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Windows 10: The Missing Manual by David Pogue

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Chapter 1. Desktop & Start Menu

These days, the graphic user interface (the colorful world of icons, windows, and menus) is standard. Mac, Windows, Chrome OS, Linux—every operating system is fundamentally the same, which is to say a very long way from the lines of typed commands that defined the earliest computers.

Windows 10 restores the desktop to its traditional importance, following a weird three-year detour into “what the heck” land known as Windows 8. The desktop is once again your only home base, your single starting point. It’s the view that greets you when the computer turns on, and it offers all the tools you need to manage and organize your files.

Herewith: a grand tour of the state of the art in computer desktops—the one in Windows 10.

The Lock Screen

When you turn on a Windows 10 machine, you know right away that you’re not in Kansas anymore. The first thing you see is a colorful curtain that’s been drawn over the computer’s world. It’s the Lock screen (Figure 1-1).

The Lock screen serves the same purpose it does on a phone: It gives a quick glance at the time, the date, your WiFi signal strength, the weather, and (on laptops and tablets) your battery charge. As you download and install new apps, they can add informational tidbits to this Lock screen, too.

The point is that sometimes you don’t really need to wake the machine up. You just want to know what time it is.

The Lock screen can also give you instant access to your Camera and Skype apps (Camera and Skype). You might want to take a picture or answer a call without having to go through the red tape of fully logging in.

You can control which apps are allowed to add information to the Lock screen in Settings (like the weather report shown here).You’re not stuck with the Lock screen photo as Mother Microsoft has installed it, either. You can change the picture, if you like, or you can eliminate it altogether. Chapter 4 has the details.

Figure 1-1. You can control which apps are allowed to add information to the Lock screen in Settings (like the weather report shown here). You’re not stuck with the Lock screen photo as Mother Microsoft has installed it, either. You can change the picture, if you like, or you can eliminate it altogether. Chapter 4 has the details.

When you do want to go past the Lock screen to log in, there’s nothing to it. Almost anything you do that says, “I’m here!” works:

  • Touchscreen: Swipe a finger upward. (Swipe downward to jump into Camera mode.)

  • Mouse: Click anywhere. Or turn the mouse wheel.

  • Keyboard: Press any key.

The Lock screen slides up and out of the way, revealing the Login screen (Figure 1-2, top).

Tip

You can change the photo background of the Lock screen, make it a slideshow, or fiddle with which information appears here; see Customizing the Lock Screen. You can even eliminate the Lock screen altogether—after all, it’s an extra click every time you log in. For step-by-step instructions, see “Eliminating the Windows 10 Lock Screen,” a free downloadable PDF appendix on this book’s “Missing CD” page at www.missingmanuals.com.

The Login Screen

As in any modern operating system, you have your own account in Windows. It’s your world of files, settings, and preferences. So the second thing you encounter in Windows 10 is the Login screen. Here, at lower left, you see the name and photo for each person who has an account on this machine (Figure 1-2). Choose yours.

This is also where you’re supposed to log in—to prove that you’re you. But logging in no longer has to mean typing a password. One of Windows 10’s primary goals is to embrace touchscreens, and typing is a pain on tablets.

Lower left: If your machine has more than one account set up, tap or click your icon to sign in.Top right: Typing is so 2009! In Windows 10, you can log into your account using any of several more touchscreen-friendly methods, like drawing three predetermined lines on a photograph.

Figure 1-2. Lower left: If your machine has more than one account set up, tap or click your icon to sign in. Top right: Typing is so 2009! In Windows 10, you can log into your account using any of several more touchscreen-friendly methods, like drawing three predetermined lines on a photograph.

Therefore, you can log in using any of these techniques:

  • Just look at your screen. On laptops or tablets with Intel’s RealSense infrared cameras, facial recognition logs you in.

  • Swipe your finger across the fingerprint reader, if your computer has one.

  • Put your eye up to the iris reader, if your machine is so equipped.

  • Draw three lines, taps, or circles on a photo you’ve selected (Figure 1-2, top).

  • Type in a PIN you’ve memorized.

  • Type a traditional password.

  • Skip the security altogether. Jump directly to the desktop when you turn on the machine.

See Chapter 19 for instructions on setting each of these up.

The Desktop

Once you’ve gotten past the security barrier, you finally wind up at the home base of Windows: the desktop. See Figure 1-3 for a refresher course.

You can, and should, make the desktop look like whatever you want. You can change its background picture or color scheme; you can make the text larger; you can clutter up the whole thing with icons you use a lot. Chapter 4 is a crash course in desktop interior decoration.

The desktop returns in Windows 10 as everybody’s starting place. It’s once again the first thing you see after you log in. It has a shiny, clean, new look, but the time-honored landmarks—Start menu, taskbar, system tray—are just where they’ve always been.

Figure 1-3. The desktop returns in Windows 10 as everybody’s starting place. It’s once again the first thing you see after you log in. It has a shiny, clean, new look, but the time-honored landmarks—Start menu, taskbar, system tray—are just where they’ve always been.

Meet the Start Menu

Windows is composed of 50 million lines of computer code, scattered across your hard drive in thousands of files. The vast majority of them are not for you; they’re support files, there for behind-the-scenes use by Windows and your applications. They may as well bear a sticker reading, “No user-serviceable parts inside.”

That’s why the Start menu is so important (Figure 1-4). It lists every useful piece of software on your computer, including commands, programs, and files. Just about everything you do on your PC begins—or can begin—with your Start menu.

In Windows 10, as you’ve probably noticed, the word “Start” doesn’t actually appear on the Start menu, as it did for years; now the Start menu is just a square button in the lower-left corner of your screen, bearing the Windows logo (). But it’s still called the Start menu, and it’s still the gateway to everything on the PC.

If you’re the type who bills by the hour, you can open the Start menu (Figure 1-3, lower left) by clicking it with the mouse. If you feel that life’s too short, however, tap the key on the keyboard instead, or the button if it’s a tablet.

Really, truly: Learn this. Tap to open the Start menu (or to close it!).

The Start menu (Figure 1-4) is split into two columns. For convenience, let’s call them the left side and the right side.

Here it is, the single biggest change in Windows 10: the new, hybrid Start menu. The left side gives you direct access to apps you use frequently, or that you’ve installed recently, as well as important commands and places like Power and “All apps.” The right side is yours to customize.

Figure 1-4. Here it is, the single biggest change in Windows 10: the new, hybrid Start menu. The left side gives you direct access to apps you use frequently, or that you’ve installed recently, as well as important commands and places like Power and “All apps.” The right side is yours to customize.

Note

If your computer is a tablet, and it has no physical keyboard at all, then it may start up in Windows 10’s new Tablet mode. In this mode, the right side of the Start menu fills the entire screen, and the left side doesn’t appear unless you tap the in the top-left corner. For details on Tablet mode, see Chapter 13.

Start Menu: The Left Side

The most amazing thing about the Windows 10 Start menu is that Windows 10 has a Start menu—something that’s been missing since Windows 7. The left side, or something like it, has been with Windows from the beginning. The right side is a pared-back version of the Start screen that distinguished Windows 8.

The left side may look like the Start menu that’s been in Windows from the beginning (except during that one unfortunate three-year Windows 8 phase). But there’s a big difference: In Windows 10, you can’t use it to list your own favorite programs, folders, and files. (That’s what the right side is for.) The left side is meant to be managed and run entirely by Windows itself.

The left side has five sections, described here from top to bottom:

[Your name]

See your account name and picture in the upper-left corner of the Start menu (Figure 1-5)?

Your account icon isn’t just an icon; it’s also a pop-up menu. Click it to see the “Sign out” and “Lock” commands, as well as a shortcut to your account settings.

Figure 1-5. Your account icon isn’t just an icon; it’s also a pop-up menu. Click it to see the “Sign out” and “Lock” commands, as well as a shortcut to your account settings.

That’s not just helpful information. The picture is also a pop-up menu. And its commands all have to do with switching from one account to another. (In Windows’ accounts feature, each person who uses this PC gets to see her own desktop picture, email account, files, and so on. See Chapter 19.) Here’s what they do.

Tip

Some keystrokes from previous Windows versions are still around. For example, you can still press Ctrl+Alt+Delete to summon the three commands described here: “Lock,” “Switch user,” and “Sign out”—plus a bonus link for the Task Manager (Exiting Programs).

  • Change account settings takes you directly to the Settings→Account screen, where you can change your account picture, password, login method, and other details of your account—and you can create accounts for other family members.

  • Lock. This command takes you back to the Lock screen described at the beginning of this chapter. In essence, it throws a sheet of inch-thick steel over everything you were doing, hiding your screen from view. This is an ideal way to protect your PC from nosy people who happen to wander by your desk while you’re away getting coffee or lunch.

    Whatever you had running remains open behind the scenes. When you log in again, you’ll find all your open programs and documents exactly as you left them.

  • Sign out. When you choose “Sign out,” Windows closes all your open programs and documents (giving you an opportunity to save any unsaved documents first). It then presents a new Login screen so that somebody else can log in.

Most Used

Beneath your name icon, you get a list of the programs that Windows sees you using a lot. Windows computes this list automatically and continuously. It’s a really great feature, because, well, if you’ve been using something a lot recently, you’ll probably use it a lot more still, and now you don’t have to burrow around looking for it.

On the other hand, if you’d rather not have Windows track what you’re doing, you can get rid of this list, or just certain items on it; see the box below.

If you see a submenu arrow (>) next to a program’s name in the Start menu, congrats. You’ve just found a jump list, a feature that gives you quick access to documents you’ve opened recently. See Jump Lists in the Taskbar for details on creating, deleting, and working with jump lists.

Tip

So how does Windows decide what to put into the “Most used” list? It’s an algorithm, Microsoft says, one that it intends to keep refining to make the list more useful. One thing is for sure, though: Any app you’ve put onto the right side of the Start menu doesn’t appear in the “Most used” list. Microsoft figures you don’t need to see its name twice.

Recently Added

The middle section of the left side shows one item: whatever app you’ve most recently downloaded or installed. It’s surprisingly handy, especially for novices, who often download something from the Internet and then can’t find where it landed.

If you’ve installed more than one new app recently, open the “All apps” list described below; the little “New” indicators show you which are the recent arrivals.

Tip

It probably goes without saying, but you can hide the “Recently added” section if you like. Open the Start menu; choose Settings→Personalization→Start; turn off “Show recently added apps.” Close Settings.

Important Places

In general, the bottom of the left side is devoted to listing important places on the computer. On a shiny new PC, the list includes these:

  • File Explorer. This “app” is the standard desktop window, showing the contents of your drives and folders (Chapter 2).

  • Settings. Yes, adjusting the settings and preferences of your PC is about six steps quicker now, since Settings is listed right here in the Start menu. Chapter 7 covers Settings in absurd detail.

  • Power. Hard though it may be to believe, there may come a day when you want to shut down or restart your computer. See Change the color.

  • All apps opens the complete master list of all your programs, as described below.

What’s great, though, is that you can add other important folders to this list, following the steps shown in Figure 1-6. These are some of your options:

  • Documents: This command opens up your Documents folder, a very important folder indeed. It’s designed to store just about all the work you do on your PC—everything except music, pictures, and videos, which get folders of their own.

    Of course, you’re welcome to file your documents anywhere on the hard drive, but most programs propose depositing newly created documents into the Documents folder. That principle makes navigation easy. You never have to wonder where you filed something, since all your stuff is sitting right there in Documents.

    Note

    The Documents folder actually sits in the This PC Local Disk (C:) Users [Your Name] folder.

    If you study that path carefully, it should become clear that what’s in Documents when you log in isn’t the same thing other people will see when they log in. That is, each account holder (Chapter 19) has a different Documents folder, whose contents switch according to who’s logged in.

  • Downloads. For decades, computer novices have been baffled: They download something from the web but then can’t find where it went. Now you’ll know. Out of the box, Windows puts your downloaded files into this Downloads folder (which is inside your Personal folder). It makes perfect sense to add this item to your Start menu so you have quick access to it.

    You can add other important folders to your Start menu. Choose →Settings. In the Settings window (top right), choose Personalization. On the next screen, click Start. Finally, click “Choose which folders appear on Start” (middle). Up pops a list of items like File Explorer, Settings, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, Videos, HomeGroup, and Network, so that you can turn on or off the ones you like (bottom).

    Figure 1-6. You can add other important folders to your Start menu. Choose →Settings. In the Settings window (top right), choose Personalization. On the next screen, click Start. Finally, click “Choose which folders appear on Start” (middle). Up pops a list of items like File Explorer, Settings, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, Videos, HomeGroup, and Network, so that you can turn on or off the ones you like (bottom).

  • Music, Pictures, Videos. Microsoft assumes (correctly) that most people these days use their home computers for managing digital music, photos, and video collections. As you can probably guess, the Music, Pictures, and Videos folders are intended to house them—and these Start menu commands are quick ways to open them.

    In fact, whatever software came with your phone, digital camera, or MP3 player probably dumps your photos into, and sucks your music files out of, these folders automatically. You’ll find much more on photos and music in Chapter 8.

  • HomeGroup is Microsoft’s name for an easy file-sharing system. It lets you see what’s on other computers on your home network, so that you can shove folders and files back and forth without running all over the house with a flash drive. This command opens the HomeGroup window (HomeGroups).

  • Network opens (what else?) the Network folder, where you can see a map of your home or office network and make changes to the settings. See Chapter 20.

  • Personal folder. As the box below makes clear, Windows keeps all your stuff—your files, folders, email, pictures, music, bookmarks, even settings and preferences—in one handy, central location: your Personal folder. This folder bears your name, or whatever account name you typed when you installed Windows.

    Everyone with an account on your PC has a Personal folder.

    Technically, your Personal folder lurks inside the C:→Users folder. But that’s a lot of burrowing when you just want a view of your empire. That’s why your Personal folder can also be installed here.

All Apps

When you click “All apps” at the bottom of the Start menu, you’re shown an important list indeed: the master catalog of every program on your computer (Figure 1-7). You can jump directly to your word processor, calendar, or favorite game, for example, just by choosing its name in this scrolling list. As a handy bonus, the word “New” appears beneath the name of any new programs—ones you’ve installed but haven’t yet used.

You can restore the original left-side column by clicking Back (at the bottom of the list).

Tip

You can also open the “All apps” menu with a quick swipe upward anywhere on the left side of the Start menu—either with the mouse, trackpad, or your finger on a touchscreen. Try it!

There are even more ways to open “All apps” if the Start menu is already open. Click the phrase “All apps,” or point to it and keep the mouse still for a moment, or press the , key (to highlight “All apps”). Then tap the Enter key, the key, or the space bar. Just for keyboard fanatics: Once the “All apps” list is open, you can also choose anything in it without involving the mouse. Just press the and keys to highlight the item you want (or type a few letters of its name). Then press Enter to seal the deal.

The “All apps” list used to be called All Programs, of course, but Microsoft had to go with the lingo of those crazy kids today. But there is one handy trick in Windows 10 that never existed before: You can now jump around in the list using an alphabetic index, shown at right in Figure 1-7.

Left: When the “All apps” list is visible, your apps are grouped alphabetically. Turns out that those letter headings (A, B, C…) are also buttons. When you click one, Windows offers you a grid of the entire alphabet (right). Click a letter to jump directly to that section of the “All apps” list. If you have a lot of programs, this trick can save you a lot of scrolling.

Figure 1-7. Left: When the “All apps” list is visible, your apps are grouped alphabetically. Turns out that those letter headings (A, B, C…) are also buttons. When you click one, Windows offers you a grid of the entire alphabet (right). Click a letter to jump directly to that section of the “All apps” list. If you have a lot of programs, this trick can save you a lot of scrolling.

Folders

As you’ll quickly discover, the “All apps” list doesn’t list just programs. It also houses a number of folders. See Figure 1-8.

Tip

Submenus, also known as cascading menus, largely have been eliminated from the Start menu. Instead, when you open something that contains other things—like a folder listed in the Start menu—you see its contents listed beneath, indented slightly, as shown at right in Figure 1-8. Click the folder name again to collapse the sublisting.

Keyboard freaks should note that you can also open a highlighted folder in the list by pressing the Enter key (or the key). Close the folder by pressing Enter again (or the key).

You know when you’re looking at a folder in the “All apps” list because a appears to the right of its name (left). Click the folder’s name to expand the listing—to see what’s hiding inside. (You don’t have to click right on the .) When the folder is expanded, the symbol changes to , just in case you didn’t get the point.

Figure 1-8. You know when you’re looking at a folder in the “All apps” list because a appears to the right of its name (left). Click the folder’s name to expand the listing—to see what’s hiding inside. (You don’t have to click right on the .) When the folder is expanded, the symbol changes to , just in case you didn’t get the point.

  • Software-company folders. Some of these folders bear the names of software you’ve installed; you might see a folder called, for example, PowerSoft or Logitech. These generally contain programs, uninstallers, instruction manuals, and other related junk.

  • Program-group folders. Another set of folders is designed to trim down the Programs menu by consolidating related programs, like Games, Accessories (little single-purpose programs), and Maintenance. Everything in these folders is described in Chapter 8.

How to Customize the Left Side

You can’t add anything to the left side yourself, which is a big change from Windows 7. Nor can you change the order of anything here.

You do, however, have three opportunities to redesign the left side:

  • Eliminate the “Most used” list (or certain items in it). See the box on Getting Rid of the “Most Used” List.

  • Move something to Start or the taskbar. Suppose there’s some app—say, Calculator—that’s listed in “Most used” or the “All apps” list. And you think you’d rather have it installed on your taskbar, visible at all times. Or you think it’d work best as a tile on the right side.

    Turns out you can right-click its name on the left side. From the shortcut menu, choose “Pin to taskbar” or “Pin to Start.” It disappears from the “Most used” list (if that’s where it was) and goes where you sent it.

    Tip

    If you have a touchscreen, you can “right-click” something by holding your finger down on it for one second.

  • Add certain Windows folders to the Important Places list. You do that in Settings, as described on Recently Added.

Tip

How cool is this? You can uninstall a program right from the “All apps” list. Just right-click it (or hold your finger down on it); from the shortcut menu, choose Uninstall. Confirm in the dialog box that appears. (You can’t uninstall apps that came with Windows 10 this way—only stuff you’ve added.

Start Menu: The Right Side

The right side of the Start menu is all that remains of the Great Touchscreen Experiment of 2012, during which Microsoft expected every PC on earth to come with a touchscreen. Instead of a Start menu, you got a Start screen, stretching from edge to edge of your monitor, displaying your files, folders, and programs as big rectangular tiles.

Unfortunately, the Start screen covered up your entire screen, blocking whatever you were working on. It was horribly space-inefficient—finding a new program you’d downloaded often meant scrolling several screens to the right. And it just felt detached from the rest of the Windows world.

Turns out most people preferred the Start menu.

There were some nice aspects of the Start-screen idea, though. For one thing, it’s more than just a launcher. It’s also a dashboard. Each tile isn’t just a button that opens the corresponding program; it’s also a little display—a live tile, as Microsoft calls it—that can show you real-time information from that program. The Calendar tile shows you your next appointment. Your Mail tile shows the latest incoming subject line. The People tile shows Twitter and Facebook posts as they pour in.

Tip

Not all Start menu tiles display their own names. Some apps, like the ones for Calendar, People, and Mail, are meant to be visual dashboards. To find out such an app’s name, point to it with your cursor without clicking. A tinted, rectangular tooltip bar appears, identifying the name.

So in Windows 10, Microsoft decided to retain those colorful live tiles—on the right side of the Start menu (Figure 1-9).

As you drag the top or right edge of the Right Side of the Start menu, you see it snap to a larger size once you’ve moved your cursor far enough. You don’t have an infinite degree of freedom here; you can only double the width or, if you have one of those rare Samsung Billboard Monitors, maybe triple it.You can also adjust the height of the Start menu—by dragging the top edge. You can goose it all the way to the top of your screen, or you can squish it down to mushroom height.

Figure 1-9. As you drag the top or right edge of the Right Side of the Start menu, you see it snap to a larger size once you’ve moved your cursor far enough. You don’t have an infinite degree of freedom here; you can only double the width or, if you have one of those rare Samsung Billboard Monitors, maybe triple it. You can also adjust the height of the Start menu—by dragging the top edge. You can goose it all the way to the top of your screen, or you can squish it down to mushroom height.

You can make this scrolling “column” bigger; you can even make it fill the screen, as it did in Windows 8; or you can hide it completely. But the point is that this time, it’s up to you. The “Start screen” takes over your world only as much as you want it to.

Tip

If you’re keyboard oriented, you can use the arrow keys to highlight the icon you want and then press the Enter key to open it.

How to Customize the Right Side

The left side is really Windows’ playground; you can’t do much to change it.

The right side, however, is your playground. You can customize it in lots of different ways. If your current job doesn’t work out, you could become a full-time right-side customizer.

Make the right side bigger or smaller

If you have a mouse or a trackpad, you can make the right side of the Start menu either wider or taller; just grab the right edge or the top edge and drag. (In the initial release of Windows 10, you can’t enlarge the Start menu with your finger on a touchscreen.)

Make the right side fill the screen

Maybe you were one of the 11 people who actually liked Windows 8, including the way it had a Start screen instead of a Start menu. Well, that look is still available.

Right-click anywhere on the desktop. (Touchscreen: Hold your finger down on the desktop.) From the shortcut menu, choose Personalize. On the Settings screen, click Start, and then click turn on “Use Start full screen.”

In this mode, the left side of the Start menu is gone. The live tiles fill your entire desktop (which is handy for touchscreens).

Note

If your goal is to use Windows 10 on a tablet, you don’t need to do all this. Just turn on Tablet mode (Chapter 13). In Tablet mode, the Start screen is standard and automatic.

Move a tile

You can, of course, drag the right side’s tiles into a new order, putting the personal back into personal computer.

With the Start menu open, just drag the tile to a new spot. The other tiles scoot out of the way to make room.

That works fine if you have a mouse or a trackpad. But if you’re using a touchscreen, that instruction leaves out a key fact: Dragging scrolls the right side! Instead, hold your finger down on the tile for half a second before dragging it.

Resize a tile

Tiles come in four sizes: three square sizes and one rectangle. As part of your Start menu interior decoration binge, you may want to make some of them bigger and some of them smaller. Maybe you want to make the important ones rectangular so you can read more information on them. Maybe you want to make the rarely used ones smaller so that more of them fit into a compact space.

Right-click the tile. (Touchscreen: Hold your finger down on the tile; tap the … button that appears.) From the shortcut menu, choose Resize. All icons give you a choice of Small and Medium; some apps offer Wide or Large options, too. See Figure 1-10.

Tiles on the right side come in four sizes: Small (tiny square, no label); Medium (4x the times of Small—room for a name); Wide (twice the width of Medium); and Large (4x the size of Medium). Wide and Large options appear only for apps whose live tiles can display useful information. Drag them around into a mosaic that satisfies your inner Mondrian.

Figure 1-10. Tiles on the right side come in four sizes: Small (tiny square, no label); Medium (4x the times of Small—room for a name); Wide (twice the width of Medium); and Large (4x the size of Medium). Wide and Large options appear only for apps whose live tiles can display useful information. Drag them around into a mosaic that satisfies your inner Mondrian.

Add new tiles

You can add tiles to the right side. They can be apps, folders, or disks (but not individual files). You can use either of two techniques: dragging or right-clicking.

  • The drag method. Drag the icon directly into the open Start menu—from the desktop, an open window, the “All apps” list, or the left side of the Start menu.

  • The right-click method. Right-click an icon wherever fine icons are found: in a window, on the desktop, in the “All apps” list, or on the left side. (Touchscreen: Hold your finger down on the icon for a second.) From the shortcut menu, choose Pin to Start.

Tip

In the Edge browser, you can also add a web page to the right side. With the page open, click the … button at top right; choose Pin to Start.

In each case, the newly installed tile appears at the bottom of the right side. (You might have to scroll to see it.)

Make a tile stop blinking

Some of your right side tiles are live tiles—tiny dashboards that display real-time incoming information. There, on the Mail tile, you see the subject lines of the last few incoming messages; there, on the Calendar tile, is your next appointment; and so on.

It has to be said, though: Altogether, a Start menu filled with blinky, scrolling icons can look a little like Times Square at midnight.

If you’re feeling quite caffeinated enough already, you might not want live tiles so much as, well, dead ones.

If you’d rather silence the animation of a live tile, right-click it. (Touchscreen: Hold your finger down on it, and then tap .) From the shortcut menu, choose “Turn live tile off.” The tile’s current information disappears, and the live updating stops.

To reverse the procedure, “right-click” an unmoving tile; from the shortcut menu, choose “Turn live tile on” instead.

Remove a tile

Open the Start menu. Right-click the tile you want to eliminate. (Touchscreen: Hold your finger down on it, and then tap the … button.) From the shortcut menu, choose Unpin from Start. (You’re not actually discarding that item—just getting its tile off the Start menu.)

Group your tiles

The right side’s tiles aren’t scattered pell-mell; they present an attractive, orderly mosaic. Not only are they mathematically nestled among one another, but they’re actually grouped. Each cluster of related tiles can bear a name, like “Life at a glance” (Calendar, Mail, Weather…) or “Play and explore” (games, music, TV…).

But you can change those headings, or those groupings, and come up with new ones of your own.

The technique isn’t quite obvious, but you’ll get the hang of it (see Figure 1-11). It works like this:

  1. Drag a tile to the very bottom of the existing ones. (Touchscreen: Hold your finger still for a second before dragging.)

    When you drag far enough—the right side might scroll, but keep your finger down—a horizontal bar appears, as shown in Figure 1-11. That’s Windows telling you, “I get it. You want to create a new group right here.”

  2. Drag the tile below the bar and release it.

    Release the tile you’re dragging; it’s now happily setting up the homestead. Go get some other tiles to drag over into the new group to join it, if you like. Build up the group’s population.

  3. Click or tap just above your newly grouped tiles.

    The words “Name group” appear.

  4. Type a name for this group, and then press Enter.

    Your group name is now immortalized.

By the way: Whenever you point to (or tap) the heading of any group, you may notice a little “grip strip” at the right side. If you like, you can drag that strip up or down to move the entire group to a new spot among your existing groups. (Or horizontally, if you have a multicolumn right side.)

Top: To create a new tile group, start by dragging one lonely tile below all other tiles. This is your colonist. A fat horizontal divider bar appears when you’ve gone far enough. Let go.Middle: Point to the starter name (“Name group”) and click.Bottom: Type a name for the group. Use the grip strip to drag the group into a new spot, if you like.

Figure 1-11. Top: To create a new tile group, start by dragging one lonely tile below all other tiles. This is your colonist. A fat horizontal divider bar appears when you’ve gone far enough. Let go. Middle: Point to the starter name (“Name group”) and click. Bottom: Type a name for the group. Use the grip strip to drag the group into a new spot, if you like.

At any point, you can rename a group (click or tap its name; type). To eliminate a group, just drag all of its tiles into other groups, one at a time. When the group is empty, its name vanishes into wherever withered, obsolete tile groups go.

Eliminate all tiles

Yes, it’s possible to eliminate the entire right side. If you like your Start menu to look like it did in the good old days, with only the left side showing, you can do that, as shown in Figure 1-12.

Of course, once you’ve done that, you’ve just eliminated one of the most useful ways of opening things on your PC. Now you can open apps only from the left side or the taskbar.

Top: To remove all the tiles from the right side, right-click it and choose Unpin from Start. (Touchscreen: Hold your finger down on the tile, and then tap the … button to see Unpin from Start.) Repeat until you’ve eliminated all the tiles.Middle: Now only the left column remains, just as it was in Windows 7.Bottom: Drag the right edge of the menu inward, closing up the empty space where the right side used to be.

Figure 1-12. Top: To remove all the tiles from the right side, right-click it and choose Unpin from Start. (Touchscreen: Hold your finger down on the tile, and then tap the … button to see Unpin from Start.) Repeat until you’ve eliminated all the tiles. Middle: Now only the left column remains, just as it was in Windows 7. Bottom: Drag the right edge of the menu inward, closing up the empty space where the right side used to be.

Change the color

You can also change colors of the various Start menu elements (and the taskbar, and the Action Center). See Chapter 4 for the step-by-steps.

Turn off ads

From time to time, you may spot a Start-menu tile that you didn’t put there. It’s a suggestion of an app that Microsoft thinks you might like—in other words, an ad.

If you’d prefer Microsoft and its ad partners to keep their darned apps to themselves, open Settings→Personalization→Start, and turn off “Occasionally show suggestions in Start.”

Shutting Down

What should you do when you’re finished using your computer for the moment?

Millions of people shut their PCs off, but they shouldn’t; it’s a colossal waste of time. When you shut down, you have to wait for all your programs to close—and then the next morning, you have to reopen everything, reposition your windows, and get everything back the way you had it.

You shouldn’t just leave your computer on all the time, either. That’s a waste of electricity, a security risk, and a black mark for the environment.

What you should do is put your machine to sleep. If it’s a laptop, just close the lid. If it’s a tablet, just press the Sleep switch. If it’s a desktop PC, it’s usually a matter of pressing the physical power button.

The Sleep/Shut Down/Restart Commands

If you really want to do the sleeping or shutting down thing using the onscreen commands, you’ll be happy to know that in Windows 10, you no longer need 20 minutes and a tour guide to find them. They’re right there in the Start menu, near the bottom. Choose Power to see them.

As shown in Figure 1-13, shutting down is only one of the options for finishing your work session. What follows are your others.

Sleep

Sleep is great. When the flight attendant hands over your pretzels and cranberry cocktail, you can take a break without closing all your programs or shutting down the computer.

Shutting down your computer requires only two steps now, rather than 417 (as in Windows 8).Open the Start menu. Choose Power, and then “Shut down”.

Figure 1-13. Shutting down your computer requires only two steps now, rather than 417 (as in Windows 8). Open the Start menu. Choose Power, and then “Shut down”.

The instant you put the computer to sleep, Windows quietly transfers a copy of everything in memory into an invisible file on the hard drive. But it still keeps everything alive in memory—the battery provides a tiny trickle of power—for when you return and want to dive back into work.

If you do return soon, the next startup is lightning-fast. Everything reappears on the screen faster than you can say, “Redmond, Washington.”

If you don’t return shortly, then Windows eventually cuts power, abandoning what it had memorized in RAM. Now your computer is using no power at all; it’s in hibernate mode.

Fortunately, Windows still has the hard drive copy of your work environment. So now when you tap a key to wake the computer, you may have to wait 30 seconds or so—not as fast as 2 seconds, but certainly better than the 5 minutes it would take to start up, reopen all your programs, reposition your document windows, and so on.

The bottom line: When you’re done working for the moment—or for the day—put your computer to sleep instead of shutting it down. You save power, you save time, and you don’t risk any data loss.

You can send a laptop to sleep just by closing the lid. On any kind of computer, you can trigger Sleep by choosing it from the →Power command, or by pushing the PC’s power button, if you’ve set it up that way, as described below.

Restart

This command quits all open programs and then quits and restarts Windows again automatically. The computer doesn’t actually turn off. You might do this to “refresh” your computer when you notice that it’s responding sluggishly, for example.

Shut down

This is what most people would call “really, really off.” When you shut down your PC, Windows quits all open programs, offers you the opportunity to save any unsaved documents, exits Windows, and turns off the computer.

There’s almost no reason to shut down your PC anymore, though. Sleep is almost always better all the way around.

The only exceptions have to do with hardware installation. Anytime you have to open up the PC to make a change (installing memory, hard drives, or sound or video cards), you should shut the thing down first.

Tip

If you’re a keyboardy sort of person, you might prefer this faster route to shut down: Press Ctrl+Alt+Delete to summon the Lock/Switch User screen, and then Tab your way over to the button in the lower right. Press Enter, and arrow-key your way to Shut down. Press Enter again.

Three Triggers for Sleep/Shut Down—and How to Change Them

You now know how to trigger the Shut down command using the Start menu→Power button. But there are even faster ways.

If you have a laptop, just close the lid. If it’s a tablet, tap its Sleep switch. If you have a desktop PC, press its power button ().

In each of these cases, though—menu, lid, switch, or button—you can decide whether the computer shuts down, goes to sleep, hibernates, or just ignores you.

To find the factory setting that controls what happens when you close the lid or hit the power button, click in the “Ask me anything” search box and type lid.

In the search results, the top hit is “Change what closing the lid does.” Press Enter to select it.

Now you arrive at the “Define power buttons” screen. Here, for each option (pressing the power button; pressing the Sleep button, if you have one; closing the lid), you can choose “Sleep,” “Do nothing,” “Hibernate,” “Shut down,” or “Turn off the display.”

And you can set up different behaviors for when the machine is plugged in and when it’s running on battery power.

Navigating the Start Menu by Keyboard

If your computer has a physical keyboard—you old-timer, you!—you can navigate and control the Start menu in either of two ways:

Use the Arrow Keys

Once the Start menu is open, you can use the arrow keys to “walk” up and down the menu. For example, press to enter the left-side column from the bottom. Or press and then to enter the right side.

Either way, once you’ve highlighted something in either column, you can press the or keys to hop to the opposite side of the menu, or press the or keys to highlight other commands in the column (even the Power command or “All apps”). (You can no longer type the first initial of something to select it.)

Once you’ve highlighted something, you can press Enter to “click” it (open it), or tap the key or Esc to close the Start menu and forget the whole thing.

Use the Search Box

This thing is awesome. The instant you press the key, your insertion point blinks in the new “Ask me anything” search box below the Start menu (Figure 1-13).

Note

If you click in the “Ask me anything” search box instead of pressing , you get a panel full of news, weather, and other details Windows thinks might be relevant to your life. That’s all part of Cortana, the voice assistant described in Chapter 5.

That’s your cue that you can now begin typing the name of whatever you want to open.

Note

The search box used to be part of the Start menu. Now it’s actually part of the taskbar. It still takes you one click, tap, or keystroke to highlight it for typing—but because it’s always visible, it seems more present and useful. You know?

The instant you start to type, you trigger Windows’ very fast, whole-computer search function. This search can find files, folders, programs, email messages, address book entries, calendar appointments, pictures, movies, PDF documents, music files, web bookmarks, and Microsoft Office documents, among other things.

It also finds anything in the Start menu, making it a very quick way to pull up something without having to click through a bunch of submenus.

You can read the meaty details about search in Chapter 3.

Jump Lists in the Start Menu

Jump lists are submenus that list frequently used commands and files in each of your programs for quick access.

For example, the jump list for a web browser might offer commands like “New window” and “Close window”; the jump list for a Microsoft Office program (like Word) might list documents you’ve edited lately.

In other words, jump lists can save you time when you want to resume work on something you had open recently. They save you burrowing through folders.

Now, jump lists can appear either in the Start menu (in the “Most used” section) or on your taskbar. Jump Lists in the Taskbar describes the taskbar versions, but here’s a quick rundown on the Start menu versions.

Recently Opened Documents

The left side of the Start menu—the “Most used” section—keeps track of recently used documents automatically, as shown in Figure 1-14. This list of Recent documents changes as your workflow does; documents drop off the list if you don’t open them much anymore.

You can, however, pin a document to its jump list, meaning that it won’t disappear even if you never open it. Figure 1-14 shows the technique.

Jump lists display the most recently opened documents in each program. Click the > button to see them.To pin one of these document s so that it won’t disappear on you, point to it without clicking, as shown here, and then click the pushpin icon. Now there’s a new section in the jump list called Pinned, where that document will remain undisturbed until you unpin it (by clicking the pushpin again).

Figure 1-14. Jump lists display the most recently opened documents in each program. Click the > button to see them. To pin one of these document s so that it won’t disappear on you, point to it without clicking, as shown here, and then click the pushpin icon. Now there’s a new section in the jump list called Pinned, where that document will remain undisturbed until you unpin it (by clicking the pushpin again).

The Secret Start Menu

Windows 10’s new (old) Start button harbors a secret: It can sprout a tiny utility menu, as shown in Figure 1-15.

To see it, right-click the button, or (on a touchscreen) hold your finger down on it.

Tip

Or press +X to make the secret Start menu appear (if you have a keyboard, of course).

This secret little menu of options appears when you right-click the button. It’s a shortcut to the Task Manager and the Control Panel, among other things.

Figure 1-15. This secret little menu of options appears when you right-click the button. It’s a shortcut to the Task Manager and the Control Panel, among other things.

There, in all its majesty, is the secret Start menu. It’s seething with shortcuts to toys for the technically inclined.

All the items in it are described elsewhere in this book, but some are especially useful to have at your mousetip:

  • System opens a window that provides every possible detail about your machine.

  • Control Panel is the quickest known method to get to the desktop Control Panel, described in Chapter 7.

  • Task Manager. Huge. This special screen (Exiting Programs) is your lifeline when a program seems to be locked up. Thanks to the Task Manager, you can quit that app and get on with your life.

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