The Windows 10 Anniversary Update is here, offering up the biggest change to the operating system since its release. There’s a lot to explore, so we’ve rounded up some of the best tips and tricks for you to try out.
We’ve previously covered the larger new features in the update, so this will be an exploration of tweaks you may not have noticed. If you haven’t got the new update yet — Microsoft is pushing it out in batches –, check our guide on how to get the Anniversary Update now.
If you know of a cool trick that we have missed out, please let us know in the comments section.
1. Change Audio Device from Taskbar
No longer do you have to fumble around in the Control Panel to change which device your audio plays from. Now you can switch it straight from the Taskbar. To do so, click the speaker icon in the notification area and the volume slider will appear. From here, click the audio device name and it’ll bring up a list of those you can change to. Simply click the playback device that you want and you’re done. You can even control the volume sliders independently.
If you want to take this to the next level, I recommend a lightweight program called Audio Switcher. With this you can switch the playback and recording devices through hotkeys. For example, you could be playing a game and listening through your speakers. Hit your hotkey and the audio will then instantly switch to your headset without needing to switch windows.
2. Enable the Dark Theme and Title Bar Color
If the amount of white within Window 10’s user interface has been offending you, now there’s a way you can invert those colors. To do so, press Windows key + I to load Settings. From here, select Personalization > Colors. Then, underneath Choose your app mode, click Dark. Welcome to the dark side.
You’ll notice that some things like File Explorer will remain in the default white theme, but the majority of other apps will be affected. If you still want further darkness, check out our guide on Windows 10 dark themes.
Another new option on this Settings page is Show color on title bar. Sliding this to On will make the horizontal bars at the top of your windows match the accent color that you’ve selected.
3. Access the Redesigned Emojis
Emojis have been in Windows 10 since launch, but they’ve been given a makeover. Instead of the grey and fairly boring ones being used before, the new emojis are more colorful and playful. To access them, right click your Taskbar and select Show touch keyboard button. Then click the keyboard icon in your notification area to bring up the keyboard. Then click the smiling face to access the emojis.
You can use the icons along the bottom to move between the different categories, like people or food. A new feature lets you adjust the skin color; just click the color patch in the bottom left. For more information, check out our guide on emojis in Windows 10.
4. Show a Window Across All Desktops
When using the virtual desktop feature, you can now make a window appear across all your desktops. To do this, open Task View by pressing Windows Key + Tab. Then right-click a window and select Show this window on all desktops. You can also choose Show windows from this app on all desktops, which will replicate multiple windows from a single app, rather than just the active one.
There’s also a new touchpad gesture to switch between desktops without having to open Task View. Using three fingers, swipe left and right to move between your different desktops.
5. View Agenda from the Taskbar
The clock and calendar integration in the Taskbar has seen an improvement. If you click the time in the notification area then you’ll see the current time, date, and calendar — all standard stuff. The new integration is the agenda area, which shows your events for the day. This links with the Calendar app that comes with Windows 10 and don’t forget that you can tie your Outlook, Google, and iCloud calendars to that.
You can click a day on the calendar to view all the events taking place that day. You can also click the plus symbol to launch the Calendar app and be directly taken to the screen to add a new event. If you don’t want any of this, click Hide agenda to minimize the area.
6. Set Windows Update Active Hours
Windows Update has become a bit more respectful, though it will still force updates on you. Now you can designate a period of time, up to a limit of 12 hours, where you’re usually using your system. During these hours Windows Update won’t automatically restart your computer to complete an installation.
To access this, press Windows key + I to open Settings. Then navigate to Update & security > Windows Update. Finally, underneath the Update settings heading, click Change active hours.
7. Enable Periodic Windows Defender Scanning
It’s never good to run multiple virus scanners simultaneously because they can clash with one another. Windows Defender comes built into Windows 10, but will disable itself if you install a third-party alternative. But now you can occasionally make use of Window Defender’s capabilities without causing problems by getting it to scan periodically.
To enable this, press Windows key + I to open Settings and then navigate to Update & security > Windows Defender. Beneath the Limited Periodic Scanning heading, move the switch to On. You’ll receive a notification whenever a scan is complete, allowing you to view the results.
8. Reinstall Windows 10 to Remove Bloatware
Manufacturers love to pack your lovely new system with bloatware — programs that you didn’t ask for and that clog things up. Microsoft has created a tool that allows you to install a clean copy of Windows 10, which will remove any apps that don’t come standard with the operating system. You’ll get the option to keep your personal files, but otherwise this is a clean install.
To access the tool, press Windows key + I to open Settings. Then navigate to Update & security > Recovery. From here, click Learn how to start afresh with a clean installation of Windows. At the moment this just takes you to an online page where you can download the tool, though perhaps it’ll be better integrated in a future update.
9. Use Cortana on the Lock Screen
Cortana, the personal assistant of Windows 10, can now be enabled on the lock screen. To enable this, access Cortana and then navigate to Settings via the cog icon. Then slide Use Cortana even when my device is locked to On.
When on the lock screen, you’ll then be able to access Cortana by pressing the icon or by saying “Hello, Cortana”, allowing you to set reminders, check directions, and more without having to sign in.
10. Benefit from Accessibility Improvements
Windows 10’s accessibility features have received a number of improvements, most notably with the Narrator. These can be found by pressing Windows key + I to open Settings, then navigating to Ease of Access > Narrator.
Some of the changes include being able to speed up the voices, so they achieve up to 800 words per minute and support for a range of new languages, such as Arabic and Danish.
When using the Narrator, you can press Caps Lock + Space to activate Scan mode, with Space then allowing you to follow active links or buttons. You can also press Caps Lock + Space + (Plus) to move between different Verbose levels, which will vary how much detail is read out, like reading out headings or describing text properties like color.
Happy Anniversary, Windows 10!
The Anniversary Update is a significant step forward for Windows 10 and one that has seen a huge number of improvements and additions across the operating system. Be sure to have a play around with all the features and tricks above, but don’t be afraid to explore further and see what else has changed.
How are you finding the Anniversary Update? Have you found any new tricks you’d like to share?
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