Some people are never happy with the out-of-the-box configurations of their operating systems. They like to change file managers, swap icons and otherwise customize and rev up their systems.

Here are some free, or nearly free, downloads for Microsoft Windows that help with that task.

WindowFX. This utility from Stardock Corp. of Livonia, Mich., lets you take full advantage of several new application programming interfaces in Windows 2000. Its basic tricks are silly things like making windows and menus semitransparent. But its real value becomes clear in such functions as setting the size for an expanded window, a nice feature if you use a large, high-resolution monitor.

You can download it free, or register for $14.95, at

Macroworx Filing Cabinets. Two types of people like this program'those whose desktops are cluttered because that's where they put all their files, and those who file everything and then waste time seeking files that are five folders deep.

This shareware program offers tabs and floating windows to hold all your favorite shortcuts, documents and tools. It works with Windows 9x, NT and 2000. Pick up a copy at

Enotes. You can use this program from Kazmer Nadudvari of Budapest, Hungary, to create rich text notes in small windows that stay on your desktop; set them to stay on top or minimize them. It also includes recurring alarm features.

It works with Win9x and NT. A 30-day trial version is free; the cost to register is $25. Download it from

ToolPro. Do you want to use hotkeys but never take the time to create them yourself? ToolPro from Peter Pearson is for you. It's a simple tray program with quick access to several mail clients, a File Transfer Protocol interface, Domain Name System Lookup, Keep Alive signal for network connections, Web site update checker, process lists, restart and shutdown keys, timer and more.

It works with Win9x and NT. It's free to download, $19.95 to register. Snag a copy at

Clip Mate. If you're a PC user who has ever envied the clipboard functions offered by some Apple Macintosh systems, this is the clipboard for you. It lets you save and move a whole series of text and graphics. You can then recall, append, edit, reformat, and print them. Items can be recalled and placed separately or in a series.

A 30-day trial version of Clip Mate, from Thornsoft Development Inc. of Rochester, N.Y., is free; a registered copy is $20. It works with Win9x and NT. Download it from

'Shawn P. McCarthy

E-mail: [email protected]

The author designs products for a Web search engine provider.


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