Microsoft's Windows OS isn't any one thing; it's an interwoven patchwork of features built atop other features that trace back to the beginning of the time-tested operating system.
With such a complex piece of software, it makes sense that there are little tricks and UI flourishes most people don't even know about. Maybe you haven't poked around Windows 10 too much or perhaps you've remained on Windows 7 for all these years. Well, it's time to make the jump, as Microsoft ends support for Windows 7 this week.
Whatever your situation, we've compiled a list of useful tips that will help you get more out of your Windows 10 experience. Or, at least, teach you some things you may not have known about.
Some have been available in Windows for a number of generations, while others are native to Windows 10. Microsoft's most recent update for the OS arrived in November, but the May 2019 update added a bunch of new features and killed a handful of others. So there are plenty of new features and tricks to make the most of a constantly evolving Windows experience.
Rotate Your Screen
If you use multiple displays, this feature, available on Windows 7 and 10, allows you to orient a particular monitor to fit your needs. The quickest way to do this is to simultaneously press Ctrl + Alt + D and any of the arrow buttons. The down arrow will flip it upside down, the left or right arrow buttons will turn it 90 degrees on its side, and the up arrow will bring you back to standard orientation.
Alternatively, you can right-click on the desktop background, click Display Settings, then choose an option from the Display Orientation drop-down menu to turn your page around in all sorts of ways.
Enable Slide to Shutdown
This trick is complicated and probably not worth the effort for what you get out of it, but here you go: Right-click on the desktop and select New > Shortcut. In the ensuing pop-up window, paste the following line of code:
This creates a clickable icon on your desktop, which you can rename. Then double-click on the new icon to prompt a pull-down shade and use your mouse to drag it down to the bottom of the screen. Keep in mind, this isn't sleep, this is a shutdown.
Enable 'God Mode'
Are you a power user who wants access to your PC's nitty gritty? "God mode" is for you. Right-click on the desktop and select New > Folder. Re-name the new folder with this bit of code:
To enter the "God Mode" window, double-click the folder and go nuts.
Right-Click on Tiles
Right-Click on the Taskbar
Drag to Pin Windows
This feature was available as far back as Windows 7, but has some extras in Windows 10.
Grab any window and drag it to the side, where it will "fit" to half the screen. In Windows 10, you have the option of dragging the window to any corner to have the window take over a quarter of the screen instead of half. If you're using multiple screens, drag to a border corner and wait for a prompt signal to let you know if the window will open in that corner.
You can prompt similar behavior by using the Windows key plus any of the directional arrow buttons.
Quickly Jump Between Virtual Desktops
Do you like to multitask on your PC? In Windows 10, Microsoft finally provided out-of-the-box access to virtual desktops. So now you can really multitask.
To try it out, click on Task View (the icon to the right of the Windows menu). This will separate all your open windows and apps into icons. You can then drag any of them over to where it says "New desktop," which creates a new virtual desktop. This would allow you to, say, separate your work apps, personal apps, and social media into different desktops.
Once you click out of Task View, you can toggle between virtual desktops by pressing the Windows button+Ctrl+right/left arrows. This will allow you to automatically switch between all the open windows which you've separated into different desktops, while leaving all the icons on your desktop unmoved.
To remove the virtual desktops, just go back into task view and delete the individual virtual desktops—this will not close out the apps contained within that desktop, but rather just send them to the next lower desktop.
Make Your Command Prompt Window Transparent
This feature will probably only be useful to a narrow niche of users, but if you like to dig your virtual fingers into the innards of Windows via the Command Prompt, Windows 10 provides a ghostly way to interface with it.
To access the Command Prompt interface in Windows 10, click on the Windows menu and type "Command Prompt" to bring up quick access to its desktop app. Click that. You can personalize the experience by right-clicking at the top of the window to prompt a pop-up menu and choose "Properties."
Click over to the Colors tab to see a range of personalization options. At the bottom of this tab, you'll find the Opacity slider, which allows you to see through the Command Prompt window.This feature lets you code away in the Command Prompt while simultaneously observing the desktop.
Silence Notifications With Focus Assist
Mixed Reality Viewer
Stop Typing, Start Dictating
Speech recognition has always been a strong suit for Microsoft, but recent Windows 10 releases have made it almost second nature. At any time you can use the Windows Key-H hotkey combination to pop up a box that records your voice through your Windows machine's microphone and dictates the speech in your current text field. You'll still need to type manual punctuation, but save yourself some typing by dictating emails, messages, and more.
Control Your Smart Home
Cortana can now control all your smart home devices through Windows 10, too. The setting is a little tough to find, because you can't just search the Cortana bar for smart home or "connected home." Instead, you have to search for Cortana Notebook, which brings up a list of to-do items, reminders, and suggested tasks for Cortana. However, to find the connected home function you'll need to click on the Manage Skills tab at the top right of the pop-up window.
From there, scroll down and click into Connected Home. First, toggle the option at the top to Enable Connected Home, after which you can log into all your smart home devices— including Nest, SmartThings, Ecobee, Honeywell, and Hue—and connect to Cortana. Once enabled, all you have to do is say "Hey Cortana, set the thermostat to 70 degrees."
Dark Mode and Light Mode
Windows 10 gives you a significant amount of control over color themes. Open Settings > Personalization > Colors and you can set the operating system to either dark mode or light mode. These themes change the color of the Start menu, taskbar, action center, File Explorer, settings menus, and any other programs that are compliant with these palette changes.
There is also a custom option that will let you set one theme for Windows menus and another for apps. Want a little more color? There are swatches of color themes available to choose from that can help your menus and taskbars really pop.
Revamped Screen Capture Tool
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Unlock Kaimoji and Symbols
Measure Everything with Built-in Apps
Windows has several built-in apps that may look useless but offer helpful hidden features. For instance, the Calculator app does so much more than solve mathematical equations. It can calculate the difference between two dates and convert basically any unit of measures—time, energy, temperature, mass, and even currency.
Ever try to calculate time differences in your head? It's not easy. The Alarms & Clock app can help calculate the differences between two locations, even into the future. Open the app, click the Clock tab, and select the + icon at the bottom to add different locations.
You can then click the Compare icon to open a timeline. As you scroll across the timeline, the time changes on the map points, allowing you to keep track of time differences more easily.
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Unlock Kaimoji and Symbols
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