7 must-try Microsoft PowerToys for Windows PC users

7 must-try Microsoft PowerToys for Windows PC users

Embracing the Power of Microsoft PowerToys

PowerToys

If you’re old enough to remember Windows 95, you probably recall the original Windows PowerToys, a set of utilities developed by the Windows 95 shell team and freely distributed to the community. The most popular tool in the collection was TweakUI, which allowed users to fine-tune the Windows interface with a simple click and point method, making changes to the Windows Registry without any hassle. Microsoft has resurrected the PowerToys brand name in recent years, and the current version of PowerToys is far more impressive and comprehensive than its humble beginnings.

In 2019, Microsoft reintroduced PowerToys with a new lineup of utilities designed specifically for Windows 10. The initial release was rather modest, labeled as version 0.11.0. However, after four years of development, PowerToys has evolved into a curated collection of open-source utilities that are compatible with both Windows 10 and 11. With an easy-to-use interface for managing these utilities and hosted on GitHub, PowerToys has become a valuable resource for Windows users of all levels.

The PowerToys app welcomes users with a dialog that provides helpful information about each tool within the suite. Additionally, there is a Settings page, allowing users to configure options for each utility. From remapping or disabling keys with the Keyboard Manager to creating custom layouts for multiple apps with FancyZones, PowerToys enhances the Windows user experience in various ways. Let’s take a closer look at some of the standout utilities that have become indispensable in my daily workflow.

Keyboard Manager: Taming the Caps Lock Beast

Keyboard Manager

Confession time: I am a very sloppy typist. Often, I find my fingers straying from the home row and inadvertently hitting the Caps Lock key instead of Shift or Tab. This results in frustrating “all caps” outbursts, causing me to delete and retype portions of text repeatedly. However, thanks to Keyboard Manager, this issue is a thing of the past. The utility allows users to remap or disable any key, effectively mitigating the Caps Lock conundrum. By assigning unused keys such as Pause or Scroll Lock to other functions, I have optimized my workflow and eliminated unnecessary frustrations.

FancyZones: Supercharging Window Snap

FancyZones

Windows Snap is a fantastic feature that enables users to arrange windows on the screen in predefined layouts. It’s an ideal option for multitasking with multiple apps simultaneously. However, FancyZones takes Window Snap to a whole new level. This PowerToy allows users to create custom layouts and span zones across multiple monitors. With FancyZones, even the largest displays can be transformed into multi-zone dashboards, providing a sleek and efficient workspace. While it may seem intimidating at first, online guides can help users navigate the powerful capabilities of FancyZones.

Text Extractor: Unlocking the Text in Images

Text Extractor

Have you ever needed to extract text from an image for use in a document or email? Text Extractor is your new best friend. This clever utility uses OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to accurately extract text from images. Simply activate the shortcut (default: Windows key + Shift + T) and select the portion of the image containing the desired text. Text Extractor will place the recognized text on the clipboard, saving you the time and effort of manual retyping. It’s essential to proofread the extracted text, especially if the image quality is less than perfect, but overall, Text Extractor is an invaluable tool.

Quick Accent: Embracing Diacritical Marks

Quick Accent

Typing characters with tildes, accents, and diacritical marks on a standard English keyboard layout can be tedious, especially if you frequently switch between languages. Quick Accent simplifies this process by allowing users to quickly enter characters with various diacritical marks. By holding down a key and tapping the Quick Accent shortcut key (default: right or left arrow, or spacebar), a pop-up window appears, offering a selection of available variants for the selected character. This technique also works with numbers, opening up a world of subscript, superscript, and other options. Quick Accent eliminates the need to memorize complicated alt key codes, making multilingual typing a breeze.

Awake: Preventing Sleep Interruptions

Awake

Have you ever started a time-consuming task, such as a large file download, only to worry that your PC might go to sleep and interrupt the process? Awake eliminates this concern by preventing sleep mode from activating during specific periods. Users can choose to keep their PCs awake indefinitely or set a predetermined interval after which it’s safe for the system to sleep. With Awake, you can confidently step away from your PC without any interruptions, ensuring that crucial downloads and compilation processes complete seamlessly.

Peek: Windows Preview Made Easy

Peek

If you’ve envied the Quick Look feature on macOS that allows file previews with a simple tap of the spacebar, Peek is the ideal solution for Window users. With Peek enabled, selecting a file in File Explorer and pressing Ctrl + Spacebar opens a preview in a separate window. Unlike macOS, the preview window in Peek stays open even when you return to File Explorer. Simply press the Escape key to clear the preview from the screen. For those who prefer customization, Peek’s settings allow adjustments to this behavior.

Mouse Utilities: Enhancing Mouse Navigation

Mouse Utilities

Mouse Utilities offers a range of helpful features to improve mouse usage. The Find My Mouse feature saves the day when the mouse pointer seems to have vanished. By tapping the left Ctrl key twice, you can quickly locate the cursor on the screen. Mouse Highlighter options highlight each mouse click, making it ideal for training sessions or presentations. The page is packed with useful tricks that simplify mouse navigation, enhancing the overall user experience.

The above utilities only scratch the surface of what the Microsoft PowerToys collection has to offer. If you often handle bulk file management tasks, PowerRename and File Locksmith might become your new best friends. If you’re a network-savvy Windows geek, Hosts File Editor provides an efficient way to manage local hosts files. Plus, there’s Paste as Plain Text, which does exactly as its name suggests. The Microsoft PowerToys collection offers something interesting and useful for every Windows user, regardless of their coding expertise.

So, don’t miss out! Embrace the PowerToys and unlock a world of convenience and efficiency in your Windows experience. Whether you’re a busy professional, an occasional typist, or a multitasking guru, PowerToys will undoubtedly enhance your workflow and put a smile on your face.