Regardless of your industry, computers are likely leading the charge on how work is performed. And since the bulk of commercial systems run on Microsoft Windows, anything that can be done to save time and boost productivity can make a real difference.
Working smarter, not harder: That is the focus here. The following tips will help streamline common business tasks by eliminating repetitive clicks and tedious steps.
A PDF version of this article is available here.
1: Launch a command-line interface (CLI) from any folder
This one has been around for a few iterations of Windows, but it just works so perfectly and keeps you from having to enter multiple commands or search for the app through the Start Menu.
- Navigate to the folder you wish to launch as the default path in the CLI.
- Hold down the Shift key while right-clicking the folder to bring up the context menu.
- Select Open Command Window Here and the CLI will launch with the path to the folder specified.
2: Access Windows GodMode
Yes, you read correctly. Windows does indeed have a titled "GodMode," which is a collection of each individual management app and snap-in, all collected within one easy-to-access folder. The only problem is that by default, it is hidden to end users. Here's how to unhide it.
Create a new folder anywhere on the system drive and enter the following code snippet as the name of the folder:
Double-click the folder to open it and you'll find a shortcut to every manageable component within Windows 10 at your fingertips.
3: Automatically redirect OneDrive to a cloud folder
OneDrive, like many other cloud-based applications, simplifies data storage by copying files online for collaboration. However, due to its deep integration with Windows 10, OneDrive offers enhancements that no other vendors offer natively.
Select the user profile folders you wish to redirect via OneDrive, then drag and drop them from their current location to the root of the OneDrive folder. Depending on the size of the folder and the speed of your internet connection, copying the files over to the cloud-based folder may be take quite some time to complete, but once it's done Windows will automatically save files to the cloud folder when saving documents to the user profile folders that were transferred over to the OneDrive.
4: Configure native virtual desktop support
In this age of multitasking and multiple monitors, managing applications and data onscreen can be segmented any number of ways to suit your needs. For single-monitor users, or even those who want to further compartmentalize their workflows, using virtual desktops can help achieve this goal by allowing users to split up how apps are displayed and to group them:
- Click the Task View button and click the + sign to create a new virtual desktop.
- Repeat this process to add as many virtual desktops as necessary.
- With all virtual desktops created, open applications, documents, etc., and drag them to the different desktops to associate the apps with the desktops to allow for organizing them correctly.
- To select between multiple desktops, click the Task View button and cycle through the various screens.
5: Create symbolic links
Symlinks are similar to shortcuts in general, but they establish paths to files or folders that can be used by the system to point back to the original file or folder without having to copy or move the original from its location. It is used regularly by developers to link to existing system files without the need to include a copy of the same file within its application directory. It can also be used in backup schemes to allow the original files to reside within the system, yet still allow for it to be backed up without moving the file from its intended location.
Launch CMD and type in the following command to create a symlink. Note that the syntax of the command stipulates that the link is named first, while the original file or directory is named second:
mklink C:\linked_file.txt C:\Windows\file_to_be_linked.txt
6: Get Linux Bash Shell support
Included, yet hidden by default in Windows 10, is the ability to install and use the Linux Bash terminal for those users who require management of both Windows and Linux-based systems. Though definitely not for everyone, if you do require this functionality, you'll save time having access to the terminal from your Windows PC.
- Go to Settings | Update & Security. Click on For Developers from the navigation bar on the left and select the radio button next to Developer Mode.
- Select Yes when prompted to confirm the setting change and restart your computer for the changes to take effect.
- Once the necessary components have been installed, go to Control Panel | Program | Turn Windows Features On Or Off.
- Check the Windows Subsystem For Linux (Beta) option and click OK to install the Bash terminal and restart your computer again after completion.
- With Bash installed, the last step before using it to manage Linux-based systems is to create a UNIX account to use with it. Launch C:\Windows\System32\bash.exe and type Y to continue.
- After the final components are downloaded from the Windows Store, create a username and press Enter.
7: Enable Cortana to control anything with your voice
Virtual assistants are equal parts useful productivity tools and serious security concerns. But focusing on the former, these assistants can perform tasks on our behalf, often saving us a lot of time. However, without voice control, many of these tasks can't reach their full potential.
- Launch Cortana by clicking on the Start Menu and clicking on the search box.
- Go to Cortana's settings by clicking the notebook icon and switching the Hey Cortana setting to the ON position.
Though optional, on Windows 10 Anniversary Edition computers, Cortana can also be set to respond to only your voice by clicking on the Learn My Voice button and following the exercises to best allow for machine learning to correctly identify your voice patterns.
8: Record screen activity using the hidden Screen Recorder app
Screen recording capability has been available from several 3rd-party developers since the earliest versions of Windows, and now Microsoft has included this handy utility natively in Windows 10—but most will be unaware of it unless they've linked their account to Microsoft's Xbox service.
- Launch the Xbox app and sign in using your Microsoft account.
- Access the game bar, which includes screen audio and video recording, by accessing the GameDVR feature or using the Windows Key+G keyboard shortcut.
- Click on the red dot (the record button) to begin your screen recording.
9: Access the alternative Start menu
There are two known Start menus in Windows 10: The desktop mode and tablet mode. Depending on your device and preference, you can set one as the default. However, there is a third Start menu, which is text-based (i.e., no icons). It loads quickly and provides instant access to the most common Start menu selections.
Right-click the Windows logo on the Start menu to launch the text-only version. Because it is devoid of all graphics and animations, it functions quickly and provides access to many of the regular Start menu's options without the resource or performance hit and without cluttering up the view of the desktop.
10: Enable copy and paste in the CLI
While the copy and paste keyboard shortcuts work throughout all versions of Windows, it wasn't until recently that Microsoft allowed for the feature to work within the command line. By default, it is not enabled, but the functionality is built in.
- Launch Command Prompt and right-click the header bar, then select Properties from the context menu.
- In the properties window, select the Options tab
- In the Edit Option section, select the Enable Ctrl Key Shortcuts checkbox to allow keyboard shortcuts to be used in conjunction with CMD.
There are scores of quick tips and shortcuts that can make your Windows 10 tasks more efficient—far too many to list here. But part of the fun is figuring out what works best for your workflow and using it to maximize your productivity.
What unique or notable Windows 10 tricks have you discovered? Share them below in the Comments section.
Jesus Vigo is a Network Administrator by day and owner of Mac|Jesus, LLC, specializing in Mac and Windows integration and providing solutions to small- and medium-size businesses. He brings 19 years of experience and multiple certifications from several vendors, including Apple and CompTIA.