The Freestyle Pro comes with the latest version of Microsoft's excellent SideWinder Central software. Like all Microsoft software, it doesn't get really good until version 3.0, and this release fits the bill. It doesn't get in the way when you don't need it, and you won't have to crack a manual to figure it out when you do.
One nice touch is that the SideWinder software works for any of the SideWinder controllers. If you own more than one SideWinder controller, you can come to a single place to set up everything as you like it.
The core of the SideWinder software is a small control utility that loads in your system tray and allows you to launch the profiler, or activate a specific profile. A profile is simply a set of button-to-key mappings and configuration options for the controller.
Typically, profiles are created for specific games. Microsoft even includes several sample profiles for a couple games so you can get an idea of what things can be done. The profiler itself is quite easy to use; simply click on the button, then type the keys you wish to be sent when that button is pressed. You can also attach macros-- entire sequences of keys, including pauses-- to the button. Buttons can also be labeled with text in editing mode so that it's easier to remember which function is which. It's worth noting that the directional pad can be mapped as buttons when not being used in digital mode.
Of course, it's not necessary to use the profiler, since most modern games are very good about letting you set up control mappings however you like within the game. However, it is nice to know that you can remap any button on the controller to any sequence of keyboard keys even if the game itself doesn't support this flexibility. Also, Microsoft advertises the "shift" button on the controller as a separate button mode, similar to the shift key on your keyboard, but in reality it appears as a plain button to games. Only by using the Profiler can you create true shift button mappings and double the number of unique virtual buttons as advertised. Finally, there are a few advanced options that can only be set from the Profiler, including range of motion and dead zone for the analog tilt control.