Here’s some of the best hacks for Microsoft’s flagship operating system
Windows 10 has come in for its fair share of flak since it launched in July last year, with many naysayers citing installation problems, leaky privacy settings and compulsory updates among the reasons why they’re sticking with Windows 7 or 8.1.
But, as we’ve shown in previous features, these problems can usually be overcome with a little patience and the odd settings tweak. Follow our advice and you should be left with a secure, modern operating system (OS) that will be supported by Microsoft for years to come and offers many tangible benefits over previous versions of Windows.
‘Cast’ photos and videos to your TV
If you own a Miracast-enabled TV or set-top box, then you can use Windows 10 to send media – including music, photos and videos – from your PC to your TV. It’s true that Windows 8.1 can do something similar, but Windows 10 adds the ability to cast media directly from the Edge browser.
Launch Edge and navigate to the page you want – this could be, for example, a photo slideshow, YouTube video, or even files you’ve stored in Dropbox or OneDrive. Next, click the menu button (three dots at the top right) and select ‘Cast media to device’. A small window will pop up listing available screens and receivers – click your TV to cast the media to it.
If you don’t see your TV (or other preferred device) listed, make sure your PC and the device you want to cast to are both connected to the same network and the receiving device is turned on. This tip will work for BBC iPlayer, though annoyingly other TV-streaming services, such as Netflix, don’t support Edge casting.
Create PDFs in almost any program
Converting documents, maps and other content to PDF files can make it easier to share them over email. Until now, you had to install a third-party PDF tool to carry out these conversions, but many, such as CutePDF, come crammed with adware, toolbars and other unwanted junk.
Sensibly, Microsoft has built PDF creation into Windows 10. Better still, the feature has been incorporated as a print option, meaning that any program or app that allows you to print will also allow you to create or convert your files to PDF.
Let’s say you want to save a web page as a PDF. Simply click your browser’s menu button (usually in the top-right corner) and select Print. Then choose ‘Microsoft Print to PDF’ from the list of available printers. Change any other settings as needed, then click Print. You’ll be prompted to give your PDF file a name and choose a location to save it in. Do so and your PDF will be created.
Copy and paste in the Command Prompt
Many advanced PC fixes require you to enter specific commands into the Windows Command Prompt tool (CMD) – “shutdown /r /o”, for example, will restart your PC and bring up the Advanced Start Options menu, from where you can launch Safe Mode.
Typing complicated commands can produce errors, which is why it’s great that Windows 10’s revamped CMD tool finally lets users copy and paste directly using Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V keyboard shortcuts. It’s astonishing that Microsoft seemingly hadn’t thought of this until now.
To enable this, right-click Start and select Command Prompt. When it opens, right-click the header bar at the top of the program window and select Properties. On the Options tab under Edit Options, tick the box next to ‘Enable Ctrl key shortcuts’. While you’re here, you can enable some of Windows 10’s other unique new features too.
QuickEdit mode’ lets you click and drag to select text in the Command Prompt window; ‘Filter clipboard contents on paste’ automatically removes unnecessary characters from commands you copy; ‘Enable line wrapping selection’ lets you select and copy multiple lines of text; and ‘Extended text selection keys’ provides support for even more keyboard shortcuts (such as Ctrl+A to select all text). Click OK when you’ve finished ticking these.
Set reminders via your voice
Most Windows 10 users will probably agree that Cortana – the operating system’s much-vaunted personal assistant – is nowhere near as impressive as Microsoft would have us believe. That said, there are times when Cortana’s skills can actually come in very handy – for instance, when you want a quick way to set reminders.
Let’s say there’s something important that you need to do at a certain time of day – take some medication, perhaps. Just click the microphone icon in the taskbar and say ‘set a reminder’. Cortana will ask you what it is you need to remember and when you need the reminder to pop up.
You can even set up recurring reminders by saying ‘every day at four o’clock,’ for example. Double-check that all the details displayed in Cortana’s panel are correct, adjust them if necessary, then say ‘yes’ or click Remind. Bear in mind, however, that this will only work if your device has a microphone.
Download offline maps
Windows 8.1 has a map app, but Windows 10’s version goes one better by letting you download maps to your PC, so you can view them without an internet connection. Open the Maps app, click the Settings (cog) icon, then click ‘Download or update maps’.
You’ll be taken to the ‘Offline maps’ page of the Settings app. Click ‘Download or update maps’, select your continent (Europe, for example), followed by your country, then your region. Close the Maps app and your map will begin downloading.