Windows 10 tips

Windows 10 cheat sheet

Get to know the interface, features and shortcuts in Microsoft's latest operating system. (Now updated for the Windows 10 May 2019 Update.)

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Handling Windows updates

When the Windows 10 May 2019 Update was released, Microsoft finally gave many users what they’ve been asking for since Windows 10 was introduced — the ability to control whether to install the twice-yearly feature updates Microsoft releases for Windows. Before that, those with Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise and Education licenses could delay the updates, but Windows 10 Home users couldn’t unless they resorted to sneaky workarounds (none of them ideal) to stop the installations. And even those who could delay installations couldn’t put them off forever.

All that has changed. Windows 10 Home and Pro users can put off installing the twice-yearly feature updates, and can even skip them altogether, using the “Download and install now” option.

Now when Microsoft releases a new feature update to the public, it is no longer automatically installed. Instead, Windows notifies you that it’s available with a “Download and install now” message and link in the Windows Update Settings pane. If you don’t want to install it, ignore the message and your PC stays as it is. Whenever you want to install an update, just click it and follow the instructions.

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All Windows 10 users can decide whether and when to install the twice-a-year feature updates. (Click image to enlarge it.)

There is one caveat. When your current version of Windows reaches what Microsoft calls “end of service” — the point at which Microsoft no longer supports it — Windows 10 will install the latest feature update automatically. For Home and Pro users, that’s usually 18 months after your current Windows version’s release.

Even so, it’s theoretically possible to  skip over some feature updates entirely. Since they’re released approximately every six months, you could install one version, decline to install the next one that’s released, and then install the one after that.

You also have control not just over the twice-a-year feature updates, but also over the minor updates that Microsoft issues in between them. You can pause these smaller updates for up to 35 days. Those who use the various business and educational versions of Windows 10 have been able to delay minor updates for quite some time, but now everyone has the option.

To do it, go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and click “Pause updates for 7 days.” After seven days you can do it several more times, a total of five times to delay it for 35 days.

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You can delay minor Windows 10 updates, 7 days at a time, for up to 35 days. (Click image to enlarge it.)

In addition to all this, Windows has a safety net that will uninstall problematic updates that harm your PC. If your computer won’t start properly after you install an update, Windows will diagnose the problem and try to fix it. If it can’t, it will uninstall a recent Windows 10 update or driver update that might be causing the problem and block it from reinstalling for 30 days. See details from Microsoft.

You can also ask Windows to alert you, via a system tray icon, when you need to reboot your PC in order to finish an update. Go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options, and underneath “Show a notification when your PC requires a restart to finish updating,” move the slider to On.

Windows apps

In Windows 8, Windows apps and the desktop didn't get along. Windows apps could only be run from the Start screen, not from the desktop. What's more, they didn't appear in traditional application windows; you could only run them full-screen or side by side with another Windows app (but not a desktop application) so the two apps filled the full screen. That meant you couldn't have multiple Windows apps running in separate windows on the desktop alongside desktop applications. It was just one more way in which Windows 8 felt like two separate operating systems.

That's no longer the case in Windows 10. You can resize, minimize and close Windows apps in the same familiar way as desktop applications. Drag the edges of a Windows app to resize it. Use the familiar icons on the upper right of the app window for minimizing, maximizing and closing the app.

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In Windows 10, Windows apps can be resized, minimized and closed in the same way as desktop apps. (Click image to enlarge it.)

Windows apps also get a better way to access all of their features. On the left side or bottom of the app window you'll typically see a series of icons for the different features in the app. The icons change depending on the app. For example, the Weather app has icons for news, maps, historical weather in your location and so on. And the Money app has icons for markets, currencies, a mortgage calculator, and so on.

Most of the apps show useful information by default, but it's worth investigating the customization options for each app. To customize the News app so it shows exactly the kind of news you're interested in, for instance, click the icon that looks like a star with a row of lines next to it — it's just below the home icon. Once you do that, you'll be able to tell the app your news preferences — Top News, US News, World News, Good News, Crime, Technology, Entertainment and so on.

You can set up the Mail app not only to work with Microsoft's web-based mail service (currently called, but also with other web-based services, including Gmail. To add an account after you launch Mail, click Accounts, and from the Manage accounts screen that appears, click Add Account. Then select the kind of mail account you want to add (, Google, Exchange, Yahoo,, POP and IMAP mail, and so on) and follow the prompts. For web-based accounts, it's straightforward. For POP and IMAP accounts, you'll need your account information ready, including POP and SMTP server names and passwords.

You can also combine mail from multiple accounts into a single, unified inbox. To do it, click Accounts, and from the screen that appears, click “Link inboxes” and combine the accounts you’d like.

The Calendar app will connect to your mail accounts automatically and display their calendars. For example, if you set up both an account and a Gmail account in Mail, the calendars associated with them automatically appear in the Calendar app.

Using Windows 10 on a tablet or 2-in-1

One of Windows 8's biggest drawbacks was that it forced people with desktop computers to use an interface designed for tablets. In Windows 10, Microsoft changes that with a feature called Continuum that automatically senses the device you're using and switches Windows 10's interface to match it — the Windows 8-like Start screen for tablets, and the desktop and Start menu for laptops and desktops.

Continuum works dynamically. If you're using a tablet with a keyboard attached, such as a Microsoft Surface, it displays the desktop interface, but if you detach the keyboard, it asks if you want to switch to tablet mode, which uses the Start screen interface. Tap "Yes" to switch to tablet mode. Similarly, if you're using a tablet and attach a keyboard to it, a notification appears asking if you want to switch out of tablet mode.

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Windows 10 senses when you detach a keyboard from a 2-in-1 device and asks if you want to switch to tablet mode. (Click image to enlarge.)

If you don't want to be bothered by the notification again, select "Remember my response and don't ask again." From then on, you'll switch automatically from desktop to tablet mode and back again depending on whether you have a keyboard attached to your device. No notification will appear. If for some reason you like those notifications, instead select "Always ask me before switching."

You can also manually switch in and out of tablet mode via an icon in the Action Center, which I'll cover in the next section of the story.

Tablet mode in Windows 10 works much like Windows 8 used to work, with the usual touch and swiping gestures. As with Windows 8, there's no desktop but instead the Start screen with groups of tiles that represent your apps — the same tiles grouped in the same way as they are on the desktop's Start menu, except here they take up the full screen. Tap any tile to launch it. You can scroll through the tiles, but note that they scroll vertically rather than horizontally as they did in Windows 8.

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Tablet mode in Windows 10 features the Start screen, which will be familiar to Windows 8 users. (Click image to enlarge.)

There are some other differences between the Start screen in Windows 10's tablet mode and the old Windows 8 Start screen. On the left side of the screen you’ll find six icons, three grouped at the top and three at the bottom.

At the top is a hamburger menu, which doesn’t serve much purpose. Tap it, and the left-hand side of the screen turns black, and all six icons get text labels. Tap it again, and the labels and black screen go away. Just beneath the hamburger menu is the pinned tiles icon — tap it to see the Start screen filled with tiles, which is the default tablet interface. Below the pinned tiles icon is the all apps icon. Tap it and instead of seeing pinned tiles, you get a full-screen all apps view that lets you scroll through all of your apps and desktop applications to quickly find one you want.

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You can see the all apps listing even on a tablet. (Click image to enlarge.)

Down toward the bottom of the screen are three icons that will be familiar to those who use the desktop and laptop interface: One for your user account, so you can sign out of Windows, lock your PC, switch to a different user account, or change your account settings; one that gets you to the Settings app; and a power icon that that lets you put your tablet to sleep, shut it down or restart it.

You can also auto-hide the taskbar when you're in tablet mode, even if you hadn't hidden it in desktop mode. To auto-hide it in tablet mode, go to Settings > System > Tablet Mode and switch on the setting "Automatically hide the taskbar in tablet mode.”

The Edge browser

With Windows 10, Microsoft finally bids goodbye to Internet Explorer — almost. You'll still find it, but it's no longer the default browser, and development work has essentially stopped on it. The browser of today and tomorrow is Edge.

Note that as of this writing, Microsoft has announced it will completely redo the Edge browser, basing it on the open-source Chromium engine. When that happens, we’ll give details here. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know about Edge.

Edge is a considerable improvement over Internet Explorer. It's faster, cleaner-looking and downright Chrome-like in its stripped-down design. It's generally intuitive to use. The upper left has arrows for going forward, back and reloading a page. Type URLs in the address bar or use the address bar as a search box by typing in search terms.

Directly to the right of the address bar you'll find an icon of a book, which launches one of Edge's most useful features: Reading View. Like similar features in Safari and Firefox, it strips out everything extraneous to a page's content, including ads, navigation, sidebars and anything else that diverts attention from the content. Text and graphics appear in a scrollable window. Its icon will be grayed out if you're on a page that Reading View can't handle, such as a page that is primarily used for navigation.

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Here's how an article looks in Edge normally (left) and how it looks in Reading View (right). (Click image to enlarge it.)

Edge has another new feature that you may or may not find as helpful as Reading View: the ability to annotate and share web pages. With it, you can mark up a page using highlighters and note-creation tools, save the annotated page and share it as a JPG graphic file via email, OneNote or Twitter.

Click the annotation icon in the upper right of the browser window — it looks like a pencil and paper — and the annotation tools appear. When you're done annotating, click the Share icon, just to the left of the Exit button on the top right of the screen. Then select how you want to share the annotation, and follow the instructions. When you want to exit annotation mode, press the Esc key or click Exit.

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You can mark up a web page with Edge's annotation tools. (Click image to enlarge it.)

One of Edge's more useful features is its behind-the-scenes integration with Cortana. When you browse to a page for which Cortana can offer help, a Cortana icon appears at the top of the page, along with a note, such as "I've got directions, hours, and more" if you're on a restaurant page. Click the icon and a sidebar appears on the right side of the page with additional information — for example, a map, address, phone number and reviews for a restaurant, in addition to links for getting directions, viewing the menu and calling the restaurant.

As for the rest of Edge, it's straightforward to use. To get to your history, favorites, downloads, and e-books, click the icon of a star with three horizontal lines just to the left of the annotation icon. (It’s called the Hub.) To share the current page's URL, click the icon of a right-facing arrow just to the right of the annotation icon. And for more menu choices, including zooming in and out, finding text on a page, changing settings, and more, click the three-dot icon.

When Windows 10 was released, Edge didn’t support add-ins and extensions as Chrome and Firefox do, a serious drawback. However, with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, released in August of 2016, Edge finally got extension support. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the support is quite weak — as of mid-June 2019, nearly three years after Edge first got extensions, there were only about 325 of them, compared to many thousands for Chrome and Firefox.

Still, at least they’re there, and it’s easy to take advantage of them. To do it, when you're in Edge, click the three-dot icon at the top right of the screen. From the menu that appears, choose Extensions > Explore more extensions. You'll see icons for each extension available. Click any icon for more details, then click the button that says “Get” to download it. After the download, click the "Turn it on" button that pops up to enable the extension.

To customize how an extension works or uninstall it, click Edge’s menu button and choose Extensions. You’ll see a list of all of your extensions. Hover your mouse over the extension you want to customize or uninstall, then click the gear icon that appears next to the extension. From the screen you get to, choose your customization option, or click Uninstall to uninstall it.

Edge, by default, disables Adobe Flash to improve security and performance. However, if you’d like, you can run it on a site-by-site basis. When you visit a site that has Flash, you’ll see an icon of a puzzle piece with the words “Select for Adobe Flash” on any Flash element. Click it if you want to run it, and from the popup that appears, click “Allow once.” You’ll have to do that every time you visit the site if you want to run Flash on it.

Edge has a variety of tab-handling features. To see a thumbnail of every open tab, click a down arrow to the right of the Add Tab button at the top of the screen. That lets you quickly scan all the currently open sites. Click the thumbnail of the tab you want to switch to, and you get sent immediately to that tab.

Should you decide to close all your open tabs, but think you might want to revisit them later, click a button to their left at the top of the screen that shows a window with a left-facing arrow on it. That puts them aside as a group. When you want to open the group again, click a button to the left of that one. You’ll see all the tabs you’ve set aside, not just in this browsing session, but in previous ones. Click Restore tabs next to any group you want to restore, or click an individual tab to restore just that single one.

What makes this feature even more useful is that you can do this to multiple groups of tabs. So, for example, you might want to create a group of museum sites, another for medical sites, and so on. After you create the groups, you can revisit them later, even after you’ve closed a browsing session.

You can also read books and other content in ePub and PDF formats from right inside Edge. The built-in e-reader gives you the usual e-reading features, such as the ability to continue reading where you had previously left off, change text size and so on. It will also read text aloud.

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Edge’s epub reader in action. (Click image to enlarge it.)

To use it, click the icon of a star with three horizontal lines just to the right of the address bar, and from the screen that drops down, click the icon of three books. You’ll see all of your ebooks. Click any to start reading. The top of the page will have a variety of icons for searching, reading aloud and so on. It’s all self-explanatory and easy to do. If you download e-books in ePub format, or PDFs, you can read them from here as well.

Note that the ebook section of the Microsoft Store shut down on April 2, 2019, so you won’t be able to buy new books from it anymore. Worse, as of July 2019, your existing ebooks will no longer be available. Microsoft said it will issue refunds for any you’ve bought. If you’ve downloaded free books, they won’t be available, and you won’t get a refund because you didn’t pay for them.

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