Windows comes with default set of features that you can customize using Windows Settings app. Though old Control Panel app still exists in Windows 11, most of the features are combined with the Settings app. You can also tweak Windows using Registry Editor and customize the default settings. However, there is an official tool from Microsoft is available for tweaking Windows that many users do not aware. It is Microsoft PowerToys, and we will go through all the features available with this power tool in this article.
What is Microsoft PowerToys?
PowerToys is a free and official application from Microsoft to customize Windows right from the front end. It contains more than ten tools, and you can enable or disable the required tool using an interface like Windows Settings app. Microsoft PowerToys was first released for Windows 95 and the latest version needs Windows 10 or 11. You can check the history of PowerToys in this Wikipedia article and below are the tools available with the latest version in Windows 11.
- Always On Top
- Color Picker
- File Explorer add-ons
- Image Resizer
- Keyboard Manager
- Mouse utilities
- PowerToys Run
- Shortcut Guide
- Video Conference Mute
Installing PowerToys in Windows
You can use one of the following methods to install PowerToys in your computer.
- Find Microsoft PowerToys app from Microsoft Store and install.
- Get the executable file GitHub and manually install.
The app needs to run in the background and in administrator mode for the features to work. If you are not using admin mode, the app will show a warning message in “General” section, and you can enable an option to always open the app in admin mode. In addition, you can go to “Welcome to PowerToys” section to view the summary of each app, tips, and the documentation link.
1. Always On Top
You can keep any app active always on top of other apps using this feature. You can trigger the action by pressing the assigned keyboard shortcut “Win + Control + T” and then selecting an app window. You can select multiple apps to keep them on top other open windows. There are customization options available to change the border color of the top app to highlight. PowerToys also allows you to exclude apps to pinning them on top.
By default, Windows will go to sleep mode and turn off the display when detecting inactivity after the set duration. You can change this from your power settings whenever needed. However, Awake tool in PowerToys helps to manage this without accessing your power settings. For example, you may want to run a long program and do not want the system goes to sleep mode which will terminate the background processing. In this case, make sure you have enabled “Awake” feature in PowerToys and select the required power mode.
You have the following options:
- Keep using the selected power plan which will use your power settings.
- Keep awake indefinitely – keep the system awake till the time you turn off manually.
- Keep awake temporarily – select this option and then the duration in hours and minutes to keep your system awake during that time. After that system will follow your default Windows power settings.
- Keep screen on – do not turn the display off.
3. Color Picker
This is a simple option to find the color code value of any you see on the screen. Trigger the color picker by pressing “Win + Shift + C” shortcut key. Now, move the picker pen to see the code of the color. Click on any color to open the color picker which will show the color code values in more than ten different formats like RGB, HEX, HSV, etc. you can change the behavior to directly open the editor or only pick a color and rearrange the order of the formats to show in the editor. Also, the first color format value will be automatically copied to your clipboard so that you can easily paste wherever you needed.
If you love Windows love split screen options shown over the maximize icon on the windows, then this tool is for you. Press “Win + Shift + Prime” keys to open the layout editor where you can use one of the predefined settings or create your custom layout. After selecting the layout, press shift key and drag and drop the windows to the layout’s section. You can easily customize the behavior, appearance and exclude apps to rearrange your layouts to work as per your convenient.
5. File Explorer add-ons
Using PowerToys, you can add add-ons to the default Windows File Explorer to enable preview of SVG, PDF, markdown, source code and G-code files. In addition, the tool will also add extensions for PDF, SVG and G-code.
For example, you can enable PDF preview option to view the live preview of PDF files in File Explorer preview pane.
6. Image Resizer
This is a tool for those who want to resize the image in bulk. You can setup the preset image size and bulk resize images with single click. After enabling this tool in PowerToys app, go to File Explore and select one or more images that you want to resize. Right click on the select images and go to “Show more options” and then select “Resize Pictures”. On the pop-up window, you can change the preset dimension if required and resize all the select images to requires size.
7. Keyboard Manager
This tool in PowerToys app helps to remap individual key, combination of keys and keyboard shortcuts. For example, you can replace the default shortcut “Alt + F4” with your custom shortcut like “Ctrl + Shift + F4”. Learn more on how to use keyboard manager tool to remap key functions.
8. Mouse utilities
This is a collection of tools to control the behavior of your mouse. For example, you can easily find the mouse cursor by pressing the control key on the left side of the keyboard twice. This will highlight a circle over the mouse cursor to make it visible. You can enable mouse point crosshairs and mouse highlighter to have fun with your mouse cursor.
PowerRename is the next tool in the list which is a power tool for search and rename bulk files. You can also use regular expressions for renaming the files. Enabling this in PowerToys will add a context menu in right click. Go to File Explorer and select the files you want rename. Right click on the selected files and go to “Show more options > PowerRename” option. This will open a pop-up window where you can search and replace file renames in bulk.
10. PowerToys Run
This is an ultimate tool helps you to search and carry out actions. After enabling this option in the PowerToys tools, simply press “Alt + Space” to open a search box. Using this search box, you can search for files, do math calculations, and trigger system commands. For example, type shutdown and press enter to turn off your computer. You can enable or disable the items this tool should use in the settings page to customize the results.
11. Shortcut Guide
This is the simple tools available out of all. It shows a set of Windows shortcuts which you can trigger using “Win + Shift + /” keys. You can customize the appearance of the overlay, theme, exclude apps and change the trigger shortcut.
12. Video Conference Mute
This is a latest added tool in PowerToys to mute your microphone and webcam with a shortcut “Win + Shift + Q”. You can only mute microphone using “Win + Shift + A” and mute webcam using “Win + Shift + O” keys.
As the name indicates, Microsoft PowerToys is the real power tool for tweaking Windows. It can help to boost your productivity to pin any app on top, change key mapping, bulk rename files, etc. The only problem is that PowerToys will slow down the performance as it will interfere with actions like viewing files in File Explorer. So, we recommend activating only required tools and disable others to balance the speed and work.