Photo by Kenney Badboy on Unsplash

Photo by Kenney Badboy on Unsplash

Microsoft PowerToys for Windows 10

Big Stick

Article from ADMIN 57/2020
This collection of free tools helps you customize Windows 10 for individual workflows.

Microsoft provides several tools for Windows 10 that help you work more effectively, find errors faster, and change Windows settings more easily. The two most important collections are the well-known Sysinternals tools and the brand new PowerToys collection. PowerToys dates back to the days of Windows 95 and has been reissued by Microsoft for Windows 10.

The current version of PowerToys is available as an open source project. The source code and tools are available on GitHub [1]. Installation can be done several ways by either downloading the PowerToysSetup.msi installation file [2] or with Chocolatey [3] and the choco install powertoys command. If a new version of the tools is available, you can also update it with the choco upgrade powertoys command. Existing tools will, of course, be updated. Microsoft uses a common launcher to combine PowerToys into a collection. Currently Microsoft provides three PowerToys utilities: FancyZones, Shortcut Guide, and PowerRename.

Further tools are under development, which Microsoft will gradually release, including:

  • Maximize to New Desktop Widget
  • Process Terminate
  • Animated GIF screen recorder

FancyZones is a window manager for positioning windows within complex layouts. Many monitor manufacturers offer such tools to allow the easy positioning of windows, especially when using large, wide-screen displays. The Shortcut Guide tool launches when you press the Windows key for more than one second (Figure 1). The tool then displays available keyboard shortcuts.

Figure 1: The Shortcut Guide from PowerToys simplifies the use of shortcuts in Windows 10.

PowerRename is a Windows shell extension that launches from file and folder context menus for mass renaming by search and replace and with regular expressions (Figure 2). The Preview area shows in real time how elements will be renamed as the Search and Replace fields are filled. Renaming is handled by an API that connects PowerRename to Windows Explorer. The advantage is that the renaming process can be undone after PowerRename is closed. The tool was originally developed as SmartRename [4].

Figure 2: PowerRename makes renaming files easy.

The Process Terminate tool [5] is in the planning stages and will help users terminate processes more easily, and GIF Maker [6] will help users create GIFs from video clips.

Installation and Set Up

Installing PowerToys requires administrative rights, which naturally plays a role in installation and distribution on a network. The tools always appear as a complete collection, which also requires administrative rights to start. Afterward, PowerToys is available from the tray area of the taskbar. Clicking on the icon brings up the settings page. In the left area are the tools currently available in the collection. The tools can be started not only from the launcher, but from other places in the operating system, as well.

As soon as PowerToys is installed, the tools integrate with Windows 10. PowerRename, for example, is available automatically in the context menus of files and directories, and you can start the other tools with their corresponding shortcut keys. Clicking the PowerToys icon in the taskbar tray lets you access the settings for all tools. From the General Settings item you can enable and disable the individual tools, and you can determine whether the PowerToys dashboard starts on Windows startup and which graphical settings apply. A button for updating PowerToys only takes you to the project's GitHub page and does not (yet) offer a direct update of the tools.


As mentioned earlier, PowerRename is the PowerToys version of SmartRename. This tool lets you rename numerous objects at once. Although it is generally possible to rename files in this way without PowerToys, it is not as flexible. To apply the tool, select multiple objects in Windows Explorer, right-click, and select PowerRename from the context menu.

For example, if you need to change the file names of a large number of files but do not want to make the same change to all files, PowerRename is the perfect tool. When you start the tool, all selected objects are displayed in the window, where you can manually disable individual objects. In the upper area you can enter text at Search for to help find the files to rename. Next, enter the new text for the files to be renamed in the Replace with field. The new names for the files are shown under the Renamed column in the Preview window. The actual renaming will only take place when you click the Rename button.

Because the tool works with the Windows Explorer API, the standard Explorer recovery tools are also available. For example, you can use the Ctrl+Z keyboard shortcut or the Windows Explorer context menu to undo the rename action. The advantage of PowerRename is that the tool is immediately available without the need to customize Windows, so you don't have to deal with feature bloat.

Regular Expressions

To further improve the ability to find and modify text, you can use regular expressions (e.g., when searching with the .* wildcard). If you only want to change words ending with bar , use bar$ . PowerRename supports ECMAScript expressions, which are also used in programming.

If you want to find text that starts with exchange , you need to search for ^exchange . If you want to find text that starts with foo and ends with bar , then search for ^foo bar$ . For more information about regular expressions and ECMAScript, you can refer to two online tutorials [7] [8].

Buy this article as PDF

Express-Checkout as PDF
Price $2.95
(incl. VAT)

Buy ADMIN Magazine

Get it on Google Play

US / Canada

Get it on Google Play

UK / Australia

Related content

comments powered by Disqus
Subscribe to our ADMIN Newsletters
Subscribe to our Linux Newsletters
Find Linux and Open Source Jobs

Support Our Work

ADMIN content is made possible with support from readers like you. Please consider contributing when you've found an article to be beneficial.

Learn More”>


		<div class=