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Microsoft Power Toys

“Microsoft PowerToys is a set of utilities for power users to tune and streamline their Windows experience for greater productivity.”

I started using Microsoft PowerToys many years ago when it was separate applications (mostly standalone .exe files if I’m not mistaken) I’d download and run on my PC. Nowadays, it’s one application in the systray and you get a whole bunch of different features.

The ones I use

Fancy Zones

“FancyZones is a window manager utility for arranging and snapping windows into efficient layouts to improve the speed of your workflow […]”

My all-time favorite PowerToys app is Fancy Zones. It is awesome if you have a lot of screen realestate and having many applications open and visible at the same time. I have found that setting up my own overlapping zones works very well. A couple of examples:

  • A tall narrow zone for my ToDo list application (I use Todoist) on the right side of my second monitor which puts it near the center of my viewing field. This comes in handy when I use that same area for a note taking app (that might be OneNote, Obsidian or good old Notepad++) during Team meetings on my primary monitor
  • A small rectangular zone in the far bottom corner of the secondary screen. Nice place for a minimalistic-sized Spotify window
  • A large almost fullscreen zone on the primary monitor. I like it for “big windows” so I can see my background image a bit and retain the ability to drag and drop from the app onto the desktop or vice versa. Very nice

Keyboard Manager

“The PowerToys Keyboard Manager enables you to redefine keys on your keyboard.”

I want to mention just one keycombo that I find very useful. I use both Linux and Windows and closing applications and windows using the same hotkey is nice. On modern keyboards, the function keys often work better with their secondary (or now primary?) functions as media-keys, screen brightness and what have you. So on Windows, the ALT+F4 requires me to hit fn+ÁLT+F4 … with fingers on the same hand preferably. Not going to happen. So I remapped WIN+Q (as in QUIT) to perform the ALT+F4 combo for me. Works great.

The ones I want to start using

PowerToys Run

This is a small launcher-app I have pop up on ALT+SPACEBAR. I use it once a week to open a specific spreadsheet rather than having a shortcut for it. I want to use the app more to launch programs and find things. I just like that pressing the WIN key alone bringing up the start menu, allows me to start typing to launch programs. So it’s a hard sell for me.

Video Conference Mute

I have a dedicated “microphone key” on my Keychron K8 keyboard which I mapped (using Keyboard Manager which I described above) to a shortcut that mutes/unmutes in Microsoft Teams. This works fine. But I’m interested in see if I could benefit from the functionality to “mute” the camera as well as it seems can be done with Video Conference Mute.

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