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Now that Windows 10 is out and millions of people are already running it, lets take a look at some of the best hidden features, tips, and tricks in the operating system. If youre still on the fence, take note: You really do want Windows 10, despite a lot of the gripes weve shared over the past several months. Its worth getting on the list for (or downloading the Windows 10 ISO directly). It combines the best of Windows 8 super-fast startup, improved security with much of what made Windows 7 familiar and easy to use, and without trying to force you to buy a touch screen or learn a whole set of hidden UI gestures.
And if youre a computer nut like me, tweaking the OS is always the fun part. Discovering and implementing power user tips are my favorite part of getting a major new version of an OS. I still remember back when DOS 5.0 came out, and I was running DOS 3.3, and I got to try all these new things to optimize my 286. And when I upgraded from Windows/286 to Windows 3.0, I felt like my life had changed. (Weve come a long way.) Nostalgia aside, heres what you need to know to amp up your Windows 10 install and take it to the next level.
Set up GodMode
The awesomely named GodMode brings up a special menu that putslots of settings together in one place. To enable it, create a new folder anywhere on your root drive and rename it GodMode.ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C. It will create a special icon that when you click on it shows you a beautiful advanced control panel.
Task view and virtual desktops
One of the best things about Windows 10 is how it handles virtual desktops. The fact that it finally handles them at all, out of the box, is a great step, since Mac OS X and Linux users have had that capability for a long time. It lets you set up a series of tasks and windows on your desktop, your email and Twitter window on another, and a third for general Web browsing and research. To get started, click the Task View icon on the taskbar (immediately to the right of the Search box), or hold down the Windows key (abbreviated throughout as Win) and Tab. You can also drag an app to a new virtual desktop by bringing it over to the +New Desktop option at the lower right. (Click to read more on Task View and Virtual Desktops.)
Configure privacy settings
When youre first setting up Windows 10, make sure to select a Custom install so you can modify the privacy settings, instead of going with the Express install. (If you already installed it, no worries; you can fix it all in Settings). Otherwise youll find yourself agreeing to all sorts of private data sharing and while Windows 10 is free for Windows 7 and Windows 8 users, its not a free product in and of itself so theres no reason to share your personal information when its not required.
Make the desktop more stylish
Windows 10 lets you personalize your desktop more thoroughly than before. Head to Start > Settings > Personalization > Colors, and choose Show color on taskbar and Start Menu. You can also tell it to automatically pick a color from your wallpaper and apply it underneath icons of open apps, and you can remove the Start Menus translucent option.
Print to PDF
You can finally print a document (or rather, save it) as PDF without using a third-party utility. This makes it much easier to save and distribute documents that arent easily modified. Another long overdue feature makes it in under the radar.
Make sure WiFi Sense is off
You may feel differently about this, but I certainly dont like the idea of allowing access to my WiFi network unless I specifically give out the password. Heres how to make sure your computer isnt doing that and if it is, how to turn it off.
Schedule Windows updates
Instead of getting ambushed whenever Microsoft decides to push out a patch, you can schedule restarts to install updates by going to Start > Settings > Updates and Recovery > Windows Update. You can do this for future updates as well by selecting Notify to Schedule Restart.
Run it in a virtual machine
If youre thinking of taking the Windows 10 plunge, but dont want to disturb your machine thats currently running just fine, heres how to install Windows 10 in a virtual machine first. Note that this is different than the virtual desktops I mentioned above; its virtualizing the entire OS within another OS (your existing one).
Windows Explorer Home tab and Quick Access
Windows Explorer windows are a lot more useful this time around, thanks to a new Home tab (pictured above). It makes file copies a cinch. If you look at the top left of the window, youll see a new Quick Access group that lets you navigate to recently accessed folders. That makes it much easier to maintain a fast workflow as you navigate around your computers file system. And whileFile Explorer defaults to the Quick Access view, if you dont like it, you can set it back to This PC by choosing View > Options > Open File Explorer > This PC.
Customize the Start Menu
The new Start Menu is such a huge improvement over what came with Windows 8.1 that its almost impossible to describe the relief. It combines the best elements of Windows 7 and Windows 8. And its also fully customizable.You can resize tiles in the Start menu by right-clicking them and choosing Resize, and then selecting a size from the pop-up menu. You can also unpin them or uninstall them completely. I admit the first thing I did is unpin all of Microsofts tiles and then shrink the size of the menu so it looks a lot like Windows 7 (pictured).
For a while, during some of the Windows 10 Technical Preview builds, you could pin the Recycle Bin to the taskbar, which makes it a bit more like OS X. Unfortunately, that functionality seems to be gone in the release version, though you can still pin it to the Start Menu as a tile.
Command prompt tweaks
A lot of Windows 10 utilities underneath the service still look the same as they did in Windows 7 and Windows 8. But one of the hidden tweaks is in the Command Prompt head over to Properties and youll suddenly find you can enable a host of customizations, including a transparent background, resizing the window, and word wrap.
If youre on a laptop and your battery is running low, Windows 10 is smart enough to begin throttling back background services and other threads so that you can squeeze the last bit of battery life out of your machine. To enable Battery Saver, click the Start menu, and head to Settings | System | Battery Saver.
Ever notice how when you hover your mouse cursor over a window and try and scroll, you still cant, because the window wasnt active? Turn this feature on in Settings | Devices | Mouse and Touchpad and youll be able to do just that.
Here are some keyboard shortcuts you may want to be aware of ones that will really help your daily workflow:
Windows Key-Tab (Task View)Windows Key-Right-Up (Moves app to top right quadrant)Windows Key-Ctrl-Left or Right (virtual desktop)Windows Key-Ctrl-D (new virtual desktop)Windows Key-Ctrl-C (Cortana listening)Windows Key-S (Daily Glance for weather, news, sports)Windows Key-Ctrl-F4 (closes virtual desktop)Windows Key-Up and Down (snap apps to top or bottom of screen or maximizes)
Free cloud storage is a godsend these days, and Microsoft makes it super easy in Windows 10 with OneDrive. You can use it to store files for mobile device access from iOS or Android, and you can even set it to let you access any file on your PC remotely not just the ones you drag over to your OneDrive folder.
Amp up Cortana
If youve got a laptop, or a desktop with a microphone attached, click the search field and select the Notebook icon on the left. Then click Settings and click Let Cortana respond to Hey Cortana. Now Cortana will listen for your commands.Cortana can also use Google instead of Bing, even though Microsoft really wants you to use the latter. Install theChrometanaextension in Chrome, or just install Firefox and make that your default browser; both will accomplish the task of removing Bing from Cortanas brain.
Use Maps offline
The new Maps app lets you work offline (Remember those old Microsoft Maps programs?); click Settings > Download or Update Maps, and then select the continent and country you want.
Windows 10 finally shows some real Xbox integration, and you can use it to log into your Xbox Live account. But more importantly, you can use it to stream Xbox One games locally on your PC. Youll have to enable it first on the Xbox One under Settings | Preferences | Allow game streaming, and then on the PC in the Xbox application. (Interestingly, Microsoft is also going the other way and adding keyboard and mouse support to the Xbox One not that youll need that, since youve already got a PC.)
Record gamesand app videos
You can now record videos of apps or games using the Game DVR function. Press the Windows Key + G, click Yes, this is a game box, and then youll see options to manipulate the recording.
Find the original Control Panel (and other goodies)
The new Settings panel is easy to navigate and makes more sense than the crufty old Control Panel, but youll still need the latter to access some deeper options in the system. Its easy to call up, even though its hidden; just right click on the Start button on the bottom left of the screen and choose it from the pop-up menu, or type Control Panel in the Search bar at the bottom left in the taskbar. When you right-click the Start button, youll see all kinds of useful things there, such as Computer Management and Disk Management; for what its worth, those options bring you right back to the familiar Windows 7-style apps in each case.
Tone down Notifications
Notifications are a giant pain in Windows 10; theres just too many of them, and some are unnecessary. Turn em off by heading to Start > Settings > System > Notifications and actions, and turn off Windows tips and specific app notifications (youll need to scroll down for the latter).
Nix the Office ads
Are you sick of the occasional Office ads that pop up on the desktop? So are we. To kill them,right-click on Get Office in the Start Menu and uninstall it.
For more, read Why is called Windows 10 not Windows 9, and if youre a gamer, Demystifying Direct X 12 support in Windows 10: What AMD, Intel, and Nvidia do and dont deliver