Windows users may have more compatible programs and video games at their disposal, but they have plenty of reasons to envy Mac owners. That’s because macOS is largely unaffected by Windows’ most common security threats, and certain features like Spotlight make it easy to search for missing files or apps without leaving the keyboard.
In fact, one Mac-exclusive program called Alfred has been a longtime object of envy for Windows users. Not only can this handy tool instantly search a Mac for files and programs, but it can even run commands using nothing more than typed phrases. Tap or click here to find out more about Alfred and other essential Mac software.
But the one-upsmanship is about to end, and Windows users can finally ignore the smug preening from Mac owners. Microsoft has released a new program called Powertoys that runs much like Spotlight and Alfred on Mac, only with open-ended extensions, custom keyboard layouts and more. You’ve never used Windows like this before.
Putting the ‘power’ in Powertoys
Microsoft has just released its anticipated PowerToys software as a free download for Windows 10 users everywhere. This productivity mega-suite may not look like much on the surface, but compared to the stale Windows+R command, it’s like night and day.
Once installed, PowerToys can map to a key command and perform actions on your PC based on what you type. It can search for files, run programs, or even perform basic tasks like calculations and internet searches.
If you’ve ever seen a hacker or computer whiz in a movie get a bunch of things done without ever touching his mouse or trackpad, this app makes that scenario possible for everyone. Tap or click here to see 10 expert tricks to secure your PC from hackers.
In an unusual twist, Microsoft is not releasing the tool on its website — instead, posting it and its source code to the open-source developer community on GitHub. Programmers use this platform to share the software they’re developing, and Microsoft hopes this talented field can provide extensions and applets to expand PowerToys’ functionality.
And if that’s not enough for you, Microsoft also released the Keyboard Manager PowerToy, which can help you customize your keyboard layouts beyond what Windows normally allows. This means you can set PowerToys to activate with a custom key command of your choice.
Do I need PowerToys? How do I download it?
PowerToys, as its name implies, is designed for power users like programmers, gamers and digital artists. That said, anyone can download the program — but both it and the Keyboard Manager tool are far more complex than a basic search bar.
Still, if you feel comfortable enough to give the program a try, you can install it directly from GitHub. Just find the most recent update (it’s at the top of this page) and scroll down until you see a file labeled “PowerToysSetup-0.18.0-x64.msi.” This is the installer file, and once it’s on your computer, just click it to run the program.
This download includes both PowerToys and the Keyboard manager, so you won’t be missing out on anything if you download this link. But once again, prepare for a lot of programmer jargon and features you might never use.
Still, it’s heartening to see Microsoft paying attention to its most dedicated and hardcore users. Let’s just hope this piece of software doesn’t botch its releases as Windows 10 does. At this point in the game, it’s kind of a running joke. Tap or click here to see what the last bad Windows 10 update broke.