1. Speak to Cortana
Cortana is Microsoft’s digital assistant, in the vein of Siri and Google Now, and with Windows 10 it’s breaking out from Windows Phone on to desktops, laptops and tablets. You can turn Cortana on and tweak its settings from the Start menu, then use your voice or the search box on the taskbar to run Web queries, set reminders for yourself, check the weather forecast and more.
It’s available in the US now and coming to other parts of the world soon — to test it out in advance, set the system region and language to US in the Time and Language section in Settings.
2. Log in with a finger press
Microsoft has added a new feature called Windows Hello to its newest operating system: it lets you log in using facial recognition, a fingerprint or even an iris scan, if your computer has the necessary hardware attached. To change the way you gain access to your machine, go to the Settings app, then follow the Accounts link and choose Sign-in options from the menu on the left. The options listed will vary depending on the various bits of tech attached to your computer, but new laptops and desktops made specifically for Windows 10 should include at least some of the new options.
3. Save on battery use
For laptop users, Windows 10 comes with an official Battery saver feature for the first time, which you can find in the System section of Settings (there’s also an estimate of how long your battery is likely to last). You can turn the Battery saver mode on or off manually, or have it kick in automatically when your battery gets down to a certain level — click the Battery saver settings link to change this level from the default 20%, and to specify certain apps that are exempt from the various power-saving features.
4. Add extra desktops
Windows 10 brings with it native support for “virtual” desktops — that means you can set up your app windows across a series of desktops rather than sticking with one (the taskbar and desktop shortcuts remain constant). You could have one desktop for work and one for entertainment, for example. Click or tap the Task View button (next to search on the taskbar) or press Windows Key+Tab on the keyboard to view, create and remove virtual desktops. You can also click on the individual app thumbnails to switch between them.
5. Snap to corners
Sticking with the theme of screen layouts and organisation, Microsoft has upgraded the window snapping function introduced with Windows 8: as well as snapping windows to either side of the display, you can now snap them into the corners too. To try it, drag an open window into the corner of the display; you can also hold down the Windows Key and tap the cursor keys if you prefer. If you like having your Windows 10 apps precisely arranged and want to make full use of your screen’s resolution, it’s a handy feature.
6. Save maps for offline use
This is a tip that’s more useful on smartphones, but tablets and laptops can benefit from it as well: Windows 10 lets you save maps to your device in case you should lose a Wi-Fi or data connection while you’re trying to scout out the nearby area. Head to the Settings app then choose System and Offline maps to choose which maps to download (each region comes with an estimate of how much storage space will be taken up). You can then launch and use the Maps app whether or not you can get online.
7. Analyse the hard drive
Windows 10 brings with it a new interface for viewing the contents of your hard drive, making it much easier for you to see how all of those gigabytes are being used. From the Settings app, click or tap on System, pick the Storage option and choose the drive you want to take a closer look at — the next screen breaks up used storage space into pictures, documents, videos, email, music and so on, provided all of this content is saved into the appropriate folders. Click or tap on a particular entry in the list for more details.
8. Fix default app associationsThe default app for a particular file type is the one that opens when you double-click on a file saved in that format (so Word opens for .doc files, for example). The Windows 10 upgrade process can break some of these associations, and the easiest way to get them back is by opening the Settings app from the Start menu and following the System link. Head to the Default apps page and you can make any necessary changes, as well as resetting file associations back to their “Microsoft recommended” ones if required.
9. Access the alternative Start menu
Right-click on the Start menu button to bring up an alternative one — it’s not quite as user-friendly but it offers quick access to some of the most important areas of the system, including the Device Manager utility, the command prompt window and the old legacy Control Panel. You can access the Task Manager as well as the system search and the Run box from here too. This alternative menu was available in Windows 8 as well, and you can also launch it by pressing Windows Key+X.