Microsoft’s PowerToys – The Swiss Army Knife Tool for Windows 10

I just can’t keep myself away from customizing my Windows 10 experience, like a couple of days ago I showed how I customized my windows 10 taskbar like a pro! While looking for more options, I came across Microsoft’s PowerToys on Github and blown away by what this tool offers.

Microsoft’s PowerToys is a set of power utilities to maximize your productivity and adding more customization features on Windows 10. While it does provide a few handy customization features, the main motive of this nifty tool is to make one’s Windows 10 experience more efficient. And this is why I am calling MS PowerToys, a Swiss Army Knife Tool for Windows 10.

But before going further into what you can do with this tool. Let us see, how you can grab this PowerToys tool by Microsoft for your Windows 10.

How to download and install Microsoft’s Powertoys on your windows 10?

Anyone can download Microsoft’s PowerToys from its Github Repository and get regular updates whenever an update is out. To download the Microsoft PowerToys, go to the release section of PowerToys’ Github Repository and download the latest PowerToys.exe file. Once downloaded, install it on your Windows machine like any other app, and you are done.

Download Microsoft’s PowerToys for Windows 10

download microsoft powertoys mrnoob

How to set up MS PowerToys for Windows 10?

For most utilities and tweaks, you can simply install the PowerToys tool on your Windows machines and play around with all the utilities as per your need. However, there are a few utilities that require administrative rights to work effectively. Utilities like FancyZone and Keyboard remapper required Administrative permissions to work.

administrator powertoys settings mrnoob

After successful installation open the MS PowerToys (Preview) from your App list. On the app home screen, you will see a toggle ‘Always run as administrator‘ toggle under the General settings. Turn that toggle on and then hit Restart as administrator to make sure that PowerToys will always run as administrator on your Windows 10 system

There are other settings such as Appearance and behavior, where you can choose the Color mode (Dark, Light, or Windows Default) as per your choice. I would also suggest you toggle on ‘Download updates automatically (Except on metered connections), so you no longer have to worry about updates to Microsoft’s Power Toys on your Windows system. You will receive an update notification via the Action center, whenever a new version of Power Toys is out.

All Microsoft’s PowerToys Utilities explained!

Now that you have successfully installed and set up Microsoft’s PowerToys on your Windows 10 system, let’s go through all the features and tweaks that it offers to enhance your Windows experience.

1. Color Picker

As a designer myself, I just can’t thank you enough for this feature baked into the PowerToys software. Earlier whenever I have to pick a color outside the design software, I have to use a third-party browser extension. They do work just fine but were limited to the browser’s window.

But with PowerToys utility installed, I just have to press ‘Win + Shift + C‘ and I can grab/pick a color from anywhere inside the windows.

color picker action mrnoob

Once you press ‘Win + Shift + C‘, the shortcut for Color Picker, your mouse cursor will start showing the color around the mouse pointer with its HEX code. You can copy the HEX code by left-clicking it onto your Windows clipboard and pasting it using ‘Ctrl + V‘ anywhere you want.

You can also change the copied color representation, from HEX code to RGB, CMYK, HSL, and HSV. Simply open PowerToys (Preview) from your app list, navigate to ‘Color Picker‘ and choose your desired color representation from the drop-down menu. (I have kept my default to HEX since that is what I use)

color picker settings mrnoob

2. FancyZones

FancyZone is just like Windows’ default window snapping but on steroids. It lets you snap your application windows on your Windows desktop in an organized way. If you are someone with an ultrawide monitor display, you will thoroughly enjoy this feature. With FancyZone, you can divide your whole Windows desktop into pre-made zones, where you can snap your running apps the way you desire. Let’s say you are a front-end developer and you like to listen to music on Spotify while writing code for the website and watching it in real-time. In that case, you will require 3 zones, in which you will snap your app windows on your desktop.

fancyzones action mrnoob

Didn’t seem like a big deal? Well, here is the real thing. You can resize the individual zone as per need. Suppose, you need more space for your web development need, while the Spotify window can stay on the corner with enough space to show all your playlists. It is very possible with FancyZone.

fancyzones settings mrnoob

Open the FancyZone section in the PowerToys app and launch Zone Editor. Inside Zone Editor, you will see a couple of templates to choose from. Or simply, make a custom zone layout and save it.

fancyzones editor mrnoob

Now you just have to press ‘Shift‘ while dragging any window to activate FancyZone and drop the app window in one of the zones. Repeat it, until all your app windows are in their respective zone. While default Windows snapping is limited to a certain desktop arrangement, you can up your multitasking game using the versatile FancyZone feature.

3. File Explorer

File Explorer utility allows you to manage a custom preview handler on your Windows File Explorer. Basically, by default, you can only preview a certain number of formats inside your Windows File Explorer without actually opening them in some program within the Preview pane.

So with File Explorer, you can enable previews for two more formats .svg (SVG) and .md (markdown). While the custom preview list isn’t extensive as what we get on Mac OS, where you can preview the file by pressing and holding the Spacebar key. It’s a good start and being a designer, I do appreciate SVG preview, while developers out there will definitely appreciate Markdown preview support.

file explorer action mrnoob

To enable both the options, open File Explorer settings inside MS Power Toys and toggle on both ‘Enable SVG (.svg) Preview‘ and ‘Enable Markdown (.md) preview‘. You can also enable icon preview for the SVG files by enabling ‘Enable SVG (.svg) thumbnails‘. This will change the browser’s icon with the content inside that .svg file, making it easy to recognize what’s within that SVG file.

file manager settings mrnoob

4. Image Resizer

Suppose you want to resize an image on your Windows 10 machine, what are you going to do? Open that image in a photo editor app and resize it, then save the resized image on your computer. Or using some online tool, upload your image to their servers and download it on your computer after resizing, right?

Well, that’s too much of a hassle, for a simple task. What if I tell you that you can do the same in a couple of mouse clicks?

That’s where Image Resizer comes into action. This PowerToy tool adds an option to resize image formats like JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and BMP, within the right-click context menu. Just right-click on the image file that you want to resize and select the ‘Resize Picture‘ option to open resize picture windows. In the Resize Picture window, you will see a few default size options with custom size selections. Choose the one that fits your need and hit ‘Resize‘. It will create a copy of the resized image. You can also choose from the original files. It supports GIF files as well.

image resizer action mrnoob

You can further go to Image Resizer settings inside PowerToys, to add/remove the default image sizes, change encoding values, and how resized files should be named.

image resizer settings mrnoob

5. Keyboard Manager

As the name says, Keyboard Manager is your Windows Keyboard manager that you can reconfigure your Windows Keyboard by remapping keys and shortcuts. It’s simple to use and works really well once you are done setting it up.

Simply open the Keyboard Manager inside the Microsoft PowerToys and toggle on the ‘Enable Keyboard Manager‘. Now you will see two options, Remap Keys and Remap Shortcuts.

keyboard manager settings mrnoob

Inside Remap Keys, you can remap a single key to another key or a shortcut combo. Say, here you can remap ‘C’ key to the ‘Ctrl + C’ shortcut and the ‘V’ key to ‘Ctrl + V’, allowing you to do copy-pasting with a single key press.

While Remap Shortcuts will remap a shortcut to a single key or another shortcut. You can also target Remap shortcuts to a specific application or to work globally.

6. PowerRenamer

The name says it all, PowerRenamer is a powerful renaming tool that resides within the Windows Shell context menu. If you are ever stuck in a situation where you need to rename files in large numbers, PowerRenamer will definitely come in handy.

There are a variety of options to choose from to filters while renaming files in bulk, giving you granular control during the renaming process. But even with these extensive features, the PowerRenamer is fairly easy to use.

To access PowerRenamer, open PowerToys, and toggle on the ‘Enable PowerRename‘. You’ll need to enable shell integration so that you can access the PowerRenamer within the right-click context menu. Now select all the files that you want to rename, right-click on them, and choose PowerRenamer from the context menu to open PowerRenamer windows.

powerrenamer settings mrnoob

Inside the window, type the word that you want to change in the ‘Search for‘ field and type in the new word in the Replace with‘ field. Then further filter out the results using the available options and hit ‘Replace‘ to bulk rename all the files in just one click.

powerrenamer window mrnoob

7. PowerToys Run

The Spotlight for Windows is here. If you have ever used Mac OS, then you must have come across their powerful spotlight search feature that enables a mac user to open a global search bar over any app window and perform a regular file/folder search, with some advanced functions.

powertoys run action mrnoob

While there is already a default search on the Windows taskbar, which of course is good for nothing with its forced Bing search implementation. The PowerToys Run can be a good functional replacement for the default windows search.

First of all, you need to enable PowerToys Run from the PowerToys (Preview) app, once it is enabled simply press the ‘Alt + Space‘ shortcut to access PowerToys Run search bar on your desktop and type in your search keyword. Currently, you can search for files, folders, applications, settings, do simple calculations, open websites directly, run commands, etc., If I were to ask, then I would prefer this Spotlight-like search, rather than the boring search icon/bar that sits on the taskbar.

powertoys run settings mrnoob

8. Shortcut Guide

Shortcut Guide is basically a help overlay showing all the shortcuts combined with the Windows keys. It can serve well as a basic guide to someone who is either bad with remembering default Windows key shortcuts or someone new to Windows 10.

shortcut guide action mrnoob

You can enable it from the Shortcut Guide settings inside the PowerToys app. After enabling, press and hold the Win key for 1 second to see the shortcut overlay and then release the Win key to hide it. (1000ms or 1s is the default duration, which can be increased or decreased within PowerToys settings)

shortcut guide settings mrnoob

Wrapping Up: Microsoft’s PowerToys – The Swiss Army Knife Tool for Windows 10

PowerToys is hands-down one of the best utility tools that I have ever come across while questing for different ways to customize my own Windows 10 user experience. And I am being honest here, I am already using all the utilities of PowerToys for making my Windows 10 experience efficient. And I would love to see some of the features to be baked into Windows 10 by default so that I don’t have to rely on installing PowerToys.


About the author

Anubhav Bhatnagar
Anubhav Bhatnagar
Your friendly neighbor who likes to spend most of his time learning and sharing what he has learned with everyone. A nerd who loves observing, exploring, and critiquing. He fancies good design, and it trying to find his way somewhere in between minimalism and essentialism. You can connect with him @AnooBav on all social platforms.


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