Big tech firms have reportedly used thousands of YouTube videos to train AI

Proof News has published a new audit showing that major tech companies such as Apple, Nvidia, Anthropic, and Salesforce used subtitle data from 173,536 YouTube videos to train their artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

The companies plan to use the “Youtube Subtitles” data collection, created by EleutherAI; it contains transcripts from news channels such as Khan Academy, MIT, Harvard, The Wall Street Journal, NPR and BBC, as well as entertainment channels such as The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Jimmy Kimmel Live.

The data collection also contains subtitles for videos belonging to big YouTube stars such as MrBeast, Swedish PewDiePie, and Jacksepticeye. According to Youtube’s rules, companies are not allowed to harvest material from the platform without permission.

EleutherAI has so far not commented on Proof News’ review.

Big tech firms have reportedly used thousands of YouTube videos to train AI

Proof News has published a new audit showing that major tech companies such as Apple, Nvidia, Anthropic, and Salesforce used subtitle data from 173,536 YouTube videos to train their artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

The companies plan to use the “Youtube Subtitles” data collection, created by EleutherAI; it contains transcripts from news channels such as Khan Academy, MIT, Harvard, The Wall Street Journal, NPR and BBC, as well as entertainment channels such as The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Jimmy Kimmel Live.

The data collection also contains subtitles for videos belonging to big YouTube stars such as MrBeast, Swedish PewDiePie, and Jacksepticeye. According to Youtube’s rules, companies are not allowed to harvest material from the platform without permission.

EleutherAI has so far not commented on Proof News’ review.

Mistral’s new Codestral Mamba to aid longer code generation

French AI startup Mistral has launched a new large language model (LLM) that can help generate longer tranches of code comparatively faster than other open-source models, such as CodeGemma-1.1 7B and CodeLlama 7B.

“Unlike transformer models, Mamba models offer the advantage of linear time inference and the theoretical ability to model sequences of infinite length. It allows users to engage with the model extensively with quick responses, irrespective of the input length,” the startup said in a statement.

Data about millions of Trello users leaks online

Earlier this year, Atlassian was subjected to a massive cyberattack, leading to sensitive information about the software company’s customers ending up in the wrong hands.

According to Bleeping Computer, data on 15 million users of the popular planning tool Trello, including account information, names and email addresses, has now been put up for sale on a hacker forum.

Given that it only costs about $3.66 to access the information, users can expect many scammers to take advantage of the “offer.”

To be safe, Trello users should change their login credentials as soon as possible.

FTC is looking into Amazon’s deal with AI startup Adept

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sought details from Amazon about the recruitment of key personnel from the AI startup Adept, according to a Reuters report.

The request follows the announcement that Adept CEO David Luan, along with other top executives, will be joining Amazon, which is also set to license some of Adept’s technologies.

This underscores the growing scrutiny by the FTC and other regulatory bodies worldwide on AI-related deals, especially partnerships between major technology companies and leading AI startups.

Earlier this week, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced an inquiry into a similar move by Microsoft, which recruited most of the employees from startup, Inflection, for its consumer AI group. In June, the FTC too had launched an investigation to determine whether there actually was an undisclosed acquisition through the hiring of key personnel and the licensing agreement with Inflection.

AI growth amid scrutiny


Expanding AI capabilities has become inevitable for tech companies. Faisal Kawoosa, chief analyst at Techarc, pointed out that Amazon has been lagging in its AI journey compared to other big tech companies, necessitating a search for inorganic growth strategies.

“We’ve seen a similar approach with Apple, which acquired a startup like DarwinAI due to uncertainties in their ecosystem,” said Kawoosa. “As for this investigation, it appears to be preliminary to determine if it warrants a deeper look. Regulators are assessing whether anything in this transaction violates trade practices.”

This could further raise concerns for companies considering partnerships with the likes of Amazon, as regulatory hurdles can be daunting, said Thomas George, president of Cybermedia Research. The main concerns involve information privacy, copyright infringement, and antitrust issues.

“This forces organizations to think critically to avoid legal risks, especially when handling sensitive customer data or formulating contracts that do not give one company too much influence over the market,” George said. “Given prevailing trends, regulatory bodies like the FTC require a forward-thinking approach to compliance to ensure partnerships align with shifting regulations through transparency.”

Impact of regulatory intervention

Given its benefits, the trend of integrating AI startups will likely continue, with both deep tech and big tech companies trying to enhance their capabilities and quickly develop their large language models.

For instance, Kawoosa pointed out that such acquisitions provide Amazon with rapid access to advanced AI technologies. The widespread use of AWS enables Amazon to offer enhanced AI services to its many enterprise customers.

This could naturally lead to increased regulatory scrutiny in the industry. The bigger issue would be the two-fold impact on AI innovation and adoption in enterprises. On one hand, this might slow down aggressive acquisition strategies as companies navigate regulatory landscapes.

“On the other, this could create a better competitive environment by preventing market monopolization and ensuring smaller AI innovators can compete and collaborate within the ecosystem on equal footing,” George said. “Finally, while such scrutiny could pose some obstacles in the near term, it can foster a more diverse and robust innovation landscape that would benefit the entire industry, thereby facilitating the equitable development of AI technologies.”

Is AI the secret sauce for the four-day workweek?

Despite the well-publicized success of four-day workweek pilots around the globe, it’s still a relatively uncommon way of working.

“There is a lot of traditional thinking and managerial resistance in most organizations against four-day workweeks,” says Leslie Joseph, principal analyst at Forrester.

Companies that have experimented with four-day workweeks have generally gotten positive results, so long as there is systemic support in the organization, Joseph says. “They found that their employees actually appreciated it and found themselves to be more productive. Individual mental health and individual work-life balance [also] improved.” 

But the perception remains that employees can’t possibly get as much done in a 32-hour workweek as in a 40-hour one. Whether or not that’s true with traditional ways of working, some organizations are finding that automation and new AI tools — particularly generative AI — have proven to be a key factor in making their four-day workweeks a success.

Working asynchronously with the help of AI

Colin Bryce, managing director of Cobry, a Google Cloud partner in the United Kingdom, introduced a four-day workweek to the organization two and a half years ago. The timing was notable because it preceded the emergence of ChatGPT and other generative AI tools by a few months, giving the organization a snapshot of four-day workweeks before and after genAI.

Before the move, Bryce’s research into the four-day workweek showed that phased transitions, where different parts of the organization are brought onto the new schedule in batches, often did not work well because companies fell into a kind of “analysis paralysis.”

“It usually ends up with people just getting spooked and reversing course. So if you’re going to do it, just go for it,” Bryce advises.

When the four-day workweek was rolled out company-wide at Cobry, Bryce asked all employees to remember several principles to increase efficiency even as they reduced working hours. “Automate where you can, eliminate where you can, outsource or delegate where you can, and educate if there’s a need for some learning to improve efficiency,” he says.

According to Bryce, the arrival of ChatGPT and other tools introduced another principle: “How can we use AI to make the four-day week work better?”

This principle was crucial because Cobry’s approach to four-day workweeks led to some operational challenges. Internally referred to as “20% time,” the policy allows employees to take off 20% of every day, two half days, or one whole day each week. However, if two colleagues opt for one day off on different days, they will only overlap for three days a week, leading to a necessary rise in asynchronous work.

But Cobry was in a fortuitous position because of its existing tools, Bryce says. “We have a really modern, cloud-based tech stack” that includes Asana for work management, Notion as a knowledge base, Hubspot for CRM, and Looker for business intelligence, all built around Google Workspace. With the addition of Google’s Gemini AI model to the mix, each component now has “a significant amount of genAI woven into it,” Bryce says.

Across this tech stack, AI is particularly helpful for documentation and lower-level tasks that free up employees for face-to-face tasks during shared working hours,  Bryce says. Cobry uses AI for transcribing meetings, writing strategy documents, and even information-sharing through special bots custom-written by Cobry. Available 24/7, the bots support asynchronous work by providing various pieces of data that are useful for internal teams, such as the latest updates from Google Cloud, a current list of who is on holiday, and even birthday announcements.

These use cases fall right in line with the four principles Cobry emphasizes to make the four-day workweek possible: automate, eliminate, outsource or delegate, and educate.

“With AI tools coming into play, we immediately had an incredibly powerful fifth method to facilitate a successful four-day week. We became able to progress, and often solve, issues that would previously have needed much more work and often the input of an external subject matter expert. Using AI tools closed many of those loops, and therefore made us more efficient,” he says.

More time to think — and grow the business

John Readman, CEO of Ask Bosco, a marketing AI company based in the UK, founded the business in 2019, implementing four-day workweeks from the get-go. The company allows employees to have Wednesday or Friday as a day off. He says that the rise of AI has helped the business grow without increasing headcount or staffers’ hours.

“We can actually win more business and still maintain the four-day week without having to recruit more people, so it’s meant our ability to produce more work within the time we’re working,” Readman says. AI tools have also improved “the quality of the work we’re doing, because we’ve got more time to think about it rather than just rushing it out the door,” he says.

The organization’s current applications for AI are diverse, including using ChatGPT and Midjourney for content production for search engine optimization; note-taking for meetings, which teams use to align their task lists and agendas; automated expense reporting for employees; and even voice cloning their tech experts so that the marketing team can create technical walkthroughs without recording audio.

AI has been so valuable to the company that Readman has actively solicited new AI use case ideas through a company-wide competition. Employees had to identify which tool would be used, how it would be used, and, perhaps most relevantly, how much time they expected to regain. Three winners received a cash prize for their ideas.

While Readman is bullish on rolling out AI and automation to every area of the organization, there is one area Ask Bosco will not touch. “We’re not using AI to monitor and watch what people are doing. I know some companies do that, but I think that’s sort of counterintuitive,” he says.

Facilitating information exchange

Safeguard Global, a workforce management software vendor headquartered in the United States, has a flexible work policy known as “work in any way.” This policy allows people to work how they want and when they want, says chief technology officer Duri Chitayat — and what they are measured by is what they deliver rather than how many hours they put in.

“Teams will establish a working agreement,” says Chitayat. “So, for example, one of my peers, a chief product officer, prefers to take off Fridays. I, on the other hand, like to use my Fridays for kind of spillover meetings.”

Chitayat says that AI supports work in any way because it lowers the time and effort spent to exchange information. Gathering the right data and getting it to the right people used to be a time-consuming process with various bottlenecks along the way. “AI strips the delay in information, the queuing of things in systems,” Chitayat says.

To this end, Safeguard uses a variety of genAI tools, including open-source projects like LangChain and LangGraph for agent orchestration, Vercel AI SDK for UX and developer experience, and LLMs from OpenAI and other vendors for natural language processing. The exact use cases vary — recruiting, knowledge management, workforce analytics, spend analytics, and client service management — but they all make the access and exchange of information more efficient.

In fact, information exchange has become so efficient that “highly skilled people — the place where you want to get the information to — those people become the new bottleneck,” Chitayat says. “They’re the wall socket that everything gets plugged into. AI just makes it easier to get them that stuff.”

The risk of this efficiency is that employees burn out and leave the organization. Flexible working arrangements, such as work-in-any-way or four-day workweeks, give people time to recharge, Chitayat says, and they’re more likely to stick around.

“By offering people an easier time, the ability to take a day when you need it, you’re messaging to people what you value, which is outcomes — not just showing up,” he says.

A valuable recruiting and retention tool

Flexible working is beneficial not just for employee retention, but for recruiting as well. Bryce calls Cobry’s four-day workweek a “joker card” to play against other firms.

“People are really, really shocked. They’re like, ‘Wow, what do you mean?’ I’ve had people not believe me in interviews. They think they have to take a 20% pay cut to get it,” he says.

This advantage has distinguished Cobry from other companies in a competitive market. “I don’t think there’s another Google Cloud partner that has the four-day week,” he says.

Ultimately, Cobry’s four-day work policy is an extension of its employee experience, Bryce says. “We’ve always been very careful about no work in the evenings, no work on the weekends and things like that. So I guess it was a further extension of that to try and really respect people’s lives and to give them a work-life balance,” he says.

In the era of hustle culture, one might assume that employees are using the extra time to freelance or work another job part-time. Readman has found otherwise at Ask Bosco. The company administered an anonymous general employee happiness survey and found that most people used the additional time off for “life admin” tasks like chores, errands, and other upkeep.

Readman says a four-day workweek helps both the organization and the employee. “That means you can enjoy your weekend, and then that helps with your mental health. And I also think that helps with being focused in the four days you’re working because you’re not thinking, ‘Ohh, I’ve got the man coming to fix the fridge or sort out the dishwasher whilst I’m meant to be on a call,’” he says.

The four-day week as a litmus test

Bryce says Cobry’s four-day workweek has been a barometer for the overall business.

“It’s almost like a magnifying glass to assess how well the business is operating in general,” he says. “It’s been a big driver in forcing focus: If this can’t be done in four days, how come? Is the process bad? Is everyone using their own tools? Is the person not skilled? You know, it’s very provocative,” he says.

Chitayat says that work-in-any-way has been similarly revelatory for Safeguard Global.

“The old way of hiring people and making sure they show up at the office is not a very good management tactic. It creates a lot of ‘success theater,’ whereas now what we’re focused on is data: What does the data tell us about our outcomes? Who’s succeeding? Who’s not? [We’re learning] how to ask the right questions, how to be able to get under the covers and find out why things are happening the way that they’re happening.” he says.

As a result, Chitayat says, more leaders are data-informed or data-driven.

Forrester’s Joseph says this data-driven approach can eventually help organizations that are not currently on four-day workweeks achieve that goal. He cited the example of an Indian company that Forrester works with. Although the company had a four-day workweek as a stated goal, they did not transition wholesale immediately. Instead, they launched a three-month pilot, asking both employees and clients for feedback.

At the end of the pilot, clients scored the firm’s output at more than 4 on a 5-point scale, and employee satisfaction scores rose from the usual 3.2 or 3.3 to well above 4. At that point the company made the four-day week permanent.

Joseph advises other businesses to consider the transition with a similarly pragmatic lens. “What should we be measuring? And how do the metrics that we’re collecting point to the impact of a four-day workweek on the long-term health across various metrics of our organization and of the employees?” he asks.

Organizations should not consider a four-day workweek in isolation but as part of a broader program to improve the employee experience across the board, Joseph says. And organizations should be deliberate about how they want work to happen.

He points to Amazon, which famously tries to minimize meetings by asking executives to articulate their thoughts in six-page memos rather than PowerPoints, as an example.

“These are all signals wherein organizations are shaping culture and aligning the tools — whether that be collaboration tools or automation tools or AI tools — around those objectives to create a certain work environment where people can come in, be their best at work, be their most productive in what they’re doing, and then maybe do things with the extra time that they save,” he says. “You have to look at all this holistically.”

Is AI the secret sauce for the four-day workweek?

Despite the well-publicized success of four-day workweek pilots around the globe, it’s still a relatively uncommon way of working.

“There is a lot of traditional thinking and managerial resistance in most organizations against four-day workweeks,” says Leslie Joseph, principal analyst at Forrester.

Companies that have experimented with four-day workweeks have generally gotten positive results, so long as there is systemic support in the organization, Joseph says. “They found that their employees actually appreciated it and found themselves to be more productive. Individual mental health and individual work-life balance [also] improved.” 

But the perception remains that employees can’t possibly get as much done in a 32-hour workweek as in a 40-hour one. Whether or not that’s true with traditional ways of working, some organizations are finding that automation and new AI tools — particularly generative AI — have proven to be a key factor in making their four-day workweeks a success.

Working asynchronously with the help of AI

Colin Bryce, managing director of Cobry, a Google Cloud partner in the United Kingdom, introduced a four-day workweek to the organization two and a half years ago. The timing was notable because it preceded the emergence of ChatGPT and other generative AI tools by a few months, giving the organization a snapshot of four-day workweeks before and after genAI.

Before the move, Bryce’s research into the four-day workweek showed that phased transitions, where different parts of the organization are brought onto the new schedule in batches, often did not work well because companies fell into a kind of “analysis paralysis.”

“It usually ends up with people just getting spooked and reversing course. So if you’re going to do it, just go for it,” Bryce advises.

When the four-day workweek was rolled out company-wide at Cobry, Bryce asked all employees to remember several principles to increase efficiency even as they reduced working hours. “Automate where you can, eliminate where you can, outsource or delegate where you can, and educate if there’s a need for some learning to improve efficiency,” he says.

According to Bryce, the arrival of ChatGPT and other tools introduced another principle: “How can we use AI to make the four-day week work better?”

This principle was crucial because Cobry’s approach to four-day workweeks led to some operational challenges. Internally referred to as “20% time,” the policy allows employees to take off 20% of every day, two half days, or one whole day each week. However, if two colleagues opt for one day off on different days, they will only overlap for three days a week, leading to a necessary rise in asynchronous work.

But Cobry was in a fortuitous position because of its existing tools, Bryce says. “We have a really modern, cloud-based tech stack” that includes Asana for work management, Notion as a knowledge base, Hubspot for CRM, and Looker for business intelligence, all built around Google Workspace. With the addition of Google’s Gemini AI model to the mix, each component now has “a significant amount of genAI woven into it,” Bryce says.

Across this tech stack, AI is particularly helpful for documentation and lower-level tasks that free up employees for face-to-face tasks during shared working hours,  Bryce says. Cobry uses AI for transcribing meetings, writing strategy documents, and even information-sharing through special bots custom-written by Cobry. Available 24/7, the bots support asynchronous work by providing various pieces of data that are useful for internal teams, such as the latest updates from Google Cloud, a current list of who is on holiday, and even birthday announcements.

These use cases fall right in line with the four principles Cobry emphasizes to make the four-day workweek possible: automate, eliminate, outsource or delegate, and educate.

“With AI tools coming into play, we immediately had an incredibly powerful fifth method to facilitate a successful four-day week. We became able to progress, and often solve, issues that would previously have needed much more work and often the input of an external subject matter expert. Using AI tools closed many of those loops, and therefore made us more efficient,” he says.

More time to think — and grow the business

John Readman, CEO of Ask Bosco, a marketing AI company based in the UK, founded the business in 2019, implementing four-day workweeks from the get-go. The company allows employees to have Wednesday or Friday as a day off. He says that the rise of AI has helped the business grow without increasing headcount or staffers’ hours.

“We can actually win more business and still maintain the four-day week without having to recruit more people, so it’s meant our ability to produce more work within the time we’re working,” Readman says. AI tools have also improved “the quality of the work we’re doing, because we’ve got more time to think about it rather than just rushing it out the door,” he says.

The organization’s current applications for AI are diverse, including using ChatGPT and Midjourney for content production for search engine optimization; note-taking for meetings, which teams use to align their task lists and agendas; automated expense reporting for employees; and even voice cloning their tech experts so that the marketing team can create technical walkthroughs without recording audio.

AI has been so valuable to the company that Readman has actively solicited new AI use case ideas through a company-wide competition. Employees had to identify which tool would be used, how it would be used, and, perhaps most relevantly, how much time they expected to regain. Three winners received a cash prize for their ideas.

While Readman is bullish on rolling out AI and automation to every area of the organization, there is one area Ask Bosco will not touch. “We’re not using AI to monitor and watch what people are doing. I know some companies do that, but I think that’s sort of counterintuitive,” he says.

Facilitating information exchange

Safeguard Global, a workforce management software vendor headquartered in the United States, has a flexible work policy known as “work in any way.” This policy allows people to work how they want and when they want, says chief technology officer Duri Chitayat — and what they are measured by is what they deliver rather than how many hours they put in.

“Teams will establish a working agreement,” says Chitayat. “So, for example, one of my peers, a chief product officer, prefers to take off Fridays. I, on the other hand, like to use my Fridays for kind of spillover meetings.”

Chitayat says that AI supports work in any way because it lowers the time and effort spent to exchange information. Gathering the right data and getting it to the right people used to be a time-consuming process with various bottlenecks along the way. “AI strips the delay in information, the queuing of things in systems,” Chitayat says.

To this end, Safeguard uses a variety of genAI tools, including open-source projects like LangChain and LangGraph for agent orchestration, Vercel AI SDK for UX and developer experience, and LLMs from OpenAI and other vendors for natural language processing. The exact use cases vary — recruiting, knowledge management, workforce analytics, spend analytics, and client service management — but they all make the access and exchange of information more efficient.

In fact, information exchange has become so efficient that “highly skilled people — the place where you want to get the information to — those people become the new bottleneck,” Chitayat says. “They’re the wall socket that everything gets plugged into. AI just makes it easier to get them that stuff.”

The risk of this efficiency is that employees burn out and leave the organization. Flexible working arrangements, such as work-in-any-way or four-day workweeks, give people time to recharge, Chitayat says, and they’re more likely to stick around.

“By offering people an easier time, the ability to take a day when you need it, you’re messaging to people what you value, which is outcomes — not just showing up,” he says.

A valuable recruiting and retention tool

Flexible working is beneficial not just for employee retention, but for recruiting as well. Bryce calls Cobry’s four-day workweek a “joker card” to play against other firms.

“People are really, really shocked. They’re like, ‘Wow, what do you mean?’ I’ve had people not believe me in interviews. They think they have to take a 20% pay cut to get it,” he says.

This advantage has distinguished Cobry from other companies in a competitive market. “I don’t think there’s another Google Cloud partner that has the four-day week,” he says.

Ultimately, Cobry’s four-day work policy is an extension of its employee experience, Bryce says. “We’ve always been very careful about no work in the evenings, no work on the weekends and things like that. So I guess it was a further extension of that to try and really respect people’s lives and to give them a work-life balance,” he says.

In the era of hustle culture, one might assume that employees are using the extra time to freelance or work another job part-time. Readman has found otherwise at Ask Bosco. The company administered an anonymous general employee happiness survey and found that most people used the additional time off for “life admin” tasks like chores, errands, and other upkeep.

Readman says a four-day workweek helps both the organization and the employee. “That means you can enjoy your weekend, and then that helps with your mental health. And I also think that helps with being focused in the four days you’re working because you’re not thinking, ‘Ohh, I’ve got the man coming to fix the fridge or sort out the dishwasher whilst I’m meant to be on a call,’” he says.

The four-day week as a litmus test

Bryce says Cobry’s four-day workweek has been a barometer for the overall business.

“It’s almost like a magnifying glass to assess how well the business is operating in general,” he says. “It’s been a big driver in forcing focus: If this can’t be done in four days, how come? Is the process bad? Is everyone using their own tools? Is the person not skilled? You know, it’s very provocative,” he says.

Chitayat says that work-in-any-way has been similarly revelatory for Safeguard Global.

“The old way of hiring people and making sure they show up at the office is not a very good management tactic. It creates a lot of ‘success theater,’ whereas now what we’re focused on is data: What does the data tell us about our outcomes? Who’s succeeding? Who’s not? [We’re learning] how to ask the right questions, how to be able to get under the covers and find out why things are happening the way that they’re happening.” he says.

As a result, Chitayat says, more leaders are data-informed or data-driven.

Forrester’s Joseph says this data-driven approach can eventually help organizations that are not currently on four-day workweeks achieve that goal. He cited the example of an Indian company that Forrester works with. Although the company had a four-day workweek as a stated goal, they did not transition wholesale immediately. Instead, they launched a three-month pilot, asking both employees and clients for feedback.

At the end of the pilot, clients scored the firm’s output at more than 4 on a 5-point scale, and employee satisfaction scores rose from the usual 3.2 or 3.3 to well above 4. At that point the company made the four-day week permanent.

Joseph advises other businesses to consider the transition with a similarly pragmatic lens. “What should we be measuring? And how do the metrics that we’re collecting point to the impact of a four-day workweek on the long-term health across various metrics of our organization and of the employees?” he asks.

Organizations should not consider a four-day workweek in isolation but as part of a broader program to improve the employee experience across the board, Joseph says. And organizations should be deliberate about how they want work to happen.

He points to Amazon, which famously tries to minimize meetings by asking executives to articulate their thoughts in six-page memos rather than PowerPoints, as an example.

“These are all signals wherein organizations are shaping culture and aligning the tools — whether that be collaboration tools or automation tools or AI tools — around those objectives to create a certain work environment where people can come in, be their best at work, be their most productive in what they’re doing, and then maybe do things with the extra time that they save,” he says. “You have to look at all this holistically.”

10 PowerToys you should use on Windows

Microsoft is talking a lot about Copilot+ PCs with exclusive AI features. Those features aren’t very useful yet, but there is a compelling package of extra features for Windows you can get on any Windows PC — for free. It’s called Microsoft PowerToys.

I’ve been a big fan of Microsoft PowerToys for years. This free and open-source package of extra tools is a must-install for nearly any Windows PC user. Many of them can give you a big productivity upgrade, saving you time whether you use your PC for work or play. You can get the latest PowerToys version from the Microsoft Store in a few clicks; the tools will work on both Windows 10 and Windows 11.

Microsoft PowerToys is a big package with dozens of individual utilities, many of which are packed with their own options. The tips listed here just scratch the surface.

Want more tips and tricks for making the most of your PC? Sign up for my free Windows Intelligence newsletter — I’ll send you three things to try every Friday. Plus, get free Windows 11 and 10 Field Guides (a $10 value) as a special welcome bonus!

Windows PowerToys tool #1: Keyboard Manager

The Keyboard Manager PowerToy lets you take a key on your keyboard and make it function as another key. Want to transform the Caps Lock key into something more useful such as a search key or a convenient Play/Pause key for controlling music playback? You can do that. Got a new laptop that comes with a Copilot key and don’t use Copilot? You can make the key do whatever you want it to do.

To remap keys, open the PowerToys settings window, select the Keyboard Manager tool, and click “Remap a key.”

Windows PowerToys: Keyboard Manager
Don’t use Caps Lock? Transform the key into something you will use.

Chris Hoffman, IDG

Windows PowerToys tool #2: Always On Top

This PowerToy lets you keep any window always on top of other windows, leaving it visible on your screen even when you click away. To use it, just press Windows+Ctrl+T after installing PowerToys. (You can change it to any other keyboard shortcut you like in the PowerToys settings window.)

After pressing the shortcut, the window will be always front and center. It’s an excellent window-management trick I’ve always loved using, and now I don’t have to hunt down third-party utilities to get it.

Windows PowerToys tool #3: PowerToys Run

PowerToys Run is a convenient launcher that provides a better experience than the Start menu in many ways. Press Alt+Space to pull it up after installing PowerToys. You can launch applications, search for files, and do basic math calculations here.

Better yet, you can even start searching the web: Unlike the Start menu built into Windows, the PowerToys Run launcher will obey your choice of default search engine and web browser. In other words, if you prefer Google in Chrome, PowerToys Run will launch that. (The Start menu always launches Bing in Edge.)

PowerToys Run even supports community-created plug-ins for extra functionality.

Windows PowerToys: PowerToys Run
PowerToys Run is a better launcher and search tool than the Start menu.

Chris Hoffman, IDG

Windows PowerToys tool #4: Image Resizer

The Image Resizer PowerToy gives you a convenient way to resize multiple image files in just a few clicks. You can then choose a new size for the images and resize them all in a single click.

After installing PowerToys, select some image files in File Explorer, right-click them, and select “Resize with Image Resizer.” (You will have to click “Show more options” after opening the menu if you’re using Windows 11.)

Windows PowerToys tool #5: PowerRename

PowerRename is a convenient bulk file rename tool included in PowerToys. With it, you can quickly rename multiple files at once. It’s a nice alternative to the much more complex batch rename tools for Windows that you’ll find if you start searching the web.

After installing PowerToys, right-click some files in File Explorer and select “Rename with PowerRename” to pull it up. 

Windows PowerToys: PowerRename
PowerRename is a powerful tool for renaming lots of files at once.

Chris Hoffman, IDG

Windows PowerToys tool #6: Video Conference Mute

Video Conference Mute is a powerful tool for anyone who wants extra control of their PC’s webcam and microphone. After enabling this, you can use keyboard shortcuts to enable and disable your PC’s webcam and microphone — and it works in all apps. To activate it, open the PowerToys settings window and select Video Conference Mute.

Windows PowerToys tool #7: Awake

The Awake tool is similar to Caffeine for Mac. After installing PowerToys, you’ll get a little coffee cup icon in your system tray. You can use this tool to force your computer to stay awake. It’s convenient if you’re performing a download or another long-running task and don’t want your PC to going to sleep.

You right-click the Awake icon and tell it to keep your computer awake for a period of time — no messing with your power management settings needed.

Windows PowerToys: Awake
The PowerToys Awake tool can stop your computer from sleeping.

Chris Hoffman, IDG

Windows PowerToys tool #8: Text Extractor

The Text Extractor tool is incredibly useful, offering a way to scan anywhere on your screen for words and convert them into copy-pasteable text. It’s an excellent optical character recognition (OCR) trick; you just have to press Windows+Shift+T to use it.

This tool isn’t as pertinent on Windows 11 now that the Snipping Tool has OCR built in, but it has the important distinction of also working on Windows 10 — unlike the Windows-11-only Snipping Tool OCR function. This PowerToy gives Windows 10 PCs a convenient OCR option that would otherwise only be included after upgrading to Windows 11.

Windows PowerToys tool #9: Advanced Paste

The Advanced Paste PowerToy gives you more control over pasting text. One particularly useful feature: It lets you use the Windows+Ctrl+Alt+V keyboard shortcut to paste the contents of your computer’s clipboard as plain text in any application. (While you can often do this with Ctrl+Shift+V in many applications, that keyboard shortcut isn’t universal — it doesn’t work in all apps.)

This tool also has a new gimmick: “Paste with AI,” a feature that requires an OpenAI API key that will let you quickly format the contents of your clipboard with the AI model that powers ChatGPT. In the future, this type of feature might use the neural processing unit (NPU) hardware on modern Copilot+ PCs to do this locally — no OpenAI API key or cloud service necessary.

Windows PowerToys tool #10: FancyZones

The FancyZones tool is a very powerful utility for organizing windows on your desktop. This is a perfect example of PowerToys in action: Yes, Windows includes powerful keyboard shortcuts and mouse tricks for “Snapping” windows — and they’re even more powerful on Windows 11.

But FancyZones goes beyond that, providing a window management system that lets you define different zones to place windows in. You can switch between window layouts with a keyboard shortcut and even tell FancyZones to remember where you put windows and automatically place them in their last known zone when you launch them.

Windows PowerToys: FancyZones
FancyZones is a very customizable tiling window manager for Windows.

Chris Hoffman, IDG

Microsoft PowerToys contains many more tools than this. Download PowerToys and poke around to find them — or take a look at the PowerToys website to see a complete list. Microsoft is still working on PowerToys, and new and useful utilities are being added regularly. In fact, it’s an open-source project anyone can contribute to.

Want more PC tips and tricks? Come check out my free Windows Intelligence newsletter — I’ll send you three things to try every Friday. Plus, get free supremely in-depth Windows 10 and 11 Field Guides just for stopping by.

iGoogle reinvented: Meet the perfect Chrome productivity power-up

I don’t mean to brag, but — well, my browser’s new tab page is much better than yours.

All right, so that didn’t come across quite as humble as I’d hoped. But it’s true, all right. I added an exceptional new tool into my Chrome setup a while back, and no exaggeration: It has absolutely transformed the way I get stuff done during the workday and made every standard browser setup look like child’s play in comparison.

It’s an interesting alternative to the simple sticky note canvas upgrade I mentioned for Chrome’s new tab page in my Cool Tools newsletter this morning. And while this setup is specific to the desktop computer domain, it connects to many of the same services you use on your phone — like your calendar, your tasks, and more — while also putting oodles of other useful superpowers at your fingertips.

Plain and simple, it’s one of the smartest and most effective enhancements you’ll make to your work environment all year. And it’ll take you all of two minutes to get going.

[Get fresh tips and tools in your inbox every Friday with my Android Intelligence newsletter. Three new things to try each week!]

Meet your Chrome browser efficiency booster

The wizardry at the heart of this hefty browser betterment is a simple-seeming extension I just happened to stumble onto recently.

It’s called Dashy, and while I’m using the Chrome-specific version on my computer, it’s also available for Firefox and Edge (and it should work on any other Chromium-based browser beyond that as well).

Dashy brings a customized and insanely versatile productivity dashboard into your browser. It replaces the standard space-wasting Chrome new tab page with a canvas on which you can place numerous widgets with all sorts of useful functions — like:

  • A glance at your upcoming events and appointments from either Google Calendar or Outlook Calendar
  • An interactive view of your pending tasks from Google Tasks, Microsoft To Do, or Todoist
  • A custom world clock with the current time in whatever time zones you want
  • A live look at the weather in your current area
  • An on-demand language translator
  • A simple voice recorder
  • And an intelligent tab manager and search tool
Chrome productivity: Dashy widgets
Dashy lets you configure your own custom Chrome dashboard, with widgets for all sorts of useful purposes.

JR Raphael, IDG

You can add as many (or as few!) widgets as you want and both size and place ’em in whatever way you prefer. Your browser’s new tab page essentially becomes a rich info-packed desktop and command center, and you’ve got complete control over exactly what sort of info is included and how it all appears.

It’s kind of like a modernized and massively improved version of the old iGoogle concept, in other words — with even more utility and potential, both practical and visual.

To that end, Dashy includes an optional and customizable search box that gives you an easy place to search the web along with your Chrome browser bookmarks and history. You can also get Google suggestions there and even use it to perform calculations and other such feats — and if you’d rather use a search service other than Google, it makes it easy to do that, too.

Chrome productivity: Dashy search
The Dashy search box can be customized and even set to use a variety of different search providers beyond just Google.

JR Raphael, IDG

My favorite Dashy feature, though, has to be the custom web widget option. With a few seconds of simple setup, you can create your own widget that shows a live view of any web page you want — a news or stock site, for instance, or maybe your company website for easy at-a-glance monitoring.

I’ve used that option to embed a live view of my Google-Calendar-connected Notion Calendar so I can always see a clean and convenient view of the current week and add or edit events right then and there, in any new tab I open.

Chrome productivity: Dashy dashboard
Dashy’s custom widget option lets you add a live embedded view of any web page to your Chrome new tab page dashboard.

JR Raphael, IDG

Dashy has all sorts of other interesting options, including a host of keyboard shortcuts and mouse-friendly hotspots you can configure to launch specific sites or actions when you click ’em. It can even integrate with your browser- and/or system-level notifications and alert you to those within its interface — visually and even aurally, if you want — to make sure you never miss anything important.

And, critically, any setup you create within Dashy will automatically sync and show up on any computer you use and sign into, so you never have to worry about losing your custom canvas or being forced to start over.

Dashy is free to use in its base form, with an optional $3-a-month Pro step-up that lifts certain limitations and makes the full set of features available.

It’s one heck of a productivity upgrade — and believe you me: Once you get used to the enhanced environment it brings into your desktop browser experience, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Want even more useful productivity pointers? Check out my free Android Intelligence newsletter and get three new tips in your inbox every Friday!

iGoogle reinvented: Meet the perfect Chrome productivity power-up

I don’t mean to brag, but — well, my browser’s new tab page is much better than yours.

All right, so that didn’t come across quite as humble as I’d hoped. But it’s true, all right. I added an exceptional new tool into my Chrome setup a while back, and no exaggeration: It has absolutely transformed the way I get stuff done during the workday and made every standard browser setup look like child’s play in comparison.

It’s an interesting alternative to the simple sticky note canvas upgrade I mentioned for Chrome’s new tab page in my Cool Tools newsletter this morning. And while this setup is specific to the desktop computer domain, it connects to many of the same services you use on your phone — like your calendar, your tasks, and more — while also putting oodles of other useful superpowers at your fingertips.

Plain and simple, it’s one of the smartest and most effective enhancements you’ll make to your work environment all year. And it’ll take you all of two minutes to get going.

[Get fresh tips and tools in your inbox every Friday with my Android Intelligence newsletter. Three new things to try each week!]

Meet your Chrome browser efficiency booster

The wizardry at the heart of this hefty browser betterment is a simple-seeming extension I just happened to stumble onto recently.

It’s called Dashy, and while I’m using the Chrome-specific version on my computer, it’s also available for Firefox and Edge (and it should work on any other Chromium-based browser beyond that as well).

Dashy brings a customized and insanely versatile productivity dashboard into your browser. It replaces the standard space-wasting Chrome new tab page with a canvas on which you can place numerous widgets with all sorts of useful functions — like:

  • A glance at your upcoming events and appointments from either Google Calendar or Outlook Calendar
  • An interactive view of your pending tasks from Google Tasks, Microsoft To Do, or Todoist
  • A custom world clock with the current time in whatever time zones you want
  • A live look at the weather in your current area
  • An on-demand language translator
  • A simple voice recorder
  • And an intelligent tab manager and search tool
Chrome productivity: Dashy widgets
Dashy lets you configure your own custom Chrome dashboard, with widgets for all sorts of useful purposes.

JR Raphael, IDG

You can add as many (or as few!) widgets as you want and both size and place ’em in whatever way you prefer. Your browser’s new tab page essentially becomes a rich info-packed desktop and command center, and you’ve got complete control over exactly what sort of info is included and how it all appears.

It’s kind of like a modernized and massively improved version of the old iGoogle concept, in other words — with even more utility and potential, both practical and visual.

To that end, Dashy includes an optional and customizable search box that gives you an easy place to search the web along with your Chrome browser bookmarks and history. You can also get Google suggestions there and even use it to perform calculations and other such feats — and if you’d rather use a search service other than Google, it makes it easy to do that, too.

Chrome productivity: Dashy search
The Dashy search box can be customized and even set to use a variety of different search providers beyond just Google.

JR Raphael, IDG

My favorite Dashy feature, though, has to be the custom web widget option. With a few seconds of simple setup, you can create your own widget that shows a live view of any web page you want — a news or stock site, for instance, or maybe your company website for easy at-a-glance monitoring.

I’ve used that option to embed a live view of my Google-Calendar-connected Notion Calendar so I can always see a clean and convenient view of the current week and add or edit events right then and there, in any new tab I open.

Chrome productivity: Dashy dashboard
Dashy’s custom widget option lets you add a live embedded view of any web page to your Chrome new tab page dashboard.

JR Raphael, IDG

Dashy has all sorts of other interesting options, including a host of keyboard shortcuts and mouse-friendly hotspots you can configure to launch specific sites or actions when you click ’em. It can even integrate with your browser- and/or system-level notifications and alert you to those within its interface — visually and even aurally, if you want — to make sure you never miss anything important.

And, critically, any setup you create within Dashy will automatically sync and show up on any computer you use and sign into, so you never have to worry about losing your custom canvas or being forced to start over.

Dashy is free to use in its base form, with an optional $3-a-month Pro step-up that lifts certain limitations and makes the full set of features available.

It’s one heck of a productivity upgrade — and believe you me: Once you get used to the enhanced environment it brings into your desktop browser experience, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Want even more useful productivity pointers? Check out my free Android Intelligence newsletter and get three new tips in your inbox every Friday!