Alas, still no official "non-official" Vista tweaking software from Microsoft-proper (I'm speaking of their TweakUI Power Toy for XP).
I'm sure that somewhere a group of hard-core MS drones are busily at work building the product.
In the meantime, more and more clever Vista UI hackers are hard at work releasing products to turn the Vista Experience more to individual tastes.
Stardock's LogonStudio (freeware) - from the developer's description
Stardock LogonStudio allows Windows XP [or Vista] users to edit, change, and apply new logon screens. LogonStudio comes built with a visual editor to make it easy to create your own logons which can then be uploaded to websites to be used by others users.
It's a nice and simple way to update the XP or Vista logon screen. Personalization at the first point!
TweakUAC (freeware) - this utility allows folks running under an Administrator-level profile to easily turn off UAC (User Account Control), turn it back on, or keep it running, but suppress the UAC elevation prompt requests.
Tweak VI from Totalidea (freeware/$) - The basic version is free and additional feature "plugins" can be purchased. It's a nice business model. The Basic version allows you to tweak desktop items, Start menu items, IE, Firefox, hardware settings, system info, virtual desktops, subsystem folders, mousing, and shutdown options.
Premium and Ultimate plugins up the ante with 13 and 26 additional tweaking areas. The plugins are good for a 12-month subscription. Yes, many of the tweaks can be preformed manually for free by the user with a knowledge of the Vista system and/or registry hacks, but if you are a hard-core tweaker and don't want to fuss with those, this might be a great utility to look into. I've had fun just poking around the Basic version's interface on my Vista system.
Vispa (freeware) - This tweak-tool uses a non-install executable and is a bare-bones Vista utility. Run it and you get a long list of check boxes organized by subjects. To apply a setting, activate the checkbox. Pro: simple interface. Con: simple interface. So unless you already know and understand the consequence of your choice, this might not be a utility for Vista noobies. More information and screenshots: Vispa: Customize Windows Vista - CyberNet News
TweakVista Beta (freeware) - Stardock is beta releasing TweakVista. Final release version will have both a free/limited version and a $/full version. This one looks really good! From the developer's beta release description:
TweakVista is a utility that enables users to optimize the performance and behavior of Microsoft Windows Vista. The program has been designed to allow both casual, non-technical users to safely use it as well as contain a host of advanced features for power users to dig into the internals of Windows Vista. The feature-packed utility includes features such as:
- Security Handling. Users can now easily and safely adjust the way Windows handles security prompting including the new UAC (User Account Control)
- Memory Optimization. TweakVista knows which start-up services different types of users will typically use and offers recommendations on what services to disable. Users can easily switch between different profiles (including the default) based on their needs to maximize performance and memory use.
- Resource Control. Tweak Vista has several features for keeping an eye on and flagging programs that use excessive amounts of resources (memory, CPU, or system handles) as well as integrating seamlessly with built in hardware diagnostic reports.
- Start-Up Management. TweakVista not only will display and enable users to control what programs are loading on start-up but will identify in plain English what these programs do. Internet integration in the software allows users to comment on these processes within the program to one another.
- Performance Assessments. TweakVista uses the new Windows Vista assessment features to benchmark nearly every aspect of a user’s PC and allow them to submit their results for comparison with other users of similar or upgraded hardware.
- TweakVista.com integration. TweakVista partners the software development skills of Stardock with the on-going tweak expertise of TweakVista.com to provide an on-going live database of helpful tips and tricks for maximizing the Windows Vista experience.
Additional features are being added during the course of the beta based on user feedback.
MZ Vista Force (freeware) - Requires .Net 2.0 installed to run. The GUI for this application seems a bit heavy on eye-candy...but is an improvement over the XP version's interface. It allows you to make performance adjustments, "hidden" OS settings, optimize/tune your Internet connection values, manage your startup items, manage some Windows services, backup/restore your Vista registry and execute the System Restore Service, and (this is the real value) comes with concise documentation for each tweak element to help you decide if that is a change you want to try. For more screenshots see this post: Tweak and Optimize Windows Vista with Mz Vista Force at Shivaranjan’s Blog.
Thanks to the hard-work of these and other developers, it's getting easier and easier to make Vista your own.
I've so far only made "modest" changes to our Vista Home Premium system. Overall it is a very pleasing interface and runs quite well. However, the more I use it the more I want to make a few minor tweaks. Utilities such as these can be great tools to easily, quickly and (relatively) safely put those changes into play without diving into the registry. Even if you almost never use them, most would be good compliments to keep around on your Vista system...just in case you get an itch.
If you are aware of any additional Vista tweaking utilities out there, preferably free, please drop a lead in the comments.