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Navigating Windows 10

Seems nowadays everyone is looking for ways to get things done quicker. The same holds true for your computer. The faster you can open a program or document, the better. So here's my favorite tips for navigating Windows 10.

Navigating Windows 10

Since I do computer repair for a living, I've had to find ways to navigate around the different versions of Windows. With Windows 10, Microsoft keep some of the cooler features while adding some new ones. And they even brought back one feature from previous versions. Let's take a look at my favorite ways to get around inside of Windows 10.

Power User menu

This little pop-up menu is the fast way to find some of the core features inside of Windows 10. It first appeared in Windows 8 to supplement the loss of the Start Menu. It never got the publicity it deserved and only real geeks knew it existed. My customers are still amazed the first time I use it in front of them.

Lucky for us Microsoft decided to keep the Power Users menu in Windows 10. It is still the fastest way to get to features like the Control Panel, Programs and Features and Computer Management. Here's how to display the Power User menu in Windows 10.

Windows 10 Power User menu

There are two (2) ways of displaying the Power User menu in Windows 10: Mouse or Keyboard.

Using your mouse to display the Power User menu in Windows 10

Right-click on the Windows logo Windows logo key on the Start Menu

Using your keyboard to display the Power User menu in Windows 10

Press the Windows Logo key Windows logo key + X

If you use the keyboard to bring up the Power User menu, you'll find that the programs / features listed have a single letter in their name underlined. These are also keyboard shortcuts to that particular program / feature. Here's a link to the complete list of the Power User menu keyboard shortcuts for Windows 10.

Power User menu keyboard shortcuts

Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 10

Here's is another really useful feature that nobody really knows about, the Windows logo key. I have customers ask me all the time "What does that key with the Windows logo do?". Well, its primary use is to bring up the Start Menu, but it does more. Allot more.

The Windows logo key was introduced over twenty (20) years alongside of Windows 95 and the new Start Menu. There were only a handful of Windows logo key shortcuts at that time and you had to purchase a Windows 95 compatible keyboard to use them. Now you can't find a Windows compatible keyboard without it.

There are now close to forty (40) Windows logo key shortcuts in Windows 10. Once you try them out you'll wonder how you lived without for so long. Here's a link to the complete list of Windows logo key shortcuts.

Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 10

Shortcut keys in Windows 10

This is one of those 'old school' features that I love to use. Did you know that you can open almost any shortcut with just your keyboard? By simply editing a shortcut, you open it with a combination of three (3) keys.

Now if you have used Windows for a while, you know what a shortcut is. And if not, no biggie. Here's how to create a shortcut in Windows 10.

Allot of people don't know that they can edit a shortcut and change the way it works, including adding a keyboard shortcut to it. The keyboard shortcut for your shortcut needs to be a combination of three (3) keys and the first two (2) keys have to be CTRL and ALT. The third key is your choice, but I try to use either the first letter of the program / file or a letter close to CTRL and ALT keys.

The shortcut key field inside of the properties a shortcut
The shortcut key field inside of the properties of a shortcut

How to add a keyboard shortcut to an existing shortcut

  1. Right-click on the shortcut you want to modify and from the context menu that appears select Properties.
  2. When the properties dialog box appears, make sure the Shortcut tab is selected.
  3. Go down to the Shortcut key field and left-click inside of the field (the cursor will blink).
  4. Press the CTRL key and the key you want assigned to the shortcut at the same time (Windows will automatically add the ALT).
  5. Left-click on Apply and you are done.

Start Menu

And last but not least is the Start Menu. After a brief disappearance in Windows 8, Microsoft decided to bring it back. It's now got a slightly different look and feel, but it still does what it is supposed to do: Navigate.

How to customize the Start menu in Windows 10

With the release of Windows 10 marks the return of the Start menu, missing since Windows 7. With a combination of new and old elements, the Start menu can be quite useful. Here's how to customize the Start menu in Windows 10.

Now some of the Windows users will recognize the Windows 10 Start menu as a revised version of the Start screen from Windows 8/8.1. It is now kind of split with traditional Start menu features on the left side and universal apps / shortcut tiles on the right side. You can only change certain items on the Start menu, mainly what appears on the main screen. You can do minimal editing to the All apps menu, but be careful as you cannot add anything to, or back to, the All apps menu. Once removed, it's gone. Of course you can always add a shortcut to the tiles, desktop or taskbar.

The Start menu now can be run as pop-up menu (desktop) or completely full screen (tablet). You can also change the look and feel of the Start menu couple of different ways.

Changing the Start menu size

Just like any other application, you can change the width and height of the Start menu. Hover your cursor over one of the edges of the Start menu until the sizing arrows appear, then hold the left mouse button and drag it to the size you want. You can also modify the Tiles (add, remove, resize and move around).

Changing the Start menu appearance

The majority of Start menu settings that you can customize are located under Settings > Personalization > Start. Items that you can turn on or off include:

  • Show most used apps
  • Show recently added apps
  • Use Start full screen
  • Show recently opened item in Jump lists on Start or the taskbar

Items on the Windows 10 Start menu that you can edit
Items on the Windows 10 Start menu that you can edit
Items on the Windows 10 Start menu that have important context menus
Items on the Windows 10 Start menu that have important context menus

You can also turn on or off which folders appear on the Start menu. They included File Explorer, Settings, Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, HomeGroup, Network and your Personal folder (where you Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Pictures, Videos, etc. are stored). If you want to change the color and effects for the Start menu, just go to Settings > Personalization > Colors. There you will find the following appearance settings:

  • Automatically pick an accent color from my background
  • Show color on Start, taskbar, and action center
  • Make Start, taskbar and action center transparent

How to create a shortcut in Windows 10

Shortcuts are links to various types of objects on your computer like a program, file, folder or another computer and it can be placed on your Desktop, Taskbar or Start menu. Here's how to create a shortcut in Windows 10.

To create a shortcut in Windows 10, you just need to know where the object is located on your computer. Open File Explorer (left-click the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or left-click on the Start Menu and select File Explorer) and navigate the the object you want to create a shortcut to. If you want to create a Desktop shortcut, make sure File Explorer is not in full screen mode.

  • For a shortcut on the Start menu, right-click on the object and select Pin to Start
  • For a shortcut on the Taskbar, right-click on the object and select Pin to Taskbar
  • For a shortcut on the Desktop, press and hold the right mouse button on the object and drag it to the Desktop. From the context menu that appears select Create shortcuts here.

Inside the Windows 10 Technical Preview

Coming on the heels of the Windows 8.1 Update, Microsoft recently released the Windows 10 Technical Preview. With this new version of Windows, Microsoft is combining elements from Windows 7 and Windows 8 / 8.1 to better enhance the keyboard / mouse user experience. Let's take a look at what's new in the Windows 10 Technical Preview.

The Start menu returns in the Windows 10 Technical Preview
The Start menu returns in the Windows 10 Technical Preview

With this version of Windows, we are seeing a shift in the focus from touch-based devices to keyboard / mouse systems. The biggest change by far is the return of the Start menu. And it is kind of a hybrid now, with elements from Windows 7 (Start menu (left-side)) and Windows 8 / 8.1 (Start screen Tiles (right-side)). But if you like using the Start screen, it's still there too. It's just a check box and restart away.

You can switch in between the Start menu and the Start screen in the Windows 10 Technical Preview
You can switch in between the Start menu and the Start screen in the Windows 10 Technical Preview

But let's be honest, the Start screen concept might work on a tablet or phone, but it fails miserably on a laptop or desktop computer without a touch screen. I have even been told by customers that they have returned brand new Windows 8 systems because they could not stand the Start screen.

Using multiple instances of the Desktop with Task view inside the Windows 10 Technical Preview
Using multiple instances of the Desktop with Task view inside the Windows 10 Technical Preview

Along with the return of the Start menu, Microsoft has also built-in the ability to run multiple instances of the Desktop called Task view. With Task view, you can have different sets of programs running in separate desktops. This feature is kind of cool if you're using a single display.

The Windows RT / Metro apps from Windows 8 / 8.1 have also under gone some changes. Thier name has been changed to Universal apps and they now run in completely re-sizable windows. You still need to use the Store to install universal apps and can still sync them across multiple devices using a Microsoft account.

There is also small change here and there too. One change is with the way you copy and paste with the Command Prompt. You can now use the Windows keyboard short-cuts (Ctrl + C for copy, Ctrl + V for paste) for these tasks.

The Windows 10 Technical Preview is available for anyone who wants to give it a try. Remember; do not install the Windows 10 Technical Preview on a production system. Use only a system that can be reformatted after the preview expires (4/15/15). For this article, I used an Oracle VirtualBox virtual machine.

For more information on the Windows 10 Technical Preview, check out the links below.

Windows Technical Preview
Windows Technical Preview FAQ's

Six ways to make Windows 8 easier to use

Repairing computers for a living requires working on different versions of Windows. Windows 8 must have the most changes out of all the Windows releases I've seen in the last decade or so. It seems like what worked in previous versions of Windows doesn't work in Windows 8. So here are six ways to make Windows 8 easier to use.

1. Create Shutdown, Restart and Logoff shortcuts

Microsoft made shutting down and restarting Windows 8 kind of hard. You have to go to the Start screen and log-off before you can get to these options. Just seemed like too many steps for me, so I just created my own shortcuts and toolbar for shutting down, restarting and logging off.

How to create log-off, restart and shutdown shortcuts on the Start screen in Windows 8.

2. Start menu replacements

Windows 7 style Start menu in Windows 8 using Start8
Windows 7 style Start menu in Windows 8 using Start8

If you're a die-hard Windows user and find the Start screen just doesn't work for you, there is hope. There numerous third party shell menus out there like Start8, Classic Shell and Pokki's Windows 8 Start Menu. Get one and Windows 8 will feel just like Windows 7.

3. Power users command menu

The desktop and laptop versions of the Windows 8 Power User command menu
The desktop and laptop versions of the Windows 8 Power User command menu

This is one of the Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 8 (see below) but I think it deserves to be listed separately. It contains links to some of the most used programs inside of Windows. From the Control Panel, Computer Management and an Admin Command Prompt, if it's a commonly used Windows program, you'll probably find it here. Add it works on both the Desktop and Start screen.

PressTo
Windows logo key + X Open the Power User command menu. There are over a dozen different apps you can run from this menu.

4. Start screen hidden search feature

Most people find it hard to find programs on the Start screen (Windows RT). But there is one cool feature that actually will help you search for programs. If you go to the Start screen and just type the first couple of letters of the name of the program you're looking for, Windows RT will bring up the Search charm with Apps pre-selected. Remember that there is no box or form field associated with this feature, you just type.

5. Windows 8 Keyboard shortcuts

The Windows logo key Windows logo key has been around since Windows 95 and with every new version of Windows, Microsoft just adds more key combinations .There are now forty (40) different Windows logo key shortcuts in Windows 8.

Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 8.

6. Windows 8 restart options

Windows 8 restart option screen
Windows 8 restart option screen

It used to be when you had a problem with Windows, you could press F8 at startup and get to the boot options. This was the primary way to start Windows in Safe Mode or boot to other media. But with newer computers using Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) and Windows 8 booting faster, pressing F8 at boot is really hard, if not impossible. But there are a couple of ways to get there once Windows 8 is started. Note: If you want to boot from removable media, make sure that the media you want to boot to is attached (USB) or inserted (CD/DVD) before proceeding.

If you are logged off:

  1. On the logon screen, in the lower-right hand corner, tap or left-click the Power Icon. Hold the Shift key down while you tap or left-click on Restart.
  2. On the restart options screen, tap or left-click Troubleshoot.
  3. Tap or left-click on Advanced options.
  4. From here you can choose what startup settings you want to use or boot to a bootable CD/DVD or USB drive.

If you are logged on:

  1. Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + C to bring up the Charms bar.
  2. Tap or left-click Change PC Settings.
  3. Tap or left-click General.
  4. Scroll down to Advanced startup and tap or left-click Restart now.
  5. On the restart options screen, tap or left-click Troubleshoot.
  6. Tap or left-click on Advanced options.
  7. From here you can choose what startup settings you want to use or boot to a bootable CD/DVD or USB drive.

And if you would like enable the Advanced Boot Options menu, you can do that too. Just remember that there is no timer on the Advanced Boot menu anymore. If enabled, Windows 8 will wait for user input every time the system starts. How to enable the Advanced Boot Options menu at start up in Windows 8.

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