In the last year, I noticed that my Windows machines started to grey the screen and show a highlight around the cursor when I accidentally hit the CTRL key twice. At first, I had no idea what was going on, but then I figured out it was connected to CTRL. So I assumed that this was a brilliant new feature added by Microsoft in some recent Windows update (to both Windows 10 and 11, thank you very much!). However, then I tried to help a colleague find the function and realized it was missing on his machine. What was going on?
The effect looks like this:
Digging around in Windows settings and searching the web all I could find was an advanced setting in the old-style mouse control panel. But it was off on all my computers, and the effect it caused was far less pretty (drawing some black circles zooming in on the cursor).
Windows PowerToys Feature!
Turns out that this feature was not part of Windows after all, but the brilliant Microsoft-provided open-source Windows PowerToys package. Digging around I realized this feature was part of “Mouse utilities“. The control panel looks like this:
Now that I know what to search for, I found some announcements of the feature from early 2022. As well as the original pull request from 2021.
Basically, I thought this was a Windows feature since I always install Powertoys on every new Windows PC I set up. Including my work PC. Some of the utilities are just indispensable.
Get Windows Powertoys. Use this feature. It is brilliant.
But also very confusing in case you had no idea what is going on…