can right-click on a file and copy the full path to the clipboard (or copy the contents). I say "brilliant" because I cannot believe that Windows didn’t have this to begin with. This and the shortcut target PowerToy as well. People are amazed whenever they see me using the "Send to Clipboard" thing.

    To this day I install all those three on every machine I own, and they work great on 2003! Of course this is Microsoft’s world-class backward compatibility policy where something written for the Windows 95 shell still works fine today.

    I only wish the XP power toys worked on 2003 as well… it seems dumb that they don’t, especially since they are not supported anyway. Most especially the virtual desktops one.

    Thanks for the memories Raymond =)

  29. Justin Sippel says:

    TweakUI is one of my favorite pieces of Windows software. It’s just so damn useful.

  30. Heck, even BizTalk now has PowerToys (albeit not offical MS software)

    http://blogs.msdn.com/luke/articles/365678.aspx

    In terms of TweakUI, the best feature was the mouse drag sensitivity. I move the mouse too much when I click on something and I used to accidentally move files into other folders until tweakui let me change this setting..

  31. David Candy says:

    For SendTo (which I use twenty thousand times a day) if you send a favourite to Clipboard As Contents it copies the URL.

    I not used Any Folder as I’m a drag n dropper.

    This is what Sendto Installer tries to make one read

    To create sub menus on the Send To menu type Sendto in the Start – Run dialog box. Click a blank spot and choose New then Folder. Rename the folder to the name you want on the Send To menu. Drag your shortcuts you want on the menu into this folder.

    Put a shortcut to Sendto folder into the Sendto folder. Then when you want to add a program or folder to the Send To menu right click it, choose Send To then while holding Ctrl + Shift click Sendto.

    To get a list of files you can use the first tip on this page or install the Win 95 Sendto Powertoys (described elsewhere on this page) and send the selected files to the Clipboard As Name powertoy.

    To put the URL of a favourite on the clipboard rather than it’s name use Clipboard As Content.

    File System Objects

    ——————–

    Control

    Copies a file

    Shift

    Moves a file

    Control and Shift (but not Alt as in Drag n Drop as Alt is a menu access key)

    Creates a shortcut

    Send To Powertoys (except Send To Clipboard as Contents)

    ———————————-

    Control

    Uses the short file name rather than the long file name

    Send To Clipboard as Contents Powertoys

    —————————————-

    Control

    Displays a dialog box to select the clipboard data formats

    Installing Sendto on OS other than Win95 pre IE4.

    Install the Windows 95 Send To Power Toys. After installing go to Add/Remove programs in Control Panel and select Send To Extension Power Toys, click Add/Remove and clear the checkboxes for the three mail extensions. Type the following line in Start – Run.

    regsrv32 sendmail

  32. David Candy says:

    And I have the shortcut target extension installed. Sometimes I use it.

    Both IE4 and IE5 powertoys work on IE6. It would be unusable without them, especially zoom and partial source (how many times does one have to suck something out of a faulty web page – either find the target url to paste into Start Run or extract the info – I viewed a google’d pdf in html and every paragraph, in thois long technical document, was absolutely positioned. mshtml was having trouble).

    What I don’t get is how raymond wrote for the Shell powertoy (tweakui), kernel powertoy (all but tinezone), but tells us he worked in App Compat.

    Anyway QuickRes for NT (not the 95 one). It worked fine when I first installed XP. Last time I tried it it only ever showed the current mode. I suspect it’s going from XP’s inbuilt video nvidia drivers to nvidia reference drivers.

    The 9x people eventually got Quick Res built in to 9x. WHAT ABOUT ME, IT ISN’T FAIR.

    BTW I use nothing on sendto that comes with the OS except Sendto CD twice in three years (because I’ve burnt 4 CDs in three years – two with nero (a VCD and Music CD)

  33. Feroze says:

    As a developer, I wish MS shipped some of the powertoy concepts as part of the OS.

    For eg, I use the command shell very heavily in my development work, and miss the "New shell here" shortcut to create a command shell. I know, I know, I can install the powertoy, but methinks it should be standard.

    I am sure I can think of many things the developer in me would like to see in the shell, but I guess the 90% user scenarios are the ones that drive what gets included (or not) in the shell/os.

  34. Leonardo Brondani Schenkel says:

    quanta: In Brazil, the rules for daylight savings time change *every* year [1]. This is great because it makes it impossible for the OS to automatically correct for DST.

    [1] Brazil has not an official DST beginning and ending period; each year a federal law is made that defines when the DST will begin, when it will end and the states in which it’ll be applied. The set of states where DST is applied changes every year too.

  35. Dave says:

    "In Brazil, the rules for daylight savings time change *every* year [1]. This is great because it makes it impossible for the OS to automatically correct for DST."

    Tricky perhaps but not impossible at all. For example, Brazilian Windows could be presented a critical Windows Update patch setting the correct DST start date as soon as the annual law passed.

    I love TweakUI too, but if you have ever let a novice loose with it you have probably seen one or more problems that make it clear why TweakUI isn’t standard. My favorite is that when you hide drives in Win9x it causes the Explore option to gray out on the Start Menu. Where’s *that* connection?

  36. Raymond Chen says:

    "when you hide drives in Win9x it causes the Explore option to gray out on the Start Menu. Where’s *that* connection?"

    Easy. That "Explore" option opens Explorer with a view of your Start menu. Since you removed the drive that the Start menu lives on, you can’t Explore it.

  37. Jackson says:

    I love to read entries like this one. It is very interesting to know the things back in the Windows 95 era.

  38. J. Edward Sanchez says:

    "That ‘Explore’ option opens Explorer with a view of your Start menu. Since you removed the drive that the Start menu lives on, you can’t Explore it."

    I seem to recall that using Tweak UI to hide *any* drive would result in "Explore" getting grayed out on the Start button’s context menu. Am I mistaken?

  39. Dave says:

    "…using Tweak UI to hide *any* drive would result in "Explore" getting grayed out."

    Yep, that’s what happens. If you hide drives the Explore/Open options gray out immediately after you click Apply. I just checked with Win98 running in a VM. I like TweakUI but Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 is a must-have for developers.

  40. Jonathan says:

    David Candy (QuickREs): I use MultiRes. It’s a free download from http://www.entechtaiwan.com, makers of the well-regarded PowerStrip.

  41. Moi says:

    Why were there no PTs for Windows 98?

  42. Raymond Chen says:

    Because nobody said, "Hey, I think I’ll work late for a few months, fill out a few reams of paperwork, and release some PowerToys, for no extra pay."

  43. T says:

    @Feroz

    Just make this into a reg file

    — Start of prompt_here.reg

    REGEDIT4

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTDirectoryshellDosHere]

    @="Command &Prompt"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTDirectoryshellDosHerecommand]

    @="cmd.exe /k cd "%1""

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTDriveshellDosHere]

    @="DOS &Prompt Here"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTDriveshellDosHerecommand]

    @="cmd.exe /k cd "%1""

    — End of prompt_here.reg

    Put the reg file somewhere you can get to it, and double click on it on each machine you use. Then you can right click on a folder and select Command Prompt to get the prompt.

  44. David Candy says:

    Well someone went to some trouble to put 98’s tweakui on the 98 CD. Someone went to some trouble to write tweakui for Windows ME.

    And someone (dunno who) went to some trouble to roll QuickRes into 98.

    So, two people said "Hey, I think I’ll work late for a few months, fill out a few reams of paperwork, and release some PowerToys, for no extra pay."

    Someone also used to write wordperfect convertors for nuffin.

  45. Moi says:

    nobody said, "Hey, I think I’ll work late for a few months, fill out a few reams of paperwork, and release some PowerToys, for no extra pay"

    But the PTs are the results of "the development of any project" –

    "as with the development of any project, the people working on the project write side programs to test the features they are adding or to prototype a feature"

    And whoever it was also felt like releasing them for XP which came later. Presumably then the persons responsible did feel like working late for a few months, filling out a few reams of paperwork, and releasing some PowerToys, for no extra pay.

  46. Matt Ellis says:

    The original powertoys are still the best. Send to clipboard as name is used many times, every day, as is command prompt here. The find extensions were used loads until xp’s start page dropped the find menu.

    But the interesting question is:

    What does the shellfix.dll file do?

  47. T says:

    Sorry you need to specify a full path to cmd.exe, otherwise the shell gives it a short filename

    %SystemRoot%system32cmd.exe

    Should be OK.

  48. Alex Blekhman says:

    I became addicted to "Send to Clipboard As Name" from the first time I saw it. However, it failed to handle non-English names of files. So, I wrote my version finally.

  49. Raymond Chen says:

    Moi: Writing a little test program is one thing. Polishing it to PowerToys quality takes a lot of work (because people nowadays expect PowerToys to be quite slick in appearance), and the paperwork is quite fearsome. The PowerToys are now basically a product group without a budget.

    "And whoever it was also felt like releasing them for XP which came later."

    Yup, sometimes people feel like doing all that extra work. But notice that it happens rather rarely – there were no PowerToys for Windows 98, 98SE, ME or 2000. Don’t take the exception as the rule.

  50. Tim says:

    I would like to see a list of *toys (power, kernel, and otherwise) for all version of Windows since 95. I still use Win2K on several machines, and would like to see what toys are available for that OS. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

  51. Nektar says:

    Having multible desktops is really useful. I hope that it is included in Longhorn. Please also keep developing Tweakui. It is one of the best tools. Why all these paperwork is necessary? At least Microsoft employees can put things up for download on their own blogs or sites.

  52. Raymond Chen says:

    The people who run the Microsoft download center set the rules for what you have to do to make something available for download.

    "At least Microsoft employees can put up things for download on their own blogs or sites."

    Check with your lawyer before doing this.

  53. Nothing new, but after reading this article thought I would post the link.Some Available Features Include:ClearType TunerAlt-Tab ReplacementTweak UIPower CalculatorVirtual Desktop ManagerWebcam Timershot

  54. David Candy says:

    Well who wrote tweakui ver 1.10, 1.20, 1.33 which are for those OS’s you said noone wrote for.

    I can understand reluctence to publish. Spend 1 hour writing a test program that works. Spend a week doing the UI for that 1 hour test program. Then sit there going "gee I can spend twenty years and edit 40,000 files to make an html help file, or I can edit a single RTF file in a couple of hours and make an old winhlp file.

  55. David Candy says:

    http://blogs.msdn.com/aaron_margosis/

    He puts stuff up on his blog. And the zip isn’t on an MS server.

    Anyway I think it’s time for a new direct action group. Computer people against laywers.

  56. Anonymous says:

    Milk’s Blog » Some in-depth links

  57. Dan Shapiro says:

    Because nobody said, "Hey, I think I’ll work late for a few months, fill out a few reams of paperwork, and release some PowerToys, for no extra pay."

    This was certainly true for 95, but only partially true for XP. While I think the developers were officially discouraged from working on Power Toys during their work hours, all the paper shuffling for Power Toys XP was definitely done on the company clock. A new-hire PM was assigned to get all the paperwork done for the Power Toys and get them shipped, and the project had support from the VP level.

    On a different note, Raymond alluded to some powertoys that were cut for security reasons. Actually, they were cut for a variety of reasons–one was buggy, for example, and one fell victim to internal politics with the Windows Media Player Team.

    Here is the canonical list of all the original XP powertoys:

    Shell Player

    ISO Image Burner

    Super-Fast User Switcher

    PowerToy Calculator

    Alt-Tab Replacement

    Virtual Desktop Manager

    Background Switcher

    Photo Toys

    TweakUI

    Command Window on Folder

    Slide Show Generator

    Magnifier

    HTML Slideshow Generator

    TimerShot

    If you’re feeling daring, these came in a single file called PowerToySetup.exe (today each powertoy is shipped in a separate file). Finding a link to this file is left as an exercise to the reader…

  58. boxmonkey says:

    In the words of the Beastie Boys: "Check-ch-check-check-check-ch-check it out"

  59. RumorMill says:

    "Command Prompt Here" will be ship with next version of Windows.

    [I don’t work for Microsoft]

  60. Michael J. says:

    Bob Dobolina (Mr.)

    > Step 1: Convince Softies that your pet shell- or possibly

    > kernel-related thingy (e.g., gratuitous chevrons all over

    > the place) is interesting.

    Right! How in the names of all gods, I can turn these freaking chevrons off? I want my full menus all the time! I hate chevrons!

    And to not post twice: I hate Office team which made Word opening new document in a separate shell window instead of keeping it MDI. And, they even don’t have "MDI" keyword in the Word 2000 online help. I hate shell team for grouping shell windows belonging to separate app and putting them under one taskbar button. I hate Office team to provide the option in Word 2002 to put all documents back into MDI, because Ctrl-Tab does not work and I cannot switch the document windows from keyboard unless I do Alt+W+<number>, but I DO NOT REMEMBER NUMBERS OF MY DOCUMENTS!

    Selection behavior, table cell selecting, applying format on del/backspace is surely not the same as it was in good old days of Word 6.0. Which pushes me to the thought that Word 6.0 already had more features 10 years ago than I need now, so I am seriously thinking about dropping new cool stuff from MS and use good old proven and ERGONOMICALLY SOUND applications.

    P.S. Command Prompt Here, Explore From Here should be the part of the OS. It is stupid to run cmd from "Run…" menu and to get to "c:documents and settings<username>". Whos bright idea was, that users do not understand and do not need command prompt and that getting to it should be as hard as possible?

  61. Raymond Chen says:

    "I want my full menus all the time!" -> it’s right there in the Start menu properties. "Use personalized menus" -> uncheck.

    Could we please not hijack threads? it makes it very hard to find information later if the discussion is unrelated to the subject line.

  62. SR says:

    I love the calculator in XP PowerToys. I was searching far and wide to find something as good that would run on Win2k, but without success.

    Is there a technical reason that this excellent tool will not run on Windows 2000?

  63. Michael J. says:

    > "I want my full menus all the time!" ->

    > it’s right there in the Start menu properties. > "Use personalized menus" -> uncheck.

    It is unchecked. The problem is with Office apps. But you always say that shell team and Office team are two different beasts. When will they finally start to use standard controls instead of inventing their own? This is a rhetorical question…

  64. Raymond Chen says:

    SR: I didn’t write the calculator powertoy.

    Michael J: In the future please indicate which product you’re complaining about so as not to confuse me.

  65. Mr. Cynic says:

    Michael J:

    Office XP2003:

    Tools -> Customize -> Options -> "Always Show full menus" (check)

    Office 2000:

    Tools -> Customize -> Options -> "Menus show recently used commands first" (uncheck)

  66. JoeW (ex variable @ msft) says:

    George (ex-msft)wrote: "Some guy had spent two weeks with several support guys because he couldn’t see his CD-ROM after he added a new hard drive. He was furious. I called him, settled him down, and then went straight to TweakUI (he first claimed he didn’t know what is was) and then straight to the NoDrives option and had him uncheck everything. He hung up on me, certainly realizing he’d done this to himself. "

    George (ex-msft), was your customer’s last name Tomlin?

    When I was taking Win95 calls after launch Tomlin was famous for support calls just like this.

  67. Jon Peltier says:

    To Michael J:

    Ctrl-Tab has never switched among open Word windows. You must use Ctrl-F6.

  68. Raymond Chen says:

    I just went in and fixed the PowerCalc bug – not that it helps you any since it is unlikely that the XP PowerToys will ever be updated… (Unlike "real" product groups, the PowerToys authors don’t regularly check for crash reports on their toys.)

  69. Matthew W. Jackson says:

    I’m curious about something…I never bothered going through tech support for this since the Power Toys are "unsupported," but I wanted to point out that there is a bug in PowerToy calculator that has never been fixed.

    If you double-click in the listview that contains the list of constants (but not on a list item itself), it will *always* crash.

    Every now and then I do this intentionally and send the error report just so you guys might realize there’s a problem, but there’s never been an updated version that fixes the problem.

    I’m not pushing to get this fixed, but as a programmer I hate having a simple bug in an otherwise fine piece of software.

    Anyway, Longhorn really should come with a better calculator than CALC.EXE (and even better than the PowerToy one). It could possibly use some of Avalon’s 3D stuff for graphing. I mean, MacOS has had this for a while…

  70. Matthew W. Jackson says:

    Yeah, I didn’t figure there’d be an update. I’m sure I could hack the executable to fix it, but it’s really not worth the trouble.

    But you never know…sometimes what is a PowerToy today becomes a standard tool in the next version of Windows. CabView, for example, seems to have made its way into the OS (whether or not it’s the *same* code, I cannot be sure).

    At least now there’s one less bug that might slip through if the project is used somewhere else. Seeing as the crash reports aren’t checked for the toys, it’s good to know somebody knows about the bug now, even if there is no updated binary. (Unless for some reason you guys decide to release a X64 binaries of the power toys).

  71. Stefan Kanthak says:

    "Open Command Window Here" (as it comes from MSFT and as *.REG shown above) has several flaws:

    0. cmd.exe is specified without path, so it’s searched for in . first, where an evil guy may have placed a malicious CMD.EXE.

    Solution: use REG_EXPAND_SZ and %ComSpec% instead of REG_SZ and cmd.exe!

    1. %1 in the example given here evaluates to a SFN (see Raymonds post on how the shell determines whether the "target" can handle LFNs).

    Solution: see 0.

    2. it doesn’t work in the network neighborhood nor on UNC paths.

    Solution: replace "cd" by "pushd".

    3. it chokes on UNC paths with "can’t set current directory to …".

    Solution:

    [HKCUSoftwareMicrosoftCommand Processor]

    "DisableUNCCheck"=dword:01

  72. I was glad to see "Super-Fast User Switcher" dropped – it only worked if you were running as admin!

    Here are some reg files I carry around when setting up a new box:

    1. A fancy "command prompt here" that changes the title bar (please don’t call it a DOS box! It is *not* DOS!)

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTDirectoryshellcmd]

    @="Open Command Window Here"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTDirectoryshellcmdcommand]

    @="cmd.exe /k cd "%L" && title Command Prompt Here: %L"

    2. Explore from here:

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTFoldershellrootexplore]

    @="Explore From Here"

    [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTFoldershellrootexplorecommand]

    @="Explorer.exe /e,/root,/idlist,%I"

  73. Yep, I too am hooked on TweakUI, Send To Clipboard, and Command Prompt Here – can’t live without them. Hard to believe they were just ‘proof of concept’ as they are so incredibly useful that they should be part of the default OS, I think.

    However, as there are no SendTo Extensions update since Win95, there is a problem. When installed on Windows 2000/XP it breaks the ‘Desktop (as shortcut)’ and ‘Mail Recipient’ items in the SendTo menu.

    The solution seems to be to backup the registration information for these classes as registry merge files and then merge them back in after the SendTo Extensions configuration has been finalized. I keep a copy of these merge files on hand these days for each OS.

    Also there is a little bug in Command Prompt Here for XP – the quotes that should be around the path parameter are in the wrong part of the command line, so it always fails with paths that have certain characters in them. Easily fixed by editing the registry though.

  74. Szajd says:

    Hi,

    Actually, I’m a big fan of the Windows XP Powertoys, especially Tweak UI, and I am a member of the team (the MS Hungary BetaTeam) which translated some of the Windows XP Powertoys. (http://www.microsoft.com/globaldev/outreach/dnloads/ptls-hu.mspx)

    I translated the whole Tweak UI utility. Actually (I wasn’t aware of it before the fact), this "localization" was actually a test bed for a new localization paradigm, based on real-time skinning of the strings. Now THAT sucks!

    I translated all the strings (and elements) in Tweak UI, but now if you download the utility, and then the Hungarian PowerToys skin (separately), this is what you get:

    – Only about 95% of the strings are translated

    – The buttons, labels, etc. are much shorter then the text in it (so most of the strings look trimmed)

    – The alphabetical lists are in the order of the original (English) items (because of the real-time stuff)

    – You don’t have underlined mnemonics, but the original English mnemonic of the item in parentheses (e.g.: what was "Arro&w" in English is "Nyíl (W)" in Hungarian. This is what you see in Japanese, Chinese, etc. windows versions, with the exception, that in Hungarian it isn’t the only way to go!

    So, I’m very sad, because one of the coolest free utilities of Microsoft is "localized" so bad, it’s horrible! And it was me, who translated it.

    I’d also like to point out two minor bugs which I ran into, while localizing:

    Both bugs are on the screen My Computer > Drive Letters

    – Two radio buttons have letter B underlined.

    – It is uncomfortable, that the 3rd radio button is continued on a separate label item. It should be a multiline radio button.

Comments are closed.