Use Windows 10’s new PowerToys to tidy your desktop and remind you of shortcuts

Create custom desktop layouts and ignore your mouse more often with Microsoft’s new FancyZones and Shortcut Guide PowerToys utilities

Dale Smith Former Associate Writer
Dale Smith is a former Associate Writer on the How-To team at CNET.
Dale Smith
3 min read
Microsoft Power Toys

The pixelated design of Microsoft's PowerToys logo harkens back to its Windows 95 roots.


For those longing for the days of Windows 95 and its useful collection of PowerToys utilities, Microsoft is letting you add helpful little extensions that make Microsoft's desktop more delightful to use on  Windows 10 .

PowerToys, Microsoft's playful name for a series of free Windows add-ons first developed for Windows 95, gives users greater flexibility when performing a variety of Windows tasks, such as arranging windows and recalling keyboard shortcuts, two functions the new PowerToys utilities improve in Windows 10.

The first, FancyZones, allows you to create a prearranged grid on your desktop that will automatically resize windows to fit into a predetermined layout -- useful for those who work with a lot of open windows and like to keep them all accessible and organized without having to constantly adjust them.

Watch this: How to take Windows 10 screenshots

The second and less-imaginatively-named Shortcut Guide allows you to bring up a cheat sheet of available keyboard shortcuts for whatever app is currently active, including the Windows 10 desktop itself. If you forget which shortcuts to use, this tool can jog your memory much faster than navigating the menu options to find them.

How to download and install PowerToys

You can quickly download and set up PowerToys for Windows 10. 

1. To get started with Power Toys , first download the installer from GitHub, where Microsoft is hosting the first two PowerToys. You want the PowerToysSetup.msi file.


Grab the installer file.

Screenshot by Clifford Colby/CNET

2. If given a choice, choose whether you'd like to save the .msi file on the desktop or in a file folder, then locate the file when the download completes.

3. Open the PowerToysSetup.msi file, which will bring up the PowerToys Setup Wizard. 

4. Click Next, check the box agreeing to the licensing agreement and click Next again.

5. The next dialog gives you the option of changing the default installation folder from Program Files, whether you want PowerToys icons to go in the Start menu and on the desktop and if you want PowerToys to start up at login.

6. Once you've made your choices, click Next and then Install.

7. After it finishes, a box indicating that setup is complete will pop up and give you the option to Launch PowerToys. Leave that box checked and click Finish.

How to set up PowerToys 

1. Youshould now see a rainbow-colored PowerToys icon in your taskbar over on the lower right of your screen. Open it to bring up Settings.


The rainbow-colored PowerToys icon should appear in your Windows 10 taskbar after completing the installation. 

Screenshot by Clifford Colby/CNET

General Settings shows a list of available PowerToys tools: FancyZones and Short Guide both are toggled on by default.


The PowerToys General Settings window lets you toggle the tools on or off, as well as adjust settings for the individual utilities. 

Screenshot by Clifford Colby/CNET

2. Beneath General Settings in the left-hand column, click FancyZones to adjust the settings for that utility, which is designed to simplify multitasking on Windows. You can choose from different configurations to arrange your windows and customize their layout.

3. Beneath FancyZones, select Shortcut Guide from the left column. This utility shows common keyboard shortcuts that use the Windows key. You can control how long you must press the Windows key before showing the shortcut guide, as well as control the opacity of the guide that pops up. 

That's it -- close the PowerToys Settings window and you're finished. Now you can enjoy an enhanced Windows 10 experience thanks to Microsoft's first batch of PowerToys for Windows 10.