Give Vista a Windows 7 Makeover

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Windows key
I love keyboard shortcuts, and Windows 7 brings a bunch of new ones to the party. For example, you can press Windows-Space to make all your open windows transparent or Windows-Home to minimize all windows except the one you're using.

Sound good? Then grab the tiny Windows 7 Shortcuts utility, which adds half a dozen of 7's best shortcuts to XP and Vista. Here's what you get in addition to the two mentioned above:

  • Windows-Up Arrow: Maximizes the current window.
  • Windows-Down Arrow: Minimizes the current window or restores it to its previous size if already maximized.
  • Windows-Left Arrow: Docks the current window to the left side of the screen.
  • Windows-Right Arrow: Docks the current window to the right side of the screen.

A Versatile Calculator

Windows 7's Calculator offers several useful modes and templates.
Windows 7 sports a seriously spiffy new calculator. The number-cruncher includes Programmer, Statistic, and Scientific modes, and comes with handy templates for figuring stuff like mortgage payments and gas mileage. To take the new Calculator for a test drive in Vista, just extract the .zip file and run calc.exe--you have nothing to install.

Window Tricks

With AeroSnap, windows dragged to the left or right of the screen automatically resize to half-width.
Windows 7 makes window management much easier than any previous version of the OS has, starting with docking: Just drag a window to the left or right side of the screen to "dock" it there at half the screen width--a terrific option in these days of wide-screen monitors. (You can drag the window away again to restore it to its former size.) AeroSnap brings this desirable capability to both Vista and XP. It even maximizes windows dragged to the top of the screen, just as Windows 7 does.

The upcoming OS also promises to give users the shakes: When you click and "shake" any open window, all other windows automatically minimize. Shake the lone window again, and the rest pop back open. Lifehacker's AeroShake utility lets Vista and XP users get their shake on, too, though the implementation isn't quite as smooth.

Finally, you can try Aero Peek, which mimics Windows 7's new "show desktop" feature: Mouse over an icon in the system tray, and all your open windows immediately turn transparent. Aero Peek doesn't give you that transparency, and you have to click to activate it, but it does leave behind "ghost" images of where your windows were. (A second click restores them.) Personally, I'm just as happy with pressing Windows-D, which minimizes and restores all open windows in much the same way, but if you want a more Windows 7-esque experience, Aero Peek is your answer.

The 'Shut Down' button

Tweak Vista's Shut Down button so that it actually shuts down your computer, just as in Windows 7.
When you click the Windows 7 Start button, you'll see an actual 'Shut Down' button rather than a cryptic icon--which, by default in Vista, puts your system to sleep instead of turning it off. Though you can't easily change the look of the button, you can change its function. Here's how.

1. Click Start, type Power Options, and press Enter.
2. Click Change plan settings for your selected power plan, and then click Change advanced power settings.
3. Expand the 'Power buttons and lid' tree, then the 'Start menu power button' tree.
4. Change the setting from Sleep to Shut down.
5. Click OK, and then close the remaining windows.

Now, when you click Vista's little power icon in the Start menu, it will truly shut down your PC.

ISO-Burning Capabilities

Vista may not have Windows 7's ISO-burning capabilities, but ISO Recorder is a fine freeware alternative.
Windows 7 can burn ISO images to CDs, so you can crank out your own bootable discs. To do likewise in Windows XP or Vista, just install ISO Recorder. It's free, and it offers more features than Windows 7's burn tool does.

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