Microsoft PowerToys could soon get a Mac OS inspired Peek file preview feature

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 8, 2022
Windows software

Microsoft's PowerToys tools collection could soon become a new feature that is taking inspiration from Mac OS' file preview feature. Called Peek, the tool allows users to preview many file formats, including media and text documents, directly in File Explorer.

powertoys peek preview

The prototype PowerToys tool is not the first tool that brings file previewing functionality to Windows. We reviewed the free programs Quicklook and WinQuickLook in the past, which do the same.

Once installed, all that is required is to tap on Space-key while a file is selected to preview it directly in File Explorer. The preview is displayed in an overlay on the screen and the entire operation is quick and fluent.

File Explorer does have a preview feature for certain file types, but it takes away from the File Explorer window when activated and previews are limited in size.

The new PowerToys Peek feature works similarly, but with a major caveat. A member of the Microsoft Photos team unveiled the prototype on Reddit. It has been created during a hack week at Microsoft.

A demo video is available that highlights controls and the preview feature for still images. The user selects several images in File Explorer and uses the shortcut to preview them directly in the overlay that opens immediately after the shortcut is triggered.

powertoys peek

The actual previewing of images is quick and fluent, but PowerToys has a limitation that may reduce the experience for users. Unlike the Mac OS tool or the third-party Windows tools mentioned before, PowerToys does not support single-key shortcuts. Hitting Space to preview a file in File Explorer is not supported and because of that, Shift-Space is being used.

Good news is that it is possible to change the keyboard shortcut, but it always needs to be a combination of keys that need to be pressed to trigger the preview feature.

The initial release in PowerToys would support more features according to the poster on Reddit. Nothing has been mentioned yet in regards to these features.

PowerToys Peek is "much faster" than the file preview feature of Quicklook, according to MSFT-SAM, who published the information on Reddit.

We've had similar experiences when testing other apps. We did some performance tests and concluded that our prototype was much faster to show the preview than Quicklook. Something like 10x faster on average. Our performances were similar, at times better, than the File Explorer Preview Pane.

Microsoft added quite a few features to recent versions of PowerToys, including an always on top function, an Awake tool to keep the PC from going to sleep, or a Color Picker tool.

Microsoft PowerToys is an optional application that Windows for Windows 10 and Windows 11. It is available for download on the project's official GitHub repository.

Closing Words

Quicklook is an excellent feature that improves file previewing in the default file manager significantly. Windows users may use third-party tools for that, which support the single-key shortcut that the Mac OS feature supports, or PowerToys, provided that the feature lands in a development version and later a stable release version.

Now You: what is your take on PowerToys? Do you run them on your devices?

Microsoft PowerToys could soon get a Mac OS inspired Peek file preview feature
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Microsoft PowerToys could soon get a Mac OS inspired Peek file preview feature
Microsoft's PowerToys tools collection could soon become a new feature that is taking inspiration from Mac OS' file preview feature.
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  1. Gerard said on April 9, 2022 at 12:52 pm

    Cinnamon’s file manager Nemo has this feature also (Cinnamon is a Linux desktop). It is not particularly useful imho. I prefer to use my default applications for the various file types.

  2. Summer LingDong said on April 8, 2022 at 4:58 pm

    Powertoys adds features but they are limited and not ‘power’ like people would think. Like Powertoys Run compared to Flow Launcher, the file renamer compared to any advanced one.

    I use File Explorer but XYplorer has so many features I don’t really care about the ‘lack of features of File Explorer’ specially about something like this which is mostly useless since it is easier just to open the app or make the thumbnails big with ctrl+mousewheel, XYplorer has something like this where you just click the thumbnail and it previews it (you can personalize it, but using left or middle only previews it while holding the button and using right click leaves the preview opened until you do another click or something else), but even as easier and nice it is after some personalization like how it fits the screen and such, I rarely use it because all I need to see is the thumbnail to know if I have to open it or not in my application, I don’t need to preview many files most of the time, only text which preview window in file explorer is enough.

  3. WhitneyHerd said on April 8, 2022 at 2:58 pm

    This is silly, might as well open the image. Takes the same amount of clicks and time.

    1. Plants said on April 10, 2022 at 10:41 pm

      For real, what’s the point of this thing?
      Just an redundant app that does nothing but take up drive space.

      I thought PowerToys was supposed to be a minimal collection of *useful* power user tools.
      If they keep adding on more stuff like this they will need to start splitting it up into separate packages (which honestly they should’ve done in the first place).

    2. Mickey said on April 8, 2022 at 4:43 pm

      Exactly. Just hovering over a file with the mousepointer should be enough.

      1. Croatoan said on April 10, 2022 at 12:57 pm

        You can do that with “Qt tab bar” on Windows

  4. John G. said on April 8, 2022 at 10:24 am

    I won’t ever understand why these powertoys are not merged yet in the OS, you silly MS development team! Anyway there are dozens of utilities with the same features as powertoys, that can be added to the explorer menu in an easy way. And about McOS, I think it’s the most productive enviroment ever done. Thanks for the article! :]

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 8, 2022 at 12:13 pm

      At least some of the features would make good native additions.

      1. John G. said on April 8, 2022 at 4:50 pm

        I agree, thanks! :]

  5. owl said on April 8, 2022 at 10:07 am

    I need a Windows system due to remote work constraints, but in my personal life I have been a regular user of Apple products since the days of the Macintosh (now Mac).
    So I regularly use “Quicklook”, which replicates the macOS file preview function in Windows.
    In my experience, I dislike Microsoft applications (Electron) because they are resource-intensive. I am satisfied with Quicklook.

  6. Nordberg The Slasher said on April 8, 2022 at 9:56 am

    And can we use this “from mac STOLEN, not inspired” feature to watch previews of say .avi or .mkv or even .vob files? How about .ogg or .flac? .webm? .gif? .pdf? Or do we have to BUY a codec for that, and first create a Microsoft account?
    Yeah.. when it can actually DO something useful without a catch then come talk to me.

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