If you use Windows, you want PowerToys. This collection of open-source goodies, guided and published by Microsoft itself, is one of the best free software packages out there, and we can’t recommend it enough. That only becomes more true today, as the company publishes an updated version with three brand new tools: the previously-spotted Text Extrator (an Optical Character Recognition tool), a ruler for measuring pixels on your screen, and a tool for quickly inserting little-used accents into text.
Text Extractor is probably the most universally-applicable addition here. It’s an open-source version of Joseph Finney’s paid Text Grab app, now integrated into PowerToys and free for Windows users. The tool essentially acts just like a screenshot grabber, allowing you to highlight an area of an image and automatically grab any text inside it, then paste it into the field of your choice. It isn’t magic: Text Extractor will need fairly clear images in order to, um, extract text, very much like Google’s Lens on smartphones. But it’s undeniably handy for those very specific situations.
Quick Accent from developer Damien Leroy is also more or less an existing project dropped into PowerToys, this time PowerAccent. To use it, simply hold down the relevant alphabet key and then tap either the space bar or the left arrow. For example, if you need to rapidly write about a spicy pepper but your keyboard isn’t set up for Spanish characters, just hold down the n key and tap space to put in an ñ for jalepeño. Characters with multiple accent options can be selected with the arrow keys.
Screen Ruler is pretty much exactly what it says: a quick way to measure the area between two points on your screen, in pixels. For example, just by pressing the activation shortcut Win+Shift+M, I can tell you the width of my WordPress writing window is exactly 1836 x 1392 pixels, something I’d have to dip into Photoshop to figure out before now. Neat!
PowerToys is a free download from its GitHub page, available for Windows 10 and 11 in standard and ARM flavors (note that you need a 64-bit machine to run it). If you have a multiple-monitor setup, I personally insist that you give FancyZones a try — it’ll change the way you use your computer.
Michael is a former graphic designer who's been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.