Even if you’ve been using Windows for decades, it’s large and complex enough that there may be features that can still surprise you. We have tracked down ten little-known tools and tips for Windows that may improve your efficiency, comfort or maybe even your fun while using your PC.
Here they are, in no particular order. All of them should work on both Windows 10 and 11.
Activate mouse hover window
When I use a new computer, this is the first feature I enable. Technically, it’s part of the accessibility tools, but many users may find it useful regardless of their level of mobility. This setting allows you to activate a window simply by hovering your mouse pointer over it, rather than requiring an additional click before interacting with the program. It’s a small change, but it makes a big difference, especially on the laptop’s trackpad.
To change this setting, go to Control Panel, then click Ease of Access Center. Click “Make the mouse easier to use.” Under Make window management easier, select Activate a window by hovering over it. Click OK to enable the setting.
Easy window arrangement
With newer versions of Windows, it’s easy to move windows (sorry) around your screen. Press and hold the Windows key on your keyboard, then press the arrow keys. Pressing left or right immediately moves the window to the corresponding half of the screen. Pressing up or down will switch between splitting the window at the top or bottom of the screen in half, or making it larger or smaller to the toolbar.
These shortcuts even work across multiple screens. It’s a great way to quickly arrange windows across screens and monitors with minimal effort.
Taskbar quick launch
If you want to manage windows quickly, you probably pin your most used programs and tools to the taskbar. If you want to get to them faster, just hold down the Windows button and press the number on your keyboard that corresponds to where they are on the taskbar. For me, opening Chrome is Win + 1, opening Photoshop is Win + 4, etc.
Rearrange system tray
Speaking of the taskbar, the system tray (the little thumbnail icons on the right side) often gets cluttered if you use a lot of programs. This is doubly true if you are running a lot of programs at startup. But if there is confusion, there is no need to keep it that way. Click and drag any of the icons around to rearrange them. You can put it in the dropdown to hide it (just click the arrow to unhide it again), or set it to the right to make it visible permanently.
Those with unhealthy computing habits tend to use computers late in the evening. You should probably cut it out, but if not, it wouldn’t hurt to use the built-in nightlight feature. Simply search the Start menu for “Night light” to find the setting that will dim your computer screen and reduce blue light output. Once it’s set up, you can toggle this on at any time in the quick settings menu (Win + A) or turn it on and off automatically at specific times of the evening and morning.
Bring up the task manager right away
This is an old trick, but with the expanded functionality of the Task Manager in Windows 10 and 11, it’s become even more useful. From any screen in any program, press Ctrl + Shift + Escape to open the Task Manager. From here you can close programs manually, quickly access the Run command, or click the Startup tab to track down programs that start invisibly with Windows.
If you haven’t done so yet, you really need to start using the official (but obscure) Windows Snipping Tool, which expands the operating system’s core screenshot tool (linked to the Print Screen button) with all kinds of new goodies. Press Win + Shift + S simultaneously to display the options to instantly take a screenshot of the entire workspace, just one window, or select a freeform drawn with the mouse. Your screenshot is then copied and ready to be pasted into a web form or image editor.
In a hurry? You can still access the old screenshot function (which saves an entire image file in the Pictures > Screenshots folder) by pressing Win + Print Screen. Alternately, you can copy the full screenshot instead using Ctrl + Print Screen, or copy a selection of your currently active program using Alt + Print Screen.
Search by latest installed software
One of the smallest changes in Windows that I benefited the most from is this tweak to the way you search through programs to uninstall. It makes it easier for you to find the latest software you installed, and get rid of it if you want. Press the Windows key, search for Add or Remove Programs, and click on it to open the Settings menu. You will be shown a list of every program installed on your computer.
In previous versions of Windows, you had to search for this long list alphabetically. You can now search for it, but what if it isn’t listed under the same name? Simply click on “Name”, then “Install Date”. The list is now in reverse chronological order, showing your most recent installed software. Click the three dots menu on the right to get rid of any entry. very easy!
Connect quickly to new screens
Most of the time, Windows automatically enables a new monitor or monitor when it is connected. But if it doesn’t, there is a quick way to adjust the display setting. Just press Win + P to open the Project menu. From this popup, you can select Duplicate (mirror your primary screen to a secondary screen), Extend (use more than one monitor at once), or Only a second monitor (easy to use only a monitor and not your laptop screen).
This menu is great if you’re using a multi-screen setup and want to quickly disable secondary screens, such as watching a movie or playing a game, and then enable them again when you’re done without diving into menus.
Adjust text and element sizes
You probably know that you can adjust the size of what you see in Windows by changing the resolution. But unlike the days of CRTs, your laptop screen or monitor has a very specific resolution it’s meant to work with. Changing this value is not a great idea; It can result in a stretched or pixelated image, and the video will not look its best.
Instead of changing the resolution, go to Display Settings, scroll down a bit, and change the Scale setting. This can make text and images appear larger or smaller on your screen without changing the resolution of the image itself. Preset values come in 25 percent increments, but you can set a custom value if you prefer (with system reset). There is also an option that just adjusts the text size.
Many programs come with their own text and scaling settings, especially text-heavy applications such as browsers and text editors. Adjust it to your liking to find the most comfortable combination.
Quickly adjust icon sizes in Explorer
If you need to see icons better in the Explorer window specifically, try this quick trick. Hold the Ctrl button and scroll the mouse wheel up and down. Thumbnails will get bigger or smaller in response. Scroll far enough and the view will actually change from thumbnails to menus with thumbnails. This even works on the Windows desktop, with no Explorer window in use.
Explorer isn’t the only program that uses the Ctrl + mouse wheel shortcut to change the view. Browsers, email clients, image editors, and text editors often use it to zoom in or out or quickly resize text. It’s a popular tool worth learning.