Rob Freeman, Click's very own Mr Fixit, troubleshoots your PC problems and helps you get the most out of your computer. This week he takes another look at the new version of Windows Vista, and discovers how to replicate some of its features on XP.
Microsoft has set the end of January 2008 as the date when you will no longer be able to buy a new copy of Windows XP.
In its place is Windows Vista, and Microsoft are eager for you to upgrade. But do not fall for the hype on this one.
Obviously you do not have to upgrade to Vista by that date, in fact you do not have to upgrade to Vista at all, and your existing version of XP will not suddenly stop working.
New PCs are already being sold which include Vista and, of course, you can buy it as an upgrade, but there is another option you can take because I am going to show you some sneaky tricks to make Windows XP much more like Vista. It is like getting the benefits of the new operating system, but you do not have to pay for it!
INTERNET EXPLORER 7
First of all, at the heart of the internet-connected operating system is the browser. Windows Vista has Internet Explorer version 7. It is a feature they are promoting heavily.
But you can download IE7 from Microsoft at www.microsoft.com/ie.
It features better security, tabbed browsing and RSS subscriptions, all of which appeared first in arch rival, Firefox.
Vista boasts flashy graphics, particularly the updated application switcher, Flip3D. That is when you use the Alt and Tab buttons to flick through all the applications you are running.
The XP version is distinctly uninteresting by comparison, but you can update it a little by downloading the Alt-Tab Replacement PowerToy.
It can be downloaded from the Microsoft website, and once you have installed it, you will get thumbnail graphics of all your applications when you switch between them.
WINDOWS DESKTOP SEARCH
Search is another thing that is trumpeted as being new and improved in Vista. In fact you can get almost the same search features by installing Windows Desktop Search, it just does not look quite so pretty as the Vista version, but that is all.
Once it is installed, you can add it to your taskbar and as soon as you start typing, Windows searches for a match.
This is what Vista calls the mini-applications you can attach to the desktop.
They can display your calendar, the weather or a news update. There are hundreds of them, and you can do exactly the same thing on XP by downloading something very similar from Yahoo, except they call them Widgets (http://widgets.yahoo.com).
The thousands of mini-applications are also Mac compatible, because OS X uses widgets too.
Although pay attention, because this application will change your homepage to Yahoo unless you unclick this box. I have said it before, this is not something Yahoo should be doing. It is the kind of thing you would expect in Spyware, not from a respected internet company.
VISUAL TOOL TIP
Finally, one application I have been having fun with is Visual Tool Tip (www.chrisnsoft.com/visual-tooltip).
Like Vista it gives you a preview of what is in your taskbar when you hover over it. But then you can take those icons and move them anywhere on the desktop, or add them to a moveable dock and even turn them around and stack them up like books. This is a bit like Mac OS X.
It is free, but consider donating to the author, Chris Salmon, if you do use it.