It’s officially been a week since the release of Windows 10, Microsoft’s re-imagining of their desktop operating system. Windows 10 can be considered an attempt to correct many of the flaws of Windows 8, whilst bringing back some of the functionality users enjoyed with Windows 7 and other previous versions (e.g. The start menu!).
A new operating system of course means the introduction of a host of new features. To help you explore these new features and unlock some hidden functionality, here’s a rundown of some of my favourite tips and tricks for Windows 10.
1. “Hey Cortana”
Any Windows Phone owners, or fans of the ‘Halo’ franchise will be familiar with Microsoft’s sassy voice assistant. One of the biggest new features of Windows 10, Cortana will respond to a wide variety of commands and questions. By default, to talk to Cortana you need to press the microphone button on the bottom right of the Cortana window. However, there is an option to activate Cortana simply by saying “Hey Cortana” – she will then respond to any command or question you throw her way.
To turn on this feature, open Cortana by clicking the search field or Cortana icon in the taskbar, and select the Notebook icon from the options on the left-hand side. From the following list, select settings, and then enable the “Let Cortana respond when you say ‘Hey Cortana'” option (N.B. You will need your microphone to be active for this to work!)
2. Customizing the Start Menu
Yes. It’s back. One of the most anticipated features of Windows 10 was the return of the start menu. Only… it’s not what you’d call traditional. The Windows 10 start menu blends the old interface with those beloved (hmm) live tiles, much like those found in the Windows 8 start screen.
As with Windows 8, the live tiles are customizable; right-clicking on them will present you with options to resize, turn the live tile off, remove from the start menu, or uninstall the app altogether.
If you are a Windows purist and can’t stand the mere mention of live tiles or the metro interface, you can just right-click and remove all of the live tiles to clear that area of the start menu.
3. File Explorer’s ‘Quick Access’ View
File Explorer in Windows 10 has a new view feature called “Quick Access” which replaces the “This PC” view found in Windows 8. This view shows your most frequently accessed folders and files. Though many people will probably find this useful, if you prefer the old “This PC” view, here’s how to get it back.
Open File Explorer, then select View > Options from the pane at the top. An options window will open. From here, click the “Open File Explorer” drop-down menu at the top, and select the “This PC” option. Click OK to confirm.
4. ‘Task view’ and virtual desktops
Another new Windows 10 feature that will please power-users is Task View, which introduces Virtual Desktops. Virtual desktops let you segregate apps into separate desktop spaces – ideal if you’re doing some heavy multitasking or want separate workspaces for multiple different projects.
Task view is accessible either by clicking on the Icon in the taskbar (the one made up of overlapping panels), or by using the keyboard shortcut Windows Key + Tab. From here, you can click on “+New Desktop” on the bottom right side of the screen to create a new virtual desktop. Windows or apps can be moved between desktops simply by entering task view, clicking and holding on the app you want to move, and dragging it to the desired desktop.
5. Schedule Computer Restarts
Windows 10 allows you to schedule a specific time for your computer to restart if there are pending updates that require a reboot.
To set a time, open settings from the start menu, then head to Updates and Recovery > Windows Update. Click on “Advanced Options.” From the drop down menu at the top, you can ask Windows either to install updates automatically, or to notify you to schedule a restart whenever updates become available.
6. Nifty Command Prompt tools
For users of Command Prompt, Windows 10 comes with some nifty new features. Users now have the ability to copy and paste text inside the command prompt using the common shortcuts Crtl + C and Crtl + V.
Yes, Windows has a GodMode. A hidden gem for Windows power users, activating it unveils a menu that draws all of your system’s settings and configuration options together into a single folder.
The “GodMode” portion of text before the full stop can be renamed to whatever you choose.
8. Website Annotations and Reading List
RIP Internet explorer. You… probably won’t be missed. With the death of Internet Explorer, Windows 10 introduces Microsoft’s brand new browser, Microsoft Edge. Though still a little rough around the edges and missing support for extensions (which will hopefully be introduced soon), the new browser has some interesting and innovative features that make it a compelling option worth checking out.
For instance, there is a built-in note-taking mode that makes it easy to annotate and save annotated versions of webpages.
Cortana also makes her presence known – select anything, be it text or an image, and right-clicking will give you the option to “Ask Cortana” which will bring up a sidebar with relevant search results.
9. Native “Print as PDF” Option
Windows 10 finally includes a native option to “Print to PDF”. Previously, users have been forced to rely on third-party tools such as CutePDF to achieve this. Now however, all Windows apps and programs offer print to PDF as a standard printing option.
10. Background Scrolling
This is one feature that I really did welcome with open arms. A longstanding frustration with previous versions of windows was that if you hovered your mouse over an inactive window and attempted to use the scroll wheel, nothing would happen – even if the window was visible.
Thankfully, Windows 10 now (by default) supports the ability to scroll through inactive windows when you hover over them. If you ever find yourself missing how it feels to be annoyed and want to turn this helpful feature off, you can do so by heading to Settings > Devices > Mouse and Touchpad.
That wraps up my Top 10 helpful tips and new features you can find in Windows 10. I hope you found at least one of the tips or features mentioned above useful. If you have any tips you want to share or think you know about something I missed, please comment below!