Monthly Archives: January 2017

How To Tweaking Windows 10 Privacy Settings

Several controversial privacy issues have kept many users from upgrading to Microsoft’s latest operating system, even with the free upgrade offer (still) on the table. While some of the initial uproar may have been overblown, there are some settings worth visiting in this post-Snowden era of heightened concern regarding personal privacy. Today, we’ll examine a handful of the more questionable features and settings and show you how to go about regaining some of your privacy.
The first order of business is to head to the Windows 10 Privacy settings. So yes, there’s actually a centralized place where you can tweak this stuff, with more updates to come in the upcoming ‘Creators update’. To get there, click on Start, then go to Settings > Privacy and click the General tab on the left sidebar. Here, you’ll find four options that can all safely be disabled.

Cool illustration above by Jim Cooke via LifeHacker
Everything here is pretty self-explanatory and although I’d personally disable everything, at the bare minimum I would strongly suggest turning off the feature that sends Microsoft information about how you write which supposedly helps them “improve typing and writing in the future.” No, thanks.
The screenshot below shows Windows 10’s privacy settings at default on the Anniversary Update.

While you’re here, it’s not a bad idea to scan through some of the other categories where you can adjust location settings, camera settings (a piece of tape over your webcam isn’t a bad idea, either), microphone settings, contact settings, and more. It’s easy to go overboard and mass-disable everything; the best approach is to evaluate each setting on a personal level and only turn off what you feel comfortable doing such that it won’t impede functionality that you actually use.

A perfect example of this is Cortana, the personal digital assistant built into Windows 10.
Much like Alexa and Google Now, Cortana can be incredibly helpful but it’s not something everyone is going to use. Before the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, turning off Cortana entirely was trivial but now, you’ll need to perform a simple registry edit to do so.

In Windows 10 Home, this can be done my finding the key HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Windows Search (you might need to create this key if it doesn’t exist). From there, create the DWORD value AllowCortana and set it to 0.

On Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise edition, you can use the local Group Policy Editor (Run > gpedit.msc), to open the policy Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Search > Allow Cortana then set it to “disabled.”

Another controversial feature in Windows 10 is Wi-Fi Sense. Microsoft pitched this feature as an easy way to share your network with friends or use a friend’s Wi-Fi network without having to exchange passwords. Although convenient, the feature generated a ton of criticism around the idea of sharing access and prompted Microsoft to strip out much of its functionality with the Anniversary Update.

The feature still exists in Windows 10 although the whole sharing credentials bit has been removed. Now Wi-Fi Sense is used exclusively to connect you to public Wi-Fi hotspots.

For all of the flack that Microsoft received regarding privacy when it launched Windows 10, the company seems to be taking the feedback in stride. With the upcoming Creators Update, Microsoft is making its privacy settings more transparent and easier for the average user to understand. There will be a new setup experience, so you’ll be able to get started on the right foot in terms of privacy settings right out of the gate. Though if you ask us, not asking in the first place and defaulting to the most private settings would be the ideal step forward.

How To Screenshot in Windows 10

few of you clicking on this article are probably thinking: “isn’t it easy to screenshot in Windows 10? You just press the print screen button and a screenshot is saved to the clipboard!” And you’d be correct; simply hitting the print screen button on your keyboard is the easiest way to capture a screenshot.
But Windows provides several other ways to screenshot, many of which are better options than simply mashing the print screen button, depending on your requirements. So below we’ve listed seven alternate methods of screenshotting that may come in handy in day to day life.

Alt + Print Screen
This simple keyboard combination is one that we use every day. By simultaneously hitting Alt and Print Screen, instead of capturing your entire screen, Windows 10 will only capture the active window. For those with large displays or multiple monitors with loads of windows open, this is the perfect way to capture only the most important stuff on the screen.
Like when you press just the Print Screen key by itself, Alt + Print Screen saves the image to your clipboard. To access the image, you’ll need to paste it into an app like Paint.

Win + Print Screen

This is another extremely handy keyboard combination you should put in your daily workflow. Hitting Win + Print Screen captures a screenshot of the entire screen and saves it directly to your drive. The photos are saved in the Pictures library, in the Screenshots folder, as PNG files.
This is the best tool to use if you want an immediate image file created from your screenshot. It’s quicker and easier than hitting Print Screen and then pasting the image into an image processing app like Paint. Unfortunately, you can’t hit Alt + Win + Print Screen to save an image of the active window.
Win + H
If you use Universal Windows apps often, you may find the Win + H keyboard shortcut useful. Hitting these keys simultaneously will take a screenshot of your active app and bring up a sharing panel, allowing you to easily insert and share this screenshot in other apps.
For desktop users, it’s not as handy as the two shortcuts above, but it is another way to screenshot in Windows 10.

Windows + Volume Down
The final set of shortcuts here is one for tablet users. It’s simple: hit the Windows button (or capacitive touch logo) in conjunction with the volume down button, and it will take a screenshot of your entire screen and save it to the Screenshot folder. Think of it as a hardware button version of Win + Print Screen.
The Snipping Tool is one of several software solutions provided in Windows. The app gives you greater control over what exactly is captured in your screenshot, by allowing you to draw rectangles or free-form shapes around anything on your screen. It also has a delay function so you can capture the perfect moment. After the Snipping Tool captures the selected area of your screen, you can annotate and highlight whatever you like using the built-in tools. It’s then easy to save the screenshot as an image to your drive.
If you take screenshots often, creating a hotkey (keyboard shortcut) to open the Snipping Tool comes super handy. To do that, open the Windows Explorer and browse to the Windows / System32 folder. Look for SnippingTool.exe, right-click on it and select Create Shortcut. You can place this shortcut somewhere hidden, in your Documents or Downloads folder. Then right-click on this shortcut and select Properties. In the field Shortcut Key, you can set your shortcut. I personally like setting my screenshot tool to “Win Key + Shift + S” but you could certainly go with something as easy as F7.

There are also third-party tools that provide more functionality, but for the most part the Snipping Tool does everything you’d want. And it’s already included with Windows 10.

Windows Inking Tools
If you have a device that supports stylus input through Windows Ink, there are some additional ways to capture a screenshot in Windows 10. One way involves opening the Ink Workspace, which is available by tapping the pen icon in the taskbar, and then clicking on ‘screen sketch’. From here, a full screenshot is captured and opened in a window that allows annotating.
Another way to achieve the same outcome is to double tap the eraser button on your stylus, provided your stylus supports this feature. The Surface Pen included with some Microsoft Surface products is one such stylus that has this functionality.
There is an additional screenshot utility provided as part of Windows 10’s Game Bar and Game DVR. When the Game DVR is activated and enabled, you’ll be able to screenshot in games by hitting Win + Alt + Print Screen (or a shortcut of your choice). You’ll get a notification on screen to let you know it was successful, and images are saved in the Captures folder of your Videos library.
To turn on the Game DVR’s screenshot feature, open the Xbox app, head to the Game DVR tab of the settings menu, and check the box that says “record game clips and screenshots using Game DVR”. This screenshot feature will only work in games, and the Xbox app does a reasonable job of detecting what is and isn’t a game. In the event a game is not detected, open the Game Bar using Win + G then check the “yes, this is a game” box.

Some Free Apps To Install On New Windows PC

You just bought a new Windows laptop, built a new desktop, or are simply clean installing on a new SSD. Gotta love the smell of a fresh new machine, but now you have to get back to productivity zen by recovering your files and installing programs.
Not sure which ones? Well, let us help. We’ve compiled a list of essential programs to get you started. From browsers to productivity tools and lots of suggestions for the areas in between, and as usual with a special emphasis in great free options you can download right away.
Browsers
Windows 10 offers Edge which is a serviceable browser, nothing wrong with it but you’ll rarely find power users favoring it over Chrome or Firefox. The default choice for most is indeed Chrome, a great browser that is very extensible. Although it’s been suffering from some performance hiccups as of late, Google is hard at work correcting those. Chrome is great for Android users, too for natively syncing across devices.
Then there’s Firefox which is long time contender that has never stopped evolving and arguably every bit as good browser as Chrome.
If you’re up for a little experimentation, Opera remains a slick and feature rich browser that is based on Chrome’s engine. Same goes for Vivaldi (from the original makers of Opera), the new kid on the block, it’s not as polished as Opera on the UI front, but is very customizable and offers many power user friendly features.

Cloud Storage
Cloud storage and services are a must-have in your toolbox. There is nothing more convenient than accessing data from any place or device, and having that data sync across devices.
Backing up and restoring information has never been smoother either, and even though there’s a huge array of options we’ve long been spoiled by Dropbox’s ease of use. Major alternatives include Google Drive and Microsoft’s own OneDrive, which is integrated into Windows 10. Odds are you already rely in one (or more than one) of these three, but if not, I’d start by picking one and making the most of the free storage you get to sync and backup important documents.
Messaging
Information is power but having the right information at the right time is even more important. For video calls there’s Skype. The most ubiquitous messaging platforms are Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger, though only the former offers a native desktop application which comes super handy when you’re working on your PC.
It’s always fun to stay in touch with family and friends, but if you need to collaborate in a workgroup then Slack, Spark or Hipchat are the most likely platforms you’ll be using. And if you’re interested in having all your different communication services in one place you could try Franz.

Security
If you know what you’re doing, Windows 10 comes out of the box with more than decent security. Common sense and Microsoft’s built-in tools should be enough for most users, but if you want to go the extra mile and add another layer of protection that won’t turn into a burden for your system, you should install Malwarebytes. A veteran specializing in preventing malware and rootkits attacks, it’s good and free for personal use. There’s also Virustotal.com which you can use to scan downloaded files for threats before you open them.

Gaming
For gaming we have to recommend Steam. Valve’s platform does an awesome job at being a one-stop shop for all PC gaming. It’s a great hub and gaming communication platform, also known for its killer sales. Do note however that certain franchises are absent from Steam, namely games from the likes of EA, Ubi and Blizzard. So here are download shortcuts for Origin, Uplay and GOG Galaxy.

Multimedia
For watching your favorite movies and series there’s VLC Player. It just works, but if that’s not enough it has great support, a wicked equalizer, and simple controls. To be fair, Windows 10’s built in player works well and supports a variety of formats, too. Last time we checked it saves you battery when playing movies on a laptop, so we certainly wouldn’t discard it.
It’s not uncommon for PCs to act as hubs to stream movies or serve as HTPCs. If you are looking for more than a player, something that offers streaming and can organize your library there is Plex, which is very popular, and Kodi, less known but just as capable alternative.
Productivity
Personally I’m a big LibreOffice fan. It’s the first thing I install for productivity. It offers all the basics (and then some) you’ll need from Microsoft Office but at no cost. Not everyone agrees on my choice — there are other free alternatives as well as Google Docs if you can’t justify paying for the Office suite.
For note-taking there’s OneNote, which Microsoft now offers as a free cross-platform, cloud connected app. If you’re more of a visual person you can use Monosnap for taking screenshots with annotations.
We all need an image editing tool. Windows 10 users can rely on Adobe’s Photoshop Express for basic editing, free of charge.
Finally, for coders and developers we have to give a shout out to Sublime Text, possibly the best text editor you’ll find.

Bonus Killer Apps
Feel the list is missing something? Since publishing this article, the community has provided invaluable feedback in the form of your own app suggestion and recommendations. Check that out further down below!
If we were to list one more useful application, we have F.lux as a bonus. This nifty little app shifts the color of your computer’s display to adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day. If you like to work at night, F.lux is a godsend.