The Windows 10 May 2021 update, which includes a few new improvements, is now rolling out to devices. Whether you’re a longtime Windows 10 user or a recent convert (and if you haven’t upgraded to Windows 10, you can still do so ), you’ll discover a plethora of new and old tips, tricks, and hidden features that are simple to learn and can improve your laptop experience.
With the latest update on the way to your machine, now is a good time to master some of your device’s productivity features, whether you use it for work or play. These built-in tricks can help you do everything from creating Taskbar shortcuts to save battery power and make the most of your machine.
Microsoft typically does not publicize its hidden features in the same way that, say, Apple does. This can make it more difficult to understand how to take full advantage of everything that Windows 10 has to offer. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
1. Minimize every window except the active one
If your desktop screen has become overcrowded with open windows, you can quickly minimize all but the one in which you are currently working.
To select a window, simply click the title bar of the window you want to keep open. Then, while holding down the mouse, move the window back and forth quickly – essentially shaking it. All other open windows will be minimized after a couple of quick shakes, leaving only the one you’ve shaken open.
2. Open the ‘secret’ Start menu
You’re aware that you can access the Start menu by pressing the Windows icon in the bottom left corner of the screen or on your keyboard. However, Windows 10 includes a lesser-known second Start menu that makes it much easier to access important features such as the Command Prompt, Control Panel, and Task Manager. You can get to it in two ways: by pressing the Windows key + X or by right-clicking the Windows icon/Start button.
3. Create an event without having to open the Calendar app
The latest update to Windows 10 allows you to quickly add events to your Microsoft calendar directly from the Taskbar – without having to open the calendar at all. Here’s how to go about it:
1. On your Taskbar, in the right corner, click the box with the time and date in it.
2. Select the date for which you want to schedule an event.
3. Enter the event’s name, date, and time, as well as its location. (If you have multiple calendars, select the one you want to add it to by clicking the down arrow next to the event name field.)
4. Click the Save button. The event should be visible in your Calendar app on all of your devices.
4. Take a screenshot on Windows 10
I know, it’s a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how quickly you can forget how to take a screenshot on your laptop or desktop if you don’t do it frequently.
With Windows 10, you can take a screenshot in at least eight different ways. The simplest way to capture and save a picture of your entire screen is to press the Windows key + Print Screen key, and the image will be saved to the Pictures > Screenshots folder.
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To capture only a portion of your screen, press Windows + Shift + S to launch Snip & Sketch, which allows you to click and drag to create a screenshot that is saved to your Clipboard.
5. Open items from your Taskbar with keyboard shortcuts
You don’t have to click the icons to open programs that you’ve pinned to your Taskbar at the bottom of your screen to create a shortcut. Instead, press Windows key + [Number key], with the number key corresponding to the program’s position on the Taskbar. For instance, pressing Windows key + 2 will bring up the second item on the Taskbar.
This is especially helpful if you’re typing quickly and don’t want to take your hands off the keyboard. It might feel more natural to press the Windows key.
6. Learn how much space apps are taking up
Computers begin to slow down as they run out of storage space. One quick way to speed them up is to remove apps that take up more space than they should, especially if you don’t use them on a regular basis.
Navigate to Settings > System > Storage to see how much space an app consumes. Click Apps & games to see a list of apps installed on your machine and how much space they are taking up on the drive you want to search (likely the local storage, “This PC”). You’re not going to get rid of your browser, but you might discover that a game you haven’t played in years is some good dead weight to get rid of.
7. Banish ads from your Start menu
When you run Windows 10 with the default settings, you may notice that apps appear on the right side of your Start menu from time to time. Microsoft refers to them as “suggestions,” but they are actually advertisements for Windows Store apps that you can purchase.
To remove ads from your Windows 10 Start menu, navigate to Settings > Personalization > Start. Toggle the Show suggestions occasionally in the Start setting to the off position.
8. Shut down background apps to save battery
Apps that run in the background can receive information, send notifications, and stay updated even when you’re not using them, which can be useful but can also drain your battery and data if you’re connected via a mobile hotspot.
Go to Settings > Privacy > Background apps to control which apps run in the background and save some battery power and data. Toggle the Let apps run in the background switch to Off to stop all apps from running in the background. Alternatively, you can select which apps to run in the background individually by scrolling down the same page’s list.
9. Use background scrolling for multiple windows
You can scroll up and down in any window in Windows 10, even if it isn’t the one you’re currently working in. This is a useful tool if you have several windows open that you want to look through at the same time, such as if you want to open new sub-menu options in new windows to save time clicking back and forth on the same page.
Open two programs, such as an internet browser and a notepad or Word document. Arrange them on the screen so that you can see some of the text on each. Hover your mouse or use the touchpad to move to the second window and scroll while still in the first. Even if you aren’t active in that window, you should be able to navigate up and down the page.
If the feature isn’t enabled by default, go to Settings > Devices > Mouse and toggle the Scroll inactive windows when I hover over them to On switch. Then you can move your mouse over a background window and scroll with the scroll wheel.
10. Show file extensions in File Explorer
Microsoft hides file extensions by default, making it difficult to find specific types of files, such as JPEGs and JPGs. To view file extensions in File Explorer, perform the following steps:
1. Go to the bottom of the screen’s Search bar and type in File Explorer Options, then click it. (There are a few other options, but that one appears to be the quickest.)
2. In the resulting window, click the View tab.
3. Uncheck the Hide extensions for the known file types box. Click Apply and then OK. In File Explorer, you should now see file extensions for all files.
You can also use the File Explorer Options menu to display empty drives, hidden files and folders, and other options.
11. Minimize distractions with Focus assist
It’s difficult to focus on work when you’re constantly interrupted by notifications. Focus assist, a tool added to Windows 10 in the April 2018 update, can help you figure out how many you get.
Go to Settings > System > Focus assists to configure it. Choose from three options: Off (receive all notifications from your apps and contacts), Priority (receive only selected notifications from a prioritized list that you customize, with the rest sent to your action center), and Alarms only (hide all notifications, except for alarms).
You can also set this feature to activate automatically during certain hours or when you’re playing a game.