PowerToys was first released for Windows 95 as a collection of free tools for power users. It was later released for Windows XP, which offered new and better utilities for customizing the operating system. If you’ve used Windows XP you may remember using PowerToys like TweakUI or Virtual Desktop Manager.
In October 2019, Microsoft released the third generation of PowerToys, bringing similar powerful tools to Windows 10. Though the initial version included just a few tools, the list of its utilities is now growing with every release.
That said, let me introduce you to PowerToys along with their novel features and use cases for easing your daily work on Windows 10.
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You first need to download and install PowerToys before continuing to the detail below.
- Open https://github.com/microsoft/PowerToys/releases.
- Download the exe or msi file for the latest release of PowerToys.
- Open the downloaded file to install the collection of power tools. Once done, if you’re asked to restart Windows Explorer, click Yes to confirm it.
After you’ve installed PowerToys, you should start trying out its utilities. Let me introduce you to the features and usage instructions of all its utilities.
1. Color Picker
If you’re a web designer or developer, Color Picker will be your favorite tool among PowerToys. Previously, GIMP was my go-to tool for taking a screenshot and color picking.
But now, I simply use this Color Picker PowerTool. Just press Win + Shift + C and select an area to pick the color.
FancyZones is a superb window manager for Windows 10. If you’re dissatisfied with Windows Snap, you’ll love FancyZones.
It allows you to create custom and complex layouts for multitasking between applications. Though Snap works well for running multiple apps on one screen, FancyZones makes it even better.
Let’s get started with using FancyZones to snap apps in efficient layouts:
- Press Win + ` to launch FancyZones Editor.
- Once in the editor, choose a layout and click Apply.
- Press Shift and start dragging any window. You’ll notice that FancyZones shows the layout and tries to snap the window in the set layout.
3. File Explorer Preview
File Explorer Preview adds handy features to File Explorer in Windows 10. It adds support for Markdown and SVG, of which I most like the former.
Previously, I always had to open a Markdown file in an editor like Sublime Text — even for just viewing it. Now, I can directly preview .md and .svg files in File Explorer.
4. Image Resizer
Image Resizer — like the above tool — is an add-on for File Explorer. It allows resizing images directly from the explorer, and it supports batch resizing as well. Here are the steps to quickly resize images using this PowerToy:
- In File Explorer, select one or more images, right-click, and click Resize pictures for opening this PowerToy.
- Choose one of the given sizes for resizing images to that size, and then, click Resize for resizing the selected images.
5. Keyboard Manager
Keyboard Manager is one of my favorite tools since it provides you with extreme control over your keyboard, which is hardly possible otherwise in Windows 10.
The reason being, unlike Linux OSs such as Ubuntu, Windows doesn’t provide any easy keyboard settings — especially for changing keyboard shortcuts.
But it all changes with the Keyboard Manager. This utility allows you to easily remap keys (say change Home to act as Delete) and switch keyboard shortcuts (use Ctrl + H to press Home) to fit your liking. To do so, follow these steps:
- Go to the Start menu and open PowerToys.
- Click Keyboard Manager in the left sidebar.
- Click Remap a key or Remap a shortcut, then click the + (plus) button.
- Click Type and press the keys, or select one from the dropdown menu. And press OK. In here, I remapped Ctrl + H to work as the Home key.
PowerRename is another add-on for File Explorer, which helps bulk renaming files and folders, unlike the default rename feature in the explorer. One of its best features is its support for regular expressions, allowing you to rename files and folders using regex.
Also, you can preview the rename operations before making the changes, letting you preview the changes before making them.
- Right-click one or multiple files, choose PowerRename.
- Enter the text to replace in Search for and the text to replace within Replace text boxes. You can check the probable changes under Preview. When you’re satisfied with the previewed changes, press Rename.
Pro tip: You can select one or more options under Options to configure your rename operation. For example, you can select Exclude Files to rename only folders or Make Uppercase to have the renamed/replaced text in uppercase.
7. PowerToys Run
PowerToys Run is the enhanced version of the de facto Run utility in Windows 10. The biggest feature upgrade between the two utilities is PowerToys Run that allows searching for apps right in its interface, unlike the default Run. It works like a global app search utility inspired by IntelliJ IDEA or Sublime Text.
And it’s easy to launch and use PowerToys Run as well:
- Press Alt + Space to launch PowerToys Run.
- Type in the name of the app or utility, say “idea”.
- Press the Up or Down key to highlight the needed app.
- Now, press Enter to open the highlighted or selected app.
Pro Tip: If you hover the mouse over an app, it shows you three icons: Run as administrator, Open containing folder, and Open path in console respectively. You can click any one of these icons to do the specified action instead.
8. Shortcut Guide
Windows 10 becomes a lot easy and faster to use with keyboard shortcuts. After all, you can do a lot of things more quickly than doing them using GUI, but the problem is it’s hard to remember all the shortcuts for Windows 10.
Shortcut Guide helps solve this problem by showing you relevant shortcuts by long-pressing the Win key. And it only shows the shortcuts you can use on that screen, making it easier to learn and use the shortcuts (like a cheat sheet).
Setting up PowerToys
If you’re seeking more control over PowerToys, you can configure it as follows:
- Open the Start menu, right-click PowerToys.
- Choose More > Run as administrator to open PowerToys Settings.
- Inside PowerToys Settings, click on any one of the utility names in the left sidebar. Then, you can change the settings of the chosen utility.
Enable or disable a PowerToy
Click on a tool name in the sidebar, toggle off the Enable button for the tool.
Customize sizes for Image Resizer
Click Image Resizer in the sidebar and change the values under Image sizes.
Show more results in PowerToys Run
Click PowerToys Run in the sidebar. Then, under Search & results, use the dropdown button to change the value of Maximum number of results.
That’s not all, there are many more settings for each utility under PowerToys. You can explore them by clicking a tool name in the left sidebar and checking out the settings in the center of PowerToys Settings. Also, you can customize the keyboard shortcut for (almost) every tool using the same procedure.
Did you find this guide useful? Have you ever used Microsoft PowerToys before (maybe in Windows XP)?