Whether you are new to Windows 10 because you recently upgraded after support for Windows 7 was discontinued, or you haven’t explored more recent updates to the operating system, there are a lot of ways to enhance your computing experience. There are many enhancements including an upgraded clipboard, new screen capture, and dark mode. You can also enable speech recognition and dictation, control updates and customize the tiles menu. Read more to find out about how to control your Windows 10 experience.
The most recent major to the Windows 10 operating system was in November 2019, though smaller updates are issued frequently. Windows 10 updates also include security patches, which are very important but recently have made headlines for wreaking havoc on your system. You can control if your computer gets auto-updates, uninstall troublesome updates, and more by typing “Windows Update” in the search bar. To uninstall an update go to Windows Update – View Update History – Uninstall Updates. You can also download the Windows Update Troubleshooter to hide problematic updates and prevent them from reinstalling. It is also a wise idea to set automatic restore points so if something goes terribly wrong you can revert to a previous version of your system. The restore point does not delete new files, but it is always a good idea to have redundant file backup.
Show Desktop Button
This feature has been in the Windows operating system since Windows 7, but still useful to know. In the far-right corner of your screen there is a tiny, practically imperceptible vertical bar. If you click on it, you will be taken directly to your desktop without having to close or minimize any applications. Click it again to return to where you were. If you want to be able to glance at your desktop simply mouse over the button to “peek” at your desktop. Enable Peek by going to Settings – Personalization – Taskbar – Use Peek to Preview the Desktop.
Windows 10 Tiles and Start Menu
Windows 10 uses “tiles” to show you applications, weather, and other information and replaced the standard Windows start menu. If you don’t like the tiles you can customize them, remove them, or even revert to the Windows 7 look and feel with a third party app. You can also access the “secret” start menu by right-clicking on the Windows button in the lower-left corner of your screen or using the Windows keyboard shortcut Windows key + X.
Task View and Virtual Desktop
In the Windows 10 taskbar, there is an icon that looks a little like a ladder. If you click on it you will be able to see all the applications you have open and go to them, or close them. It also shows you the documents you have worked on in the past few days. If you click on “New Desktop” you can create virtual desktops. A virtual desktop will let you create multiple desktops with default apps and docs open. For instance, you can have a desktop with your primary productivity apps open (like Word, Excel and your practice management app) and one with your communication tools like Outlook, Teams or Slack. By segregating your desktops, you can reduce distractions and focus on tasks more effectively.
Silence All the Notifications
By default, Windows 10 pops up a lot of alerts. You can control this by using Focus Assist, which came out with the April 2018 update. Go to Settings – System – Focus Assist and you can customize notifications for just about everything. You can also add “quiet hours” so you can schedule deep work and get no notifications. You can further refine notifications under “Notifications and Actions” so that you get only the notifications you want, when you want them.
You can dictate text, open applications and perform other tasks by voice. To enable and customize speech recognition in Windows 10 press Windows key + H. If you haven’t enabled speech services, you will be guided through the process via Settings. Like other speech recognition tools, you’ll need to say “period”, “comma”, “new line”, etc. when dictating. If you need to correct something just say, “undo that”. You can also have text read back to you, which may help identify tone and word choice. There are a lot of options and features you can leverage with the speech recognition tools. If you don’t want to turn on speech recognition operating system-wide, Word and Outlook have their own dictation tools built-in.
Cortana is the Windows 10 “personal productivity assistant”, much like Siri in iOS. You can control what permissions Cortana has and when to wake “her” up. In addition to voice commands you can cc Cortana on an email to help find available time on your calendar. If you like using Siri and talking to your device give Cortana a try. If you prefer not to have your computer listen to you then disable Cortana or log out of Cortana.
In Windows 10 you can change your color scheme by going to Settings – Personalization – Colors. You can have one theme for Windows menus and a different one for apps. You can customize the colors in each one, should you choose to do so. Dark mode is very popular, as it helps reduce eye strain and also can help save your battery on a laptop. It also makes icons much easier to see, especially in your taskbar. If you just want to change your color scheme for Office 365 go into Outlook, click File – Office Account – Office Theme and choose from Colorful, Dark Grey, Black or White.
You can save multiple items in your clipboard when you copy images or text to reuse in applications, as well as keep a history of what you have copied. Because copies are now stored in the cloud you can access your history and paste into an application on a completely different device. Enable the clipboard history by going to Settings – Clipboard and turn on Clipboard history. You can choose whether the clipboard is cloud-enabled by toggling on “sync across devices”. To enable your clipboard history press the Windows logo key + V. There are a lot of options with this powerful feature.
Snip & Sketch
The handy Windows Snip tool has been around since Windows 7 and it lets you capture and crop any part of your screen, a much more granular option than doing a print screen. The new clipping utility that came with the October 2018 update is called Snip and Sketch. In addition to “snipping” a select portion of your screen you can now have it do a “countdown” before capturing the clip so you can open menus and other setups. You can annotate the clips (thus Sketch), crop them and save them. However, if you need a powerful screen clipping and annotation tool you still need something like Snagit.
In Windows 10 you can turn on Windows Hello to unlock your computer with facial recognition, as well as log you into apps like Dropbox, Office 365 apps and more. Additionally, Windows 10 comes with Microsoft Defender which includes antivirus, firewalls, real-time protection and more. To configure it and learn more go to Settings – Security Center – Windows Security. You can run Windows Defender and another antivirus product simultaneously.
There are lots of other tips, tricks and options in Windows 10. While you don’t necessarily think about the operating system too much, focusing more on the apps that support productivity, communication and information, knowing some ways to leverage the platform these apps sit on can help you leverage the power of your Windows-based computer.