New software and new software releases are designed to improve the user experience, right?  Windows 10 has delivered some features that are getting very little traction or press, but are quite nice.

Windows 10 is not only the first time Microsoft has provided a full-blown operating system upgrade to users completely free of charge, but it offers numerous new features and enhancements designed to improve every aspect of the user experience.

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Useful tips to improve your experience and get the most out of Windows 10:

 

Customizing the Start Menu

Windows 10 brings back the beloved Start Menu.  With that revival, Microsoft has added a number of useful customization options to the Start Menu to allow the tool to work for you and meet your particular needs.

The most basic yet useful customization option is to simply resize the entire Start Menu itself, dragging the corners and edges like any other window so I can expand it to take up a much large portion of your screen.  Not only does this provide you with more applications and items listed at once, but it also gives you ample room in which to place Live Tiles, which for those unfamiliar, are customizable “block apps” that often display up-to-date information about news, emails, weather, and so forth.

Not only can you easily move Live Tiles around and resize them, you can customized your Start Menu by removing unnecessary Live Tiles (Right-click > Unping from Start) to make room for the Tiles and apps you use most frequently.

More information can be found on Microsoft’s Website.

Projecting the Desktop to Other Devices

Microsoft has really stepped up their game with Windows 10 by including the ability to stream whatever is displayed on the Windows 10 desktop, wirelessly, to a number of other devices.  Best of all, unlike third-party devices like Chromecast and AppleTV, there is no fee to use this projection capability included with Windows 10.

Windows 10 supports streaming to two types of devices at present: Miracast- and DLNA-compliant devices.

Miracast is wireless connection standard introduced in late 2012, allowing different devices that are Miracast certified to communicate wirelessly with one another at extremely high speeds.

DLNA (or Digital Living Network Alliance) is just a similar (yet different) protocol to that of Miracast and provides devices a similar capability to communicate without the need of wires.

To begin casting, simply launch the new Microsoft Edge browser and click the “More Options” (the ellipsis) in the top-right corner of Edge, then select Cast media to device.  Once you’ve selected a compatible device, your screen is instantly streamed and you can view it on a much bigger screen if necessary.

Using Cortana for Voice-Activated Commands

A particularly handy feature of Windows 10 is the official inclusion of Cortana, a built-in digital personal assistant included in every Windows 10 installation.  While typing out queries for Cortana can be useful at times, easily her most powerful capability is to enable Cortana’s voice-activation, allowing you to give her direct commands or ask her questions with your microphone.

To get Cortana’s assistance, merely say, “Hey Cortana” and Cortana recognizes the command and awaits my instruction or inquiry.  From there, you can ask Cortana all sorts of things, from having her call a business (“Hey Cortana, call Angelo’s Pizza on 4th Avenue”) to reminding you of appointments (“Hey Cortana, remind me to go to the annex at four o’clock”).

More information on Cortana can be found on Microsoft’s Support site.

Record Video Clips of Games and Apps

While intended to be used by gamers, Windows 10 added the fun and exciting ability to record short clips of any active application running on the desktop using the Game Bar feature.  Windows 10 does  not allow you to record Windows-specific windows (like the File Explorer), you are able to record clips of virtually any other application you are using by opening the Game Bar by pressing Windows Key + G, then informing Windows that the application you are running is a game (by clicking Yes, this is a game).

From there, you can toggle recording Off and On by pressing Windows Key + Alt + R, and make all sorts of cool clips.

See the official documentation for more info.

Free Cloud Storage via OneDrive

Windows 10 offers OneDrive, which is a free cloud storage service from Microsoft that allows you to easily and automatically backup files to the cloud from your desktop computer.

Once you have created your Microsoft account, OneDrive could then be found on the left side of all File Explorer windows under the OneDrive header. Functionally, OneDrive behaves just like any other folder on your system, so you can easily drag individual files or entire directories from your system into OneDrive’s cloud storage and vice-versa without any trouble.

Best of all, if you are offline you can still access your local files.  When you reconnect, Windows 10 automatically syncs any changes you have made to the cloud keeping OneDrive copies up-to-date.

The full details of OneDrive can be found at Microsoft.com.

Managing Ease of Access Settings

Ease of Access options in Windows 10 are better than ever before by opening Start Menu > Settings > Ease of Access.  From here, you can alter a wide variety of options included adding a digital narrator, on-screen magnifier, alter the contrast of the display, toggle closed captions, and much more.

More information on Ease of Access features in Windows 10 can be found in the official documentation

Snap Windows to Sides and Corners for Maximum Efficiency

The particularly handy Action Center in Win 10, which is a small icon residing in the task bar that allows users to quickly access frequent applications or toggle often-altered settings.  By opening the Action Center via the icon (or pressing Windows Key + A), you get a handy popup that displays useful notifications, frequent apps, and common setting toggles.

This allows you to see when a new email has arrived or when you need to download an update for my favorite applications. The ability to quickly toggle privacy settings On and Off such as my Location, VPN, and Internet Connection are particularly handy.

When you need to customize the actions displayed in the Quick Action menu, go to Start Menu > Settings > System > Notifications & Actions and the list of potential apps for the Quick Action panel are displayed there.

The official documentation includes more details on taking advantage of the Action Center.

Customizing the Action Center

While previous versions of Windows also included the ability to Snap an application window to some degree, Windows 10 expands on this particularly useful feature by allowing you to Snap the window not only to the sides of the screen or full screen, but also into the corners to create a perfectly sized 2×2 grid of applications.

By simply dragging the top of any window, you can position the window in a variety of ways based on where you drag the window to:

  • Drag to the top of a screen to maximize the window.
  • Drag to a side of a screen to split-screen the window.
  • Drag to a corner of a screen to place the window in that particular corner of the screen.

 

Removing Previous Windows Files to Save Disk Space

Last but not least.  Like many people currently using Windows 10, you may have upgraded your system (for free) from an older version of Windows.  While this upgrade process was easy to do and was a great move given the power of the new features Windows 10 provides, the end result was that your system was now dedicating an exorbitant amount of hard drive space to Windows 10.

The issue at hand here is that Windows 10 opts to retain many of the older system files from the previous version of Windows, in the event that the user wishes to uninstall Windows 10 and revert back to the way the system was before the upgrade.  Since this wasn’t something you will probably need to do, you can save about 17GB of disk space by removing these unnecessary backup files.

This process was quite simple.  Begin by opening the Disk Cleanup utility (Start Menu > Windows Administrative Tools > Disk Cleanup), then select Clean up system files at the bottom.  Now the list of potential files to clean up should also include system files, and on many systems there will be a Previous Windows installation(s) and also Temporary Windows installation files.  Selecting both and removing those saves a ton of disk space.

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