Registry Preview, now available in PowerToys!

Way, way back in the middle of 2005, I was working on a project, and I found myself having to review/edit a variety of Windows Registry files – aka REG files – so I could target different environments while targeting different build versions. While in the middle of the test pass, I was looking at Notepad and wondering if there wasn’t a better way to look at the Registry settings, like a visual representation of what the Keys and Values would look like, one merged into the Registry itself. Something that looked like the Windows Photo Viewer, where you could open up a REG file and view the Keys in a tree and Values below it.

Of course, this workflow resulted in the creation of a new application. I ended up coding something that was a simple .NET 2 WinForms app that used build in controls and a very basic parser to read the files, but it made life easier, while I was on this project. And once the project ended – or I changed projects – I put this on a shelf and moved onto the next thing.

Spoiler alert: Registry Preview is now available in PowerToys v0.69.0! You can download Microsoft PowerToys from the Microsoft Store or directly from GitHub.

Jump ahead to 2022, when the Microsoft Store started allowing Win32 applications to be made available for customers, which caused me to start investigating what it would take to get SharpKeys in the catalog. While that was a very small amount of work – and mostly package related – there is an intrinsic danger in allowing an engineer to install a compiler on a PC. In this case, there was a blurb or two about WinUI 3 and how it was unifying a bunch of existing technologies into a complete package for making Windows apps. Specifically, when I saw that it actively supported WinForms, I was tickled that old code may find a new home.

Thinking back to Registry Preview, I was again surprised that Notepad was still the “tool of default” when looking at REG files, and started thinking that maybe this app could be of use to other people and would find a home in the Store. Then I started thinking about how I might improve on the app itself and realized that I really didn’t want to “remember” how it was coded or how to support the WinForms UI, and so I opted to start over.

While I started to poke around the WinUI 3 documentation, I got to talking to some folks that work on the PowerToys suite of tools and asked if this was something they’d be interested in seeing in their collection of bits, and they thought it would be something great for their users to have on hand and that’s when things got “real.” After a few weeks, I had a working app built on .NET 6 and using all the technology that WinUI 3 made available. In January, I collected a bunch of feature request and tweaked a bunch of settings and started a pull request up on GitHub. Shortly after that, I started spelunking into the various source repos, attempting to integrate the app into the PowerToys suite – after a bunch of comments, requests, fixes, regression testing, and approvals, I’m happy to announce that there’s a new feature available in PowerToys!

What does the app do? If don’t have need to ever look at a Windows Registry file, you need not ever worry about this app. However, if you do work with REG files, this is something for you: after installing PowerToys, when you right-click on a REG file, you’ll now find a Preview menu item available. Clicking that opens the Registry Preview window, where you’ll see the text of the file on the left and the visual representation of the data on the right. Across the top of the app, you’ll find a bunch of options for interacting with the file: you can edit the external REG file, you can merge the file into the Registry, or save a copy of the existing file. You can also turn off the default “Read Only” checkbox below the REG file’s text and start to edit the file within the previewer! As you update or change Keys or Values, you’ll see the visual representation on the right update to make the text changes.

Registry Preview is now available in PowerToys v0.69.0!

— PowerToys info — | — Microsoft Store — | — GitHub Releases —

If you’re using WinGet you can install SharpKeys with: winget install sharpkeys

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