Windows 10: The best hidden features, tips, and tricks

Windows 10: The best hidden features, tips, and tricks

Windows 10 Technical Preview, turquoise wallpaper and Start menu

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After using Windows 10 for almost a week, I’ve discovered some neat little changes and features that Microsoft hasn’t yet discussed — smart tweaks that, if you’re a mouse-and-keyboard user looking for a reason to upgrade from Windows 7, you will be very pleased with. Let’s dive straight in with my favorite secret/hidden features of Windows 10.

Explorer now has a “Home” tab

In the last few versions of Windows, opening My Computer or a new Explorer window would show you your computer’s various storage locations and shortcuts to default folders like Documents and My Pictures. In Windows 10, you now end up in a new view called Home, which shows Favorites, Frequent Folders, and Recent Files. Take a look at the screenshot below and you’ll see what I mean.

Windows 10, Explorer's new Home tab

Windows 10, Explorer’s new Home tab

Favorites seems to be where Documents or My Pictures should appear. I don’t know the math behind the Frequent Folders, but it looks like it just tracks which folders I’ve opened the most times. Recent Files is like the Recent Places feature that premiered in Windows Vista, but just for files.
I assume that folders can be added to the Favorites section, but I haven’t yet worked out how to do it. (To be honest, the more advanced features of Explorer, like Libraries, are still pretty hard to penetrate.)
“This PC” is still available from the left-hand menu if you want to manage your various storage locations/default folders. I like the new Home tab a lot.
Windows 10 Recycle Bin, on the taskbar and Start menu

You can finally put the Recycle Bin on the taskbar

Rather than having to poke around Explorer or minimize everything and find the Recycle Bin icon on the Desktop, in Windows 10 you can now add the Recycle Bin to both the taskbar and the Start menu. Yes, that is the sound of many brains exploding as they catastrophically realize the enormity of this change.

Windows 10, resized Start menu

Windows 10, resized Start menu

The Windows 10 Start menu is resizable

This one is a bit odd: You can make the Windows 10 Start menu as tall or as wide as you like. If you want to have a Start menu that takes up the entire left side of your screen, or a narrow strip across the taskbar, then that’s now possible. The taskbar itself is also resizable, which means you can do weird stuff like this:

Windows 10, resized Start menu and taskbar

Windows 10, resized Start menu and taskbar. Could you do this in Windows 7 or 8…?

I’m not sure if this is second bit is intentional or not. A resizable Start menu is quite cool, though!
Windows 10 Technical Preview: Cortana DLL etc

Cortana is almost definitely coming to Windows 10

After a little bit of poking around (searching for “Cortana” in Explorer) I found a lot of references to Cortana in Windows 10 Technical Preview; there’s even a Windows.Cortana.dll, just sitting there in the System32 directory.
You also get a bunch of Cortana-related hits if you search for “Cortana” within the Registry Editor.
None of this is to say that Cortana is definitely coming to Windows 10 — there are lots of other reasons for those files/registry entries being there, such as the ghost of an early internal test — but I’d say it’s pretty likely. We should hopefully see Cortana in the next beta of Windows 10.

Windows 10 notifications/toasts, in the top right corner

Windows 10 notifications/toasts, in the top right corner
Windows 10 notifications/toasts, in the top right corner

Windows 10 notifications/toasts, in the top right corner

Notifications and toasts in Windows 10

While Windows 10’s rumored Notification Tray isn’t yet in the Technical Preview, there are some new pretty toasts/notifications that pop up in the top right corner of the screen. These notifications appear to replace the speech bubbles that used to pop out of the system tray (the bottom right corner of the taskbar, unless you’re one of those heathens who has moved the taskbar to a non-standard location). You can see two example notifications in the images above, but there are similar toasts for successful uploads to Dropbox and similar activities.
As far as I can tell, these notifications/toasts are configured through the same interface that Metro notifications used in Windows 8/8.1 — i.e. in PC Settings (see below). It seems desktop apps like VLC and the Adobe Creative Cloud manager/updater were automatically added to the list of apps that are allowed to pop up notifications.
Windows 10 desktop notifications, through the usual PC Settings panel
It’s entirely possible that this is all the Desktop interface is going to get, in terms of notifications. The new Notification Tray might only be coming to the Metro interface.