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Microsoft has a bundle that expands the capabilities of Windows 10 — it's worth installing

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Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO

Stephen Brashear | Getty Images

Microsoft has a piece of software that will let you customize certain parts of Windows 10. It’s not included in the box, but it’s still worth checking out — despite the big “preview” label on the app. 

PowerToys is an open-source program available on GitHub, the code storage service Microsoft bought for $7.5 billion in 2018. You can download the latest version of PowerToys by going to its releases page.

Windows remains the world’s most popular PC operating system and still the source of about 15% of the company’s total revenue. The PowerToys add-on serves as a providing ground for testing features that could ultimately be added into the core operating system, depending on how well received they are.

The idea has been around for decades. Microsoft’s original PowerToys debuted with Windows 95, and users could download them from Microsoft’s website. They were essentially prototype programs that people at the company developed to test features as they were building Windows 95, explained longtime Microsoft employee Raymond Chen in a 2005 blog post.

The idea then fell out of fashion until last year, when Microsoft announced that PowerToys were coming back.

This time around, users have a channel for flagging issues and suggesting ideas, because the PowerToys project lives on GitHub. In addition, Microsoft is now taking a community approach: The PowerToys repository on GitHub shows that Microsoft employees have considered outsiders’ proposals to draw on third-party tools to expand the official collection.

There are now seven Windows 10 PowerToys, up from two last summer. Here’s what you’ll get in the download.

FancyZones

FancyZones lets you create a custom layout for open programs on your desktop — helpful to stay organized if you’re often working in lots of different programs at once.

For example, you could divide your desktop into six regions. Once you’ve created this layout, you can hold the Shift key down and drag an open program into one of the regions, which appear as grey rectangles, and it will simplyl simply snap into place. 

Image Resizer

If you want to change the size of image files, you won’t have to open an image editing program like Paint to do that.

Instead, you can select them in the File Explorer or on your desktop, right-click, and use the “Resize pictures” option that PowerToys adds. There are a few dimensions to choose from, and you can customize those dimensions. You can also change the format of the file name of the new image that Windows will create for you.  

Keyboard Manager

Changing the keyboard shortcut for opening a new File Explorer window with the Keyboard Manager PowerToy.

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Now you can make one key on your keyboard work like another — so, for instance, if your “A” key is broken, you can program the “F10” key to take its place. You can also change Windows keyboard shortcuts. PowerToys developers plan to permit customization of shortcuts for individual programs.

PowerRename

The PowerRename tool.

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Sometimes you need to change the names of a bunch of different files — say if you’ve downloaded a bunch of image files from a smartphone and they all have generic names with numbers that you want to make more readable so you can find what you’re looking for. Normally, you’d have to rename theme one at a time. With PowerRename, you can switch them up all in one move.

PowerToys Run

PowerToys Run gives fast access to your programs.

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PowerToys Run gives you fast access to files and applications. When you hit Alt-Space on your keyboard, a big rectangular text box pops up in the middle of your screen, and you can start searching — or running a shell command, or performing a math calculation. If you’ve grown tired of locating files or applications from the Start menu or the Command Prompt, this utility could be a fresh alternative that’s sufficient for most searches.

Shortcut Guide

This feature lets you hold down the Start key for a certain amount of time (you can adjust how long you have to press) to see a quick guide of other keys you can hit to trigger keyboard shortcuts for features like Settings, File Explorer and dictation.

File Explorer preview panes

This SVG would not ordinarily be accessible as a preview in File Explorer.

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