Windows 95 was a massive step for personal computers when it came out almost 25 years ago. It included innovations like the start button, cascading sub-menus, and long file names. Users could even push Windows 95 beyond its original parameters thanks to a collection of tools from Microsoft called PowerToys. These utilities were abandoned after XP, but now PowerToys is back. This is an open source project for Microsoft, so you can check out a preview of PowerToys on Github right now.
The PowerToys of yesteryear allowed Windows users to do many things that are baked into the OS today. For example, PowerToys introduced the idea of moving window focus with the mouse, adding new items in the “send to” menu, and opening command prompts from Windows Explorer (which was itself new in Windows 95).
The new PowerToys is much less full-featured, but it’s not available for download yet. Microsoft has two tools ready to go, but more are on the way. The first is “Maximize to new desktop.” This is a small widget that appears on top of windows when you hover over the maximize button. If you click the button, it sends the window to a new desktop (which is a thing in Windows 10) and maximizes it. The second PowerToys feature is the Windows key shortcut guide. It’s an overlay that appears on the screen when you press and hold the Windows key. Windows 10 does a multitude of things with the Windows key, most of which no one uses. The shortcut guide might help you take advantage of these often overlooked features in Windows.
Microsoft says it’s currently considering ten more potential features for PowerToys on Windows 10. They include:
- Full window manager including specific layouts for docking and undocking laptops
- Keyboard shortcut manager
- Win+R replacement
- Better Alt+Tab including browser tab integration and search for running apps
- Battery tracker
- Batch file re-namer
- Quick resolution swaps in taskbar
- Mouse events without focus
- Cmd (or PS or Bash) from here
- Contents menu file browsing
You can use the Github issue tracker to suggest new features and help guide the project as it takes shape. The first preview of the PowerToys utilities will be available this summer along with the source code.
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