Tweak Manager v2.1

Reviewed by: Lianne Reitter, May 2004, send e-mail
Published by: WinGuides Software, go to the web site
Requires: Windows 95, 98, 98SE, Me, NT, 2000 or XP
MSRP: $29.95

It doesn't 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.

WinGuides has been at the tweaking game for many years now. Starting in 1998 as 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 Windows Registry.

But first, 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.

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