• Mark Ledgerwood

10 tricks inside Windows 10 to make your life easier

The world of Windows 10 has been a roller coaster ever since it's debut in 2015. It has revolutionised (and at times infuriated) many users around the globe and the way we work. Despite all of the issues it may have brought, Microsoft has been actively patching, fixing, and remedying these inconveniences for five years to ensure optimal user-friendliness, and the new update that will b rolled out in October will be no exemption to this. However, throughout all of the years, the brains behind one of the most globally utlised operating systems (OS) have hidden a bunch of shortcuts right under our noses.


1. The infamous too many windows open dilemma

We are all guilty of it. As users, we tend to find it far too much of a hassle to close windows after we have finished using them. After all, we never know when they might come in handy and who has the time of day to open up a fresh browser and go through history for the full day to find that one link you closed out of earlier? Or Alt+Tab through all of your open windows to find the one useful application.

Simply click the title bar of the application you want to remain open to select it. Then hold down the mouse and move the window back and forward quickly - essentially shaking it - and all of the other open windows will minimse. Leaving only your shaken (but not stirred) window open.

2. Open up the secret start menu


Now for something a little more practical. You are probably fairly familiar with the start menu, it is essentially your main tool outside of your desktop that you use to open applications, folders and files. Using your keyboard, you can access this menu by pressing the Windows button or simply click the Windows symbol in the bottom left of your screen. However, Windows 10 also contains a secret menu that greats you easier access to the more important core features of your command prompt, control panel or task manager. You can access this in two ways, one being the Windows key + X or right-clicking the start menu.

3. Create an event without opening the Calendar app



Windows 10’s latest update has also made it easier to add events to your Microsoft calendar directly from your taskbar without having to open the Microsoft calendar itself, which makes managing your deadlines (at least in one circumstance) quicker than before :

Simply follow these steps and before you know it, you will be firing these out left, right and center:

  1. On the taskbar, click the box with the time and date in the right corner of your screen

  2. Click the date that you want to schedule an event

  3. Enter the event time, name, and location (If you have multiple calendars, click the down arrow next to the event name field to choose the one you want to add it to.)

  4. Then click Save. This events should then appear in your calendar apps across all your devices


4. Open items in your Taskbar with keyword shortcuts

Most of us make a habit of pining key applications to our Taskbar at the bottom so that we can access these quickly and easily without having to search through our 10’s of desktop apps or hundred of files. If you are like us, then you want to do everything you possibly can in the quickest way possible. With Windows 10 you can use a keyboard short command when pressing the Windows key + [Number key]. Where the number key is the corresponding item you want to open.

For example, I like to listen to music when writing and Spotify is the sixth application pinned to my taskbar. I can then use Windows + 6 to open this up. This is especially helpful when you have to quickly switch between tasks and in the middle of typing like a madman. It may feel more natural to simply hit this short command instead of scrolling to the Taskbar and opening applications this way.

5. Figure out how much space apps are taking up


Much like humans, computers struggle to operate if there is too much information to process and begin to slow down when the capacity is running low. Although an easy fix, it can sometimes be difficult to figure out what’s still installed and what’s just taking up space. Cutting down on bloat not only prevents shutdowns but also allows the device to perform better.

To see how much space an app uses, you can navigate to Settings > System > Storage. Click on a drive that you want to search and select ”Apps and games”. This will allow you to see the full range of apps installed and how big they are. Although it's for the best to not remove the browser itself, you might find some long lost traces of games you played years ago, or an app that sees no use.



6. Get rid of ads in your Start menu

You probably use an ad blocker for your browser to ensure online performance minimse the possibility of encountering harmful software or other websites, so why not do the same fo your general offline computer habits?

When you run Windows 10 with the default settings, you will occasionally encounter ads in your Start menu disguised under the clever moniker of ‘suggestions’. Hate to be the bearer of bad news but the thing these “suggestions” suggest is just an opportunity to buy something you likely don’t need.

To get rid of ads in your Windows 10 start menu by going to Settings > Personalisation > Start. Simply change the setting called “Show suggestions occasionally” to the “Off” position and bye-bye adverts.

7. Shutdown background apps

It's fair to say that it takes a lot for a computer to do all the wonderful things that they do and to do so without much intervention and still have a user-friendly experience. However, one thing you can do is shut down your background Apps.

These apps are constantly receiving info, sending notifications, and staying updated even when you aren’t using them. Admittedly this is extremely useful at times but is also extremely inconvenient when it drains battery life and your data, especially if you are using a mobile hotspot.

You can easily make adjustments to this more efficiently than every by navigating to Settings > Privacy > Background apps. You can then stop all apps from running in the background by toggling the “Let apps run in the background” setting to “Off”.





8. Use background scrolling

With Windows 10, you can scroll up and down on any window -- even if it's not the one you're directly working in. This is a useful tool when you have a lot of windows open that you want to look through at the same time for example, if you want to open new sub-menu options in new windows to save you time clicking back and forward on the same page.

Try opening two programs and arrange both on the screen so you can see at least some of the text on each. While you are in one window, hover your mouse or use the touchpad to move to the second window, and scroll. Even though you aren't active in that window, it should allow you to move up and down the page.

The feature should be on by default, but if it isn't, go to Settings > Devices > Mouse, and toggle Scroll inactive windows when I hover over them to On. Then you can place your mouse over a window that's in the background and use the scroll wheel to scroll.



9. Show file extensions in File Explorer

In an attempt to make file exploration a lot less wordy and far more user friendly, Microsoft hides all file extensions by default.

Although it may seem like something irrelevant to you, it may come in handy to know the file extensions just in case you are having to send documents to clients, upload photos to websites or create an editable pdf file. There are certain restrictions that websites or documents have in place (you only need to look at the sheer amount of export options in Photoshop to see this), so it can be handy to what extension will prove useful or even functional.

To see file extensions simply:

1. Go to the Search bar at the bottom of your screen and type “File Explorer Options”, and click it (this is by no means the only way to do this but this is the simplest).

2. In the window that pops up after this and click the “View” tab.

3. You will see a range of options that you have access to as a result of this, uncheck the checkbox that states “Hide extensions”. Click “Apply” and then “OK”. You should now be able to see every file extension on all of your files when accessing “File explorer”

You can also use the File Explorer Options menu to choose to show empty drives, hidden files and folders, and more.

10. Cut down on distractions with Focus assist

Staying informed about what your device is doing is a good way to ensure that you are properly protected and secure while you go about your work. However, it can be outright frustrating trying to get work done when the dialogue box in the bottom right corner constantly interrupts your workflow. You can customise how many of these notifications you get by using something that came in 2018 known as focus assist. A tool that Windows added to help users to focus on their work without distraction.

Setting this up is also extremely simple. Go to Settings > System > Focus Assist. Here there are three options to choose from. Off (retrieve every notification from all apps and contacts). Priority (only see notifications from a customised list of your choosing, the rest get sen to the action center). Or Alarms only (hides all notifications except alarms). You can even go one step further and choose to automate these thighs for different hours of the day, or when you are playing a game.

And that's it! Interested in learning more tips and tricks around how you can optimse your experience? Read our article on 5 quick IT fixes you can do yourself before calling an exert and 5 computer habits you need to break right now.


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