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Windows Vista has an incredible amount of features and tools, many of which are almost totally undocumented and buried in the system somewhere. Administrative and troubleshooting tools particularly are now much more powerful and easier to use then ever before.

Here are six little features and applications in Vista which I think are quite useful:

Snipping Tool

The Snipping Tool was an application I didn’t even know existed till yesterday. This tool was introduced with Windows Vista (although it is not present in Vista Basic) but I just hadn’t come across it yet.

I’m so used to replacing any Windows applications with better freeware alternatives that it didn’t occur to me a Windows tool could do the job adequately. Sure, Snipping Tool isn’t the best screenshot application but it does all the basics, and even has a few extra features such as the ability to directly email a screenshot, or highlight something quickly. All it needs is a setting that enables it to be launched from the printscreen key.

Quick Launch ToolBar

If you initially tried to drag the Quick Launch toolbar off the Vista task bar, you wouldn’t have had much success. However this feature hasn’t been removed from Vista – its just been made less accessible for some strange reason.

If you want to enable the Quick Launch bar, simply create a new folder on your desktop. Drag this folder to the right edge of your screen and let go. The toolbar should have now have appeared down the side of the screen. By right clicking on the bar and selecting ‘Toolbars > Quick Launch’ you will have enabled the Quick Launch toolbar.

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There are a couple of adjustable options such as hiding the title and folder text or making the icons smaller. I like using this as my application launcher as it’s the best launcher you’ll find, and I can live without the visual effects of others Docks - The 6 Best Friends of your Windows Taskbar Docks - The 6 Best Friends of your Windows Taskbar Read More .

Photo Slideshows

You’ve probably seen this option amongst the buttons along the explorer bar, but have you actually tried it?

The Slideshow is actually a nice way to view your photographs. You can change the speed and effects of the presentation, and a number of themes are included such as “collage”, “album”, “glass” and more. You can display photographs in Sepia, black and white and normal. It may seem trivial but it can be quite useful when you have relatives around, you can bore them with your latest travel photographs or something.

Windows Media Encoder

Windows Media Encoder was included with Vista but has been available to anyone as a free download for quite some time. Again it may lack some of the power of alternative applications, but I think you’ll find it does a fairly decent job.

You can use Media Encoder to capture audio or video, convert files, screen capture and more. The capture is particularly useful if you want to create a video of a program demonstration, etc.

Resizing Icons

Icons can be resized anywhere in Vista by simply holding down the control key and scrolling your mouse. Even though the ‘view’ options only list seven icon display sizes, there are actually nearly forty which you can scroll through via this method. It also works on your desktop icons.

Show Windows Side by Side

Ever got annoyed with Windows Explorer? Haven’t we all. Shankar offered some tips a few weeks back 7 Windows Explorer Addons for Power Users 7 Windows Explorer Addons for Power Users Read More for the power user, but if that’s a bit much then there is one simple thing you can do to make moving your files around a bit easier.

Hold down the control key and select two windows on the task bar. Right click and select “Show Windows Side by Side”. You’ll now have the two windows aligned next to each other. This isn’t just for Explorer windows of course, it’ll work on any application. Especially useful for comparing documents or online research.

What are your favourite tools in Vista?

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