Get more out of Windows 10 with these Microsoft PowerToys Utilities

Add more functionality and perform operations efficiently

by: - Last updated on: February 4th, 2021

Key Takeaways

  • PowerToys is a set of freeware utilities from Microsoft for its Windows operating system.
  • These utilities enable you to automate tasks and perform actions efficiently on your Windows 10 machine.
  • You can use them to add more functionality to your system, as well as to automate/devise ways to increase your productivity.
  • Some of the popular PowerToys utilities include Color Picker, PowerRename, Image Resize, FancyZones, and Keyboard Manager.

Microsoft debuted the first version of PowerToys with Windows 95. A few years later, it went on to launch its second iteration. This time, for Windows XP — available as a separate download. Later, after a lull for few years, the company eventually released another update to PowerToys in 2019. And, like its previous iteration, this one was also made available as a separate download.

However, what differentiates the current PowerToys update from its earlier versions is the fact that the tool is now open-source. Meaning, developers can now collaborate to create better and more functional utilities for the platform.

Microsoft PowerToys

Currently, PowerToys offers a few different utilities to help you with certain operations on your computer. If you’re a Windows 10 user, you can take advantage of these utilities to add better functionality to your system and increase your productivity.

To help you out, we have put together a list of some of the more useful PowerToys utilities for Windows 10 down below. But before we jump in and check out these utilities, here’s a quick primer on PowerToys and the steps involved in installing and setting it up on your computer.

What is PowerToys?

PowerToys is a set of freeware utilities from Microsoft for its Windows operating system. Primarily targeted towards power users, these system utilities enable users to automate tasks and perform actions efficiently on their machines. You can think of them as tiny apps dedicated to performing a specific operation/task in an easier and efficient manner than the default system offering.

Why you need PowerToys?

By default, the Windows operating system has its unique ways of performing certain operations. Even though these native methods work flawlessly, they do not offer the most efficient solutions when you have to perform certain operations repeatedly. And therefore, in such situations, rather than going the manual route to do things the traditional way, automating the whole process is a lot easier and efficient approach.

PowerToys utilities

For instance, if you need to perform batch operations on files, going the traditional way consumes a lot of your time and effort. A better alternative here is to use a utility that lets you perform bulk operations with just a few clicks. Of course, this is just one of the examples of what you can do with PowerToys. And there are various other applications where these utilities can help you with operations.

How to install and set up PowerToys on Windows 10?

As mentioned initially, Microsoft has made PowerToys free and open-source. And, the project is now up on GitHub for you to download and get started for free.

Following are the steps on how to install and setup PowerToys on your Windows 10 computer.

1. Visit PowerToys’ GitHub page.

2. Here, find the latest release of the tool and click on the PowerToysSetup(.exe) file.

3. Once downloaded, double-click on the downloaded file to install it on your machine.

Alternatively, if you have Windows Package Manager (Winget) installed on your system, you can use it to install PowerToys as well. To do this, open PowerShell/Command Prompt and enter the following command:

winget install powertoys

PowerToys installation using PowerShell

To run PowerToys, double-click on the app icon or look up PowerToys in the start menu. As soon as the app runs, you should be taken to the PowerToys Settings screen. However, if you’re not, click on the app icon in the system tray. Now, on the settings page, click on the Restart as administrator button to run PowerToys as an administrator. This is required for some utilities to function and to change their settings.

Once you have the PowerToys tool set up and running on your computer, you can start using its utilities. By default, these utilities are disabled, so you need to enable them manually. To do this, click on the one you want to enable from the left sidebar and enable toggle the enable button. If you want to change settings for these utilities, this is where you do that as well.

Essential PowerToys Utilities

1. Color Picker

As its name suggests, the Color Picker utility enables you to pick colors from any focussed app running on your system. If you work with graphics and websites, you often need to check out the color value for different colors. And that is exactly what Color Picker helps you do. Using the utility is as simple as hitting the Win+Shift+C shortcut and hovering your mouse over the color you want to determine. Once you’ve identified the color, you can then right-click on it to copy its code. The copied code gets copied to your clipboard, and you can then paste it anywhere.

Color Picker

Color Picker also allows you to change some of its settings. So if you like to change some of its elements, you can do so from the settings menu. Some of the things you can change are the activation shortcut, default activation behavior, and the default color format.

2. FancyZones

If you’ve been a Linux or macOS user, you would be aware of the different window management solutions available on both platforms. However, when it comes to Windows, there are not as many good options. And, even though you do get the native utility, Windows Snap, it does not offer as much flexibility as some other window management services. But, thanks to PowerToys, you get FancyZones, which is probably one of the most feature-rich and customizable window management utilities for Windows out there.

FancyZones

To get started with FancyZones, when you launch the utility for the first time, you need to set a layout as your default option. This is the one that gets picked every time you arrange your windows unless you explicitly choose another layout. Once that’s set, press the Windows + ` shortcut to launch FancyZones editor. Now, on the layout screen, select a layout and the number of rows and grids you need. Alternatively, you can also select the custom option to create a custom layout for your windows. Finally, press the Shift key and drag the windows to snap them in place on the layout.

3. PowerToys Run

PowerToys Run is a quick launcher for Windows 10 that gives you access to various system elements instantly. You can think of it as a Spotlight Search (from macOS), but for Windows 10. With PowerToys Run, you can search and launch apps instantly with the press of a few keys. Not just that, you can also search for files, folders, and running processes right from the quick search window. To perform a search, all you need to do is invoke PowerToys Run by pressing the Alt + Space keys together and enter your query (files, folders, apps, etc.) in the search window.

PowerToys Run

Besides looking up apps, files, and folders, another useful scenario where you can put PowerToys Run to use is when you need to perform quick calculations. Since now, you can simply press the activation shortcut to invoke Run and enter your operations here to get the result, without having to open the calculator app every time you have to perform some calculations. Besides, like any other utility, you can also change a few settings for Run, such as the trigger shortcut and the number of returned search results. [Check out our detailed guide on PowerToys Run.]

4. Shortcut Guide

Shortcut Guide is a simple utility that provides you all the shortcuts for the current state of the desktop on your Windows 10 machine. That way, you can find out the keyboard shortcuts for different apps and services, and eventually, start using them. To see the available shortcuts, press and hold the Windows key for a second. As soon as you do that, an overlay with the entire list of shortcuts specific to that app/service pops-up on your screen.

Shortcut Guide

Now, similar to how you can change settings for other utilities, Shortcut Guide also offers you a few options to configure to your preference. For instance, if you find the overlay hard to discern from the background, you can change its opacity. Likewise, you can also change the press duration for the trigger key before which the overlay appears to avoid accidental triggers.

5. Image Resizer

Image Resizer is undoubtedly one of the best PowerToys utilities out there. It simplifies the image resizing process and allows you to resize multiple images at once. That way, you do not have to do the same operation on multiple images over-and-over. To bulk-resize images, select the images you want to resize in File Explorer, right-click on them, and select Resize pictures from the menu. As soon as you do that, you get a window with a few different options to change the size, encoding, and filename format for your files. Perform your preferred changes and hit Ok.

ImageResizer

Alongside offering you the ability to select the image size and other settings for your images from the resize window, Image Resizer also has a dedicated settings page to customize certain elements. From here, you can add new preset sizes, change the encoding options (along with the image quality, interlacing, and compression settings), and also customize the filename format to your preference.

6. PowerRename

Much like ImageResizer, PowerRename is another useful utility that can help you with bulk operations on your system. For someone whose work revolves around working with a lot of files and folders, one of the most tedious operations is batch renaming files. While Windows 10 does offer a native solution to address this problem, it does not provide much control over file names and restricts your ability to perform search and rename operations.

PowerRename

PowerToys’ PowerRename, on the other hand, allows you to easily bulk rename files and folders on your computer. Its advanced set of options provide you the ability to modify files name of multiple files (without having to rename all of them), search and replace specific parts of a file name, use regular expression RegEx to find files based on your criteria, and more.

7. Keyboard Manager

If you prefer performing operations using your keyboard and rely on hotkeys, the Keyboard Manager utility is what you need. Essentially, what this allows you to do is reconfigure your keyboard and remap its keys and shortcuts. That way, you can do things like change an existing shortcut key to your preferred custom key combination, assign a key to a shortcut, and remap a key to some other key on your keyboard. However, do note that some of the keys on your keyboard are reserved for specific functions only, and therefore, cannot be remapped.

Keyboard Manager

To give you an idea of where you can put Keyboard Manager to use, consider a scenario where you have a broken key on your keyboard. In this scenario, you can simply remap this broken key to some other key on your keyboard and input the character from the broken key using the newly-assigned key. Of course, this is just of the applications where Keyboard Manager can come in handy, and you can also use it to remap keys to perform shortcut and remap shortcuts to different keyboard shortcuts.

The aforementioned are the current set of PowerToys utilities offered by Microsoft for its Windows 10 operating system. Using utilities like Color Picker and FancyZones, you can enhance the functionality of the system and get more out of it, while you can put the likes of Image Resizer, PowerRename, and PowerToys Run to carry out operations more efficiently.

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