We’ve already covered PowerToys, but some of its tools offer enough functionality to warrant a deeper exploration of their functionality. PowerToys Run is one such tool, and like most launchers, it’s not limited to launching apps only.
Let’s see how you can use PowerToys Run to start applications, browse file system, manage services, convert units, etc.
What is PowerToys Run?
PowerToys Run is an application launcher, included in PowerToys, which allows you to type (part of) the name of any application you wish to run and launch it by pressing Enter.
However, like most self-respecting launchers, PowerToys Run also allows you to perform many other tasks that can further increase your productivity and efficiency or completely replace other full-fledged utilities, as we will see next.
How to Install PowerToys and Enable Run
If you want the latest version of PowerToys, you need to get it from PowerToys official page on Github. However, for this article, we will opt for the version distributed by Microsoft through the Microsoft Store.
Locate it Microsoft Store app using Begin menu and launch it. Then use the search field at the top of its window to search microsoft power toys.
Click on the Microsoft PowerToys entry to visit its page. Then click on Install left to do so.
Find PowerToys in the Begin menu and launch it. Notice the icon it adds to the Windows status bar. Right click on it and choose Settings.
Locate and select PowerToys Race in the list on the left of the PowerToys Settings window. From its subpage, tap the virtual switch to the right of Enable running PowerToys For On.
Before you leave the PowerToys Run settings page, it’s worth modifying it to behave the way you want it to. Start by checking his Activation shortcut just under the Shortcut section. If you don’t like the default key combination, you can click the little pencil icon to set a new one to launch PowerToys Run.
Scroll down to find the search results section. Expand it and change the number next to Number of results displayed before scrolling how many suggestions you would like PowerToys Run to offer.
You can also (slightly) change the appearance of PowerToys Run if you wish, from the Position and appearance next section.
With everything set up the way you want, you can close the PowerToys Settings window. PowerToys Run will wait for your commands.
How to launch apps with PowerToys Run
The main function of PowerToys Run is to launch other apps. For example, to launch the popular Notepad++ editor, press the PowerToys Run shortcut. When its window pops up, start typing “notepad++” and you’ll see the app pop up among other PowerToys Run suggestions.
Use the at the top And down cursor keys to highlight it, and press Enter to launch it.
PowerToys Run Plugins and How to Use Them
PowerToys Run can do more than “just” run other software, thanks to its included plugins. Let’s review some of the most useful.
1. Use a calculator
You can directly type any basic arithmetic operation, like
5+5and PowerToys Run will display the result among its suggestions, allowing you to copy it to the clipboard as well.
If that fails, use its dedicated shortcode for this action: the equal symbol, by typing “=” followed by an arithmetic operation.
When using this shortcode, PowerToys Run can also display the result of more complex operations, like
2. Check your records
Do you want to quickly check the contents of a folder on any storage device? Start typing its path and you’ll see PowerToys Run automatically complete the rest.
You can continue to navigate further into this storage path or “open” it to see its contents in the default file manager (usually Windows File Explorer).
3. See your history
Do you want to reselect an entry that you previously chose via PowerToys Run?
Begin your query with two exclamation points (“!!”) to tell PowerToys that you want to select an entry from its “history”.
4. Do a Windows Search
To define that you want to search strictly for locally available files and folders, start your query with a question mark (“?”).
Note that, as our screenshot shows, it’s best to have Windows Search Indexing activated. If you don’t know what it is, learn all about it on our article what is Windows Search Indexer, and whether it’s okay to disable it Without it, search results will be boundaries.
Nevertheless, a specialized application would be a better choice if you are looking for the best solution strictly for locating files. It’s worth checking out those in our article on the best search tools for Windows 11.
5. Run your programs
PowerToys Run can return app suggestions much faster if you explicitly “tell” it that you are specifically looking for an app and not the result of an operation, bookmark, etc.
To do this, start your query with a period (“.”).
Next, choose your app from its results and tap Enter on your keyboard to launch it.
6. Use Registry Browser
With PowerToys Run, you can also browse the Windows registry. That is, as long as you start your query with “:”.
You can now navigate through the Windows registry step by step as if you were navigating through the file system.
7. Modify a service
Do you want quick control of services, like the print spooler? Type an exclamation mark followed by part of a service name.
You can then use the options available to the right of an entry to stop a service, restart it, or open the Services dialog to find it.
8. Open Command Prompt or PowerShell
Why search for Command Prompt or PowerShell when you can directly launch terminal commands from PowerToys Run?
Launch PowerToys Run and type your command right after a right bracket (“>”). To hit Enter to execute the command.
9. Run Windows System Commands
What’s the fastest way to shut down or restart your PC? PowerToys Run supports many such “Windows system commands”.
By typing “shutd” and choosing the Close entry, you can shut down your computer without even typing the whole “shutdown”. The same goes for restarting, suspending, etc.
10. Check a time zone
You need to contact someone on the other side of the world, but you are afraid of waking them up because of jet lag? Type the “and” sign (“&”) followed by their country to check their local time.
11. Use the unit converter
You want to convert between feet, meters, etc. ? Type two equal signs (“==”) followed by the number and units you want to convert, then the word “in” followed by the units you want to convert the number to.
For example, as you can see in our screenshot, “==1.75m to feet” will convert that number from meters to feet.
It’s worth noting that if you’re interested in unit conversion, even if you’re not using PowerToys Run, Windows 11 has you covered. As we saw in our article on converting units in Windows 11, you can use the OS’s built-in calculator to convert units or ask Cortana.
12. Use URL Manager and Web Search
The fastest way to visit a site when your browser is not active? Type the site URL directly into PowerToys Run after two forward slash (“//”) characters.
To hit Enter and the URL will open in your default browser.
Also, instead of looking for something in your browser, using an online search engine, you can type your query directly into PowerToys Run just after two question marks (“??”).
Press Enterand your default browser will be displayed with the results of your search query.
13. Change Windows Settings
Instead of searching for a particular option in the chaos of Windows menus, type what you’re looking for right after the dollar sign (“$”). PowerToys will search for the entry of these parameters for you.
Note that with Windows Settings being somewhat chaotic, you may find multiple entries. PowerToys Run displays the path to an entry below its name to help you make sure you’re looking at the correct one.
Get Improved Productivity on Windows with PowerToys Run
Launching programs, opening any bookmark in your browser, running terminal commands, accessing Windows settings or juggling your active windows using PowerToys Run is effortless and challenging. Sometimes it makes your computer feel like an extension of you.
Hiding “behind” the user-friendly and compact window of PowerToys, several tools and a powerful local search engine can help you perform many tasks quickly and efficiently.
Even better, PowerToys Run lets you customize it to suit your workflows and preferences, making it a must-have tool for anyone using a Windows computer.