You might not believe me, but preparing paella is more complicated than using TweakVista.

Among the many criticisms of Windows Vista, one that even Microsoft's own engineers should agree upon, is that it's not easy to access essential system information. Stardock's TweakVista unifies all the bits and pieces that you might want to change under one circus tent, but TweakVista's interface is no chaotic circus.

TweakVista compiles system information in one, easy-to-access interface. (Credit: CNET Networks Inc.)

Vista requires several sub-menus to get to the Uninstall Programs menu, so it's not going to get any easier for more esoteric modifications. By presenting a "unified theory" behind changing Vista's core processes, TweakVista not only makes it easier to make Vista do what you want it to do, it effectively kills the intimidation factor. Adjusting security levels not only takes the same effort as fine-tuning start-up applications, they're presented in the same interface, and this, perhaps more than anything else, is where the standard Vista interface has gone wrong.

TweakVista starts with a list of 10 options on the left navigation, ranging from Start Up and Resources, down through Security and Power, and ending with Miscellaneous Tweaks. Each tab opens a new panel of topic-specific options, most with tabs of their own delineating between basic and advanced functions. For example, the Services tab controls access to many of the background processes. There are preconfigured Profiles for gamers, for saving memory, and so on. The Features tab, though, lets you peck and choose specific settings.

TweakVista shows both essential info, like your current processes list... (Credit: CNET Networks Inc.)

The application thrives on this layout. Within almost every section, the main options generally specify preloaded functionality, with at least one additional tab to codify the nitty-gritty details. Another great example is the Power option, which is useful for both desktop and laptop users. Beyond its main regulating functions, it also gives you a carbon footprint of your computer usage based on your hardware, and extrapolates it for a year's worth of use. Who knows if it's accurate, but it's a good reminder that computers aren't running on the power of love.

...and it extrapolates your PC\'s carbon footprint. (Credit: CNET Networks Inc.)

TweakVista has two drawbacks. One is that there are limitations within the trial version. Some features, sadly, will not work unless you pay for it. However, although it's not quite as inexpensive as the ingredients for your Catalonian grandmother's favorite rice dish, it's only $20. You're not going to be breaking the bank to get streamlined and comprehensive access to all the essential functions that Microsoft obfuscates from your view, making TweakVista useful for both Vista newbies and power users.

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