Windows 10 Isn't Dead Yet

Windows 11 is coming, but here are some tips and tricks to get the most out of the OS you're still using.

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Image: Microsoft

Windows 11 might be grabbing most of the headlines at the moment, but Windows 10 remains Microsoft’s current operating system, and it’s received a fair few updates and new features since it launched six years ago. Windows 10 will continue to be supported until the end of 2025, and it still has some parts you may have never explored before. If you’re not planning to upgrade to Windows 11 when it rolls out later this year, here are some of the less well-known and more recently added features worth learning how to use.

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1. Extend Across Virtual Desktops

Nothing beats the productivity boost you can get from a second monitor, but virtual desktops are almost as helpful, letting you spread out apps and windows on different screens and cycle between them as needed. To start taking advantage of the feature, click the Task View button on the taskbar (to the right of the Cortana icon), then click New desktop. You can move programs between desktops just by dragging their windows, and thanks to a recent update you can now rename desktops by clicking on their titles.


2. Access Emojis Faster 

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Screenshot: Windows 10

There’s now a dedicated emoji panel in Windows 10, which means you can express yourself in no time at all. The keyboard shortcut you need, in any program, is Win+. (the period key)—this will bring up a floating panel packed with emojis, and you can click on any of them to insert an emoji at the current cursor point. If you know the characters that make up your emoji, you can keep on typing to narrow down your search (hit the colon and the close bracket keys to see the smileys, for instance).


3. Take Better Screenshots 

You may not have kept pace with the ongoing evolution of the Windows 10 screenshot tool: Its latest incarnation is called Snip & Sketch, which you can launch by searching for it from the taskbar or by hitting Win+Shift+S. You can then click and drag to grab a portion of the screen, or use the icons at the top to take full-screen or freeform screenshots. The resulting grab gets copied to the clipboard, but you can also click the thumbnail that briefly appears in the lower right-hand corner to open up an annotation interface.

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4. Customize the Look of Windows

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Screenshot: Windows 10
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The customization options available in Windows 10 have evolved as the operating system has. From the main Windows Settings panel, click Personalization to see all of the options that are available. Open Colors, for example, and you can switch between dark and light modes, or have different modes for apps and for Windows itself. Another neat feature is the Automatically pick an accent color from my background check box—this tells Windows to style itself based on the colors in your desktop wallpaper.


5. Manage Your Notifications

If you’ve previously given up on trying to manage notifications in Windows, give it another try—the options here have improved over time. Open up the main Windows Settings page, then click System and Notifications & actions. In addition to turning notifications off entirely, you can enable or disable them for specific apps, and even change the types of notifications that individual programs are allowed to show (banners and sounds). You can also set app notifications to one of three levels of importance: top, high, and normal.

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6. Stay Focused

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Screenshot: Windows 10
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Speaking of notifications management, Windows 10 now has a very useful Focus assist page in the System section of Windows Settings. It works like an advanced Do Not Disturb mode for your computer. You can set up a priority list of your most important alerts, you can change the times that notifications are allowed to appear, you can disable notification pop-ups while you’re playing games or using a second screen, and more. If you’re struggling with distractions on Windows, then these settings can prove very helpful.


7. Restrict Background Apps

Plenty of programs will want to run in the background while you’re using Windows 10, but they can quickly start to drain system resources as well as raise questions about user privacy. To manage background apps, from the Windows Settings page choose Privacy, then click on Background apps. You’re able to stop programs from running in the background entirely, or manage them on an app-by-app basis. You’ve got plenty of other useful options to play around with on these screens, including specific app permissions.

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8. Pin the Calculator

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Screenshot: Windows 10
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It’s always worth keeping your eyes on some of the classic applications bundled with Windows, because Microsoft hasn’t completely forgotten about them, and they are getting the occasional upgrade—Notepad has been given a few tweaks, for example. In the case of the Calculator app that comes with the operating system, you can now pin it on top of everything else on screen for easy access. Click the Keep on top button (top left, just under the title bar). If you need to, you can resize the window by clicking and dragging the edges.


9. Collections in Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge gets updated alongside Windows 10, and one of the features recently switched on in the browser is Collections. As you might have guessed by the name, this enables you to pull together a virtual scrapbook of links, notes, text, and images you’ve come across in your journeys around the web. It’s like an enhanced version of bookmarks, and you can use it for everything from shopping to research. To get started, click the Collections button on the right of the Edge toolbar or press Ctrl+Shift+Y.

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10. News and Interests On the Taskbar

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Screenshot: Windows 10
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Windows 10 recently got a new widget showing the weather and a selection of news headlines. If it’s enabled on your system you might see it as a meteorological forecast on the right of the taskbar. If you don’t like it, right-click on a blank part of the taskbar, choose News and interests, and Turn off. If you want to change the information that it’s showing, click the weather forecast icon to open the widget up, then Manage interests. Use the My Interests and Experience Settings tabs to configure what gets shown.

DISCUSSION

By
EyeBreakThings

News and Interests On the Taskbar

Something no one asked for and then just showed up. I know myself a many others started thinking we accidentally downloaded some malware ridden software that came with a packaged toolbar. It’s not a good look when your new “feature” looks like straight up XP era malware (what’s with the crappy weather icon? It looks like trash). But as mentioned in the article, at least it’s easy to disable.

ETA: Really, I want Microsoft to keep their cloudy hands off my entire start/task bar. No internet search under the start button. No stupid widgets on the task bar. Block 99% of crap that wants to talk with the notification center.  I just fear the day that I can’t disable these features.