Even if you think you know it all, you don’t.
Microsoft’s Windows isn’t any one thing. It arises from a patchwork of finely tuned features. Each individual feature is, in turn, the result of a team of dedicated engineers who create the best experience possible. So, with such a complex, nuanced, and vast piece of software, it makes sense that there are little tricks and UI flourishes that most people don’t even know about.
As it turns out, there are all sorts of tricks hidden beneath the surface of the sprawling beast that is Windows. All it takes is a little digging.
Here we present a list of 10 cool tips that will help you get a little bit more out of your Windows 10 experience. Or, at least, there are some things you may have not known about. Some have been available in Windows for several generations, while some are native to Microsoft’s most recent OS.
Tech Help Boston has some long-time Windows users, so you likely know at least some of these features, but you probably don’t know them all. I tested these on a pair of Lenovo laptops, one running Windows 10 and the other (when accessible) on Windows 7 Professional.
Secret Start Menu
If you’re a fan of that old-school (i.e. non-tiled) Start menu experience, you can still have it—sort of. If you right-click on the Windows icon in the bottom-left corner, it will prompt a textual jump menu with several familiar popular destinations (Programs and Features, Search, Run). All these options are available through the standard menu interface, but you’ll be able to access them quicker through this textual interface.
Secret Desktop Button
This desktop button dates to Windows 7, but I embarrassingly only recently found out about it. On the bottom-right corner of your page, there’s a secret desktop button. Don’t see it? Look all the way to the bottom and right, to the side of the date and time. There you’ll find a small little sliver of an invisible button. Click that and it will minimize all your open windows to clear the desktop. You can change the behavior of this in Settings, between having to click or just having to hover the mouse over the corner.
Rotate Your Screen via Keyboard Ctrl-Alt-D Arrows
This tip won’t be useful to most of you, but you can rotate your screen by simultaneously pressing Ctrl + Alt + D and any of the arrow buttons. The down arrow will flip it upside down, the left or right arrow buttons will turn it 90 degrees on its side, and the up arrow will bring you back to standard orientation. If you use multiple displays, this feature allows you to orient just that display in a particular way.
Alternatively, you can right-click on the desktop background > Graphics Options > Rotation to turn your page around in all sorts of ways. This feature is available on Windows 7 and 10.
Right-Click on Tiles
Want to personalize those tiles quick? Just right-click on them to prompt a pop-up menu. This menu will give you various options like the ability to un-pin from the Start menu, to resize the windows, or to turn that live tile off.
Right-Click on the Taskbar
Here’s a handy menu that will allow you to quickly access several presets for the toolbars, Cortana, and window schemes. There’s a lot there, and it’s just a click away.
This feature debuted in Windows 7, but I’ve found a lot of people don’t know about it or use it (but they should—it’s cool!). If you have a display full or windows, you can clear the clutter by grabbing the top of the window you do like and “shaking” it to minimize all the other windows. Suddenly having shaker’s remorse? Shake again and the windows will come back.
Make Your Command Prompt Window Transparent
It appears this feature is new to Windows 10 (at least, it’s not available in Windows 7). It will probably only be useful to a narrow niche of user, but if you like to dig your virtual fingers into the innards of Windows via the Command Prompt, Windows 10 provides a ghostly way to interface with it.
To access the Command Prompt (CP) interface in Win 10, click on the Windows menu and type “Command Prompt” to bring up quick access to the CP desktop app. Click that. To personalize the CP experience right-click at the top of the window to prompt a pop-up menu and choose “Properties.” Click over to the “Colors” tab to see a range of personalization options. At the bottom of this tab, you’ll find the “Opacity” slider, which allows you to see through the CP window.
This feature lets you code away in the CP while simultaneously observing the desktop. If you are Windows-hack-y like that, go nuts.
Want to learn more about Windows 10? Check out all of our Windows 10 Blog Posts on Tech Help Boston