Ever wondered why Windows is the most popular operating system that is run on PCs? Apart from the obvious reason of being one of the pioneer operating systems, it also packs an abundant array of features to make our operations perfectly seamless. Not only does it feature vital programs like the best antivirus software, there are less mentioned but equally important options.
Microsoft has consistently updated its features with each Windows release. The telecom giant recently unveiled Windows 11, the latest OS joining a long list of successful predecessors, like Windows XP (released in 2001) and Windows Vista (released in 2006). There have also been much improved versions like Windows 7 in 2009, Windows 8 in 2012, and Windows 10.
While some features are removed due to lack of use, some have been introduced, and others updated to serve modern functions. We’ve prepared this article to inform you about the most popular features we’ve seen over the years so that you can take advantage of these features if you’re not doing that already.
Table of Contents
The desktop is one of the most fundamental parts of the Windows user interface. For most Windows versions, the desktop is the first screen you arrive at after you turn on the system, and it has been compared to a real-life office space. It allows you to arrange various system objects like icons, folders, documents, applications, and shortcuts.
Consider the desktop as a background on which every other thing happens – like a homepage. You can launch any program and open any file or folder on the desktop by double-clicking on them. To access others, go through the Start Menu. The shortcut to moving to the desktop is Windows Key + D. This minimizes all applications and takes you to the desktop.
Unlike the desktop that lets you access some of the files or folders on the computer, the File Explorer allows you to browse through the entire folders on the system for files and programs. This essential feature grants access to files saved on the system, removable disks, and even system files.
Through File Explorer, you can perform a host of functions o files, such as opening, renaming, deleting, copying, moving, sending, and getting the properties of files. The good news is that you can open multiple File Explorers simultaneously, and the shortcut is the Windows Key + E.
Settings and Control Panel are two different Windows features that offer almost the same functions. They both contain tools that you can use to configure your computer or manage the resources it contains. Some of the functions you can find include time and date, network, security, sound, appearance, user accounts, app, settings, etc.
The Control Panel is contained in the older Windows and is expected to be removed in subsequent releases. However, newer Windows versions, like Windows 10, combine both features. This is a sign that Microsoft wants you to get used to the new style before removing the old one.
Unlike Windows 8, Windows 10 allows you to view all your notifications in one location. The notification area displays background programs as well as information such as the timestamp, updates, alerts, network connection status, and the current volume level. It also collects alerts from all of your apps on your device. Depending on the app, you can also respond or react to each notification from this panel.
Common icons on the notification area
- Volume: When viewed, this icon resembles a loudspeaker. It gives you quick and easy access to your computer’s volume settings and shows which output device is currently in use.
- Antivirus Program: Depending on the antivirus program installed on the computer, you should find a notification icon that represents it since antiviruses have their unique notification icons.
- Network Connection: When your computer is connected to the internet via cable or Wi-Fi, an icon displaying the connection status appears.
- Windows Update: An icon depicting a new update appears when there’s a window update available for download and installation.
Cortana is voice-enabled Microsoft’s productivity assistant that aids you in time-saving and focusing your attention on what is most crucial. Voice assistants are some of the newest technologies that have seen massive improvements in recent times.
Much like its counterparts—Siri from Apple, Alexa from Amazon, and Google Assistant— Cortana can perform a wide range of functions. Some of the tasks it can help with include managing calendars and helping you stay on top of the schedule, making and managing lists, getting you facts and definitions, launching applications on your computer, joining meetings on Microsoft Teams, etc.
Different utility applications have always been a part of Windows. They are some of the most common programs that make Windows operation interesting, and a few of them come in handy for various uses. For example, the calculator app could save you when adding numbers or performing other calculations.
The PrintScr button, when used alongside the Paint app, lets you take a screenshot, but more recent versions have the Snipping Tool that gives more freedom. If your computer has camera hardware, you’re likely going to get the Camera app. Other popular apps include photo viewers, video players, browsers, maps, games, etc.
Office apps are largely indispensable, and Microsoft acknowledges this by providing a couple of the most well-known ones. Notepad is one of the oldest that is still part of Windows today. WordPad and Microsoft Outlook are other popular programs that have always been around.
More recently, the entire Office Suite has been added to newer Windows. These applications are expected to work more smartly with optimization across different devices that run on the Windows OS with newer releases.
There you have it! A comprehensive list of some of the most useful features any Windows user should know. While some of these are crucial for the normal operation of the computer, others, like the app for taking a screenshot on Windows, are rarely used. There is a good chance you’re already familiar with some of them, but it’s not too late to start experimenting with others as well.