New open-source Microsoft PowerToys logo for Windows 10

Microsoft is resurrecting the PowerToys project. Designed for power users, these utilities may include a keyboard shortcut manager, a batch file renamer, and a window manager that can change window layouts when you dock or undock a laptop.

The PowerToys project originally launched for Windows 95. It included a package of useful utilities. The most famous was TweakUI, which provided an interface for configuring obscure settings in Windows that would otherwise require editing the Windows registry. Windows XP also received a set of PowerToys applications. Full lists of the included PowerToys are available on Wikipedia.

Microsoft largely discontinued PowerToys after Windows XP, but now they’re coming back. This time, the PowerToys project is open-source with the source code available on Microsoft’s GitHub.

No PowerToys have been released yet, but Microsoft is working on two that will be released in preview form in Summer 2019.

There’s a “Maximize to new desktop widget” that will appear when you hover over the maximize or restore button in any window. You can click the button to create a new desktop, send the app to that desktop, and maximize the app on that new desktop. It’s a convenient way of interacting with Windows 10’s Task View virtual desktops.

Maximize to new desktop PowerToys widget

Microsoft will also be creating a Windows key shortcut guide. When you press the Windows key and hold it down for more than a second, Windows available shortcuts will appear on your screen. This list is contextual. You’ll only see shortcuts that work for the current state of the screen.

Sure, serious Windows power users may know most of these, but Windows key shortcuts are powerful and normally hard to discover. Did you know that pressing Windows+E opens a File Explorer window anywhere or that pressing Windows plus a number key activates the corresponding application icon on your taskbar?

Windows key shortcut guide PowerToy

Microsoft is also “considering” a list of other utilities, including:

  1. Full window manager including specific layouts for docking and undocking laptops
  2. Keyboard shortcut manager
  3. Win+R replacement
  4. Better alt+tab including browser tab integration and search for running apps
  5. Battery tracker
  6. Batch file re-namer
  7. Quick resolution swaps in taskbar
  8. Mouse events without focus
  9. Cmd (or PS or Bash) from here
  10. Contents menu file browsing

Microsoft encourages you to vote with +1’s and create issues on GitHub to prioritize the list and suggest new ideas.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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