Microsoft PowerToys: The Next Generation of legendary system utilities

Microsoft PowerToys is legendary suite of free system utilities for Windows, created as hobby project by people from Microsoft development teams. PowerToys were very popular in the old times of Windows 95, as they provided many additional functions that were not included in standard Windows environment at that time. A special mentioned goes to Tweak UI, a system utility that allowed tweaking of Windows user interface usually by modifying obscure and often undocumented configuration parameters in Windows Registry.

After original release for Windows 95, there was another major release of PowerToys for Windows XP, but then the development stopped. Until recently when a new generation of programmers at Microsoft revived the PowerToys brand and came up with new version created from scratch for Windows 10. PowerToys is developed as open source project, and source code and installation files can be found on GitHub, on microsoft/PowerToys.

Microsoft PowerToys: Settings

PowerToys The Next Generation is completely different from PowerToys of the last century, but one key thing is common – it provides a number of small utility programs to extend the functionality of Windows environment. In the current version it includes the following tools:

  • FancyZones: a window manager that allows to split screen area in rows and columns, and quickly position windows in desired area. In a way similar to Windows Snap is doing, but with more options to customize.
  • File Explorer Preview: this is File Explorer tweak that enables Preview Pane, to preview the selected file. This is very limited in current version, but
  • Image Resizer: Windows Shell Extension that allows to right-click on image in File Explorer and do a quick resize of the picture.
  • Keyboard Manager: allows to remap select keys and customize what happens when the key gets pressed. This can be done for individual key, or for combination of shortcut keys.
  • PowerRename: Windows Shell Extension to help with bulk renaming a large number of files, with support of search and replace or regular expressions.
  • PowerToys Run: instead of using Start menu to launch an app, you can activate PowerToys Run using Alt + Space shortcut and start typing. It will show popup window on the middle of the screen and let you search for an app and launch it.
  • Shortcut Guide: keep Windows key pressed for more than a second, and it will show the helper screen with available Windows + <key> shortcuts.
Microsoft PowerToys: Image Resizer

I especially like Fancy Zones, which helps a lot to quickly arrange windows when working on a wide screen. Windows 10 has standard options to quickly snap selected window to left or right half the screen – just use Windows + Left or Windows + Right key. But Fancy Zones let you easily split the screen on eg. three parts. To do so, you need to launch Zones Editor, select the Columns template, and optionally move the vertical splitters.

One way of splitting can be do define approximately 25% of left and right part of the screen for one vertical window, and leave 50% in the centre for main Window. Left side can be used for let’s say Outlook, right one for Teams, and in the middle you can do whatever you usually do. FancyZones can remember configuration for each app, so this way it will always launch an app in designated part of the screen. Of course, you can undock the app from initial position and move if freely around the screen.

Microsoft PowerToys: FancyZones