2023-09-25-Window Content Pinning, Cross-Device Mouse Usage: These features of the new PowerToys are worth a try - Minority Report

Window Content Pinning, Cross-Device Mouse Usage: These Features of the New PowerToys Are Worth a Try - Appinn#


Window Content Pinning, Cross-Device Mouse Usage: These Features of the New PowerToys Are Worth a Try

When it comes to Windows system enhancement tools, Microsoft's own "baby" PowerToys is already well-known. For some Windows users, this feature-rich application can be considered a "Swiss Army Knife" and has even become a "must-have" for installing a new system.

With the evolution of Windows 10/11, this "Swiss Army Knife" is constantly being updated with new features. As of the time of writing this article, version v0.73.0 of PowerToys has already included 21 different system tools, many of which used to require third-party tools to achieve, but are now integrated.

So, what new tools have been added in the recent v0.73.0 release? This article will give you a detailed overview.

Registry Preview#

Advanced usage techniques and configurations of some Windows systems occasionally involve registry-related operations. If you have ever indexed, created, or modified registry entries in the Registry Editor, you should know that the built-in Registry Editor experience in Windows has never been intuitive. If the .reg file comes from an unknown source and you need to check its contents by opening it with a text editor, you also need to open the Registry Editor and compare the text content side by side.

The visual registry file previewer built into PowerToys is a small tool specifically designed for editing and previewing registry files. After opening a registry file with this tool, you can see the corresponding registry entry path and the corresponding key value changes in the preview pane on the right. The left pane allows you to directly edit the content of the registry file.


Registry Preview main interface

PowerToys' Registry Preview feature also supports directly writing .reg files into the registry. Compared to the "edit and take effect" mechanism of the built-in Registry Editor in Windows, this method is at least safer. After all, for most users, directly modifying the registry still carries a considerable risk.

Whether it is checking, importing, saving, or editing, the Registry Preview feature of PowerToys can be said to be a more user-friendly version for ordinary users. So, if you occasionally need to deal with registry files, it is recommended to enable the "Default App" option in the corresponding settings page of PowerToys. This way, when you double-click a .reg file, it will no longer be imported directly, but will be viewed through this previewer first.


Registry Preview settings page in PowerToys

Cropping and Pinning#

Usually, we view information or use applications within a complete window. However, there are times when we only need to focus on a small part of the page: checking real-time stock market quotes while working, or keeping an eye on the latest sports game in a corner of the desktop...


Example of usage

Instead of trying to resize the program window to a suitable size, it is better to "extract" the area that needs attention - crop out the part of the current window that needs to be displayed, and then pin this key area to the desktop.

The latest tool in PowerToys, "Cropping and Pinning," is a window customization tool that does just that. It allows you to crop the target program window and then display the focused area in a new window.


Cropping and Pinning settings page

PowerToys provides two methods for cropping program windows: if you want to directly crop the original program window, select "Redirect Parent Shortcut." When using it, press Windows logo key + Ctrl + Shift + R, then use the mouse to select the page you want to focus on. PowerToys will automatically replace the original program window with this new window that only contains the cropped content. This is very suitable for the mentioned "slacking off" scenario.


Web page cropping effect

If you only want to highlight and pin certain core content from a static web page to the desktop, then choose "Thumbnail Shortcut." Press Windows logo key + Ctrl + Shift + T to start cropping, and then use the mouse to select the page you want to focus on. A new window containing the cropped content will be generated. This method is suitable for "pinning" content to the desktop, whether it is for reminders or references, similar to sticky notes.


Content pinning effect

Borderless Mouse#

How can you use the same mouse on two computers? Besides repeatedly physically plugging and unplugging or using certain utility tools provided by mouse manufacturers (such as Logitech FLOW), there doesn't seem to be any other way. However, the latest version of PowerToys now makes it easy with the Borderless Mouse feature (the name is a bit strange).


Borderless Mouse...

In simple terms, PowerToys' Borderless Mouse allows you to control up to four computers with one set of keyboard and mouse, and you can share the clipboard and transfer files between computers. It is not complicated to use: make sure that the Windows 10/11 computers that need to use the keyboard and mouse across devices have PowerToys installed, then find "Borderless Mouse" in the settings of PowerToys on these computers and activate the switch.


Generate a key

Then, on the computer that is currently using the mouse, click "New Key" to generate a secure key for connection. After generating it, click the downward button on the right side of "New Key" on the second computer, enter the key and the device name of the previous device, and the connection will be completed.


Enter the key and pair

After the connection is established, you will find that the mouse can now move from one device to another. Here, you can adjust the "Device Layout" in PowerToys according to the actual physical positions of the devices (PowerToys needs to be run without administrator privileges).


Drag to adjust the device order, similar to the multi-screen device experience provided by Windows

By default, after pairing, basic keyboard and mouse operations can be performed. If you want the Borderless Mouse to perform higher-level operations (such as system control or running programs that require administrator privileges), you need to run the Borderless Mouse as a service.


In addition, you can also customize other behaviors of the Borderless Mouse in the PowerToys settings. By default, the Borderless Mouse supports sharing the clipboard among a group of devices and can transfer files (less than 100MB) between them. It also supports hiding the mouse cursor when moving to the edge of the screen and drawing a mouse cursor for devices without a physical mouse. Other features include whether to restrict the controlled computers to be in the same subnet, whether to prevent screen savers on other computers when using the Borderless Mouse, and whether to display the clipboard and network status in the system tray. You can adjust these settings according to your usage habits and devices.


With the continuous updates of PowerToys, this "system enhancement add-on" from Microsoft is becoming more and more powerful. Besides the ones introduced in this article, what other PowerToys tools are you using? Feel free to share your experience in the comments.

You can download and update PowerToys for free on GitHub or the Microsoft Store.

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