Microsoft PowerToys for Windows 10: what they are and what they are for

Microsoft PowerToys for Windows 10: what they are and what they are for

Anyone who remembers the “Windows 95 era” will certainly remember the PowerToyssmall Microsoft utilities that allowed you to change the behavior of the operating system to your liking.

In 2019, the new PowerToys for Windows 10 (essential requirement is Windows 10 version 2004, build 19041 or later), now also compatible with Windows 11.
According to Brandon LeBlanc, Microsoft Senior Program Manager on the Windows Insider team, the goal of the new PowerToys is to “provide more advanced users with a series of ready-to-use utilities that allow them to adapt the Windows interface to their needs and to the various workflows“.

I PowerToys per Windows 10 e Windows 11 they are continuously updated and frequently the Microsoft developers and the community add new useful applications. In this article we try to keep track of them.

The most recent version of the PowerToys can be downloaded for free at this address by clicking on the file PowerToysSetup-xxxx-x64.exe (for 64-bit versions of Windows 10 and Windows 11).

Once the package containing the PowerToys is installed, an icon is added to the traybar of the operating system, usually in the lower right corner.

Users remain free to download updated PowerToys packs from the page GitHub of the project and apply them manually without uninstalling anything.
To install PowerToys updates just click on the button Check for updates in the tab General.
By activating the option Download updates automatically you can request the automatic installation of all updates as they become available.

Always through the tab General it is possible to ensure that the PowerToys are possibly started with administrative rights, whether to run them when Windows starts and finally choose the light, dark theme or in line with the operating system settings.

Below we keep track of all the PowerToys that Microsoft developers add over time and that constitute the starting tool for integrating new features into the operating system.

By default when you first install the PowerToys package all the utility are activated. However, it is not necessary to activate all the PowerToys at the same time: by clicking on the various names in the left column, it is possible to choose which components to enable and which to deactivate.

PowerToys Windows 10 and 11: what utilities they contain and what they are for

1) Always on top. Sometimes you want to keep a Windows window always on top. In doing so, its content will be displayed while, for example, you are working on another program at the same time.
Of the powertoy Always on top we talked in the article containing the information to always keep a window visible in Windows.

2) Active. In English Awakeis a component that takes care of always keeping the PC active by overcoming the preferences set at the level of energy saving.
By clicking on Active in the left column of the PowerToys package it is possible to choose the default behavior that the device should have in use.
With a click using the right button on the icon of PowerToys Awake shown in traybar you can indicate that you want to always keep the monitor on or choose whether to keep the PC active for an indefinite time or for a precise period.

3) Color selection. An application especially useful for Web developers, webmasters and graphic designers that allows you to extract references to any color represented on the screen using the notations of the different palettes.
Colors are expressed using the tables HEX, RGB, HSL, etc. as explained in this support document.

4) Crop and block. A function that allows you to clip the contents of a window and always keep it displayed in a separate pane. It is possibly possible to cut a part of a window and make sure that its content, available in reduced format, is always accessible and it is possible to interact with it.

The instrument Crop and block provides two keyboard combinations, both freely customizable. The first allows you to obtain a simple thumbnail of the window content, the other to set up a window with which it is possible to interface.

5) FancyZones. A tool that allows you to “draw” gods tiles customized on desktop in Windows and move running applications to it.
The feature, especially useful with large monitors, allows you to monitor the activity of programs running in Windows with the ability to switch from one window to another without using the taskbar or using the ALT+ key combination TAB.

FancyZones offers multiple “pre-packaged” layouts but the user still has the option to organize the positioning of the windows on the desktop using the scheme he prefers.

The FancyZones grid structure seen in this demo video was the inspiration for integrating Snap Layouts into Windows 11.

To learn more, we suggest reading the article in which we explain how to tile windows on the Windows desktop.

6) File lock. This is a useful tool that allows you to find out which program is using a file or folder.

In fact, it often happens that you are unable to remove an element at the file system level or that you cannot modify it with other software because it is already in use: after starting the PowerToys, the contextual menu is enriched with the item What is using this file?

By right-clicking on a file or folder, you can choose the new item and then get the list of processes that are blocking the selected item. The screen that appears allows you to terminate each process and “free” the file.

7) File Explorer add-ons. Enabling this powertoy it will make the window File Explorer of Windows show the preview of the contents of the files in .SVG, .PDF, .gcode, .STL, .MD format and about 150 file types used by developers. More formats will certainly be added in the future.

8) Hosts file editor. We have already seen what the HOSTS file is and how to modify its content: in this way it is possible to prevent applications from connecting to specific remote servers or, conversely, to allow connection to hosts that do not yet have a valid record at the dns.

With the tool Hosts file editor integrated in the PowerToys package, you can open the contents of the Windows HOSTS file with administrator rights and edit it directly. You can add entries as well as activate and deactivate those already present in the file. All with an interface that is simpler to use than Notepad or any other text editor opened in administrative mode.

9) Image resizing. Once you enable this powertoymoving to a folder containing images, selecting them and then right-clicking on them, you will notice the presence of the new command Resize images.

As we have seen in the article in which we explain how to resize images from File Explorer in Windows, PowerToys allow you to automate the operation and extend the possibilities that the operating system offers “standard”.

The user is offered the possibility of modifying many settings: he can specify the size of the image he wants to obtain (possibly avoiding obtaining images larger than the original one if its size does not allow it), take into consideration the image orientation, change image properties (metadata), edit filenames to get customized versions, change formats, and so on. More information can be found on the support page of Image resizing.

10) Keyboard management. It is a real one keyboard manager which helps remap individual keys and various keyboard shortcuts. It is thus possible to activate specific tasks using “ad hoc” combinations or replace the standard ones already available in Windows 10 and Windows 11.

In another article of ours we explained what the menu key on the keyboard is and how to remap it.

11) Mouse utility. Windows already integrates a system setting that allows you to highlight the mouse pointer on the screen, wherever it is, simply by pressing it CTRL on the keyboard.
We talked about it in the article where we explain how to find the mouse pointer on the screen.

L’Mouse utility of the PowerToys allows you to make evident even more markedly the mouse pointer by pressing the key twice CTRL.
Also by pressing the default key combination Windows+MAIUSC+H you can toggle click highlighting on and off, which is useful for example in presentations.

The styles used to highlight the mouse pointer can be freely customized by clicking on Appearance and behavior.

The section Hover it is baptized in English Mouse jump because it allows you to make big jumps from one area of ​​the screen to another.
This feature is especially useful for those with large screens and high ppi (dots per inch) or color density using multi-monitor setups.
By activating Hover then pressing Windows+MAIUSC+Dthe currently displayed screen is temporarily reduced to allow for a quick click where you want to move the mouse.

By activating the option Mouse pointer crosshair and using the set key combination (CTRL+ALT+P) a cross appears on the screen to highlight the position of the mouse pointer. The cross, red by default, follows the movements of the mouse or touchpad.

12) Mouse without borders. It is an ingenious utility that we had already talked about in the past. Before being integrated into PowerToys, in fact, it was distributed as an experimental application by Microsoft developers. It allows you to share mouse and keyboard among multiple Windows PCs: with a simple click or the use of special shortcuts, you can switch from controlling one system to another. Indeed, by moving the mouse pointer beyond the borders of the screen (top, bottom, right and left edge), you can switch to the screen of the other PC connected to the local network and control it directly.

13) Paste as plain text. The “Magic Combination” CTRL+MAIUSC+V allows you to paste the copied text into the Windows clipboard eliminating any formatting or graphic element.
We count it among the most useful keyboard shortcuts in Windows since…

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