When it was first released in July 2015, Windows 10 was the best operating system to come along from Microsoft in a long time. A shape-shifter that changed its interface depending upon whether you were using a traditional computer or a touch-based one, it undid the damage wrought by Windows 8, including eliminating the awkward Charms bar and bringing back the long-mourned Start menu.

Windows 10 introduced many other key features as well, including the Edge browser, the Cortana digital assistant, links to Microsoft’s cloud-based OneDrive cloud storage service, and plenty more.

That’s not to say that Microsoft got everything right out of the gate. The company has honed those features, added new ones, and scrapped some that didn’t work out as it rolled out 11 major updates to Windows 10 since its initial release. This story is based on the Windows 10 November 2021 Update (version 21H2), so the features described here and the screenshots you see may differ from what you see if you have an older version of Windows 10. I’ll cover everything you need to know, and I’ve also provided quick-reference charts listing useful keyboard shortcuts, touchscreen gestures, and touchpad gestures.

Note: If you want to get the most out of Windows 10, you’ll have to use a Microsoft ID as your user account. Without a Microsoft ID, you won’t be able to use a number of Windows 10 apps or sync settings among multiple devices. So when you set up Windows 10 for the first time, sign in with an existing Microsoft ID or create a new one.

Before I get started, a few words about some terminology you’ll need to know. Microsoft has sowed enormous confusion with a set of lightweight apps that were originally designed for the Windows 8 touch-oriented Start screen interface. It first called them Metro apps, and then through the years changed their names to Modern apps, Windows Store apps, and then Universal Windows apps. Now it’s settled simply on Windows apps, although at times the company also calls them Universal Windows apps. In this article, I’ll refer to them as Windows apps.

What about apps designed for the desktop? Microsoft now calls them Windows desktop applications. In this article I’ll call them desktop applications for simplicity’s sake.


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