Power Toy settings

Powerful Tools to Increase your Productivity in Windows (PowerToys II)

December 06, 2021

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Last week, we took a look at FancyZones, and how it can help you customize your window management in Windows and use powerful settings to lay out screens in the best way for your productivity. This week, we’ll take a look at some highlights from the rest of the PowerToys suite.

The keyboard shortcuts in this post are the default shortcuts once you install PowerToys. In this post, I’ll refer to settings that are in the PowerToys settings, which you can get to by searching (from the Start Menu) for PowerToys once it’s installed. All of the PowerToys use this settings interface (for instance, to turn features on and off and to set the hotkeys that launch them) but some of the apps will also have options or dialogs that appear when running them.

power toy settings

Two of the PowerToys extensions deal with keyboard shortcuts, which we wrote about extensively here a few weeks ago. Keyboard Manager is a powerful tool that lets you create your own keymaps and shortcuts. If there’s a hard-to-reach, three-key combination that you use all of the time, you can use this tool to override the default shortcuts. When using the Remap features, detailed guides appear at the top of the window to help you with the format. The Shortcut Guide is a splash screen to help you remember the Win+__ key combinations. You can get there by pushing Win+Shift+/ and it will show you all of the default win-key shortcuts. Beware that this splash screen isn’t updated to show any remappings you’ve done in the keyboard manager, but only shows the defaults.

One of the more straightforward PowerToys is the Video Conference Mute, which seamlessly mutes your microphones and cameras. The settings here are simple and powerful: choose which microphones, cameras, and combinations thereof can be toggled off at the operating system level with a single shortcut. Win+N is the default shortcut for muting cameras and microphones. That shortcut may be a little too simple for such a powerful command, so moving it to another key combination may be helpful (especially if you tend to hit Win+N instead of Alt+N while using Zoom, which would turn off your camera instead of switching to your second camera). It’s also probably a good idea to get in the habit of defaulting to mute in your daily usage, that is, having the camera and microphone muted when you’re not specifically using them. This will also help remind you that the mute could be on when troubleshooting microphone or camera problems.

PowerToys Run is a quick and simple launcher that can replace the Start Menu’s search functionality. The most powerful features here are in the plugin interface in its settings: you can select what kinds of searches, commands, and results are available in PowerToys Run. For instance, with “Shell” enabled, you can open PowerToys Run (with the default key combination Alt+Spacebar), type >, and put in a command to be executed. Another excellent feature here is launching programs as administrator: when searching a program in PowerToys Run, the option to run as admin, to open its folder, or open a command prompt in the program’s path are all extremely helpful. Frescobaldi is a piece of software that needs administrator privileges every time I run it, and this screenshot shows how easy it is for me to do that with PowerToys Run.

Frescobaldi

Image Resizer is a small app that can quickly and consistently resize pictures. You can use it by right-clicking a photo in File Explorer, which opens its context menu, where you’ll find a “Resize Pictures” option. This will open a dialog where you can choose settings, and it will (by default) make a resized copy of the picture with the desired size in the same folder. These sizes can be edited in the PowerToys settings.

If you have a workflow or use case where you find yourself resizing a lot of pictures, you may know how useful Image Resizer is the moment you hear its name. The same is true of PowerRename (a bulk renamer that can use RegEx), Color Picker (a color picker), and Awake (which keeps your pc from going to sleep without editing your power plans).

One last note on File Explorer Extensions, which allow you to see preview of .svg, .md, and .pdf files right in File Explorer: to use these previews, you’ll need to enable the Preview Pane in File Explorer by going to the View menu, and selecting Preview Pane. Once the Preview Pane is activated, you’ll be able to scroll through the first 10 pages of a .pdf file, for instance, in the right-hand side of the window.

-Written by Derek Jeppsen on Behalf of Sean Goss and Crown Computers Team