Getting Started With Windows 10

Windows 10 has been out for almost a month now and many of you are still trying to get used to the changes, so here are a few tips if you are just getting started or want to discover new features.

First, let us take a look at the new Start button. If you used Windows 8, you will notice we have only one view, the desktop, so the Start button is no longer used just to toggle back and forth between a start page and desktop. While it does return some of the functions of the old Start button, be aware that it is new enough that it is not the same old one we saw in Windows 7. For one thing, programs has been replaced with All Apps and you will notice clicking that will give you a set of icons and folders which mixes standard programs, like Office, in with modern apps, like The Weather Channel. The old pop-out that showed the various document libraries is also streamlined as File Explorer, click it after clicking Start and then you see Pictures, Music, etc. If you are looking for the Control Panel, you want to click on Settings to see the typical items you would find in the Control Panel. Of course, if you liked the old Control Panel, just type control panel in the search box in the upper right-hand corner and you will see it listed in the search results. You can also use the search bar next to the Start button to find control panel, as well as other programs, files, or web pages. The top part of the left side of the Start menu has frequently used programs and your account name. You can click the account name if you want to sign out of the computer, but note that shutdown and sleep are in the power options on the bottom of the left side of the Start menu. Finally, we have the customizable area to the right of the Start menu, which is where you can park all kinds of icons for programs or websites. There is a lot of detail work that you can do here, and c|net has a good article on how to use and configure the right side of the start menu. There is a hybrid-Windows 8 mode, so if you liked the tiles on the start screen, you can switch to that look. Details on how to do that are in the c|net article. Note that if you use the full screen tile version of the start menu, the three little bars in the upper left will open and close the left side of the menu.

Privacy settings have been a source of debate since the system debuted in July. There are a lot of fear-inspiring articles about Windows sapping all sense of privacy, but most are exaggerations so it is good to know that LifeHacker has an excellent article that goes over each of the privacy settings you will encounter in Windows 10. One section in the Lifehacker article that I suggest you pay attention to, especially for devices that you use away from home or the office, is the WiFi network sharing section. Windows 10 lets a WiFi device connect to suggested open hotspots or networks shared by friends.  Nice for convenience, but it also means you might be jumping on and off of networks without knowing it.  The friends sharing is a bit more secure than the open hotspots, but if you have concerns about latching on to unknown networks, best to leave those two settings set to Off.

The Edge browser replaces Internet Explorer (IE), sort of, in Windows 10. The new browser is made to work with HTML5 and has some new tools to make web browsing and sharing easier. However, since not all web sites have migrated to HTML5 and still rely on older technologies like Java, there is still a way to get to IE if you need to, just click the three dots under the X and select Open with Internet Explorer and the page will open in IE. This is handy to have with sites that do not display correctly in Edge or to get to IE if you prefer that browser, but the new features make it worth at least trying Edge out before jumping back to IE. First, along with the open in IE option, the settings under the three dots are easier to navigate and less confusing, making it easier to do things like set a home page or text size. Next to the three dots is the sharing icon, which was available in Windows 8, but pretty hard to find. If you have logged in with a Microsoft account and set that up to log on to Twitter, Facebook or a select group of other social media, the share button lets you post directly from the browser without cutting and pasting an URL. But the really new tools are just to the left, the pen and paper icon, which will open up an editing bar that lets you scribble notes, highlight passages, add text boxes, or snip parts of a website to save for future reference or share with others. The book icon to the left of the favorites star is also new, clicking this will open a text-heavy page in a new format that is easier to read.

The Edge sharing and markup icons

Another rumor that is floating around the internet is that Windows Media Player is dead and you cannot play music or movies in Windows 10. It is still there, you just cannot download the Media Center add-on that was previously available on Windows. That add-on was used to arrange media collections, connect to TV with a TV card to record TV shows and a host of other niche applications. Windows Media Player is still there, however, so if you are used to using it instead of iTunes to arrange your music, you still can. In addition, the new apps for movies, TV and music will open and play a file that you click on the internet or as the default player on your system. It is worth noting, however, that Windows has not had the proper coding for DVD playback since Windows 7 and you will need to install playback software in order to watch a DVD. Some PCs come preloaded with software such as CyberLink, but free software like VLC Media Player will work just as well.

Finally, we have Cortana, the Microsoft equivalent of Siri. There will be a review of Cortana versus Siri in our next Tech Tips blog, but for now be aware that she is there and ready to answer your questions or take over some task for you. To use Cortana, there is a tile on the right side of the start menu, just click it and go through the set-up wizard. You can set up Cortana to be as prominent or hidden as you would like by opting to turn on features like making suggestions based on your browsing history. Searching with Cortana can be done a variety of ways, such as highlighting text on a page and right-clicking to get the ask Cortana option or, if you have a microphone, click the microphone icon in the search box next to the Start button and just ask a question. In addition to searching, Cortana can be used to track packages, add items to a grocery list, or even take dictation. This feature is so new and full of options, there is a Cortana page on the Microsoft website to consult for more information on how to set-up and use Cortana.

In addition to the Cortana page, Microsoft also has a feature emulator that will let you click on a task to see a video of how to use the feature in Windows 10.If you would rather look for tips or solutions on a page not run by Microsoft, the usual good technology websites all have Windows 10 sections with news, tips, tricks and other information so be sure to check them out – Mashable, c|net, PC Magazine, and ZDNet.

- Laura N.


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