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My first look at Windows 11

Microsoft recently announced that they are releasing a successor to Windows 10, aptly named Windows 11. So join me as I take a look at Windows 11.

My first look at Windows 11

When Microsoft announced the next version of Windows, I went looking for a beta or technical preview of Windows 11. I soon found out that the only way to get a version of Windows 11 is through their Insider Program.

Well, it just so happens that I had created a Virtual Machine (VM) a couple of years ago for the Windows 10 Insider Program. I started it, and sure enough, Windows informed me that I need to download a new build of Windows.

I went through the upgrade process, and when all was said and done, I had Windows 11 Insider Preview running inside a VM. So let's take a look at Windows 11.

Note: This build of Windows 11 that I am using for this article is just a beta, so the look and the way it operates may and probably will change before the final release of Windows 11.

Login Screen

The Windows 11 Logon Screen

Not much different here from Windows 10. The default font has changed, but other than that, it looks and feels like Windows 10.

Taskbar

The Windows 11 Taskbar

The first thing you will notice when the Desktop appears is that the Start button and pinned programs are centered in the Taskbar. Is this by default, and can it be easily changed back to left-justified.

Start Menu

The Windows 11 Start Menu

The Start Menu has gotten a makeover, with a new cleaner looking layout. All the same features are available, but they are arranged completely different.

Power User menu

The Windows 11 Power Users menu

It is still there, The only component of Windows 8.1 to still be inside of Windows. Don't remember Windows 8.1? That is one version of Windows I would love to forget.

Settings

The Windows 11 Settings app

As with the Start Menu, the Settings app has also received a makeover, getting broken into two (2) columns. The categories are now listed in the left-side column, and sub-categories are listed in the right-hand column.

Control Panel

The Windows 11 Control Panel

Microsoft has been trying to eliminate the Control Panel for a while now, but it still exists in the preview build I am running. Who knows if it will make it to the final build of Windows 11.

File Explorer

The Windows 11 File Explorer

File Explorer has gotten a small makeover too. The Ribbon appears to be gone, and a simple toolbar with the most commons functions has taken its place. We will have to wait until the final build to see if the Ribbon is truly gone.

The overall look and feel of Windows 11 is smoother than Windows 10. With rounded corners on dialog boxes and newer icons, Windows 11 looks like an excellent successor to Windows 10.

But of course, we will have to wait and see how the final build of Windows 11 looks and feels. For a more in-depth look at this version of Windows 11, check out the video below.

Navigating Windows 10

Updated June 4, 2020

It seems nowadays everyone is looking for ways to get things done quicker. The same holds for your computer. The faster you can open a program or document, the better. So here are 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 Windows' different versions. With Windows 10, Microsoft keeps 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 a 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 Apps and Features, Network Connections, 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 handy feature that nobody knows about, the Windows logo key. I have customers ask me, "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-five (25) years ago alongside 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

Here 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 how 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 the area (the cursor will blink).
  4. Press the CTRL key and the key you want to be assigned to the shortcut simultaneously (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

Updated August 16, 2020

The Start menu was first included in Windows 95 and was a big part of its success. It has undergone many changes over the years, but still is the primary way of navigating Windows. So here is how to customize the Start menu in Windows 10.

How to customize the Start menu in Windows 10

The Windows 10 Start menu is a combination of the Start menu that was in Windows 7 and the Start screen from Windows 8. You have the traditional Start menu features like folders and apps on the left and Start screen tiles on the right side.

The different areas of the Windows 10 Start menu

Now there are four (4) main areas of the Start menu that you can customize; Appearance, Folders, App list, and Tiles. You can also change the size, color, font, and transparency of the Start menu. Changing the size is relatively simple.

Just like any other application, you can change the width and height of the Start menu. Hover your cursor over one of the Start menu edges until the sizing arrows appear, then hold the left mouse button and drag it to the size you want.

Almost all settings to customize the Start menu are located in the Personalization section of the Settings app. To find the Start menu settings in the Settings apps just:

  1. Left-click on the Start Windows logo menu and select Settings (the gear icon).
  2. Left-click on Personalization.
  3. In the left-hand column, left-click on Start.

Appearance

This is where you can set up the way the Start menu looks and operates. In the right-hand column, you will find a list of options that you can turn on. Their functions are pretty self-explanatory.

  • Show more tiles on Start
  • Show app list in Start menu
  • Show recently added apps
  • Show most used apps
  • Show suggestions occasionally in Start
  • Use Start full screen (similar to Tablet mode)
  • Show recently open items in Jump Lists on Start or Taskbar and in Explorer Quick Access

Folders

At the bottom of the list is a link labeled Choose which folders appear on Start. When you click on it, you get a list of the folders that you can toggle on or off. The folders that can be displayed on the Start menu are:

  • File Explorer
  • Settings (on by default)
  • Documents (on by default)
  • Music
  • Pictures (on by default)
  • Videos
  • Network
  • Personal Folder

Tiles

Some of the Tiles are Desktop program shortcuts, and some are UWP (Universal Windows Platform) apps. All of the Tiles can be resized and unpinned. Live Tiles (tiles that display information, like the Photo app) can be turned on and off.

And there are a few that can be uninstalled directly from the Tile section of the Start menu. If you place the mouse cursor over a Tile and hold down the left mouse button, you can move a tile around. If you right-click on a Tile, you will get a context menu with different options.

You can easily pin a program to the Tile area of the Start menu. Just right-click on any application or shortcut in the App list, on the Desktop or inside of the File Explorer, and select Pin to Start from the context menu that appears.

App list

I left this area of the Start menu for last, as it is the most complicated to change. The App list is a special folder on the drive where Windows is installed. Actually, there are two (2) App list folders; a system folder that is for all system users and a user folder that is inside of each user profile.

You can perform almost all of the regular folder and file editing inside the system App list reasonably quickly. Just right-click on an item and select an action from the context menu. Remember that the system App list is propagated into the user App list, so if you make a change here, it affects all users.

Now adding to the system App list is hard, since you can not do it directly. When I say directly, you can not just click inside and select New > Folder or Shortcut from the context menu. You have to copy/paste or drag/drop a folder or shortcut into it. I recommend leaving the system App list alone and changing only the user App list.

How to create a shortcut in Windows 10

Modifying the user App list is easier and is the recommended way of changing the App list. It will have fewer folders and shortcuts, but most of the App list comes from the system App list. Here are the different App list locations.

Just copy and paste the code below into a Run dialog box (Windows logo key Windows logo + R).

The system App list location
%programdata%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu
The user App list location
%appdata%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu

How to create a shortcut in Windows 10

Updated February 10, 2021

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

In this article, we are going to look at two (2) types of shortcuts, File (.lnk) and Internet (.url). You can spot a shortcut on your Desktop or File Explorer by the curled arrow in the lower left-hand corner of the shortcut's icon. Shortcuts on the Start Menu do not have the curled arrow.

How to create File shortcuts in Windows 10

To create a shortcut to a file in Windows 10, you need to know where the object is located on your computer. Open File Explorer by left-clicking the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or right-clicking on the Start Menu to bring up the Power User menu and select File Explorer. Then navigate to the object you want to create a shortcut to. If you're going to create a Desktop shortcut, make sure File Explorer is not in full-screen mode.

  • For a shortcut to a file 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.
  • For a shortcut to a file on the Taskbar, right-click on the object and select Pin to Taskbar.
  • For a shortcut to a file on the Start menu, right-click on the object and select Pin to Start. That will create a shortcut in the app tiles section. To create a shortcut in the list of programs, that is a little more complicated. For more information on creating a shortcut in the program section of the Start menu, check out how to customize the Start menu in Windows 10.

How to create Internet shortcuts in Windows 10

To create a shortcut to a webpage in Windows 10, you will need to open your favorite web browser and navigate to the webpage you want to create a shortcut. Make sure the browser is not maximized to full screen, as you are going to need access to your Desktop.

  • In your browser's address bar, place your mouse cursor over the icon to the left of the web page address. Then press and hold the left mouse button and drag it to an empty spot on your Desktop. If you are not sure about how to do this, watch the video below for more details.

Inside the Windows 10 Technical Preview

Note: the Windows 10 Technical Preview program expired on 4/15/15 and is no longer available.

Coming on the heels of the Windows 8.1 Update, Microsoft recently released the Windows 10 Technical Preview. With this new Windows version, Microsoft combines elements from Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 to enhance the keyboard/mouse user experience better. 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 Windows version, we see a shift in the focus from touch-based devices to keyboard/mouse systems. The most significant change by far is the return of the Start menu. And it is a hybrid now, with elements from Windows 7 (Start menu (left-side)) and Windows 8.1 (Start screen Tiles (right-side)). But if you like using the Start screen, it's still there too. It's just a checkbox and a 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. Customers have even told me that they had 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 Start menu's return, 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 also have undergone some changes. Their name has been changed to Universal apps, and they now run in completely re-sizable windows. You need to use the Store to install universal apps and can sync them across multiple devices using a Microsoft account.

There is a small change here and there too. One difference is with the way you copy and paste with the Command Prompt. You can now use the Windows keyboard shortcuts (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.

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