- 1-How to take screenshots on your Windows 11 PC
- 2-How to pause and disable Windows 11 updates
- 3-How to use snap layouts in Windows 11
- 4-How to change your default browser in Windows 11
- 5-Here’s how to get the Google Play Store running on Windows 11
- 6-These apps let you customize Windows 11 to bring the taskbar back to life
- 7-How to customize your Windows 11 taskbar
- 8-How to put the Windows 11 Start menu back where it belongs
- 9-How to get Teams to go away in Windows 11
- 10-How to use Focus assist in Windows 11
- 11-How to create virtual desktops with Windows 11
1-How to take screenshots on your Windows 11 PC
Screenshots can be really handy. You can use them to show your grandparent how to use a new app. You can use them to send a shot of a strange error message to your company’s IT department. And you can use them to capture tweets before they disappear into the black hole of deletion. So, in case you need to capture a screenshot or two, here’s a quick and simple guide to taking screenshots on your PC.
Windows 10 introduced a screenshot tool called Snip & Sketch, but Windows 11 mostly relies on the simpler Snipping Tool. And there are other ways you can take screenshots as well. We’ll start with the simplest.
USE THE PRINTSCREEN KEY
If you’re in a real hurry, a quick method is to take a screenshot of your entire screen by pressing the Windows logo key at the same time as the PrintScreen key (which could be labeled PrtScrn or PrtScr). The image will be saved in your Screenshots folder as a PNG file. You can easily find the Screenshots folder in File Explorer; if you don’t see it immediately, select Pictures > Folders.
You may also be able to take a screenshot of your entire screen by pressing the PrintScreen key by itself. The image will be copied to your clipboard; once it’s there, you can paste it into a document or email.
USE THE SNIPPING TOOL
If you want something a little more refined, like, for example, to take a screenshot of a specific window or part of the screen, you can use the Snipping Tool that comes with Windows 11.
To access the toolbar, press Shift + Windows logo key + S. You’ll get a set of icons across the top of your screen. You have four choices:
- A rectangular snip that you create by left-clicking and dragging your cursor until you have the area you want to snip
- A freeform snip that you create in the same manner
- A window snip for a single window
- A full-screen snip
Once you’ve created your screenshot, a thumbnail of the snip will appear in the lower-right corner for a couple of seconds; click on it to bring it into the Snipping Tool app for edits like adding lines and text or cropping. (If it disappears before you have a chance to click on it, look for it in the Pictures > Screenshots folder.) The app also lets you share the image or save it as a PNG, JPG, or GIF file.
You can also access the full Snipping Tool by clicking on the search icon in the main toolbar and searching for it. Once you’re in the app, you can tweak some of its features by clicking on the three dots in the upper-right corner of the app and selecting Settings. You can also choose to delay a screenshot by three, five, or 10 seconds.
USE THE PRINTSCREEN KEY FOR THE SNIPPING TOOL
If you don’t want to bother with the Shift + Windows logo key + S combination, you can also make the PrtSc key bring up the Snipping Tool when you press it.
- Go to your computer’s settings by clicking on the Start button > Settings.
- Select Accessibility > Keyboard.
- Look for Use the Print screen button to open screen shipping and toggle it “on.”
USE THE XBOX GAME BAR
The Xbox Game Bar was created to help gamers record screenshots and videos of their games, among other things. As a result, it is an alternate way to take screenshots and Windows’ only built-in way to make screen recordings. You access it by pressing Windows Key-G on your keyboard.
The Game Bar works through a variety of different toolbars. Look for the one labeled Capture. If you don’t see it, look for the Capture icon (which looks like a camera) on the main toolbar.
The Capture toolbar offers four tasks: you can take a screenshot; record the last 30 seconds; start recording; and turn the mic on or off while recording. Be aware that it does have some limitations. For example, you can’t record the Windows desktop or File Explorer.
2-How to pause and disable Windows 11 updates
Windows 11 updates, which Microsoft sends to your system regularly, are meant to keep your operating system current. They are, for the most part, a good thing. But as long-time Windows users know, occasionally, an update can go wrong, and so some prefer to postpone updates for a week or two to make sure that there aren’t any problems being delivered with the update. In addition, sometimes updates come at an inconvenient time — for example, when you’re in the middle of a project with a tight deadline.
You can’t stop updates altogether, but you can pause them. There is also a way to disable updates, but it, too, is not permanent. If you want to hold off in case of any potential glitches or would rather put them off as long as possible, here is how to adjust your settings.
- Click the Start icon and select Settings
- Open Windows Update
- If you have any updates pending, you’ll find them listed on top. You can also click on the Check for updates button to see if you have any updates waiting. Otherwise, you’ll be told you’re up to date.
- Directly below, you’ll see a Pause updates option. On the right, there is a button labeled Pause for 1 week that will let you do just that.
- If you want to pause for more than a single week, then click on that button again, and you can extend the pause for up to three weeks.
- If you want to restart updates, you’ll see that the button that you used to check for updates now reads Resume updates. Click on that.
- Unfortunately, unlike with Windows 10, where you could pause updates for up to 35 days, in Windows 11, you only get up to those three weeks.
ADJUST RESTART TIMES
Windows will usually need to restart to finish installing updates — and since an update can take your computer out of service for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, you may want to adjust the restart times for when it’s most convenient.
- In the Windows Update screen, select Advanced options
- Look for Notify me when a restart is required to finish updating and toggle it on. That way, you’ll know if a restart is coming, and if you want, you can reschedule the restart.
- Just below that, click on Active hours. Look for the drop-down menu at the right of Adjust active hours and select either Manually or Automatically. If you choose the former, you can select the hours during which it won’t restart (for example, if this is your work computer, you can choose not to have restarts between the hours of 9 a.m and 5 p.m.). If you choose the latter, the system will restart when you are not using it.
If you want to stop updates from happening for longer than that, there is a way to disable updates that worked — somewhat — with Windows 10 and should also work with Windows 11. However, even using Windows 10, this was not permanent; most sites reported that eventually (especially with a reboot), updates did resume. This may give you some breathing space, however.
- Use Win+R to open the Run box and type in services.msc. Hit OK.
- Scroll down to Windows Update and double-click on it.
- In the Startup type drop-down menu, select Disabled.
- Click Okay and restart your PC.
If you change your mind, you can follow these steps to re-enable it. You may note that you can choose Manual or Automatic. (Most Windows PCs come set to Manual, which simply means that the update is triggered by an event and doesn’t happen automatically when you reboot.)
3-How to use snap layouts in Windows 11
Windows 11 may not be exactly revolutionary, but there are some features that are just plain useful, and snap layouts are one of them. Replacing the drag-and-drop snap assist feature of Windows 10, snap layouts let you arrange your apps quickly and neatly on your desktop, making it much simpler to see all and use all at once. (Certainly, it’s a lot better than the constant Alt-Tab switching between apps that many of us are used to.)
Here’s how you set it up:
- Hover your cursor over the maximize icon in the upper right corner of an app or press Win-Z. You’ll see four (or six if you have a large monitor) different grid layouts that you can choose from. Each layout will have several zones in a different configuration.
- Choose a layout and hover over the zone you want your active app to be in. That zone will turn blue; click on it. Your app will then snap into that position.
- If you had other apps open, they may appear as thumbnails in another of the zones. Alt-Tab to each open app, and choose which zone you want that app to be in. You can also simply click on the app if it’s in the zone you want it to be in.
(Note: Sometimes, while you’re rearranging, one app can overlap the other. If things get confusing, use Alt-Tab to see where each app is or find them in the taskbar.)
And you’re ready to go!
Your snap layout will be reflected in the taskbar as well. If you go to the taskbar and hover over the icon for one of the apps in your layout, you will see a thumbnail for both the app and for the layout group it’s part of; you can click on either.
Need to maximize an app? Just click on the maximize icon. Click on it again, and the app will snap back into its former configuration.
ADJUST LAYOUT SETTINGS
You can adjust the snap layouts by going to “Settings” > “System” > “Multitasking.” You have a variety of options that you can enable or disable. For example, you can choose not to have the snap layout feature appear when you hover over the maximize symbol or when you hover over your app icon in the taskbar. You can arrange for the other windows to automatically resize when you manually resize one. And, of course, you can disable the feature entirely.
LEARN HOW TO USE IT
When you first start to use snap layouts, it may take a little getting used to, especially when it comes to deciding which app goes where. Once you’re set, however, you may find that snap layouts make it a lot easier to, say, monitor your Twitter or Slack account while working on a document or watching a video. Admittedly, if you have a smaller display, having more than two apps open at the same time could make things a bit crowded, but it’s worth experimenting a bit to see what works for you.
4-How to change your default browser in Windows 11
If you’ve updated your PC from Windows 10 to Windows 11, you may have noticed that when you click on a link for a website, a PDF document, or a variety of other file types, you will now be sent to Microsoft’s Edge browser. In its new version of Windows, Microsoft seems to have become especially aggressive in pushing its own apps over the apps that had been installed as defaults before the upgrade. In other words, Edge suddenly became your default browser.
Normally, the first time you go into another browser that is not Edge — say, Google Chrome — the not-Edge browser will ask if you’d like to make it the default instead. However, the process for changing your defaults in Windows 11 has become more complicated than it was in Windows 10. So you may not get that handy request — or if you do, it may land you on a complicated-looking page headed App > Default apps. Either way, here’s how to switch.
SWITCH DEFAULT BROWSERS
If you don’t want Edge to be your default browser, and your favorite browser isn’t offering to make the change for you — or if it did offer but instead sent you to the Default apps page mentioned above — here’s how to switch the default. For this example, I’m using Google Chrome, but this should work with any browser that you have installed on your system.
- Select Settings > Apps > Default apps
- Under Set defaults for applications, either scroll down to where your preferred browser is listed or type the name in the Search apps field. Click on the app.
- At the top of the list, you will hopefully see a line that reads Make [browser name] your default browser and, at the right of that, a button labeled Set default. Click on the button.
- Several browser-related file types will be listed beneath, under a subhead that reads Set default file types or link types. When you click on the Set default button, some of them — but not necessarily all — will switch from Edge to your preferred browser.
- Look for the file types that were assigned to Edge, such as .HTM, .HTML, HTTP, HTTPS, and perhaps .PDF (unless you have another PDF reader you prefer). Click on any that did not switch and that you still want to change.
- Be aware that there may be some file types that won’t offer your browser as an alternative.
Note: When it first shipped, Windows 11 made it much more difficult to change default browsers; depending on the browser you prefer, the process of switching may be even easier than this. For example, even when this was written, the first time I opened Firefox, it asked if I wanted it to become the default. I let it go ahead, and when I went to the Default apps section of setup, I found that Firefox was now set as the default for .HTM, .HTML, .HTTP, and .HTTPS files.
THAT WON’T SOLVE EVERYTHING
But wait — there’s more. Even after you switch your browser default to something other than Edge, you’re still going to get Edge as the favored browser for a number of Windows apps. For example, bring up Windows 11’s new Widget pane (by clicking on the Widgets icon in your taskbar, the one that looks like a two-paned window), and click on one of the news items that appear there — and the link will open Edge.
If you find that irritating, there may be an app for that. In order to open Edge-specific links, you need to do the following:
- Go to Settings > Apps > Default Apps.
- Scroll down to the bottom until you see Choose defaults by link type.
- Click on that, and then in the search box labeled Set defaults for link types, type Edge.
- Under the label Microsoft-Edge, you’ll see (a bit redundantly) Microsoft Edge. Click on that, and you’ll see any other browsers that you can use to open those specialized links.
Interestingly, if you install Chrome or Firefox, you won’t see them as choices. But if you install the Brave browser, you will see it as an option — and if you select that, then whenever you click on a news link in the Widget pane, it will come up in Brave.
Another possibility is a tool called EdgeDeflector that was originally created to intercept any links in Windows 10 that were Edge-specific and rewrite them on the fly so that they can be opened by the default web browser. I did a little browsing and read that its latest version, v18.104.22.168, would work with Windows 11.
I installed and followed the directions for setup. Unfortunately, while that worked for most links, when I clicked on a link from the news sources in the Widgets pane, it didn’t quite work — the link opened in Chrome, but none of the graphics came through. I’d keep an eye on this app, though…
5-Here’s how to get the Google Play Store running on Windows 11
A developer and design student has managed to get the Google Play Store working on Windows 11. Google’s Android app store is fully functional within Windows 11 using this method, allowing you to install a game or app and run it alongside traditional Windows apps.
Microsoft started testing Windows 11 Android app support last week, but the official implementation is limited to the Amazon Appstore and less than 50 apps during the preview phase. Getting the Google Play Store installed opens Windows 11 up to every Android app or game you’d want to use.
ADeltaX, an Italian UX design student, has successfully installed the Google Play Store on Windows 11, and detailed all the steps required to get it working. If you’re not familiar with Linux commands or command prompts, then the install process won’t be the most straightforward, but ADeltaX has created a video guide for those who really want to get this running.
I managed to get the Google Play Store up and running on Windows 11 in about 30 minutes, after downloading all the necessary tools, enabling the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), and installing Ubuntu. The result is a fully functional Play Store that you can use to install any Android app on Windows 11.
The full instructions for the install process are available on GitHub, or through the YouTube walkthrough video. We’re expecting Microsoft to make the Windows Subsystem for Android available to all Windows 11 users in the coming months, alongside Amazon Appstore support.
If you’re not feeling up to Linux commands, a developer has also created a tool available in the Microsoft Store that will let you sideload Android apps. This won’t work on apps that rely on Google Play Services APIs, but it does greatly simplify the process of sideloading Android apps on Windows 11.
6-These apps let you customize Windows 11 to bring the taskbar back to life
I’m not the only one who hates the new Windows 11 taskbar, and now third-party developers are coming to the rescue with apps that bring back some of the features missing in Microsoft’s latest OS.
Microsoft removed basic taskbar functionality in Windows 11, like displaying the time and date on multiple monitors, moving the taskbar to the top of the screen or sides, and even small things like altering its height and having small icons. It has angered many Windows users, and most of the top feedback in Microsoft’s Windows Insider program was related to the taskbar changes before Windows 11 debuted last week.
Stardock’s new Start11 app primarily focuses on allowing you to change the Start menu back to classic styles, but there’s also a lot of taskbar customization, too. You can change the taskbar size, its position across multiple monitors, and even what’s shown when you right-click on the bar. If you’re a fan of having Task Manager anywhere you right-click on the Windows 11 taskbar, you can bring it back with Start11.
While drag and drop still isn’t supported with Start11, the only thing that’s really missing is the ability to show the clock on multiple monitors. Thankfully, another third-party app, ElevenClock, saves the day. ElevenClock puts the time and date on multiple monitors, a feature that is strangely missing in Windows 11.
Windows 11 users shouldn’t really need to resort to third-party apps just to bring back basic taskbar functionality that has existed in Windows for decades, but until Microsoft addresses this area of feedback there are at least some workarounds available.
Microsoft hinted at potential changes to the taskbar last month. “As with every experience in Windows 11, we’re constantly listening and learning, and welcome customer feedback that helps shape Windows,” said a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge in September. “Windows 11 will continue to evolve over time; if we learn from user experience that there are ways to make improvements, we will do so.”
7-How to customize your Windows 11 taskbar
If you’ve updated your computer from Windows 10 to Windows 11, you may find that your taskbar isn’t quite as configurable — and perhaps not quite as useful — as it was before. For example, the old, familiar Start menu with its configurable Live Tiles is now gone. The search box is no longer within the taskbar but is accessed by first clicking on the Start menu — an extra step. (Although the fact that Cortana is no longer automatically part of that search box can be considered, by many at least, as a plus.)
Another thing: the taskbar is now permanently affixed to the bottom of the screen — so if you were more comfortable having it on top of the screen, or on either side, you’re out of luck.
As you might imagine, Windows users are already posting fixes for at least some of these issues — as long as you’re comfortable tweaking your Windows Registry. For example, there’s one that purportedly lets you move the taskbar to the top of the screen, and another that lets you change the size of the taskbar.
It’s possible that Microsoft will bring back some of these abilities in future updates of the new OS. For now, let’s concentrate on how you can adjust the current Windows 11 taskbar.
PIN AN APP TO THE TASKBAR
Pinning an app to the taskbar at the bottom can be a little — well, weird. There are several ways to handle it:
- If an app is running, its icon will appear in the taskbar with a line underneath to indicate that it is active. If you want its icon to remain in the taskbar even after you’ve closed it, then right-click on the icon and select “Pin to taskbar.”
- If an app isn’t running, but its icon is on your desktop, you can pin it to the Taskbar as well. Right-click on the desktop icon and click on “Show more options.” A longer menu will open up; about two-thirds down, you’ll see “Pin to taskbar.”
- You can also click on the Start icon, select the “All apps” button, and then right-click on the app you want. If you don’t see “Pin to taskbar” in the menu that pops up, then select “More” and you’ll see “Pin to taskbar.”
REMOVE AN APP FROM THE TASKBAR
Most apps are simple to remove: just right-click on the icon and select “Unpin from taskbar.”
A few of the icons take a little more effort to remove. The Start menu icon is, as might be expected, unremovable. But there are four other icons that can’t be removed but can be hidden. The easiest way to do that is:
- Right click on the taskbar.
- Select “Taskbar settings.” (You can also get there by going to “Settings” > “Personalization” > “Taskbar.”)
- Toggle off any of the four icons — “Search,” “Task view,” “Widgets,” or “Chat” — that you want to hide.
MOVE YOUR ICONS TO THE LEFT
Those of us who having been using Windows 10 (or 7 or earlier iterations) are used to accessing the Start menu from the lower left-hand corner of the screen. If your muscle memory keeps your hand drifting to that corner, you can move the center app icons so they are to your left instead:
- Right-click on the taskbar and click on “Taskbar settings.”
- Select “Taskbar behaviors.”
- Look for “Taskbar alignment” and click on the button on the right where it says “Center.” Select “Left” instead.
- Close the settings window, and you’ll see that the app icons in the taskbar have moved to the left, with the Start menu icon in the corner.
Incidentally, the “Taskbar behaviors” section of the settings lets you do more than move your icons to the left. It also lets you automatically hide the taskbar (something that’s been a taskbar behavior for a very long time); show a badge on taskbar apps to let you know if, say, you have any unread messages; handle how the taskbar works on multiple displays; and show a clean desktop by clicking on the far right corner of the taskbar.
TASKBAR CORNER ICONS AND OVERFLOW
While the taskbar corner icons and the overflow window aren’t new, I never actually knew what they were called before. To tell you the truth, when I first saw the phrase “Taskbar corner overflow,” I pictured a bunch of app icons flowing out of the display like Niagara Falls. Turns out the corner icons are the icons in the right corner of the taskbar — the ones that show the time and date, your battery status, your volume level, and your Wi-Fi status, among other things. The overflow is the little pop-up menu that appears when you select the arrow to the left of those corner icons.
For the most part, the icons in the overflow window are meant to notify you when there is something that needs to be done — messages that have arrived or an update that is needed. This is also handy for apps, like Discord, that tend to run in the background; you can shut them down easily from the overflow by right-clicking on the icon and looking for the “quit” selection.
While most of the corner icons that come with Windows are permanent, some — specifically, the Pen menu, the Touch keyboard, and the Virtual touchpad — can be hidden. They can be found on the same taskbar settings menu that let us move the icons to the left; just click on “Taskbar corner overflow” and toggle off the ones you don’t want to see.
When you upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11, one of the first things you may do is wonder: where the heck is my Start menu? Traditionally, the Windows Start menu has been in the lower-left corner of the screen, but when your new version of Windows appears, you’ll find the Start icon among a group of icons in the center of your taskbar at the bottom of the screen.
Click on the Start menu icon, and things will look very different as well. Instead of the large square Live Tiles that used to pop up, you have a much more modest set of app icons, mostly showing Microsoft-related apps pinned to the main page. Click on “All apps” on the top right corner (just below the search field), and you get the familiar A-to-Z listing of apps. But no tiles.
Look below the app icons, and you’ll find a “Recommended” section, which offers apps that Microsoft thinks you should try (such as Teams) and, if you click on the “More” button, some of the files or apps you may have used recently.
By the way, that search field? Click in that, and the Start menu will open up, giving you immediate access to File Explorer, settings, and other apps.
While some may appreciate this more puritanical version of the Start menu, others who have gotten used to the more configurable version in Windows 10 may want to know how they can go back to the more familiar, and more personal, version.
You can get some of the way there by moving the centered apps to the left of the taskbar:
- Right-click on the taskbar and click on “Taskbar settings”
- Select “Taskbar behaviors”
- Look for “Taskbar alignment” and click on the button on the right where it says “Center.” Select “Left” instead.
- Close the settings window, and you’ll see that the app icons in the taskbar have moved to the left, with the Start menu icon in the corner.
While this will place the Start menu back where you expected it, it will not restore the one you were used to. To get that back, you’re going to have to go to a third-party app.
There are a couple available. Stardock, a company whose Start10 app allows Windows 10 users to keep their beloved Windows 7 menu UI, has a Start11 app, which it says will bring back the classic Windows 10 Start menu. The app has a starting price of $5.99 for one active install.
A second is StartAllBack, which lets you tweak a number of Windows 11’s UI aspects, including the Start menu and the taskbar. StartAllBack offers a 30-day trial period; after that, a license for a single PC costs $4.99.
9-How to get Teams to go away in Windows 11
When you first install Windows 11, you will probably see a new icon on your Taskbar — or, at least, it will be new if you haven’t been using Microsoft’s Teams collaboration app lately. If you float your cursor across the icon, which looks like a camera inside of a cartoon speech balloon, it will say “Chat.” Click on it, and you’ll be invited to “Meet and chat with friends and family” using Microsoft Teams.
If you’re already using Teams, or you’re okay with switching to it, you’re fine. After that, when you click on the Chat icon, you’ll be able to chat with friends, family, and colleagues using a pop-up box.
So what if you’re not interested in using Microsoft Teams?
There are several things you can do if you find the push to Teams irritating. You can stop Teams from automatically loading every time you start your machine. You can remove the Chat icon from the Taskbar. And, if you really want to go the whole hog, you can uninstall it.
Let’s take these one at a time.
STOP TEAMS FROM LOADING ON STARTUP
It’s really simple to simply stop Teams — or any other app that you don’t need — from loading when your machine starts up. This not only gets your machine to start up faster, but it reserves your PC’s memory for the stuff you really want to use.
- Open the Settings app. There are several methods: you can click on your Start icon and select Settings from the pinned menu; or right-click the Start icon and select Settings; or type “Windows + i” on the keyboard.
- Select Apps > Startup
- Scroll down to “Microsoft Teams” and toggle it off. (The app may say “Microsoft Teams (Preview)” instead.)
By the way, as long as you’re in the Startup menu, take a look at some of the other apps that automatically start up with your computer; there may be some others that you want to disable (for example, what if you don’t necessarily want to run OneDrive?). Go ahead and do that.
REMOVE TEAMS FROM YOUR TASKBAR
Even if you stop Teams from loading, you’re still going to have the Teams Chat icon sitting in your Taskbar. If you have no intention of using it and want to save your Taskbar for other apps, it’s simple to remove it, though it’s not quite the same process as most of the other apps that are pinned there.
- Right-click on the Taskbar and then click on “Taskbar settings”
- Under Taskbar items, toggle off “Chat”
If you really, really don’t want Teams around, you can uninstall it. There are actually two ways of doing this:
USING THE START MENU
- Click on the Start menu icon in the Taskbar and then on the “All apps” button
- Scroll down to the Microsoft Teams app or type “Teams” in the search box. (The app may say “Microsoft Teams (Preview)” instead.)
- Right-click on the app and choose “Uninstall.” You’ll be told that the app will be uninstalled, so click “Uninstall” again.
- Open the Settings app (see above for various ways to do this)
- Select Apps from the left-hand menu
- Select “Apps & Features”
- Find the Microsoft Teams app, either by scrolling down or typing “Teams” into the search box. (It may say “Microsoft Teams (Preview).”)
- Click on the three dots to the right of the app’s name and select “Uninstall.” You’ll be told that the app will be uninstalled, so click “Uninstall” again.
10-How to use Focus assist in Windows 11
It’s all too easy to allow distractions such as social media or videos to seduce us from the things we’re supposed to be doing — such as, say, writing articles about Windows 11. Features such as Focus assist are now being included with operating systems to try to help us keep our eyes on the road, so to speak.
Microsoft’s Focus assist was first introduced in a 2018 update of Windows 10, where it replaced a feature known as Quiet Hours, and while Windows 11 doesn’t offer any radical updates, it has made the feature easier to use. Focus assist stops notifications from popping up on your screen and can be activated automatically when you put on your display on presentation mode, are playing a game, or are using an app in full-screen mode.
I’ll show you how to edit the automatic sessions in a moment. First, here’s how to manually begin a Focus assist session.
START A SESSION
In Windows 11, Focus assist has been made a part of the Clock app. To start a session manually, type “Clock” into your taskbar’s Search icon. You’ll be guided to a page that helps you set up the length of time you want the session to last; you can also set a daily goal if you wish. And there are tiles that let you link your Spotify account (should you have one) to your focus sessions or use Microsoft To Do to pick a task for that session. Don’t need either of these? Keep reading.
If you click on the settings icon at the bottom left of the Clock app, you can adjust the length of your focus time (including breaks) and select a sound to play when your focus period (or your break) ends. And you can get rid of the Spotify and / or To Do tiles.
The Clock settings page also lets you pick a theme for the app and tweak your notification settings, including which notifications should not be filtered out during a Focus assist session.
To personalize this feature a bit more and to edit the automatic settings, you need to go to “Focus assist settings.”
FOCUS ASSIST SETTINGS
You can get to Focus assist settings in several ways: by clicking on “Settings” > “System” > “Focus assist,” by using the taskbar search icon to find “Focus assist,” or by clicking on the system clock at the right edge of the taskbar and then on “Focus assist settings.”
Once you’re there, there are two main sections.
The first section lets you turn Focus assist on and off and set certain parameters when it is active:
- “Priority only” limits active notifications to those specified in a priority list. You can set that list up by selecting the “Customize priority list” link right below the “Priority only” subhead. You can have it always notify you of incoming calls, always notify you of reminders, or allow notifications from specific apps. New to Windows 11 is the ability to prioritize notifications from contacts who are either pinned to your taskbar or whom you specify via an “Add contacts” button.
- “Alarms only” lets you hide all your notifications, except for any alarms you may have set up.
- Concerned that you may miss something? If you check “Show a summary of what I missed when focus assist was on,” then you will be automatically notified of all your filtered notifications as soon as Focus assist is no longer active.
The second section, headed “Automatic rules,” lets you adjust several pre-set rules. You can toggle each on and off from this page, but if you want to change their settings, click on the name of the feature.
- “During these hours” lets you set specific times and days when Focus assist will kick in. To edit the settings, select “During these times” and then, on the next page, toggle it on. You’ll be able to choose the start and end times for each session; whether it applies to every day, to just weekdays or just weekends; and whether it will allow priority only or alarms only.
The other features under “Automatic rules” operate in much the same way. On the Focus assist page, click the toggle to turn them on or off, and click on their name to adjust them.
- “When I’m duplicating my display” kicks in when you’re got two displays going; toggle it on so you can edit it to allow either priority only or alarms only.
- “When I’m playing a game” is pretty obvious; again, toggle it on to change it to priority only or alarms only.
- “When I’m using an app in full-screen mode only” can also be tweaked to be priority only or alarms only.
- And you can set “For the first hour after a Windows feature update” for priority only.
One last thing: when Focus assist is active, you will see a small moon icon at the far right of your taskbar. Click on it, and you should be able to see any missed notifications.
11-How to create virtual desktops with Windows 11
Virtual desktops aren’t new to Windows. In Windows 10, it was a simple matter to create a separate desktop so that, for example, you could have one desktop for one project and a second for another, or one for your work and a second for your personal apps.
However, in Windows 11, there has been an upgrade. Now, you can also have a different wallpaper for each desktop, making it easier to distinguish one from another (and offering you a different mood, depending on what you’re using it for). And there are a number of other features that make the use of virtual desktops easy and efficient. Note that some of these were actually introduced in Windows 10, but together with the new features of Windows 11, they make a handy toolbox.
CREATE A VIRTUAL DESKTOP
To create a new virtual desktop:
- Hover over or click on the “Task view” icon in your taskbar (it’s the one that looks like one square superimposed on another).
- Click on the “New desktop” thumbnail.
You can also use key combination Win+Ctrl+D; in that case, you’ll immediately find yourself in your new desktop.
You can now place different apps in your separate desktops. Move from one desktop to the other by clicking the “Task view” icon. (You can also move around by using the familiar Alt-Tab key combination, which will take you to all the apps in one desktop and then to the apps in the next.)
To remove a desktop:
- Hover over or click the “Task view”icon.
- Hover over the virtual desktop you want to remove and click the “X” in the upper right corner.
PERSONALIZE YOUR DESKTOPS
With Windows 11, you can now personalize your desktops, making it easier to dedicate each one to a separate function. There are several ways to do this.
CHOOSE DIFFERENT WALLPAPER
You can have a different background for each virtual desktop. It’s quite simple:
- Click on the “Task view” icon in the taskbar.
- Right click on the desktop you want to change.
- Click on “Choose background.”
This will bring you to the Personalization > Background page, where you can choose either an image for your background, a solid color, or arrange for a slideshow. You can then browse your photos for your choice of image(s) to use and decide the type of fit you want for your image (for example, you can tile or stretch image).
NAME YOUR DESKTOP
Your desktops will be automatically assigned the rather boring titles of “Desktop 1,” “Desktop 2,” etc. You can change that easily by giving each desktop a name.
- Click on or hover over the “Task view” icon.
- Click on the name of the desktop you want to change.
- Type in the new name.
REARRANGE YOUR DESKTOPS
You may want to change the order of the desktops in order to make it easier to remember which to use when. This is also very simple.
- Click on or hover over the “Task view” icon.
- Click and hold on the desktop you want to move and drag it to its new position.
USE THE SAME APP ON DIFFERENT DESKTOPS
If you are already using an app on one desktop and open it in another, you will be using a different version of that app — for example, you can use Chrome to look at Twitter on one desktop and to do some work research on another. (Be aware that some apps may not work this way yet — for example, when I tried to open Notion in a second desktop, my computer jumped to the desktop where it was already open.)
While this is handy, you may want to run the same app with the same data in both — or all — of your desktops. (Note: this is not new to Windows 11, but it’s good to know.) To do this:
- Click on the “Task view” icon.
- Right-click on the app you want to use in the other desktop.
- Select “Show this window on all desktops” if you want to duplicate a single window from that app.
- Select “Show windows from this app on all desktops” if you want to duplicate any window that you use in that app.