Let’s be honest, nobody really spends a lot of time thinking about how to make our computers more efficient for work unless you really need to – or are a geek of some sort. Especially when platforms like Windows have already done so much for the convenience of the average user, like improving File Explorer with multi-access tabs.
But there are more than a few hidden features that can help make working on your desktop a little easier. To help you unearth those productivity Easter eggs, here’s 8 Windows hacks that everyone should know.
1. Volume Mixer – Adjust the volume of different apps
The volume mixer is designed to help you manage multiple applications that play audio simultaneously. While the standard volume control adjusts the central sound levels as a whole, the volume mixer adjusts the sound levels of each application to emphasize particular audio streams.
For example, you can reduce the sound levels in your Spotify app so that ambient music continues to play while you’re in a Zoom meeting. The system also lets you adjust the slider so that an app is completely muted, which is great when it’s your turn to speak during the online call.
How to access: Settings → System → Sound → Advanced → Volume Mixer
2. Storage Sense – Automatically Manage Hard Drive Space
If you tend to keep lots of data-dense files, this feature is definitely for you. Meaning of storage helps to automatically delete temporary files that can take up essential space on your hard drive. It also regularly cleans your recycle bin to make even more room for new files.
Storage Sense’s default setting is to only erase files when storage space is low, but it can also be adjusted to daily or monthly cycles for automatic erasing.
The option to select how long the system waits before deleting files from your trash or downloads is also available. Choices include 1, 14, 30, or 60 days, and with these options you’ll be able to clear your storage based on how often you access certain files.
How to access: Settings → System → Storage → Advanced → Storage Sense
3. Xbox Game Bar – Screen Recorder with Microphone
The Windows Xbox game bar is more than just a tool for live streamers and hardcore gamers. Some of its functions can be useful when it comes to being productive at work, and the most useful of all is the Screen Recorder function.
Remember to ask for consent before saving images.
Often used by those recording themselves during a gaming session, it can also record online meetings or videos for future reference. By using this screen recorder, you won’t find yourself struggling to take notes during a virtual meeting or missing critical details when you’re afk.
The only minor downside is that the screen recorder only works for up to 2 hours, so you’ll have to turn the recorder back on if your video is longer than that. Other than the time limit, you can save almost any form of video and be able to access the file even if you are offline.
PS Netflix has a blocker that blacks out the screen when you try to screenshot or screen record, so don’t even think about illegally recording any of your favorite movies or TV series.
How to access the Xbox Game Bar: Windows key + G
How to access Screen Recorder: Windows key + Alt + R
4. Focus Session Mode – Interval Timer for Work Productivity
The Tune-up session Mode is just the feature to use if you’re looking to strap in and get some work done without interruption. Located in the Clock app, it’s basically a Tabata-style timer that can be used to help regulate your work and break times.
The shortest duration without allocated breaks is 30 minutes and you have the option of increasing the duration by 15 minutes with each cycle. For consecutive intervals of 2 or more, the system will add a break period – essential for workaholics who often forget to take small breaths throughout the day.
How to access: Windows Search → Clock → Focus Session Mode
5. Nearby Share – Windows version of AirDrop
Thanks to wireless connectivity, gone are the days of having to connect 2 devices with a cable to transfer documents between them. But sometimes sending files through online platforms like Gmail is not possible with data dense files, that’s when Nearby Sharing Between.
By using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, your computer is able to “drop” the file of your choice directly into the other device without the hassle of methods such as sending emails or hosting websites. files such as Dropbox and WeTransfer.
To do this, make sure Nearby Share is enabled and the receiving device supports Bluetooth 4.0. The feature supports a range of up to 10m, so you don’t even have to sit right next to the document recipient.
How to enable Nearby Sharing: Settings → System → Nearby Share → Everyone Nearby
How to transfer files: Right click on file → Share icon → Select recipient device → Click send
6. Clipboard History – Organize frequently used texts and images
Clipboard history helps store everything you’ve copied to your clipboard for future use. And if you accidentally replaced a text or image on your clipboard, don’t worry because the clipboard history stores up to 25 items. This way going back and looking up past entries is much easier.
The system can also sync with other Windows devices like tablets and phones. This way, you can seamlessly copy and paste from your shared clipboard without having to send your entry to yourself via Telegram or email.
Simply use the Windows + V keyboard shortcut to open the Clipboard, display your list of entries to select, and insert into your document.
How to enable clipboard history: Settings → System → Clipboard → Clipboard History
How to open clipboard history: Windows key + V
7. Keyboard Shortcuts for Pinned Taskbar Items – Quick Access Without a Mouse
Keyboard shortcuts are a boon when working on programs like Excel sheets. And if you’re looking to really maximize your work efficiency, you might want to take note of this lesser-known shortcut.
Image adapted from: Brendan Yee
By pressing the Windows key and the number that corresponds to your app’s position starting from the left side, you can open apps pinned to your taskbar. Let’s say I wanted to open my File Explorer, which is the 3rd app in a row on my taskbar, I would just press Windows + 3 to launch the program.
This feature lets you open up to the 10th app pinned to your taskbar. And with these keyboard shortcuts, your hands won’t have to leave the keyboard comfort of your typing position for the mouse or trackpad.
8. Swipe to pin – Multitasking with split screen and keyboard shortcuts
Multitasking has become the norm and modern operating systems like Windows have been designed to reflect this, with features like swipe to pin. By pressing the Alt + Tab keys, you can instantly switch between all open applications running in your taskbar.
You can also click on the task view icon, which looks like 2 overlapping squares, to do the same. Instead of switching between 2 different tabs, the task view allows you to go further by opening a new virtual desktop to completely separate your work.
Finally, press Windows + Z and a range of pre-made grids will appear in the upper right corner for you to choose from. This allows you to multitask from different positions on the screen based on your screen ratio preferences.
Maximize your desktop usage with lesser-known Windows hacks
Technological advancements have made our lives easier; tasks are completed quickly and we are able to multi-task seamlessly and meet our busy schedules.
If you thought the dawn of PCs and laptops meant the pinnacle of technology enhancing our working lives, these Windows hacks take it a step further. Whether it’s unlocking hidden features or using shortcuts that reduce the time and effort needed to take action, these tips will make you a certified Windows pro.
Check out our other technical guides:
Photograph by Clement Sim.