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8 Must-Have PowerToys for Boosting Your Windows Productivity

Improve your productivity through these 8 PowerToys.

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You will find millions of software that are built when someone finds a need for a feature that should be there by default, such as the ability to compress images through the file explorer or extract text from the images or videos.

Or an app launcher like Spotlight (a global search tool on macOS) to search for everything systemwide in a single instance. These are tools that you never knew you needed.

The good news is that PowerToys on Windows is a set of such small utilities that are developed for users like you and me to get things done quickly and help you become more productive.

While writing, there are 24 such utilities in PowerToys but in this tutorial, I will be sharing my personal favorites after using them for more than a year.

PowerToys: A productivity powerhouse

Before jumping to the detailed description of each tool, here’s a brief summary of what each tool has to offer:

Crop and LockIt allows you to crop the current application to a smaller window or just create a thumbnail. Useful for referencing information or keeping important content visible while working on other tasks
FancyZonesA window manager that lets you create complex window layouts and snap windows into these layouts with a drag-and-drop operation or a customizable shortcut. Helps organize and manage multiple windows for improved productivity.
File Explorer AddonsAdds additional features to the File Explorer, such as previewing file contents, providing additional metadata, and enabling advanced search capabilities. Enhances the functionality of the File Explorer.
Image ResizerA batch image resizer that allows you to resize one or more images quickly according to specified dimensions or scaling percentages. Useful for optimizing images for web or other purposes.
Mouse Without BordersAllows you to control multiple computers with a single mouse and keyboard, making it easy to transition between computers seamlessly. Useful for multi-monitor setups or working with multiple systems.
PowerRenameA bulk renaming tool that allows you to rename multiple files at once based on search patterns, replacements, and other rules. Helpful for organizing and managing large sets of files.
PowerToys RunA quick launcher that allows you to quickly launch applications or execute commands by typing a short query. Enhances productivity by providing quick access to frequently used tools and utilities.
Text ExtractorExtracts text from images using optical character recognition (OCR). Useful for extracting text from scanned documents, screenshots, or other image files.

Now, let’s take a quick look at the installation. There are two ways you can install PowerToys on Windows:

  • Getting an executable (.exe) file from GitHub and you can choose between system-wide or user-specific installation.
  • Use Microsoft Store for easy one-click installation.

Install PowerToys using an executable file:

If you want to get an executable file for better control, go to the official GitHub page of PowerToys, choose your system architecture (x64 or ARM), and then choose the option for user-specific installation or a system-wide installation:

Install PowerToys from GitHub

Use Microsoft Store to install PowerToys:

If you are looking for the easiest way to install PowerToys then using the Microsoft Store is a way to go. All you have to do is head over to the download page of PowerToys on MS Store and hit the Install button:

1. Crop and Lock

What if I tell you that you can crop the currently running application to a smaller size to only display the useful part? It has two key features:

  1. Thumbnail shortcut (Win+Ctrl+Shift+T): You create a live thumbnail of a currently running application from where you can monitor the activity. The only catch is the thumbnail cannot be controlled and can only be used to monitor the activity.
  2. Reparent shortcut (Win+Ctrl+Shift+R): This is my favorite part of this utility. The Reparent shortcut not only lets you resize the currently running application but also lets you control the running application.

Now, let me walk you through how you can use both the (Thumbnail and Reparent) shortcut utilities.

Using Thumbnail shortcut

You call it a Thumbnail shortcut, I call it a live thumbnail, and there’s a reason.

Being a networking guy, I’m required to monitor networks and resources all at once. Sure, you can resize windows of various applications, but it will also strip down information you want to monitor.

So what I do is create a copped version of multiple windows using the Thumbnail shortcut, so I can monitor various windows without resizing the actual data.

To create a Thumbnail shortcut, you press Win+Ctrl+Shift+T and choose the area to create a thumbnail:

Use powertoys to create live thumbnails

Using Reparent shortcut

What if I tell you that you can create a cropped version of a window and still control it as per your convenience? Well, that’s exactly what the Reparent shortcut does.

I use it to create a cropped version of Spotify’s player, so I can control my music in through the mini window, and it won’t bug me while working. More like Spotify’s mini-player, but that’s for premium members only (as of now).

To create a Reparent shortcut, press Win+Ctrl+Shift+R and select the area in which you want to create a Reparent shortcut.

For example, here’s how a Reparent shortcut of Spotify looks like:

Use crop and lock to create cropped version of application

2. Fancyzones

By default, you can spit windows to multitask, but that’s boring and not useful, especially if you have a large monitor to deal with. So what do you do in that case?

Well, you look for a tool that lets you customize how you want to split windows on your computer, and that’s what Fancyzones is used for.

Fancyzones allows you to create a custom window layout to get the most out of your screen estate.

For example, you can create a layout where the main window will get more screen area and will be centered for focus, whereas the other windows can be cornered for occasional glances.

The default layouts are more than enough for most users, so let’s start with how you can choose from the available options.

Using the default layouts

First, open PowerToys from the start menu, select Fancyzones from the left list bar and click on Launch layout editor:

Launch layout editor in powertoys

It will show you the available options. To choose the default layout from the available options, all you have to do is click on the preferred layout, and it’d be set as a default:

Choose default layout for FancyZones in PowerToys

If you want to tune the selected option, click on the pencil icon located right next to the name of the layout:

Edit the default layout in PowerToys

It will open a prompt where you can increase/decrease columns/rows and spacing between two windows:

Customizing default layout of Fancyzones in Powertoys

But how do you use the configured layout? Well, it is pretty simple! Once after configure the desired layout, press the Shift key and drag the window. Now, place the window to the desired row/column:

Use Fancyzones for better productivity in Windows

Using custom layout

If the default layouts are not doing justice, then you can create your own deciding how many columns/rows should be there, including the size of each window.

To create a new (custom) layout, first, launch the layout editor from the Fancyzones:

Launch layout editor in powertoys

Next, click on the Create new layout button:

Create a new layout in Fancyzones Powertoys

There, it will show you two options: Grid and Canvas. Grid will let you create a window layout for horizontal and vertical layouts (more useful and easy to use) and Canvas is where you can create overlapping windows.

To make this quick, I’ll be going with the Grid option.

Once you choose the Grid option, you can divide the given columns, resize or remove the number of columns using the cursor as shown here:

Create custom window layout through powertoys

That’s it!

3. File explorer add-ons

The File Explorer add-on utility lets you preview files including images, PDFs, source code files, and a lot more.

There are two utilities to preview and each serves a different purpose: Preview Pane previewers and Thumbnail Previews. So let’s take a look at how to get the most out of each of them.

Preview Pane previewers

If you don’t know, the Preview pane is already available in File Explorer and what this utility does is extend the features of the already available utility.

It supports the following extensions:

  • SVG images (.svg)
  • Markdown files (.md)
  • More than 150 Source code file extensions (.cs, .cpp, .rs, …)
  • PDF files (.pdf)
  • G-code files (.gcode)
  • QOI images (.qoi)

To enable Preview Pane, use the following steps:

  1. Click on the View button
  2. Select the Preview pane option and it’ll be enabled
Enable preview pane in PowerToys

Once enabled, select the supported file, and it will generate the preview for that file. Here, I went for a Python code:

Get preview of a code using PowerToys in Windows

Thumbnail Previews

Unlike the previous option, the Thumbnail Previews will show the preview of a file in the file icon itself. I’ve enabled it for the SVG files for quick finds.

Also, it does not require any additional steps to enable this utility. All you have to do is to make sure you’ve enabled the file types to show the preview and that’s it:

Enable filetypes for Thumbnail Previews in powertoys

For example, I enabled preview for SVG and PDF files so it looked like this:

Using thumbnail previews in powertoys

4. Image resizer

I used to use online image compressing tools to resize images, but when I came across image resizer, it became my go-to choice for all my image resizing needs.

Image resizer is the easiest way to resize images without uploading your sensitive information to an unknown image resizing site.

To use this utility, all you have to do is follow 3 simple steps:

  1. Select one or more images
  2. Click on Resize with Image Resizer
  3. Choose the resizing preset and hit the Resize button
Resize images through powertoys

You can also create a custom preset if the given are not useful. To create a custom preset, use the following 3 steps:

  1. Open Image Resizer from PowerToys
  2. Click on Add new size button
  3. Open the newly created preset named New size 1 to make further configurations
Create a new preset in Image Resizer PowerToys

There, you will find 3 options under the Fit menu:

  • Fill: Crop or stretch the image to fill the specified dimensions, potentially distorting the image ratio to fill the Image in given dimensions.
  • Fit: Resize the image to fit within the specified dimensions while preserving the aspect ratio, which may result in blank spaces around the image.
  • Stretch: Resize the image to match the specified dimensions exactly, and try to fill the given dimensions. It may stretch the image, resulting in distortion of the aspect ratio.

5. Mouse without borders

If you own multiple Windows computers and want to use a single mouse and keyboard across all of them, then, Mouse without Borders is a perfect utility for you.

The best part is you don’t have to be on the same network to make it work!

Apart from using the same mouse and keyboard among multiple devices (up to 4 computers), it also has some other cool features on its sleeves:

  • Share clipboard
  • Drag and drop file transfer up to 100MB

To use this utility, first, enable it from PowerToys, and then it will show you a key that you have to enter into another machine’s Mouse without Borders prompt:

connecting to mouse without borders

Hit the Connect button and perform the same machine from where you generated the code.

This way, you establish the connection between two devices and soon you’ll see the name of the connected device (hostname of the system):

Devices connected over Mouse without Borders in PowerToys

That’s it!

6. PowerRename

If you are a power user, then I’m sure you will often find yourself in a situation where you have to rename a bunch of files.

To use the PowerRename utility, all you have to do is select multiple files all at once that you want to be renamed and then press right-click and choose Rename with PowerRename:

Use PowerRename with multiple files in PowerToys

It will open PowerRename with the selected file. But when you choose hundreds of files at once, the chances of unwanted files also making their way to the list are pretty high.

But you can filter the list further by entering the file extensions in the Search for field.

For example, in my case, I wanted to rename images but while selecting, some MP4 files were also selected, so I used .*jpg wildcard in the Search for field to remove everything else except images.

Make sure to check the Use regular expressions field:

Sort files based on their file extension using PowerRename in PowerToys

Now, you can enter the renaming term in the Replace with field, but I wanted to have the same name for each file followed by a number to index them, so I used the $1 regular expressions with the rename term as shown:

Diwali images$1.jpg
Batch renaming using PowerRename in PowerToys

Finally, hit the Apply button and files will be renamed. In my case, the output looked like this:

Output of batch renaming in PowerToys

7. Powertoys Run

Being a Mac user, I was never impressed with the efficiency of the Windows start menu. It always felt slow, and laggy. It even showed ads that felt like trash compared to macOS’s spotlight.

But what if I tell you that you can have a better start menu that is fast, clean, and lets you perform a systemwide search? You guessed it right, I’m talking about Powertoys Run.

Here’s what you can do using Powertoys Run:

  • Launch applications
  • Open files and folders
  • Perform calculations
  • Execute commands
  • Search for settings
  • Open administrative tools

That was a small list of features that I use daily, but the list goes on.

To use the PowerToys Run, press Alt + Space and type your search query. For example, here I used the ? plugin to initiate a Windows search to find the Downloads folder:

Use PowerToys Run to search for files and folders

Apart from the ? plugin which I used to initiate Windows search, there are other plugins for different uses:

PluginDirect Activation CommandExample
Calculator== 5+3
Windows Search?? notepad
History!!!! powertoys
Installed Programs.. chrome
Registry Keys:: hkcu\software
Windows Services!! win
Shell Command>> ipconfig
Time and Date)) current time
Unit Converter%%%% 10 kg in lbs
Value Generator## guid
URI Handler//// www.geniusgeeks.com
Web Search???? how to code
Windows Settings$$ display
Windows Terminal Profiles__ cmd
Window Walker<< explorer

Apart from searching, you can also use PowerToys Run to execute commands. Here’s a list of commands that you can use with the PowerToys Run:

ShutdownShut down the computer.
RestartRestart the computer.
Sign OutSign out the current user.
LockLock the computer.`
SleepPut the computer into sleep mode.
HibernateHibernate the computer.
Recycle BinOpen the Recycle Bin.
UEFI Firmware SettingsReboot into UEFI Firmware Settings (requires UEFI firmware and admin permissions).
IP addressDisplay the IP addresses of the network connections.
MAC addressDisplay the MAC addresses of the network adapters.

8. Text extractor

As the name suggests, Text Extractor is a systemwide OCR that lets you extract text from images and videos (when paused, of course).

To use the Text extractor, press Win + Shift + T and select the text area. Once done, the extracted text can be pasted like you normally do using Ctrl + V:

Use text extractor from powertoys

You can also use the two hotkeys to tweak the Text extractor as per your need:

  • S: Format the extracted text in a single line.
  • T: Format the output in the tabular format.

Quick and easy. Isn’t it?

Wrapping Up…

In this tutorial, I went through my personal favorite PowerToys which have improved my workflow significantly! I hope you will feel the same after discovering this tutorial.

Have any suggestions or queries? Please don’t hesitate to leave us a comment.

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A tech journalist whose life revolves around networks.

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