Even Microsoft admits it now: Windows 8 was a huge mistake. It was, in essence, two radically different operating systems, superimposed (see Figure 1). There was the regular desktop, which worked a lot like the popular Windows 7. And then, lying over it, there was a new, colorful world of tiles and modern typography—I called it “TileWorld,” since Microsoft didn’t have a name for it—that was designed for the new world of touchscreen tablets and laptops.
Unfortunately, the result was two web browsers, two Control Panels, two mail programs, two ways of doing everything. And, in general, people couldn’t stand it.
In hopes of getting as far away from Windows 8 as possible, Microsoft skipped Windows 9 entirely; there never was a Windows 9. But now there’s Windows 10.
In this new operating system, Microsoft achieved something rather brilliant: It eliminated the split personality of Windows 8 but managed to retain the touch-friendly features. Just in case, you know, the world moves to touchscreen computers after all.
If you’re a PC veteran, then you’ll recognize Windows 10: It’s pretty much Windows 7 with a few new features and nicer typography.
And if you’re relatively new to all this, then get down on your knees beside your bed tonight and thank whatever you believe in that you were spared the emotional and mental whiplash of Microsoft’s changing its mind.
The most radical new feature of Windows 10 is that Microsoft doesn’t consider it a version of Windows. Instead, it’s going to be a work in progress—a continuously improved, living blob of software. The age of service packs—megalithic annual chunks of updates and patches—is over. Instead, Microsoft intends to fix bugs (there are plenty) and add features continuously via quiet, automatic software releases.
That should make life interesting for you, and miserable for people who write computer books.
Figure 1. Windows 8 and 8.1 offered two radically different environments, mashed together onto the same computer: the standard desktop (top) and TileWorld (bottom).
The Start menu. It may have taken four years, but Microsoft finally realized the foolishness and incoherence of the Start screen that, in Windows 8, replaced the Start menu.
In Windows 10, the Start menu is back, and it works pretty much just as it always has—but the Windows 10 tiles are still here, attached to the right side of the menu (Figure 2).
Figure 2. In Windows 10, the right side of the Start menu offers what Microsoft calls live tiles; many of them display useful information without your even having to click, like the weather, news, the latest Twitter tweets and email, and your next calendar appointment.
The main thing is this: The Windows 10 Start menu doesn’t take over your entire screen, interrupting what you were doing, like the Windows 8 Start screen did. It behaves, in other words, like a menu.
All apps work alike. In Windows 8, there were two kinds of programs: the traditional Windows programs like Word, Excel, and Photoshop, and then a new kind designed for touchscreens. These TileWorld apps had no menus. They had no windows, either—each one filled the entire screen. They were available exclusively from Microsoft’s online Windows Store. They tended to be simple in design and function. They were, basically, tablet apps.
They also meant that you had two different kinds of programs to learn.
In Windows 10, those tablet apps are still around. But they behave just like Windows apps, in that they now float in their own windows. They still look a little different, and there’s still no good name for them. But they’re a lot less confusing now. Some people may never even realize they’re using a different class of app.
Cortana. You know Siri, the voice-activated “assistant” on the iPhone? Or Google Now on Android phones? Well, Microsoft now has Cortana. Same exact idea, except it’s not just on your phone—it’s on your PC, which takes its usefulness to a whole new level. (Cortana is also available on your phone—Windows phones, of course, but even iPhone or Android phones.)
The Edge browser. Microsoft has retired the wrinkly old Internet Explorer browser and replaced it with an all-new, bare-bones one called Edge. It’s designed to eat up very little screen space with controls, so that the web pages you’re reading get as much room as possible. (Internet Explorer is still available.) See Chapter 10.
Task view. With one click on this new taskbar button, all your open windows shrink into index cards (Figure 3), so you can see them all at once—a great way to find a program in a haystack.
Virtual screens. You can now set up multiple “virtual monitors,” each with a certain set of windows open. Maybe you like your email on screen 1, Facebook and Twitter on screen 2, and graphics apps on screen 3. With a simple keystroke (+arrow keys), you can bounce from one simulated monitor to another.
In Windows 10, that logic has been flipped. The newly designed Settings app offers almost every switch and slider you’ll ever need, in a clean, well-organized app. The old Control Panel is still around, filed in a junk drawer somewhere, for the rare occasions when you need an obscure option.
Action Center. This is a panel that pops out from the right side of the screen, listing all recent notifications up top and, at the bottom, one-click buttons for on/off switches like Bluetooth, WiFi, Battery Saver, and Airplane Mode. If you’ve used a Windows phone, or a Mac, you’ve seen this effect before.
Snap four apps at once. Snapping a window, in Windows, means dragging it to the right or left side of your screen, whereupon it snaps there as though magnetically, occupying exactly half the screen. You can then snap a second app in the empty half of the screen.
In Windows 10, you can snap four windows. As a bonus, each time you snap an app, the remaining apps shrink to index cards in the empty space, making it very easy to specify which one you want to snap next.
Universal apps. Windows 10 is designed to look and work the same on every gadget that can run Windows: PCs, tablets, and even phones. In fact, software companies can, if they wish, write their apps in such a way that the same exact program runs on all three kinds of devices. You see the same controls and the same features, auto-squished to whatever screen size you’re using. Word, Excel, and Outlook are all universal apps.
Windows Hello (face or fingerprint login). Instead of typing a password every time you wake your machine, you can just look at it. Windows Hello recognizes your face and logs you in, without your ever having to touch the computer.
This feature works only on machines equipped with an Intel RealSense camera, which rules out any pre-2015 computers. But Windows can also log you in with your fingerprint, if your machine has a fingerprint reader. Or even your eyeball iris, once someone sells a computer with an iris scanner.
Continuum (Tablet mode). If you own a convertible tablet—one with a detachable keyboard, like one of Microsoft’s Surface tablets—then Windows 10 can do something very useful indeed. When you take away the physical keyboard, Windows enters Tablet mode, in which everything is bigger and more finger-friendly, each app fills the entire screen, and an onscreen keyboard pops up automatically. More on Tablet mode in Chapter 13.
Xbox streaming. If you have an Xbox game console—downstairs in your living room, for example—you can now play its games anywhere else in the house on your tablet or laptop. The game’s audio and video are streamed from the console to you, wirelessly. The rest of the family can watch TV in peace, completely unaware that you’re blissing out on Halo up in your office.
Rejiggered File Explorer. The basic desktop folder window—once called Windows Explorer, now called File Explorer—has had a makeover. The list at the left side now displays frequently accessed disks, folders, and files. The sharing controls on the Ribbon at the top have been cleaned up, too.
A whole lotta misc. The taskbar at the bottom of your screen comes with newly designed app icons, and the system tray at the far right comes set to hide all but the most important icons.
You can now resize the command-prompt window and use keyboard shortcuts in it for Copy and Paste. When Windows downloads an update that requires you to restart the PC, you can now specify when you want that restart to happen. Windows 10 comes with DirectX 12, Microsoft’s graphics software, which can speed up games and professional graphics programs that are rewritten to exploit it. There’s a new Phone Companion app that lets you sync photos and music between your phone (even an iPhone or Android phone) and your PC.
If you’re used to Windows 7 or something even earlier, then it’s probably worth reading about all the good things Microsoft added in Windows 8—which still rear their lovely heads in Windows 10:
Smartphone features. Some of Windows’ features are adapted from smartphones, like a Lock screen that shows your battery level and the time, a Refresh command that resets Windows to its factory-fresh condition without disturbing any of your files, and a Reset command that erases it completely (great when you’re about to sell your PC to someone).
And there’s an app store that’s modeled on the iPhone App Store, for ease of downloading new apps that Microsoft has approved and certified to be virus-free.
It’s touchscreen friendly. Microsoft strongly believes that, someday soon, all computers will have touchscreens—not just tablets, but laptops and desktop computers, too. So Windows is filled with touchscreen gestures that work as they do on phones. Tap to click. Pinch or spread two fingers on a photo to zoom in or out. Log in by drawing lines over a photo you’ve chosen instead of typing a password.
It’s cloudy. Your login account can now be stored online—“in the cloud,” as the marketers like to say. Why? Because now you can sit down at any Windows 8 or 10 computer anywhere, log in, and find all your settings just the way you left them at home: your address book, calendar, desktop wallpaper, web bookmarks, email accounts, and so on.
It’s beribboned. The mishmash of menus and toolbars in desktop windows (called File Explorer) has been replaced by the Ribbon: a big, fat toolbar atop each window that displays buttons for every possible thing you can do in that window, without hunting.
It comes with free virus software. You read that right. Antivirus software is now free and built-in.
File History lets you rewind any file to a time before it was deleted, damaged, or edited beyond recognition.
BitLocker to Go can put a password on a flash drive—great for corporate data that shouldn’t get loose.
Windows To Go (available in the Enterprise version) lets you put an entire PC world—Windows, drivers, programs, documents—on a flash drive. You can plug it into any PC anywhere and find yourself at home—or, rather, at work. And you can use your own laptop without your overlords worrying that you might be corrupting their precious network with outside evilware.
Narrator, a weird, sad, old feature that would read your error messages to you out loud, has been transformed into a full-blown screen reader for people with impaired vision. It can describe every item on the screen. It can describe the layout of a web page, and it makes little sounds to confirm that you’ve performed touchscreen gestures correctly.
Storage Spaces lets you trick Windows into thinking that several hard drives are one big drive, or vice versa, and simultaneously gives you the incredible data safety of a corporate RAID system.
New apps. All-new apps include Alarms & Clock, Calculator, Voice Recorder, Maps, Movies & TV, Sports—and Reading List, which lets you round up web articles and other materials onto a single, handsome, magazine-style layout.
On the other hand, a few Windows 8 apps have been eliminated on the way to Windows 10, including Food & Drink, Health & Fitness, and Xbox Music (it’s now called Groove).
Customization. You can dress up your desktop, Start screen, and Lock screen in more ways now. Your Lock screen can be a slideshow, for example.
OneDrive integration. When you save a new document, Windows offers you a choice of location: either your computer or your OneDrive (a free, 15-gigabyte online “hard drive”). (OneDrive used to be called SkyDrive.)
Miracast. You send video from your PC to TV sets that have Miracast wireless features—great for streaming movies or YouTube videos to your TV.
Miscellaneous overhauls. The Task Manager has been beautifully redesigned. Parental controls have blossomed into a flexible, powerful tool called Family Safety, offering everything from web protection to daily time limits for youngsters. The Recovery Environment—the screens you use to troubleshoot at startup time—have been beautified, simplified, and reorganized.
Only two versions are for sale to the public: Home and Pro. The differences are minor. The Pro version adds high-end features like these:
Accepts incoming Remote Desktop connections.
Can join a corporate network (a Windows Server domain).
Offers the Encrypting File System (lets you encrypt files at the desktop).
Includes BitLocker and BitLocker To Go encryption systems.
Despite the many improvements in Windows over the years, one feature hasn’t improved a bit: Microsoft’s documentation. Not only does Windows 10 come with no printed user guide at all, but, for the first time, it doesn’t even come with a built-in Help system!
When you do find online help, you’ll quickly discover that it’s tersely written, offers very little technical depth, and lacks examples. You can’t mark your place, underline things, or read it in the bathroom. Some of the help screens are actually on Microsoft’s website; you can’t even see them without an Internet connection. Too bad if you’re on a plane somewhere with your laptop.
The purpose of this book, then, is to serve as the manual that should have accompanied Windows. In these pages, you’ll find step-by-step instructions for using almost every Windows feature, including those you may not have understood, let alone mastered.
Incredibly, Microsoft intends for Windows 10 to run pretty much the same on desktop PCs and laptops and tablets and phones. This book covers desktops, laptops, and tablets; the Windows 10 version that runs on phones is just a wee bit too different.
Windows 10: The Missing Manual is designed to accommodate readers at every technical level (except system administrators, who will be happier with a very different sort of book).
The primary discussions are written for advanced-beginner or intermediate PC users. But if you’re using Windows for the first time, special sidebar articles called “Up to Speed” provide all the introductory information you need. If you’re fairly advanced, on the other hand, keep your eye out for similar shaded boxes called “Power Users’ Clinic.” They offer more technical tips, tricks, and shortcuts for the veteran PC fan.
Also, to keep the book under that 3,000-page threshold that consumers seem to care about, a number of the most technical features of Windows 10 are no longer printed here. Instead, they’re now free downloadable chapters at www.missingmanuals.com.
This book is divided into seven parts, each containing several chapters:
Part One, is really book one. These five chapters offer a complete course in the new (old) desktop-based world of Windows 10. Here’s all you need to know about the Start menu, icons and folders, taskbar, Recycle Bin, shortcuts, shortcut menus, Cortana, the Action Center, and other elements of the new world.
Part Two, is dedicated to the proposition that an operating system is a launchpad for programs. Chapter 6, for example, describes how to work with applications and documents in Windows—how to open them, switch among them, swap data between them, use them to create and open files, and so on.
This part also offers an item-by-item discussion of the individual software nuggets that make up this operating system. These include not just the items in Settings (the new Control Panel), but also the long list of free programs Microsoft threw in: Windows Media Player, WordPad, Speech Recognition, and so on.
Part Three, covers all the special Internet-related features of Windows, including setting up your Internet account, Windows Edge (for web browsing), and Mail (for email). Chapter 12 covers Windows’ dozens of Internet fortification features: the firewall, antispyware software, parental controls, and on and on.
Part Four, describes the operating system’s relationship with equipment you can attach to your PC—scanners, cameras, disks, printers, and so on. Fonts, printing, and faxing are here, too. So is Windows 10’s new ability to play Xbox games even when you’re not in the same room with your Xbox.
Part Five, explores Windows 10’s beefed-up backup and troubleshooting tools. It also describes some advanced hard drive formatting tricks and offers tips for making your PC run faster and better.
Part Six, is for the millions of households and offices that contain more than one PC. If you work at home or in a small office, these chapters show you how to build your own network; if you work in a corporation where some highly paid professional network geek is on hand to do the troubleshooting, these chapters show you how to exploit Windows’ considerable networking prowess. File sharing, accounts and passwords, remote access, and the HomeGroups insta-networking feature are here, too.
At the end of the book, three appendixes provide a guide to installing or upgrading to Windows 10, a master list of Windows keyboard shortcuts, and the “Where’d It Go?” dictionary, which lists every feature Microsoft moved or deleted on the way to Windows 10.
Throughout this book, and throughout the Missing Manual series, you’ll find sentences like this: “Open the Computer→Local Disk (C:)→Windows folder.” That’s shorthand for a much longer instruction that directs you to open three nested icons in sequence, like this: “Inside the Computer window is a disk icon labeled Local Disk (C:); double-click it to open it. Inside that window is yet another icon called Windows. Double-click to open it, too.”
Similarly, this kind of arrow shorthand helps to simplify the business of choosing commands in menus. See Figure 4.
To get the most out of Windows with the least frustration, it helps to be familiar with the following concepts and terms. If you’re new to Windows, be prepared to encounter these words and phrases over and over again—in the built-in Windows Help, in computer magazines, and in this book.
It’s a launching bay. At its heart, Windows is a home base for the various software programs (apps, or applications) that you use to do work or to kill time. When you get right down to it, programs are the real reason you bought a PC.
Windows is a well-stocked software pantry unto itself; for example, it comes with such basic programs as a web browser, a simple word processor, and a calculator.
If you were stranded on a desert island, the built-in Windows programs could suffice for everyday operations. But if you’re like most people, sooner or later, you’ll buy and install more software. That’s one of the luxuries of using Windows: You can choose from a staggering number of add-on programs. Whether you’re a left-handed beekeeper or a German-speaking nun, some company somewhere is selling Windows software designed just for you, its target audience.
It’s a file cabinet. Every application on your machine, as well as every document you create, is represented on the screen by an icon, a little picture that symbolizes the underlying file or container. You can organize these icons into onscreen file folders. You can make backups (safety copies) by dragging file icons onto a flash drive or a blank CD, or you can send files to people by email. You can also trash icons you no longer need by dragging them onto the Recycle Bin icon.
It’s your equipment headquarters. What you can actually see of Windows is only the tip of the iceberg. An enormous chunk of Windows is behind-the-scenes plumbing that controls the various functions of your computer—its modem, screen, keyboard, printer, and so on.
One of the most important features of Windows isn’t on the screen—it’s in your hand. The standard mouse or trackpad has two mouse buttons. You use the left one to click buttons, to highlight text, and to drag things around the screen.
When you click the right button, however, a shortcut menu appears onscreen. Get into the habit of right-clicking things—icons, folders, disks, text inside a paragraph, buttons on your menu bar, pictures on a web page, and so on. The commands that appear on the shortcut menu will make you much more productive and lead you to discover handy functions you never knew existed.
On a touchscreen, you “right-click” something by holding your finger down on it for a second or so.
This is a big deal: Microsoft’s research suggests that nearly 75 percent of Windows users don’t use the right mouse button and therefore miss hundreds of timesaving shortcuts.
From the menu, choose Settings→Devices→“Mouse & touchpad.” Where it says “Select your primary button,” choose Right. Windows now assumes that you want to use the left mouse button as the one that produces shortcut menus.
No matter what setting you want to adjust, no matter what program you want to open, Microsoft has provided four or five different ways to do it. For example, here are the various ways to delete a file: Press the Delete key; choose File→Delete; drag the file icon onto the Recycle Bin; or right-click the filename and choose Delete from the shortcut menu.
Pessimists grumble that there are too many paths to every destination, making it much more difficult to learn Windows. Optimists point out that this abundance of approaches means that almost everyone will find, and settle on, a satisfying method for each task. Whenever you find a task irksome, remember that you have other options.
(This book generally offers the one or two shortest ways to accomplish a task. Life’s too short to read about all of them.)
In earlier versions of Windows, underlined letters appeared in the names of menus and dialog boxes. These underlines were clues for people who found it faster to do something by pressing keys than by using the mouse.
The underlines are hidden in Windows 10, at least in disk and folder windows. (They may still appear in your individual software programs.) If you miss them, you can make them reappear by pressing the Alt key, the Tab key, or an arrow key whenever the menu bar is visible. (When you’re operating menus, you can release the Alt key immediately after pressing it.) In this book, in help screens, and in computer magazines, you’ll see key combinations indicated like this: Alt+S (or Alt+ whatever the letter key is).
Once the underlines are visible, you can open a menu by pressing the underlined letter (F for the File menu, for example). Once the menu is open, press the underlined letter key that corresponds to the menu command you want. Or press Esc to close the menu without doing anything. (In Windows, the Esc key always means cancel or stop.)
If choosing a menu command opens a dialog box, you can trigger its options by pressing Alt along with the underlined letters. (Within dialog boxes, you can’t press and release Alt; you have to hold it down while typing the underlined letter.)
Don’t miss Appendix C, which lists all the important keyboard shortcuts.
If you have a keyboard, the fastest way to almost anything in Windows is the search box at the left end of the taskbar, where it says either “Ask me anything” or “Search the web and Windows.”
Used to be, this search box was at the bottom of the Start menu. But in Windows 10, it’s always available; it’s part of the taskbar now. This is also the Cortana box, where you can pose questions like “What’s the weather this weekend?” and “How many feet in 50 kilometers?”
But most of the time you’ll use this box to find and open things.
For example, to open Outlook, you can click there and type outlook. To get to the password-changing screen, you can type password. To adjust your network settings, network. And so on. Display. Speakers. Keyboard. BitLocker. Excel. Photo Gallery. Firefox. Whatever.
Each time, Windows does an uncanny job of figuring out what you want and highlighting it in the results list, usually right at the top.
You also don’t need to type the whole search query. If you want the Sticky Notes program, sti is usually all you have to type. In other words, without ever lifting your hands from the keyboard, you can hit , type sti, confirm that Windows has highlighted the correct program’s name, hit Enter—and you’ve opened Sticky Notes. Really, really fast.
Now, there is almost always a manual, mouse-clickable way to get at the same function in Windows. Here, for example, is how you might open Narrator, a program that reads everything on the screen. First, the mouse way:
The Settings app opens, teeming with options.
Click Ease of Access.
Now another Settings screen appears, filled with options having to do with accessibility. Narrator is highlighted.
Turn Narrator on.
Narrator begins reading what’s on the screen.
There you go. One step instead of three.
Now, you’re forgiven for exclaiming, “What?! Get to things by typing? I thought the whole idea behind the Windows revolution was to eliminate the DOS-age practice of typing commands!”
Well, not exactly. Typing has always offered a faster, more efficient way to getting to places and doing things; what everyone hated was the memorizing of commands to type.
But the search box requires no memorization; that’s the beauty of it. You can be vague. You can take a guess. And, almost every time, it knows what you want and offers it in the list.
For that reason, this book usually provides the most direct route to a certain program or function: the one that involves the search box. There’s always a longer, slower, mousier alternative, but hey: This book is plenty fat already, and those rainforests aren’t getting any bigger.
Here’s another bit of shorthand you’ll find in this book (and others): instructions to Shift-click something. That means you should hold down the Shift key and then click before releasing the key. If you understand that much, then the meaning of instructions like “Ctrl-click” and “Alt-click” should be clear.
You can’t write an operating system that’s all things to all people, but Microsoft has certainly tried. You can change almost every aspect of the way Windows looks and works. You can replace the gray backdrop of the screen (the wallpaper) with your favorite photograph, change the typeface used for the names of your icons, or set up a particular program to launch automatically every time you turn on the PC.
When you want to change some general behavior of your PC, like how it connects to the Internet, how soon the screen goes black to save power, or how quickly a letter repeats when you hold down a key, you use the Settings app (described in Chapter 7).
Many other times, however, you may want to adjust the settings of only one particular element of the machine, such as the hard drive, the Recycle Bin, or a particular application. In those cases, right-click the corresponding icon. In the shortcut menu, you’ll often find a command called Properties, which offers settings about that object.
When computer geeks talk about their drivers, they’re not talking about their chauffeurs (unless they’re Bill Gates); they’re talking about the controlling software required by every hardware component of a PC.
The driver is the translator for your PC and the equipment attached to it: mouse, microphone, screen, printer, scanner, and so on. Without driver software, the gear doesn’t work.
When you buy one of these gadgets, you receive a CD containing the driver software, or a download link for it. If that driver software works fine, then you’re all set. If your gadget acts up, however, remember that equipment manufacturers regularly release improved (read: less buggy) versions of these software chunks. You generally find such updates on the manufacturers’ websites.
Fortunately, Windows 10 comes with drivers for over 15,000 components, saving you the trouble of scavenging for them. Most popular gizmos from brand-name companies work automatically when you plug them in—no CD required (see Chapter 15).
Windows has a staggering array of features. You can burrow six levels down, dialog box through dialog box, and still not come to the end of it.
Microsoft’s programmers created Windows in modules—the digital-photography team here, the networking team there—for different audiences. The idea, of course, was to make sure that no subset of potential customers would find a feature lacking.
But if you don’t have a digital camera, a network, or whatever, there’s nothing wrong with ignoring everything you encounter on the screen that isn’t relevant to your setup and work routine. Not even Microsoft’s CEO uses every single feature of Windows.
To get the most out of this book, visit www.missingmanuals.com. Click the “Missing CD-ROM” link—and then this book’s title—to reveal a tidy, chapter-by-chapter list of the shareware and freeware mentioned in this book.
The website also offers corrections and updates. (To see them, click the book’s title, and then click View/Submit Errata.) In fact, please submit such corrections yourself! In an effort to keep the book as up to date as possible, each time O’Reilly prints more copies of this book, I’ll make any confirmed corrections you’ve suggested. I’ll also note such changes on the website so that you can mark important corrections into your own copy of the book, if you like.