Time for Some Nostalgia: Microsoft Reboots Win95 “PowerToys” to Improve Windows 10 for Power Users 

May 8, 2019
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Microsoft is shifting its focus to power users with a number of announcements geared towards that segment of users. After announcing its first ever custom-built Linux kernel for Windows Subsystem for Linux and a richer, tabbed Windows Terminal, Microsoft is now making "PowerToys" open source in an effort to learn more about what power users want to see in Windows 10.

PowerToys, a set of system utilities that was introduced with Windows 95, was a way for engineers to test prototype features. This set of utilities was released with every Windows release until Windows XP in 2001. Among these utilities were some power tools, including TweakUI to customize the Windows user interface and "Send To X" that allowed sending files and folders to the clipboard, command line, and more. PowerToys effectively enabled users to configure and play with different aspects of Windows.

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Microsoft is now reviving the project through a GitHub repo. "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 says in the GitHub repository notes.

The Windows maker is open-sourcing PowerToys for everyone to contribute to power tools for the operating system. However, if you used the original set of utilities, you won't be able to find TweakUI or other old utilities as this will be the modern version of PowerToys. The first two utilities are "Maximize to new desktop widget (MTND)" widget and "Windows key shortcut guide." The "MTND widget shows a pop-up button when a user hovers over the maximize / restore button on any window," Microsoft explains. "Clicking it creates a new desktop, sends the app to that desktop and maximizes the app on the new desktop."

The Windows key "shortcut guide appears when a user holds the Windows key down for more than one second and shows the available shortcuts for the current state of the desktop."

Microsoft is also considering the following set of utilities for PowerToys:

  1. Full window manager including specific layouts for docking and undocking laptops
  2. Keyboard shortcut manager
  3. Win+R replacement
  4. Better alt+tab including browser tab integration and search for running apps
  5. Battery tracker
  6. Batch file re-namer
  7. Quick resolution swaps in taskbar
  8. Mouse events without focus
  9. Cmd (or PS or Bash) from here
  10. Contents menu file browsing

The first preview of these utilities and their source code will be released in Summer 2019. More details available over at GitHub.

Earlier: Microsoft once called Linux "a cancer" - Now it's the best friend that will help beat MacBooks

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