Microsoft PowerToys

This is a suite of free utilities from Microsoft that you can add to Windows 10 or Windows 11

Power Rangers
No, PowerToys – not Power Rangers

Microsoft PowerToys first saw the light of day as an add-on for Window 95. That’s the best part of 30 years, now, but it seems that most of my own IT Support clients are unaware of them. They haven’t always been available during that time, but Windows 10 and 11 are both supported now.

There are currently 19 utilities in the suite (as time goes by, some are discontinued and others added). You can find the current full list here. All of the utilities come in a single package. There are two ways to install them:

  • As a program download from this page at github. On that page, Click on the link that ends in “-x64.exe”.
  • From the Microsoft store – click here.

The easier method might be to download and install them as an app from the Microsoft store. Note that if you install the program from github, for some reason the program is named in Control Panel’s “Programs and Features” as “PowerToys (preview) x64”. I think this is probably just a rough edge. The installed utilities definitely work, and are not just a “preview”.

Here’s a brief outline of a few of the utilities that I think are likely to be of most interest to my own IT Support clients:

Calculator pinned to top
In this image, the calculator is pinned on top of other windows

“Always on Top”

This pins the current window so that it stays on top of others. It is invoked with the shortcut Win Ctrl t (ie – depress all those keys at the same time). I have found, though, that it is overruled by the shortcut Win d – that immediately shows the desktop without closing any open windows. Cancel “always on top” by hitting the same shortcut (Win Ctrl t) again. For more details, see this page.

“Quick Accent Utility”

This allows you to quickly change, for instance, the letter “e” to “é”. It does take a bit of practice to get used to it, but if you regularly need to type characters that are not on your keyboard, this might be an efficient way of achieving that. For instructions, see this page.

“Image Resizer Utility”

If you have ever had problems emailing images because they are too big, but are not familiar with any image editing programs, this utility could be an easy way to resize them. Just select the image(s) in File Explorer, right-click, and left-click on “resize pictures”. For details, see this page.

“Paste as Plain Text”

If you are accustomed to copying and pasting stuff from different sources into a single piece, then you have probably come across the problem of ending up with lots of different formats, sizes, fonts. This utility helps with that problem by pasting text without any special formatting. For details, see this page.

Child with toy power drill
…and not this,either

I can’t imagine that there are many people who would be able to take advantage of all, or even most, of the utilities in PowerToys, but it might be worth installing it just for the sake of a couple of potential benefits. After all, it costs nothing, except a bit of time.

For a full list of the PowerToys and a brief description of each, click here.

For Wikipedia’s brief history of PowerToys, click here.