by: Lianne Reitter, May 2004, send
to the web site
95, 98, 98SE, Me, NT, 2000 or XP
seem to matter what platform we are working on - Windows,
Mac OS, Linux, Solaris, whatever - we want to work in a
personalized environment. For some Windows users that may
be a simple change of background wallpaper. For others,
more involved changes to the user interface are necessary.
For others still, being able to micro manage every aspect
of their computer is a must. Whatever your level of individuality,
there is Tweak Manager by WinGuides to assist.
has been at the tweaking game for many years now. Starting
in 1998 as RegEdit.com this Australian based online technical
resource company expanded to offer its own software, then
in 2000 changed the company name to WinGuides. While there
is probably no tweak here that you can't find instructions
for on the Internet (in fact, a few of the tweaks included
in the software can be found by drilling through the menus
of your Windows control panel), WinGuides has gone to the
trouble of creating a program that allows the beginners,
intermediate users and advanced users to avail themselves
of those tweaks and many, many more, from the simplest
to the most complicated, without otherwise compromising
their computer or having to laboriously slog through the
what is a Tweak? It's a change in the way your computing
environment works or looks. One of the first tweaks I ever
heard of and used was the one which gets rid of the little
black shortcut arrow on my Windows desktop icons – annoying
little thing. Another popular tweak is the one that lets
y0u rename your start button ("Start" is just
so Windows ‘95!). More popular still, the tweak that
changes the name of your Recycle Bin icon (everybody using "Toxic
Waste" raise your hand now). Many times these little
changes require some slightly more advanced knowledge of
computers and the courage to make what are known as registry
hacks. I say courage because if you don't know what you
are doing inside the Windows Registry, you could very well
hack your way to a computer that doesn't work anymore.
Since I don't know what I'm doing, I need a program that
does all the registry editing for me.
Tweak Manager runs much like your Windows browser with
a tree menu (the Tweak Tree) on the left of the screen
and a Tweak Window on the right that displays the selections
and details of each tweak as well as a button to activate
the tweak of choice. You can browse the menus just by clicking
on the plus and minus signs on the Tweak Tree, or in much
the same way you do a in a web browser by using the back
and forward buttons on the menu bar.
So what tweaks
are available? Hundreds actually, probably thousands,
too many to list here that’s for sure
(although to use Tweak Manager you certainly don't have
to go through them all if you don't want to). A simple
change to the view setting in Tweak Manager will allow
you to filter out tweaks and view, say, only the most popular
or only those that are new. Keeping Tweak Manager up to
date is a pretty simple task as well because there is a
built in Live Update button on the menu bar that will instantly
connect you with the WinGuides web site and download any
available updates (read: more tweaks!).
Some of the tweaks available are the aforementioned icon
name changes and those you can find in your Windows control
panel such as screen saver settings and disabling those
pop up descriptions in your task bar. There are many more
dealing with everything from your desktop, Windows' appearance,
to the file system, start up and shut down procedures,
login preferences and trouble shooting settings.
It doesn't stop at just your Windows settings though.
You can tweak your hardware as well. Tweak Manager will
allow you to change settings on your disk drives, your
mouse and keyboard, your modem, printer, graphic card,
even your processor and motherboard.
Maybe what you really want is to change how your Internet
Explorer looks, or permanently change its default Search
page (bye-bye MSN, hello Google or Yahoo or Dogpile). What
about some tweaks to Media Player? You might want to change
the MP3 encoding rates or speed up the access to AVI files.
Outlook Express and Windows Messenger could always use
a bit of improvement, like removing Messenger from Outlook
and Explorer altogether for a start.
But Tweak Manager is not just for those who want to make
a few cosmetic changes. There are also tweaks for the geekiest
of us. Tweak your network clients, your protocols and servers.
Tweak your packet queuing and QoS bandwidth. Change your
DNS caching timeouts or your Group policy refresh profiles.
Don't stop there either - use system wide proxy settings
too. Ah, if only I had a clue about what all that meant!
Well, you get the picture. There are an enormous number
of changes that we can make to our systems - eat your heart
out Linux - to help us customize them, run them better
and more efficiently as well as just getting rid us of
those little annoyances.
With all those tweaks available you might think it's difficult
to change things back if you don't like the results. No
worries. Tweak Manager changes the icon beside the affected
tweak from a little light bulb (as in, here is a good idea)
to a white star in a green circle so finding tweaks again
is really quite simple.
If you have a tweak you particularly like, you can send
it to a friend by clicking on the Export button on menu
bar. Tweak Manager will create a .reg file that will automatically
install your favorite tweak on another computer.
Now I'm not one to encourage people to stay ignorant about
the workings of their computer, but I am one to admit that
some things just shouldn't be tampered with unless you
really know what you are doing. Changing the settings in
your Windows Registry is one of those things best left
to the experts and using a software like Tweak Manager
can help even a computer newbie set up their system like
a pro. Recommended.
Letters to the Editor are welcome and occasionally abused in public. Send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org