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Give Windows steroids (and custom windows arranges) with PowerToys

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Aitor Alonso

Nov 07, 2021

3 min read

I want to write about a Microsoft-official open-source tool that I cannot live without: Microsoft PowerToys. It's available to install from GitHub via .exe or directly from the Microsoft Store. In this article I'll explain some of its features I use the most to improve my productivity on Windows:

Awake

Sometimes I'm just showing something on my computer that I need to continuously review and don't want my monitor to power off, or I'm running some script or time-consuming task and I don't want my computer to go to sleep. Yes, I could go to power settings in Windows and temporary disable these options, but for sure that I will forget to re-enable them one I'm done.

Awake demo

Here is when Awake comes into action. It has a similar function to Caffeine GNOME shell extension in Linux. There is a little coffee cup icon on your task bar, and clicking on it will disable monitor and/or computer sleep until the next reboot or after a fixed time.

It also can be executed as a standalone application from its .exe, and can receive parameters from a CLI.

Color picker

Color picker demo

Have you ever find a website while browsing the web, and wonder what color do they use for a particular element, button, etc.? Me too! Before, I used a Chrome extension for retrieving the colors used in some sites, but PowerToys brings its own color picker, which not only works for websites, but for anything you are showing in your computer: desktop apps, videos, photos, etc.

Furthermore, it has its owns customizable keyboard shortcuts. And once a color is picked, you can edit it in a color editor. All picked and edited color will be saved in a history up to 20 colors, so you won't miss any recent color.

Color picker color editor

FancyZones

Another awesome feature is FancyZones. Do you know you can arrange a program window (like the web browser or your code editor) to fit exactly the half of your screen? Try dragging your web browser window to one side of your monitor and dropping it when you see an animation.

This is a nice built-in Windows 10 feature, but it's a bit limited IMHO, specially for power users. For some monitor configs, like a 21:9 or a secondary portrait monitor in 9:16 it's not so useful. And I'm sure you know some programmer that use some of these monitors' config. Maybe even you!

FancyZones demo

So here is where FancyZones comes into action. This tool allows you to configure your own arranging layouts and snapping settings for your windows. Look how powerful it is!

PowerToys Run

A quick launcher which adds some additional features without sacrificing performance. It's open source and modular for additional plugins. It's similar to the macOS Spotlight search. Check everything it can do

PowerToys Run demo

Others magical features

PowerToys still has other great features that I won't mention in detail here, so I won't make the post longer. But I invite you to research about them if you are interested in how they work. Those are: