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Windows 10 may still be in beta, but it already has some fun and handy, hidden new features worth exploring. Check 'em out here.
Digging deep into Windows 10
Despite still being very much an early preview, Windows 10 is already brimming with dozens of handy tweaks and tricks—and, because the operating is still in preview, a handful of those tricks unlock powerful functionality hidden to everyday users.
Others, though, simply let you mold some of Windows 10’s new features into the shape you see fit. Here are some of the most useful Windows 10 tweaks, tricks, and tips we’ve found. Be warned: Some of these may break as the operating system evolves, though we plan to update this article over time.
This is(n't quite) Sparta(n)
Let’s start by unlocking one of those powerful new features. Microsoft’s building a lightweight new browser for Windows 10: Project Spartan. And while Spartan isn’t available in the latest Windows 10 builds yet, you can enable its experimental Edge rendering engine in Windows 10’s Internet Explorer 11.
Just open IE11 and type about:flags in the address bar. In the page that appears, simply set “Experimental Web Platform Features” to Enabled, then restart the browser. Setting the “Custom User Agent” string to Enabled as well will trick websites that nerf the old IE engine into using Spartan Edge.
The Edge engine is considerably faster than IE11’s default engine in tests, but be warned: It’s flagged as experimental for a reason.
Revamped clock and calendar
While we’re enabling new features, let’s activate Windows 10’s sleek new clock and calendar. Here’s how, as first discovered by Winbeta. It requires a (simple) registry edit, so be sure to make a backup first.
Right-click on the Start button and select Run. In the window that appears, type regedit and then press Enter. Navigate through the file system to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE > Software > Microsoft > Windows > CurrentVersion > ImmersiveShell, then right-click in an empty portion of the main windows and select New > DWORD (32-bit) Value. Name it "UseWin32TrayClockExperience" and boom! You’re done. Just open the calendar from the taskbar as normal and bask in the sleek, new look.
Make Cortana's ears perk up
Cortana’s finally made the leap to the PC in Windows 10, assuming many of the operating system’s search functions, even though her first iteration could still use some polish. (That’s what Previews are for!) But by default, she doesn’t listen for your commands.
If you’d like to be able to just bark commands at your PC, open Cortana by clicking the search field in the taskbar and select the three-lined options menu in the upper-left corner. Select Settings for the list, then simply enable the “Let Cortana respond when you say ‘Hey Cortana’” option. You’ll need an active microphone for this to work, of course.
While you’re poking around Cortana’s options, you can dive into the Notebook menu to fine-tune exactly what personal data Microsoft’s digital assistant can access. Remember, however, that like Google Now, Cortana’s effectiveness is directly related to how much she knows about you.
Turn off File Explorer's Quick Access view
When you open File Explorer in Windows 10, it defaults to a new Quick Access view that shows your most frequently accessed folders and recently viewed files. I love it, personally, but if you’d rather File Explorer defaulted to the “This PC” view found in Windows 8, here’s how.
Open File Explorer, then select View > Options from the Ribbon. A Folder Options window will open. Click the “Open File Explorer” drop-down menu at top, then select the “This PC” option. Click OK and you’re done!
Declutter your taskbar
Two of Windows 10’s standout features are its Cortana search integration and newly added virtual desktop support—but they claim a sizeable chunk of your taskbar. If you don’t care about either (or don’t mind using Windows key + Tab to leap through virtual desktops) you can reclaim that onscreen real estate.
Everything starts by right-clicking an empty section of your taskbar. In the menu that appears, deselecting “Show Task View” eliminates the Task View (virtual desktop) icon, while selecting Search > Disabled removes Cortana’s “Ask me anything” box.
Secret, powerful new command line tools
Windows 10 packs a slew of nifty new command line features, including—hallelujah!—the ability to copy and paste inside the command prompt with Crtl + C and Crtl + V.
To activate the goodies, open the command prompt. Right-click its title bar, then select Properties. You can find and enable the new features under the Experimental tab.
Fresh keyboard shortcuts!
Windows 10 packs a handful of fresh keyboard shortcuts, all tied to newfound abilities inside the revamped operating system. There are many more than we can list here, so head over to PCWorld’s guide to Windows 10’s keyboard shortcuts to learn all about them.
Move open programs between virtual desktops
Virtual desktops let you segregate your open apps into discrete areas—literally multiple, virtualized versions of your PC’s desktops. Switching between open virtual desktops is easy enough using Task View or Windows key + Tab, while Alt + Tab jumps you between open apps across all desktops. There’s also a way to actually shift an open app from one virtual desktop to another if you’d like to shuffle things around.
Simply open the virtual desktop housing the open app in question. Click the Task View button in your taskbar—it looks like two papers in front of one another—to bring up an overarching view of your open desktops as well as the open apps inside this virtual desktop. Right-click the program you’d like to move, then select Move to > Desktop [desired virtual desktop number]. Done!
Disable the Photos app's auto-enhance
Windows 10’s Photos app has been rebuilt as a universal app that scales across device types. It’s still more than a bit buggy, but one notable feature already stands out: It will automatically auto-enhance your pictures for clarity and punch.
If you’d rather Photos left your pictures alone, open the app’s Settings—symbolized by a gear in the left-hand column. Under the Viewing & Editing section, simply disable the “Automatically enhance my photos when they can be improved” option.
Speaking of apps, the revamped universal Maps app, like any maps tool worth using (and unlike the Windows 8 Maps app), packs an offline maps feature. Click the Settings (gear) icon in Maps, then select Download or update maps under the “Offline maps” header.
You’ll be bounced to the Settings app, where you’ll be able to select which continent, then country whose offline map you’d like to download. (If you’re downloading a U.S. map, you'll also have to select which state you need.) Helpfully, Windows tells you how large the download will be before you start scraping the maps.
Enable tablet mode
Windows 10’s Continuum, which dynamically switches from the traditional desktop to a more Metro-like interface when you’re using a touchscreen, is supposed to kick into action when you connect or disconnect a keyboard from your Windows hybrid or tablet. But what if you’re using a standard PC and just plain love full-screen apps and the Live-Tile-strewn Start screen, rather than the Start menu?
Easy! Activate tablet mode. Open up Windows 10’s new Action Center—the small icon that looks like a comic-book word bubble in your system tray—and click the Tablet Mode button. It’ll turn blue, the desktop will darken, and Cortana’s desktop box will shrink to an icon to indicate you’ve made the switch. Now bask in the full-screen apps and Start menu, since that's obviously your thing.
Expand the Start menu to full-screen
If you like the look of the full-screen Start menu but still rock a mouse and want to stick to windowed Metro apps, fear not: You can have your cake and eat it too. Simply open the Start menu, then click the “Expand Start” button in the upper-right corner to have it mimic the Windows 8 Start screen (and the picture in the previous slide) every time you click the Start button. The rest of the desktop continues to behave normally.
Customize your Start menu
Finally, don’t forget to make the Start menu your own. If you appreciate the blend of the traditional interface with the Live Tiles, note that you can right-click on any tile and select Resize to alter the tile’s dimensions—just like on the Windows 8 Start screen.
Alternatively, if you loathe Live Tiles and the Metro interface with the ferocity of a thousand suns, you can also right-click on every one of the defaults in the Start menu and select Uninstall to wipe them from your system. Repopulate them with desktop software of your choosing—you can right-click any app or program and select Pin to Start—and before you know it, it’ll be like the Windows 7 Start menu all over again.
16 November 2023