A few weeks ago, I shared my list of seven Windows 10 annoyances (and how to fix them). This was one of my most popular posts of the year, and so for a sequel I decided to offer the flip side, listing my seven favorite features.
As I was putting this list together, one thing that struck me was how many of these features were missing or poorly implemented when Windows 10 debuted in 2015. But all the features I chose for the spotlight here have been thoroughly tested, applied well, and guaranteed to make you more productive.
1. Windows Hello
When I’m shopping for a new PC, a feature should be on the list. It has to support biometric authentication, or I’m not interested.
My main laptop, the Dell Latitude 7400, has a built-in infrared camera that supports Windows Hello Facial Recognition, as does my Surface Book 2. Both devices can recognize me and sign me into Windows in two seconds or less. My Lenovo Yoga C630, running Windows 10 on the arm, has a fingerprint sensor that also eliminates the need to type a password to sign in. It’s not quite as convenient as facial recognition, but I’ll take it.
I notice the difference every time I use my 2017 MacBook Pro, which does not have a Touch Bar or Touch ID and seems to require two attempts before accepting my password, no matter how much caution I use I type from By the time I’m ready to replace it, I hope Apple has incorporated its facial recognition into the Mac.
2. taskbar search box
Microsoft made a big mistake in the early days of Windows 10 by creating the functionality of its built-in search box with a fake Cortney feature. Now that Cortana has been rolled out of Windows and into Microsoft 365, the search box can do its job without any personality display.
I use this search box dozens of times a day, whenever I have a question that has a simple factual answer. There is no need to open the browser tab and do a full search when you are just looking for a quick answer. Instead, tap the Windows key and start typing. The answer appears almost immediately in the results pane above the search box.
Dictionary definitions, translating words and phrases, and calculating and converting are also really good. The other day, for example, I was researching new cars and found an interesting article that included fuel economy ratings expressed in km / L. How much is MPG? easy.
It has really changed my way of working.
I have always been a big proponent of multi-monitor setup for productivity on the desktop. Years ago, this meant that two 24-inch LCD displays were arranged side by side. Today, however, I have a separate setup that works even better for me: the 38-inch Dell Ultrashape Curved Monitor, powered by a powerful laptop, with the laptop display acting as a second monitor.
This ultraride monitor is perfect for cracking two windows with each other for research and writing. In the meantime, I keep a secondary app on a laptop display: for example, the Slack and Teams window, so I can keep track of conversations with colleagues out of the corner of my eye.
Five years ago, Windows was extremely awkward when it came to managing transitions between displays with various scaling factors. Over the years, however, virtually all of those issues have disappeared in Windows 10, and I almost never see strange scaling issues when dragging windows between two displays with different resolutions.
4. Wireless projection
Miracast technology dates back to around 2014, when it was a signature feature of Windows 8.1. After that, getting a Windows PC to connect wirelessly to a TV with a large screen was a bit of a crampshoot, usually requiring external adapters and some tilt.
A lot has happened since then in six years. Both TVs with large screens in our home support Miracast natively, as do our two Roku devices. And connecting to any of those devices from a Windows 10 PC is as simple as clicking the connect button in the Action Center and then choosing a device from the list.
This feature is not required for YouTube, which has its own built-in app on all of my connected devices. But it is ideal for watching livestream concerts and pay-per-view events that are not accessible through an app.
5. OneDrive files on-demand
There are many cloud-based storage services to choose from. I use OneDrive because it is included with my Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) subscription, one for business, one for personal use. Each subscription includes one terabyte of storage (and with a $ 100-a-year Microsoft 365 family account, five additional family members each meet for their own storage).
But the real benefit is integration with Windows 10, where you’ll find a top-level node for OneDrive in the navigation pane and, importantly, support for a feature called File On-Demand, which lets you browse through that terabyte Allows cloud-based storage without having to actually download all those files. Double-clicking the file downloads it and opens it for editing, as the feature name suggests.
My personal OneDrive has about 900 GB of files, but I’ve chosen to keep those files offline for less than 50 GB, as you can see.
The feature works so well and integrates so easily that it is possible to forget that it was missing in action for the first two years of Windows 10’s existence and did not return until 2017.
6. Hyper-V and Windows Sandbox
The best reason to pay for an upgrade to Windows 10 Pro is to gain access to the built-in Hyper-V virtualization software, which lets you run Windows or Linux in a virtual machine isolated from your physical PC.
I have written several how-to articles on enabling Hyper-V and creating a virtual machine, as well as a long piece on how to install a virtual copy of Ubuntu Linux using Hyper-V’s Quick Create gallery.
Those features are great for developers, but the latest addition to the Hyper-V feature set is useful for anyone. Windows Sandbox is a simple way to instantly create a clean virtual machine, where you can test a program or visit a suspicious website, risk-free. When you close the sandbox, each trace immediately disappears.
7. Progressive Web Apps
Progressive Web Apps (PWA) is a great way to turn a rich website (such as Twitter, Spotify, or Gmail) into an app that runs in its own window, with its own notifications and data storage, Is with more traditional apps. PWA appear in the Windows 10 Start menu, and you can pin them to the Start or Taskbar. You can also manage them from the Apps page in Settings.
Every modern browser supports PWA. If you are using the new Chromium-based Edge, you get an “App Available” notification in the address bar if a website supports this feature.
With Google Chrome, you can install PWA with a similar icon in the address bar, but they are not tightly integrated with Windows 10.
Either way, this is a great way to resend another browser tab rather than giving your location to important sites.