Microsoft is making it easier to change your computer’s environment variables in Windows 11 and Windows 10, saving you time in Command Prompt.
For those who don’t know, environment variables is a powerful tool that allows you to set important folders such as the location of apps or functions, including the Temp folder. It also lets you set the Path variable, such as the directories the executable is in, so you can easily run commands in a terminal.
For example, typing ‘mspaint’ in the command prompt will launch it immediately, but typing a third-party app such as ‘mpv’ or ‘Chrome’ will throw up an error saying that the command ‘mpv’ is not “recognized as a internal or external command, usable program or batch file”.
That’s because native apps – Notepad or Paint – are already defined in the path, but apps like Chrome or MPV Player are not. You can use the environment variables to easily define paths for any app, but the tool is not really user-friendly and users have to define variables for individual user accounts.
If you are familiar with PC environment variables, you can easily save time in Command Prompt when you need to run apps or certain scripts.
Microsoft has admitted that the environment variables page is very limited for “readability” and that it can be difficult for beginners to understand things like the path or directory specified. The company wants to show the path in a more consumable way, insert items that behave like lists, and help you easily define the paths to run executables.
A new PowerToys tool ‘Environment Manager’ could make managing the environment variables easier.
“We are playing with how we can improve environmental variables. We have some ideas but would love to have your thoughts/thoughts/ideas. One idea was to show the calculated final value(s) if the item was in both the system and the user,” a Microsoft official noted in one of the Github posts.
As you can see in the mockup screenshot above, creating an environment variable with PowerToys works exactly the same way it does at the moment. For example, the user has to click the ‘Add’ button and give a name and value to the variable.
You can also add multiple values and users should still adhere to the principles of the tool, such as values should be separated by semicolons.
Once you’ve created your variable, you can click “OK” to apply changes.
Microsoft is still working on the feature and we don’t know when it will be rolled out to users.