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July 5, 2020

Getting Into PowerToys

Upon reading about a keyboard mapping tool’s addition to PowerToys, I went to go check it out. It’s a UWP app, so I had to find my way in because I use Start10 and it doesn’t show them by default. Working through the notification area, I quickly figured out that right-clicking the PowerToys icon provides access to various options, including General Settings (shown in this story’s intro graphic). Once you’re into general settings, you can dig into the three individual PowerToys current available — namely:

+ FancyZones: lets you organize your desktop into various areas, called zones with a variety of zone display and control features. The Github info has descriptive text and there’s a YouTube video, too.
+ PowerRename: Windows Shell Exension provides renaming based on search and replace or regular expressions (regex). See the Github info for a full-blown description.
+ Shortcut Guide: Shows a help overlay onscreen with keyboard shortcuts when the Windows key is pressed and held (for 900 ms by default). See the Github info for more detail.

Thus, I quickly learned that I have to hold down the Windows key for nearly a second to see the keyboard shortcut help overlay. Just as quickly, I also learned that you have to keep holding down the Windows key to give yourself time to read the help overlay (ROFL).

Return of the PowerToys!

Back in the day, there used to be PowerToys for a lot of different functions. But they weren’t as attractive, as easy to use, or as nicely integrated into the Windows desktop and runtime environment. I still use one called Resize Pictures which shows up as a right-click option in Explorer, thanks to its implementation as a Shell Extension (see image below). I’m still learning how to run and make best use of the latest generation of PowerToys. But because they come through the Microsoft Store, they update themselves automatically. I didn’t have to do anything to use the Shortcut Guide that was just recently added (except, of course, for learning how to invoke and use it). Good stuff!

Old-style PowerToys used the most basic UI and look-and-feel imaginable, but they did all kinds of useful stuff.

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

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