Professional editors are, by definition, Microsoft Word power users because we spend 90% of our time wrangling texts into submission in this specific word-processing software. But did you know that Microsoft has another free collection of utilities, apps, tools, toys (take your pick!) that will make your editing life a lot easier? Cue PowerToys available for download from the Microsoft Store.
The current open-source collection contains 20 different utilities but, for the sake of brevity, I’m only going to highlight my favourites and the ones most applicable to editors and their work.
Struggling with your screen real estate because your editing project requires three different dictionaries, reference material, an ongoing chat with your client and much, much more? If you are familiar with the Windows Snap feature (Windows key + arrow keys to send a window to either side so you can have several windows next to each other), then FancyZones will make your inner multitasker even happier. It lets you arrange windows in columns, rows and customised grids so that you can see more of your work all at once.
Find My Mouse
If you are getting on in years (like I am!) or work on several screens, then you sometimes lose track of the mouse pointer. With Find My Mouse, double-pressing the left Ctrl key will activate a spotlight that focuses on the position of your mouse. No more hunting around for that elusive pointer! Several other mouse utilities, such as Mouse Highlighter, Mouse Jump and Mouse Pointer Crosshairs, are also useful for managing the pointer’s behaviour.
If you are editing in another language that uses a different keyboard (QWERTY vs. QWERTZ vs. AZERTY) or feel that some of the native keyboard shortcuts work against your own muscle memory, then this handy utility for redefining keys or changing up shortcut combinations is just the thing. Using intuitive keyboard shortcuts customised to your editing style not only cuts down on time spent editing but also helps alleviate repetitive strain injury by reducing your dependency on the mouse.
Paste As Plain Text
This is easily my most often-used utility as it’s so helpful to paste text between different programs and not carry over all the formatting. As with any of the other utilities, you can set up your own shortcut (mine is Windows key + Ctrl + V) to make pasting unformatted clipboard text a breeze.
Another utility I use almost daily, PowerRename, lets you rename and replace file names in bulk in File Explorer. You can use regular expressions or target specific file types and modify a large number of file names without giving all of them the same name. So no more filename_final.final.final.extension! The best part is that you can preview your intended file name changes and even do a bulk undo if you made a mistake. This utility is perfect for updating a large batch of individual files so you and your client can keep track of the editing process. (See this PEGblog article for how to effectively structure your file names.)
If you don’t have a separate number keypad on your keyboard or if your keyboard doesn’t support a specific accent, then this utility makes it easy to type accented characters in languages apart from English such as ê, ó, ï, and so on. This utility is switched off by default so you’ll first have to activate it in the PowerToys settings. Thereafter, it is as easy as holding down the desired letter and pressing the Space bar or Left/Right arrow keys to make your selection.
Another one of my top favourites, this utility lets you copy text from anywhere on your screen, including text in images and even videos. The text will be saved to your clipboard for pasting as plain text. A word of warning, though: the utility uses OCR to read text, which will be based on the default language used by your Windows system language and keyboard settings. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to proofread the output!
Other PowerToys utilities I use often are Always on Top, Color Picker, File Explorer add-ons, Image Resizer and Shortcut Guide. Once you start exploring (this explainer video gives a good overview), I’m sure you’ll find your own toys (or favourites) to streamline your editing and file management processes.