10 truly helpful Windows 10 tools you might not know about

So you’ve mastered Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts and Snap open windows like a boss. Now what?

Windows 10 offers many other power tools for enthusiasts—if you know where to find them. Some are older, yet still obscure. Others are relatively new, added during the twice-annual major upgrades Microsoft’s been pushing out since Windows 10 launched nearly six long years ago (though most recent feature upgrades, like the bug-squashing May 2021 Update that’s available for installation now, tend to be minor). But all 10 of these little-used tricks and tools can help hardened PC users save time or eliminate headaches.

If you’re looking for a guide to even more of the operating system’s darker corners after reading this, be sure to check out our roundup of the best Windows 10 tips and tweaks, as well as our guide to time-saving Windows tricks. We’ve also published a tutorial on how to tune Windows 10 for laser-focused productivity. Most everyone will learn a little something! Microsoft’s been aggressive about rolling out new features for Windows 10, but not necessarily about promoting them. Speaking of which…

1. Timeline

Microsoft rolled out Windows 10’s Timeline feature as part of the April 2018 Update, and it’s awesome. It’s basically like a browser history for your desktop programs, showing files you’ve opened previously in chronological order. Selecting one opens the file once again. Paired with the “Pick up where you left off” in modern Microsoft Office apps, you can be knee-deep in that project from two weeks ago in no time.

Better yet, Timeline’s tied to your Microsoft account rather than an individual PC. If you store your files in the cloud, you can pick up where you left off no matter which device you happen to use—though not for much longer. Microsoft sadly plans to kill Timeline’s cross-device sync. It’s a great feature while it lasts though.

timeline Brad Chacos/IDG

Windows 10 Timeline feature is part of the operating system’s Task View interface.

Timeline isn’t perfect. Developers need to allow their software to hook into the feature, and many popular programs—including Google Chrome—don’t bother (though Microsoft offers a “Web Activities” extension that adds Chrome support). That gives the tool a Microsoft-centric feel. But it’s incredibly handy regardless, especially if you spend a lot of time working in Office.

Open Timeline by clicking the Task View icon in Windows 10’s taskbar or by pressing Windows Key + Tab, and be sure to read our Windows 10 Timeline guide for more granular details.

2. Virtual desktops

Virtual desktops are catnip for organization-obsessed power users. They’re wildly useful, letting you set up separate “virtual” versions of your desktop, each running its own instances of software. You could run one virtual desktop for work tasks and another for your entertainment apps, for instance, or keep a primary working desktop stocked with Office apps for spreadsheet-slinging, and another devoted to multimedia editing.

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