Master the desktop
The Windows 10 desktop can be at once both familiar and alien. Discover how to make the most of its best features
The Windows desktop has undergone some radical changes over the past few years, but after experimenting with Windows 8’s Metro user interface – which was rapidly scaled back in Windows 8.1 – Windows 10 has returned the desktop to something closer to Windows 7. This means the desktop has returned to its original function – as a virtual desk. You can use it as a simple backdrop when switching between application windows, or keep shortcuts, files and folders on it for easy access (right-click on it and choose Personalise to change its look and feel).
Adding items to the desktop is simple enough – just drag them from a File Explorer window following the tips on page 16. You can also create desktop shortcuts by right-clicking the file or folder in question and choosing ‘Send to‘ > ‘Desktop (create shortcut)’. While this is convenient, your Windows desktop can quickly become messy, and get buried beneath any application windows that you have open.
Where to place shortcuts
An alternative route to follow is to keep the desktop clutter-free – simply right-click the desktop, choose View and untick ‘Show desktop icons’ to hide everything without removing it. You can then store shortcuts using other desktop elements, such as the Start menu or the Taskbar. The most visible place is the Taskbar – ‘pin’ a program here and you’ll be able to access it with a single click from anywhere.
To pin items, open a program window so its icon appears in the Taskbar, then right-click the icon and choose ‘Pin to taskbar’. Once pinned, simply drag items around to reorder them. You can also pin items from elsewhere – right-click a program’s Start menu shortcut and look under the More menu or click and drag a program file or shortcut from File Explorer on to the Taskbar itself.
There’s also the Start menu for shortcuts – the step-by-step guide on the facing page includes steps for pinning shortcuts to the Start menu in addition to customising it in other ways. Also take the time to right-click the Start button to reveal a list of handy shortcuts to system tools and settings – this Quick Access menu can also be invoked by pressing the [Win] + [X] keys.
More Taskbar tricks
The Windows 10 Taskbar also includes shortcuts to Cortana (covered on page 17) and Task View, which enables you to view all open windows in a grid-like view, making it easy to switch between them. Task View also enables you to organise your windows into multiple virtual desktops, then switch between them. Either click ‘New desktop’ to create a blank desktop, or right-click a window in Task View and choose ‘Move to’ and select an existing desktop or create a new one from scratch.
In the right-hand corner of the Taskbar sits the notification area. You’ll see a selection of small app icons providing updates and access to key apps and settings. Many programs set to start with Windows hide away here, enabling you to right-click them to access their features, tweak their settings or simply exit the program completely. Click the ‘^’ button on the left to reveal ‘hidden’ app icons. Just drag icons from here on to the notification area to pin them permanently, or vice versa to hide them from view. More options for configuring these can be found under Settings > Personalisation > Taskbar – click ‘Select which icons appear on the taskbar’.
In the far right-hand corner is the Action Centre, which is Windows 10’s notifications system. Click the button to view a slide-out window that provides notifications from a range of sources. These are displayed chronologically, and many come with buttons for taking further action. At the bottom of the Action Centre are a series of buttons giving you quick and easy access to certain functions such as ‘Night light’, as well as system shortcuts.
Again, the Action Centre is fully configurable to your personal needs – choose which buttons are displayed, plus control how notifications behave by visiting Start > Settings > System > ‘Notifications & actions’.
“Click the button to view a slide-out window that provides notifications from a range of sources”
The Windows 10 desktop can easily be customised.
You can easily set up and manage multiple virtual desktops using Windows 10’s Task View.