Windows PowerToys: A cheat sheet

Users are always searching for ways to make their computing lives better – the Windows PowerToys are made specifically for this purpose.

No matter how many features Microsoft crams into its Windows 10 operating system, there will always be users looking for a faster, better, or at the very least, different way of doing things. The iteration of an operating system (no matter how well it works) is just part of human nature, and it cannot be suppressed, so, why not embrace it?

Microsoft’s acknowledgement of this force of human nature is the Windows PowerToys download. (With the general release of Microsoft Windows 11, the developers are now referring to this project as Windows PowerToys rather than Windows 10 PowerToys.) A set of slightly unusual free Windows tools has been a part of the Windows operating system landscape since Windows 95, but their availability has been noticeably absent for Windows 10 and Windows 11 — at least until September 2019.

In 2019, Microsoft, in partnership with development company Janea Systems, released the first two PowerToys for Windows 10, accompanied by a promise of more releases in the near future. This TechRepublic cheat sheet describes each available tool or feature provided by Microsoft’s official Windows PowerToys. Note: This article is also available as a download – Cheat sheet: Windows 10 PowerToys (free PDF).

SEE: 20 pro tips to make Windows 10 work the way you want (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

When was Windows PowerToys first available?

The first set of Windows PowerToys were made available for Windows 95. That first set of 15 free utilities were published and endorsed by Microsoft and made available in a free download.

From the beginning, PowerToys were designed to be used by “power users” seeking ways to tweak the way the operating system functions. In some cases, a careless change made using a PowerToys utility by an inexperienced user could cause havoc with the Windows operating system, so novice users were encouraged to use caution.

For the most part, though, PowerToys would allow users, whether they considered themselves “power” or not, to more easily make tweaks to the look and feel of Windows without a deep dive into configuration screens or the dreaded and dangerous edit of the Windows Registry file. Windows 95 PowerToys included:

TweakUI was used for tweaking obscure Windows settings.CD Autoplay allowed all CDs to autoplay, not just audio CDs.Command Prompt Here opened a command prompt in the current directory.Explore from Here opened File Explorer in the current directory.FlexiCD allowed a user to control an audio CD from the Taskbar.Xmouse 1.2 allowed a user to change window focus by moving the mouse cursor, no click needed.

Through the years and the various Windows versions, individual PowerToys have…

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