Microsoft PowerToys: easily customize the system environment of Windows 10 or 11

Laurent Mancini

December 18, 2022 at 11:00 a.m.


Microsoft PowerToys

© Microsoft

Microsoft PowerToys is a suite of utilities for modifying and optimizing the operating system. Supported processors are x64 and ARM64. These little-known tools are able to improve your productivity thanks to their various practical features.

Here we present these tools that should make your life easier in Windows 10 or Windows 11.

Suspend from sleep mode with PowerToys Awake

PowerToys Awake is a tool that keeps the computer running without the need to change power settings. The utility disables sleep mode by creating a specific state. It tells the system that one or more long-running tasks are running, but does not change any of the usual sleep settings.

One click is enough to activate PowerToys Awake. The user just has to select a definite or indefinite duration of activity.

PowerToys Awake © Microsoft

© Microsoft

A window always in the foreground thanks to Always on Top

The Always on Top utility allows you to pin one or more windows to the foreground. The Win+Ctrl+T combination freezes the selected window(s) above the others. Simply press these three keys again to cancel the feature.

Advanced settings are also available. They are used to customize the activation or deactivation of the top position of the window. It is possible to prohibit the functionality if the game mode is launched. The color and thickness of the border of the highlighted active window can be changed.

Changing window display with FancyZones

The FancyZones window manager makes it possible to create a fully customized complex working environment. The user can thus organize his various windows as he wishes. It is possible to choose a precise target zone, then to use a defined keyboard shortcut so that the chosen window uses the entire available space. You can also drag the window using the mouse. It will be automatically resized.

FancyZones also allows alignment to multiple zones. User can choose edge pointing or multi-area alignment with mouse and keyboard combination. The layout editor allows you to adjust the display on one or more monitors. The space of the different areas (margins) can also be precisely adjusted.

© Microsoft

Picking Colors with the Color Picker Utility

The Color Picker tool is launched with the key combination Win+Shift+C. The eyedropper that appears allows you to select any color from a running application. The characteristics of the sampled color appear in several formats (HEX, RGB, HSL). It is then possible to copy the information to the clipboard, according to the format configured by default in the settings.

When the Color Picker utility is active, all you have to do is point the mouse to the desired part of the screen. It is possible to zoom using the wheel or the scroll function. The Color Picker editor can memorize the history of the last 20 picked colors. The user can also obtain the references of the two lighter shades as well as the two darker shades of the selected shade.

ColorPicker © Microsoft

© Microsoft

Improved Preview pane with File Explorer

The File Explorer utility enriches the formats supported by the Preview pane. The tool thus makes it possible to display thumbnails of Markdown, SVG, PDF, STL and G-code files.

Hosts file editor

This utility from the PowerToys suite allows you to modify the Windows local “Hosts” file. The editor gives access to the configuration of this file which contains the identification information of the hosts on the IP networks. The user can easily add a new entry (IP address, hostname, comments, etc.).

Host File Editor © Microsoft

© Microsoft

Control over resources used with File Locksmith

File Locksmith allows you to view active files as well as processes in use. A simple right click on a file or a directory allows its complete analysis. File Locksmith then lists all the processes used. Several files and/or directories can be controlled simultaneously. The user can then choose to obtain more information on a running process or decide to stop it.

Image resizing made easy with Image Resizer

This extension of the Windows graphical interface allows you to quickly resize one or more images. It is possible to choose predefined sizes or manually adjust the dimensions. A built-in encoder allows saving the image file in different formats, in case the original file is not supported by Image Resizer. Supported formats are: WMPhoto, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, BMP and GIF.

Image Resizer © Microsoft

© Microsoft

Keyboard Manager for keyboard customization

This tool authorizes the redefinition of the keys of your keyboard. Remapping is only active when PowerToys Keyboard Manager is enabled. However, some keys cannot be reassigned, such as the main function keys.

The combinations allowing shortcuts can also be modified. In this case, you must open the shortcut settings window in the Keyboard Manager tool.

PowerToys mouse utilities enhance the functionality of your device

Various tools make it possible to optimize and personalize the use of the mouse and its cursor. It is thus possible to activate a luminous halo which will follow the cursor to find it more quickly. This mouse search function can be launched by pressing left Ctrl twice or shaking the device.

Another function allows you to assign a different color to each click, right or left. The light outline of the pointer then changes, depending on the button used. Finally, a last tool shows lines in the shape of a cross, centered on the cursor.

PowerToys Mouse © Microsoft

© Microsoft

PowerRename makes it easy to find and replace filenames with blocks

This tool allows you to work in bulk, by selecting a large number of files. The user can quickly search for a regular expression across multiple files and modify it. It is possible to preview the results before applying the name change. Changes are reversible.

PowerRename © Microsoft

© Microsoft

Other PowerToys tools to improve your productivity

Video Conference Mute allows you to mute your computer’s microphone and camera using the Win+Shift+Q shortcut. This utility takes precedence over any running conference call or video conferencing applications.

Shortcut Guide is launched using the Win+Shift+/ combination and displays all the shortcuts available, depending on the state of the Desktop.

Activating Text Extractor with the shortcut Win+Shift+T copies text that appears on the screen. This tool only works with languages ​​that have the OCR language pack.

To quickly access accented characters, simply activate the PowerToys Quick Accent feature. Therefore, by holding down the key of the chosen character, then the space bar, the user can select the desired accented character.

The measurement of the pixels of your screen, from the edges of the chosen image, is possible thanks to the Screen ruler tool. The latter is launched with the key combination Win+Shift+M.

PowerToys Run allows you to instantly launch an application. To open the utility, it is enough to use the shortcut Alt+Space, then start writing the name of the desired application. This function also works for searching for folders and files. It can also indicate the various running processes. Executing system commands, launching the calculator, converting units and opening the internet browser are also possible through PowerToys Run.

Unleash Windows 10 and 11 potential with PowerToys

The various features of Microsoft PowerToys enhance productivity. Thanks to them, the user can personalize and optimize his environment and his use of the Windows operating system.

Microsoft has chosen to offer the various PowerToys tools as open source. Users are therefore invited to contribute to their development.

Source : Microsoft

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