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New Windows 10 Features to Improve Productivity

New Windows 10 Features to Improve Productivity
Helpdesk Team Manager Mike Newman looks at ways Windows 10 helps you get organised.

Windows 10 has been around for just over a month and now that the majority of us have figured out how to get the update to work, it's time to look at a few of the new features, tips and tricks, that will make our everyday lives much easier and less frustrating.

The Start Menu

For some people the Metro screen on Windows 8 was great. Being Dyslexic I often found that scrolling through a list of programs became time consuming because they all blur into one. But, knowing exactly where I'd placed the tile for my favourite programs made opening them much faster. However for the majority the Metro screen on a desktop PC was just a pain. Fortunately Microsoft have now given us the best of both worlds.

The start menu opens in a more traditional format by default with a list on the left and a set of tiles in a thin column to the right. These tiles can be resized, added to, moved around, grouped or removed altogether to give you a traditional look. If, like me, however, you want a Start screen rather than a Start menu you can go to Settings > Personalisation > Start and enable "Use Start Full Screen". Again in this screen you can group, arrange and resize the tiles. It's useful at this point to mention that the order you place your tiles in the Start screen mirrors the order in the Start menu and vice versa. So even if you prefer the Start menu, because there is more room to work in the Start screen it may be quicker to arrange your programs in the Start screen and then switch back to the Start menu.

Whilst we are looking at the start options you will see it also allows you to decide if you want to list your most used apps, new apps or recently used files. If you click on "Chose which folders appear on start" you can also customise the list on the left hand side to see things like "Music", "Documents", "Home Group" etc. To further customise the information you see on your desktop going into Settings > System > Notifications and Actions will give you access to a number of options for managing the icons and notifications on the Taskbar.

Task View

This for me is the most useful productivity change in Windows 10. Linux and Mac have had virtual desktop switching for a long time and Microsoft has now finally caught up. In a nutshell this allows you to have a number of different desktops with different applications running on each. Practical examples would be, say if you were working from home and you had all your work applications open on one desktop and on another you had the applications for hobbies you pursue away from work. Or as I'm doing now, I'm using one desktop to write this blog and the other to take snapshots of apps to use in this tutorial.

To open the Task view click this icon on the task bar (or use the Windows key + TAB shortcut) taskbar 

It will open the Task view showing all your virtual desktops across the bottom with a link to open new ones on the right. In the middle of the screen are the open apps on the active screen.

 

screen

 

To create a new desktop either click the link in Task View or use the Windows key + CTRL + D shortcut. Desktops can be removed by deleting them in Task View or by using the Windows key + CTRL + F4 shortcut.

To switch to different desktop just click on it in Task view. If you hover over a desktop the main screen will switch to the apps on that desktop and you can then click directly on one to make it active. You can also switch between desktops by using the Windows key + Ctrl + Left (or right) Arrow key shortcut. Apps can be moved between desktops or into a new desktop in Task View either by right clicking and using the context menu or by dragging it to the desired desktop.

The Alt + Tab shortcut isn't new but you now have the option of configuring this to switch between just the apps on the active desktop or all the apps across all your desktops. To configure the setting go to Settings > System > Multitasking > Virtual Desktops.

 

virtual desktops

 

There is also an option here to show all open apps on the Taskbar or only those for the Active desktop.

 

Quick Access View

Microsoft have revamped the look of Windows File Explorer with the most obvious difference being that Favourites has been replaced with Quick Access. The Quick Access view gathers together the most frequently accessed folders and the most recently accessed files. The idea is to speed up your workflow by making the things you use most often just a click away.

With the most frequently accessed folders you can pin the folders you want to appear just as you would have done previously with favourites. These folders will always appear in the list along with the most frequently unpinned folders. Alternatively you can make it even more like favourites by stopping Windows putting the most frequently accessed folders in the list so it's just your pinned folders. On the ribbon go to Options > Change folder and search options. On the General tab under Privacy un-tick "Show frequently used folders in Quick access".

 

toolbar

 

options

 

Whilst you are on this tab you may also want to stop recently used files from showing in Quick access as well. Windows File Explorer opens in Quick access by default and this is all very well if you are always going into the same handful of folders or opening the same files. If you aren't it can actually have the adverse effect, slowing you down whilst you navigate back to This PC and then down the folder tree. You can however alter the default opening behaviour and open straight to This PC. Back on the General tab of the Folder options there is a drop list allowing you to choose whether to open File explorer in either Quick access or This PC.

Mouse Scrolling an Inactive Window

This is going to relieve a lot of frustration! Windows will now let you hover on an inactive window and scroll down it without having to first make the window active. This should be enabled by default but if it isn't working for you go to settings > devices > mouse and touch and make sure "Scroll inactive windows when I hover over them" is enabled.

Enhancements to Command Prompt

Microsoft has finally updated the Command prompt interface to make it much easier to work in. The additional features need to be enabled so launch the command prompt and right click on the title bar to access Properties. On the Options tab make sure that "Use Legacy Console" is un-ticked.

 

options I

 

Then enable the enhancements you want.

"Enable Ctrl key shortcuts" lets you use shortcuts such as CTRL + C to copy highlighted text and CTRL + V to paste it into the command line. No more shouts of Doh! As you happily type ^v into your command!

"Filter clipboard contents on paste" removes tabs and changes smart quotes to regular quotes when you paste text into your command line

"Enable line wrapping" automatically wraps your command when you resize the window. No more scrolling to the right to read the whole line

"Extended text selection keys" allows you to use keyboard shortcuts such as SHIFT + End, SHIFT + Home etc.

There is one extra really helpful enhancement that can be found at the bottom of the "Colours" tab. The "Opacity" slider allows you to fade the command prompt window so you can work within it but see what is going on in the Windows behind.

 

Schedule Restarts for Windows Updates

This nice little feature allows you to decide when the PC will restart to install Windows updates rather than it interrupting you in the middle of that important Webinar. Go to Settings > updates and security > Windows Updates > Advanced Options in the drop down box at the top you can choose either "Automatic" or "Notify to schedule restart".

 

optionsII

 

When Windows needs a restart to apply updates you will get a notification suggesting the suitable time Windows has chosen and an option to override this and select your own date and time.

Print to PDF

Microsoft has now included a native PDF print driver in Windows. The great thing is that you don't need to do anything other than choose "Microsoft Print to PDF" in the print dialogue.

 

optionsIIi

God Mode

This is one for all of us that like to tinker with Windows and is invaluable to the support engineer. It is basically a contents list of all the customizable options and features within Windows, sorted into categories, and setting it up is easy.

 

godmode

 

Create a new folder wherever you want it. Rename the folder God Mode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C} and that's it! It can then be pinned to the start menu or task bar, wherever is convenient for you. Oh and you can replace God Mode with any text you want for instance mine is called "Folder of Everythingness".

I hope that some of these features, tips and tweaks will be helpful in speeding up your workflow in Windows 10.

 

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