Microsoft Reboots the PowerToys for Windows 10

Posted on May 8, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 24 Comments

Microsoft is rebooting the PowerToys, a set of system utilities that debuted alongside Windows 95, as open source projects on GitHub.

“Inspired by the Windows 95-era PowerToys project, this reboot provides power users with ways to squeeze more efficiency out of the Windows 10 shell and customize it for individual workflows,” Microsoft’s GitHub repository notes. “The first preview of these utilities and corresponding source code will be released Summer 2019.”

Microsoft released a set of PowerToys with each Windows release starting with Windows 95, and by the release of Windows XP in 2001, it ballooned into a truly-useful collection. Key among the PowerToys was TweakUI, a small app that let you configure hundreds of aspects of the Windows UI in ways that were difficult or impossible otherwise.

TweakUI is not coming back. Indeed, neither of the first two new PowerToys utilities that Microsoft is highlighting bear any resemblance to past PowerToys. But the point here, of course, is to provide an updated and modern take on PowerToys. And these new PowerToys work as did their predecessors by providing useful functionality that is not present in the core product.

They are:

Maximize to new desktop widget. This widget shows a pop-up button when a user hovers over the Maximize/Restore button in any window. Clicking it creates a new virtual desktop, sends the app to that desktop, and maximizes the app on the new desktop.

Windows key shortcut guide. This handy, full-screen guide appears when you hold the Windows key down for more than one second and displays the available Windows key shortcuts for the current state of the desktop.

Microsoft is considering add other utilities too, including a full window manager with specific layouts for docking and undocking laptops, a keyboard shortcut manager, a WINKEY+R replacement, a better ALT + TAB experience with browser tab integration and search for running apps, a battery tracker, a batch file renamer, a quick resolution swapper, mouse events without focus, CMD (or PS or Bash) from here, and a contents menu file browsing utility. If you remember the old PowerToys, you’ll see that some of these are modern takes on classic PowerToys utilities.

Thanks to Neowin for the tip.

I have a lot of PowerToys information from the past. I will dig that up when I get home from Build.

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Comments (24)

24 responses to “Microsoft Reboots the PowerToys for Windows 10”

  1. truerock

    Microsoft bringing back Power Toys makes me think that perhaps someone in Microsoft is thinking that Windows needs to get back to basic PC desktop GUI fundamentals - and, jettison the Windows 8 disaster.

    Looking at Windows 10 File Manager it seems someone figured out not to screw-up File Manager. Looking at Excel... there are apparently individuals in Microsoft who understand how to develop PC desktop GUI applications.

    I think the reason I dislike Windows 10 Paint 3D is because of a few things like - invisible title bar, disappearing icons, ugly color layout, skinny scroll bar, double row of menu, etc. It has a lot of good things in it - it is unfortunately graphically unappealing. I think if the Excel designers worked on Paint 3D they could make it immensely more popular... in fact - that would be a great experiment.

    The problem Microsoft is dealing with may be unmanageble. Obviously the Excel and Word teams are off in their own worlds where the Word team thinks that disappearing scroll bars are a good thing and the Excel team is firmly attached to reality.

  2. dcdevito

    Batch file rename!

  3. Winner

    I need the power toy that removes all the crapware from Windows 10.

  4. ommoran

    My kingdom for the image resize powertoy.

    With optional convert to a different format. Especially out of the damned HEIC format.

  5. jgraebner

    I can see the virtual desktop features as being a power user thing, but why in the world isn't the Windows Key shortcut guide a standard feature of Windows?

  6. blackcomb

    I was unaware of this back in the day. Can't wait to have it on Windows 10. Especially the shortcut guide.

  7. bcalla

    I still use PowerToy Calc. Love it

  8. hrlngrv

    I'd love a new take on a graphing calculator like the one in XP Powertoys. Though even better would be a Windows port of the GUI version of Linux's Genius Math Tool. Maybe MSFT could port it as a Powertoy. [MSFT Mathematics is way too much for the simple stuff and way too much less than Wolfram Alpha for anything involved.]

  9. Daninbusiness

    While there have been other interesting announcements from build, I am most excited about this one! These look like they’ll be immediately useful to me.

  10. hrlngrv

    Tangent: I found the 95 Send To extension for Explorer to be pretty useful, though IIRC it required tweaking the registry to fix Send to Desktop, which was fubarred in the .INF file.

  11. bharris

    Maximize to new desktop is something I would probably use. Only comment that I would make is I wish they would just make it available under Optional features. It just seems since it coming straight from Microsoft, why not roll it into there.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to bharris:

      This may be getting into how MSFT refuses to learn from Linux, but it sure would be nice to have the top-left corner system menu include an entry to move windows to other virtual desktops which damn near all Linux window managers provide.

      • jgraebner

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        I agree. The fact that it is a control to maximize to a new virtual desktop instead of a control to move to an existing one doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I see minimal use for the former while the latter would probably make virtual desktops fairly usable.

  12. BoItmanLives

    Hopefully it has a Telemetry off switch for Windows 10

  13. Otto Gunter

    The "Windows Key shortcut guide" should be part of standard Windows; it would benefit a lot of people - myself included - and help regular users find powerful tools and helpful hints they might otherwise never discover on their own. Windows key + comma, never knew that one!

  14. curtisspendlove

    This is awesome. Though I’m sad that TweakUI isn’t coming back...loved that little app.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to curtisspendlove:

      Indeed. Most useful feature was hiding Control Panel items one would never use, e.g., Infrared, Joystick or Phone (meaning dial-up connections back in the day) which one never needed. If only there were a way to hide the Xbox section in Settings on PCs which will NEVER be located in the same building as an Xbox much less used with one.

  15. JoePaulson

    The windows key reference is REALLY nice! That should be part of the core product frankly but I think it would scare grandma if she rested her finger too long.