Software

The Windows 10 Anniversary Update enhances the Settings tool

Windows is moving toward a more sensible and user-friendly Settings tool. And although progress has been slow, the Anniversary Update does include some promising improvements.

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Image: iStockphoto.com alessandroguerriero


Back in February 2015, I wrote Control Panel and Settings: Why are both still UI options in Windows 10?, in which I advocated putting the Control Panel to rest and making Settings the de facto configuration tool in the Windows 10 operating system. When I wrote that article, Windows 10 was still under development and five months away from RTM. There was some progress toward removing Control Panel tools and replacing them with new controls in the Settings UI—but there was still a long way to go.

I had hoped that by the time that Microsoft officially released Windows 10, the Control Panel would have been totally replaced by Settings, with its clean-looking and simple-to-navigate UI. However, that wasn't to be the case—the Control Panel lived on in Windows 10.

So here we are one year after the official release, with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. And while we have moved closer to replacing the Control Panel, we're still not where I had envisioned. However, that's not to say there hasn't been progress, as several settings have migrated from the old to the new UI. Furthermore, the tool has a new name and you'll find better search features. Let's take a closer look.

SEE: How to tweak the Windows 10 Action Center to make it less annoying

A new name and improved search

To call attention to the fact that the tool has been enhanced, Microsoft changed the name to Windows Settings, which gives the tool more credence as the main configuration tool in Windows 10. You'll also notice that Microsoft has tweaked the UI layout. As you can see in Figure A, the name and search box are now centered, making them more prominent.

Figure A

Figure A
Windows Settings is a more comprehensive name for the main configuration tool.

The search tool in Windows Settings is much better than in previous versions as well. Now when you search for a particular setting, a results window appears as soon as you begin typing and will begin displaying match settings immediately, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Figure B
The search tool in Windows Settings is a big improvement.

When you delve into the inner pages of the tool, the Search box shifts to the left, as shown in Figure C. You'll also discover that the search tool helps you locate and access settings that still live in the Control Panel.

Figure C

Figure C
The search tool in Windows Settings allows you to locate and access settings still in the Control Panel.

Taskbar configuration

I've been on the lookout for Control Panel features that have migrated over to Windows Settings. The first one I found in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update that really needed to make the move is the Taskbar configuration tool. Taskbar configuration formerly existed in the Taskbar And Start Menu Properties dialog box, shown in Figure D. While still functional, this old-fashioned dialog is lackluster and tedious to use. On top of that, it no longer contains any real Start menu settings

Figure D

Figure D
The old Taskbar And Start Menu Properties dialog box really needed to go.

Fortunately, Microsoft moved the taskbar configuration into the Windows Settings tool in Personalization > Taskbar. In this new format, all the settings are on one scrollable page that makes it easy to find what you're looking for. To better show the Taskbar settings, I cut the screen shot of the Taskbar page into two pieces, shown in Figure E and Figure F.

Figure E

Figure E
The Taskbar page provides all the settings on one scrollable page.

As you look over the settings on the Taskbar page, you'll see that a lot of them are familiar, such as Lock The Taskbar and Use Small Taskbar Buttons. But instead of check boxes, we now have On/Off switches. You'll also find access to the Notification Area settings as well as the Multiple Displays settings.

Figure F

Figure F
The page includes Notification Area settings and Multiple Displays settings.

In addition to the familiar settings, there are some new ones. First of all, there are two Automatically Hide The Taskbar settings—one for desktop mode and one for tablet mode.

The Show Badges On Taskbar Buttons is another new setting, designed to show the status of Windows apps that are pinned to the taskbar. These badges appear as an overlay on the taskbar icon. For example, a badge for the Mail app's taskbar icon can display the number of unread emails, and a badge for the Action Center icon can display the number of new notifications, as shown in Figure G. (The badges will not appear if you have the Small Taskbar Icons setting turned on.)

Figure G

Figure G
The Show Badges On Taskbar Buttons is a new setting that shows the status of Windows apps that are pinned to the taskbar.

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What's your take?

Many other enhancements are included in the new Windows Settings tool—too many to cover in one article. I'll discuss more of the new and enhanced features in Windows Settings in future articles. For now, what do you think about the enhancements I've covered in this article? Share your thoughts with fellow TechRepublic members.

About Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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