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10 Feb 2021

Five useful new Windows 10 features you might not know about

Changes are made to Windows 10 all the time, so it's hard to keep track of the really useful new features. We've highlighted five that you might have missed

Windows 10 is constantly receiving security updates and bug fixes, but among these humdrum (albeit essential) software patches, there are plenty of handy new features being added on a regular basis.

Below, we've picked out five of these features that have been added in the last year or so, and we explain how to keep your Windows 10 laptop up to date in a way that won't inconvenience you.

If your entire laptop is on its last legs and in need of an update, take a look at our pick of the best Windows 10 laptops.

New Windows 10 features that could make your life easier

1 New 'Edge': a faster, more reliable web browser

When Windows 10 first launched, it came with Microsoft Edge - a new web browser that replaced the outdated Internet Explorer.

Microsoft has now revamped its new browser and it should make it speedier and more reliable. It started making the transition in 2020, with the new version of Edge available for all to download and use, and it's now in the process of making it the default option.

In April 2021, Windows will start rolling out an update that will automatically uninstall the older version from computers and replace it with the new one.The new version has the logo below.

New Microsoft Edge logo

There are a few handy features to go with this new version of Edge, including:

  • The ability to switch between browser tabs with the Alt+Tab keys
  • The ability to pin websites you use regularly to your taskbar - Which.co.uk, for example - to make them easier to find if you have lots of tabs open at once. To do this, use the three dots menu in the top-right corner of the Edge browser window, then select 'More tools', then 'Pin to taskbar'.

If you're still using Internet Explorer as your main web browser, it's time to start moving on. Microsoft will eventually wind down security updates and support for this browser. Many websites and tools already won't work with Internet Explorer, so ditching it for a modern browser such as Edge is well worth doing.

If your computer's sluggish despite being up to date, read our top tips on how to speed up a laptop or computer.

2 Jazz up your cursor

The mouse cursor can be a master of disguise, especially when it turns into a short vertical line, slowly blinking amid a wall of text.

To make it much easier to find, you can change the size and thickness or even add a splash of vibrant colour. Just search for 'cursor' in the Start menu.

Some of the changes may not work in all apps - Google Docs, for example - but they'll work in Microsoft apps such as Edge and Word.

3 Find recently used files and programs with Task View

This feature has been around for quite a while, but it's an easy one to miss. It's on the task bar (towards the bottom left-hand corner of your screen), and it looks like this:

Windows Task View logo

Task View lets you see programs and files you've had open up to 30 days ago, so you can easily find what you were working on yesterday, last week, or even last month. Just scroll down to see tasks you were working on further into the past.

This makes it easier to access even closed programs and files without having to search through your documents folder.

If you use Microsoft Edge, you'll be able to see individual browser tabs too, so if you closed a tab a while ago but want to locate it again, you can do so using Task View. If you use another browser - such as Google Chrome - Task View will only show the browser, rather than specific tabs.

4 Use Night Light to cut screen glare at night

If you regularly use your computer at night but want to reduce the amount of glaringly bright screen time you're exposed to, the Night Light function in Windows 10 could help.

Windows 10 Night Light

Night Light changes the colour of the screen to a warmer tone with less blue light, which some academic studies have suggested can help you sleep better. It can do this gradually over time as the sun sets each day, or you can set it up to change at a time you choose.

5 Easy emoji

While our computing experts usually avoid emojis in their work emails, they are known to occasionally chuck in a ud83cudf89 if they're feeling in celebratory moodafter a new Best Buy laptop comes back from the lab.

With Windows' emoji search function, it's now much easier to find the perfect emoji to fit the bill. Search for 'computer', for example, and you'll get the options below.

Windows 10 Emoji keyboard

If your version of Windows 10 is fully up to date you should be able to access emojis by hitting the Windows and full stop key at the same time. This pops open the emoji window.

You can scroll through the full range of emojis and click to insert or, if you're looking for something specific, type in a search term. This will bring up relevant emojis - as well as clicking to select, you can also choose your emoji using the arrow keys, and press enter to insert it into your email or chat message.

How to keep Windows 10 up to date

Generally speaking, Windows 10 keeps itself up to date automatically by restarting and installing updates, although it's possible that it might get behind on its updates if it isn't able to find a time to conveniently restart.

You can check for updates manually by opening the Start menu (press the Windows key on your keyboard, or click on the icon in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen) and typing 'Updates'. Click on 'Check for updates' to see whether there are any patches waiting to be installed.

Here you can also change other update settings, such as when your computer will automatically restart to install updates in the future (in the middle of the night, for example). This is a handy way of staying up to date without being forced into a restart while you're in the middle of working.

Typically, Windows 10 will be able to restart and reopen all your programs where you left them, although it's still always worth saving your work whenever you stop for the day, or head off for a lunch break.

Updates are pretty much the only critical piece of computer maintenance that you really need to do these days and, it has to be said, the process has become a lot easier in the past few years, with Windows 10 giving users more choice than ever on when to update.

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