Windows 10, by all appearances, seems poised for mass adoption, after a lackluster reception for Windows 8. This alternation of popular and unpopular is sort of a pattern for Microsoft operating systems: Vista tanked while Windows 7 killed, for example. Considering Windows 10 embraces devices of every size from smartphones to workstations, covering every aspect of the operating system would be a tall order. So for this selection of tips, we’ll limit the scope to Windows 10 on the desktop, though some suggestions could affect installations on other device sizes.
Not only does Windows 10 bring back the warm and fuzzy Start menu, but the new interface does something Windows 8 failed to doit makes a point of showing and explaining what’s new. And if you never upgraded to Windows 8 or 8.1, you’re missing out on one of my favorite aspects of the OS: It starts up remarkably faster than Windows 7.
Windows 10 is a free upgrade for users of Windows 7 and later. You may already have seen a notification icon in your taskbar with the new Windows logo, from which you can reserve your upgrade. The list below is far from exhaustive (check out all our coverage at our Windows 10 page), but its contents may help ease your transition to Microsoft’s new desktop operating system.
1. Customize the Start Menu
Windows 10′s reprise of the Start menu, which dates 20 years back to Windows 95, has been a much-applauded feature of Microsoft’s next operating system. But it’s not a simple return to the old Windows XP-style Start menu. Instead, Windows 10 combines the tiles of Windows 8′s modern, touch-friendly user interface with the earlier metaphor.
Maybe you want more tiles, maybe fewer or none. You can have the new Start menu your way: Simply click and hold the cursor on the edge of the Start box and drag it to the size you want. As with Windows 8, you can also pin any applicationsincluding traditional desktop onesto tiles. If you tap All Apps, you’ll see a small tile for every single program on the computer, and you can pin any with a right-click option.
There are even more settings for the Start menu, accessible from the Settings > Personalization > Start page of the modern control panel. From here, you can even re-enable the full-screen Start page. You can also turn on or off recent apps, recent groups, and content and app suggestions, and get very granular with the Customize List option, which lets you choose links that appear below the frequent items, such as Settings, Explorer, and so on.
2. Set Up Cortana
Unlike Siri or Google Now, Cortana, Windows 10′s voice-response digital assistant, lets you control what it knows about you, so that it can pop up relevant reminders and display info of interest. You do this by making selections in Cortana’s Notebook, in your Contacts, and in the Maps app. The last two let you tell Cortana which contact is your spouse, and which places on the map are your home and workplace. That way, Cortana can pop up a reminder to call a spouse, or let you know how long a commute will take based on traffic.
Like Google Now (and now Siri, to some extent) Cortana can listen for a key phrase, in this case « Hey Cortana! » and wake up to answer your requests. But before she can do any of this, you need to enable her the first time you click in the Windows 10 search box. This also involves granting permission to use your location, mic, contacts, email, messages, and browser history, though you can adjust these permissions to taste. Cortana can show you local news, sports, and weather info, and even tell you a joke or two.
3. Set up Continuum as You Please
This one is most applicable if you’re running Windows 10 on a tablet or convertible laptop, or a PC with a touch screen. For example, if you have a Microsoft Surface 3, when you pull off the Type Cover keyboard, you’ll see a notification asking whether you want to switch to tablet mode. This is the Start screen and any modern app that happens to be running to full screen view, just like Windows 8.1 (which is actually a pretty good interface when run on a tablet).
4. Use Virtual Desktops
I’ve always found switching among apps and applications snappier in Windows than in other desktop operating systems, but with Windows 10 comes yet another optionmultiple virtual desktops. To work with these, simply hit the multi-screen icon next to the search box in the toolbar, and tap the Plus sign all the way at the right of the taskbar. After this, to switch between desktops, you can press the button again and choose the large thumbnail of the one you want.