Want a custom desktop layout? Need to rename multiple files at once? Fire up Microsoft’s free PowerToys utility for Windows 10 to give your operating system a boost.
Microsoft launched the initial version of PowerToys for Windows 95 to give power users improved productivity and customization features. It returned for Windows XP but wasn’t seen again until 2019, when the newest flavor of PowerToys was made available for Windows 10.
Filled with an array of utilities, PowerToys is designed to enhance and improve Windows 10 in very specific and useful ways. Fancy Zones creates layouts to help you better position windows for multitasking. The File Explorer Preview lets you preview more advanced types of files. Image Resizer can modify the size and resolution of images.
A Keyboard Manager remaps certain keys and the PowerRename toy renames multiple files in one shot. The PowerToys Run tool helps you find specific programs and files, and a Shortcut Guide shows you a list of all the available Win key shortcuts. Let’s check out each toy to see how they can ease and expand your use of Windows 10.
First, download the current version of PowerToys for Windows 10. Browse to Microsoft’s GitHub page for PowerToys. Look for the latest release and click the PowerToysSetup MSI file link to download the file.
Double-click the MSI file to install it and the PowerToys icon should appear in the Windows System Tray. Click the icon, or if it doesn’t appear, open the PowerToys (Preview) shortcut from the Start menu, then click the System Tray icon.
The PowerToys Settings screen appears, pointing you to the General screen. Here, you can decide to run PowerToys as an administrator (which is required for certain tools), change the window’s theme, and run PowerToys at startup. You can also manually check for updates or elect to download updates automatically. Microsoft updates PowerToys on a fairly frequent basis, so you may want to enable automatic updates.
All the utilities in PowerToys should automatically be turned on, but you might want to click each one to learn what they do and which settings you can tweak. Let’s check out each individual tool.
Create Custom Desktop Layouts With FancyZones
Windows 10 lets you multitask by positioning windows into different areas on the screen, but getting the right window into a specific spot can be challenging. With FancyZones, you can set up a specific screen layout ahead of time, then simply pop windows into each predefined zone of that layout.
To do this, select FancyZones in the PowerToys Settings window and click Launch zones editor.
At the FancyZones editor, create a layout by choosing one of the default templates-such as columns, rows, or grid-and modifying it. Then add or remove zones as you see fit. Alternatively, click the heading for Custom to build a layout from scratch. When done, click Apply.
Move a window into a particular zone by holding down the Shift key and dragging it into a numbered spot. More windows can be added by holding down Shift and moving each one into its own zone.
You can also tweak many of the options available with FancyZones by reviewing and modifying them in the PowerToys Settings window.
View More File Formats With File Explorer Preview
The Windows 10 File Explorer can already preview a range of different files, including PDFs, images, audio files, video files, and Microsoft Office documents. With the PowerToys File Explorer Preview, you can also preview .SVG Scalable Vector Graphics image files and .MD Markdown files, both of which are used to style or view web-based images or text.
Just save an SVG or MD file on your computer. Open File Explorer, click the View heading, and then select Preview page. Now select your SVG or MD file to see it in the preview pane.
Easily Resize Photos With Image Resizer
Sometimes a photo or other graphic is too large to share via email. You can change the size through a dedicated image editor, but the PowerToys Image Resizer tool is more convenient.
Open File Explorer, right-click the image you want to resize, then select the Resize picture command. Choose the size you want to use or devise your own custom fit and click the Resize button to create a new, smaller image.
Remap Keys and Shortcuts With Keyboard Manager
Each key on your keyboard performs a specific function, but what if you want a key to do something else? You could use a special program from a third party to remap your keyboard, or you can use the PowerToys Keyboard Manager to assign different functions to specific keys.
Select Keyboard Manager in the PowerToys Settings window. To change a single key, click Remap a key. In the Key section, click the + sign, then either press the key you want to change or select it from the drop-down menu. In the Mapped to section, type the key you want activated when you press the first key, or select it from the drop-down menu. Click OK, and your key will be remapped to its new functionality.
You have to be careful when reassigning individual keys as they may have important functions in Windows or in certain applications. Instead, you can assign or reassign a keyboard shortcut. To do this, click the button in the Keyboard Manager settings to Remap a shortcut.
Click the + sign for Shortcut and then press the shortcut you want to use (no more than two keys at a time). In the Mapped to section, type or select the action you want that keyboard shortcut to activate. Click OK, then press the shortcut you remapped.
To delete a key or shortcut remap, just open it in the Keyboard Manager settings and click the trash can icon.
Rename Multiple Files at Once With PowerRename
Windows doesn’t make it easy to rename files in bulk, especially if you want to give each file a unique identifier. With PowerRename, you can rename multiple files based on a specific pattern. Open File Explorer and select the files you want to rename.
Right-click one of the files and choose PowerRename from the pop-up menu. You can search for and replace text in the files, enumerate each file with a succeeding number, and perform other actions. The Renamed column shows how the renamed files will appear. When ready, click Rename to rename the files.
Add Universal Search With PowerToys Run
Finding a specific application or file to open can be a challenge, especially if the item doesn’t appear in your Start menu or another convenient spot. Using PowerToys Run, you can find an app or file just by starting to type its name.
Press Alt+Space. Now start typing the name of the item you want and results will begin to populate in the list. Click the result for the app or file you wish to open.
Windows 10 offers a variety of keyboard shortcuts that you can use in combination with the Win key. For instance, pressing Win+E opens File Explorer, Win+I opens the Settings menu, and Win+M minimizes all open windows. But how do you remember all these shortcuts?
You don’t have to, thanks to the PowerToys Shortcut Guide. Just press down on the Win key until the Shortcut Guide appears and displays a list of each available shortcut.
Originally published at https://www.pcmag.com.