Microsoft PowerToys: Tools for streamlining Windows 10

Microsoft PowerToys Tools for streamlining Windows 10

Windows 10 is one of the most used operating systems by Australian businesses and the rest of the world. It has hundreds of built-in features that simplify several processes and it’s constantly getting new capabilities every year. However, there are many advanced users who want more functionality and a seamless working experience from Windows 10. 

That’s why Microsoft developed and released an open-source system that adds new utilities and functions to the OS. This system is called Microsoft PowerToys. 

How do you install Microsoft PowerToys?

To get PowerToys, you need to download and run the latest PowerToysSetup program from Github. You can then access the program in the system tray on the bottom-right corner of the Windows taskbar. From there, you can enable the features and functions you want in the settings menus. 

Below are six useful PowerToys features that can enhance your Windows experience.  

Quick app launcher

While Windows 10 users can search for applications in the Start menu, PowerToys Run simplifies the process even further. Enabling this feature essentially gives you a text-based application launcher with an intuitive search feature. You just need to type the specific application, folder, or file you’re looking for and press Enter. You can even search and switch to other open windows, which is especially useful if you tend to use several programs at once. 

Unlike the default Start menu, PowerToys Run gives users some level of customisation. In the PowerToys interface, you can increase the number of results that would pop up using the search feature. If you wanted to, you can have over 10 results from a single search term. Each search result also offers two buttons that give you the option to Open as Administrator and Open Containing Folder.

Beyond searching for applications and files, PowerToys allows you to run Windows processes and shell plugins like Control Panel. Plus, you can perform quick calculations in PowerToys without having to open the calculator app. 

FancyZones

By default, Windows 10 lets you display up to four windows on each quadrant of your screen. FancyZones takes this a step further by letting you set more complex screen layouts. 

Once enabled on PowerToys, you need to press Windows + ` (tilde button) to launch the FancyZones editor. In this window, you can choose and modify your own custom layouts for displaying multiple applications on your screen. Templated layouts include columns, rows, and grids. For example, your custom layout can display email clients on the bottom-right corner to reserve more screen space for productivity software. 

After applying custom FancyZones, simply drag and drop a window in a designated zone to snap it in place. Holding the Shift key while dragging a window also shows you the preset zones. 

Colour Picker

Colour Picker allows you to identify colours displayed on your screen. This is similar to Photoshop’s eyedrop tool, which lets users identify an image’s specific colour with a click of a button. The difference is that PowerToys makes it so you don’t need to open a special program to utilise this feature.  

When you activate Colour Picker in PowerToys, you can start using the feature by pressing Windows + Shift + C. Then, just click on any part of your system to identify the colour. Colour Picker will automatically copy the hex and RGB colour code to your clipboard so you can use it for graphic design projects. 

PowerRename

PowerRename is a feature found in PowerToys’ general settings that lets you rename files and folders in bulk. This beats the more tedious alternative where you select each file and rename them individually.   

When this feature is enabled, you can right-click files or folders to bring up the context menu and select PowerRename. This will take you to an interface where you can specify terms in a file name you want to replace. Simply type the terms you want to find in the Search for field and then specify a replacement in the Replace with field. For example, if you have several photo files prefaced with ‘IMG’, you can replace them with a more specific label like ‘CompanyOuting’.

The PowerRename interface also lets you toggle different options to narrow down what you want to rename. You can have it so that PowerRename only renames certain file extensions, case sensitivities, and folders. Whatever option you choose, there’s a preview pane to show you how your files will look. You can then click the Rename button to confirm the changes. Of course, if you’re unhappy with the changes, pressing Ctrl + Z reverts the files back to their original name.

Image Resizer

If you need to resize several images but don’t want to open a separate application, PowerToys Image Resizer is the solution. The feature integrates with File Explorer, so all you have to do is right-click images and select Resize pictures. This takes you to an interface where you can select a preset size for the image files or enter your own custom dimensions. Clicking on the Settings button introduces more advanced options like image encoding and JPEG quality level. Keep in mind that Image Resizer creates copies by default, but you also have the option to replace the original files.  

Keyboard manager and shortcut guide

Finally, PowerToys comes with a built-in keyboard manager where you can remap single-key and multi-key shortcuts. For instance, you can remap your function keys to copy and paste shortcuts or set a different shortcut for undoing changes. 

If you’re ever confused with these new key combinations, PowerToys also features a shortcut guide. By enabling it, you only have to hold the Windows key for a few seconds to get a full list of Windows shortcuts.

Believe it or not, there are more PowerToys features in the works. That means the features listed in this entry merely scratch the surface of what PowerToys will be capable of in the coming months. If you’re interested in using PowerToys and getting the most out of Microsoft products, call Empower IT today. As a leading Australian managed IT services provider that’s partnered with Microsoft, we can make the latest technology work for you.