Windows 10. Absolute Beginner’s Guide (2016)
Part II: Customizing Your Windows 10 Computer
12. Configuring Notifications and Advanced Settings
In This Chapter
• Managing Notifications
• Setting Up Ease of Access
• Setting Up Power Options
HAL 9000, the artificial intelligence antagonist in the classic 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, was pure science fiction. Although the idea of a talking computer seemed plausible, the concept was more than a little unnerving. Fast forward nearly 50 years, and we have become accustomed to our devices communicating and, yes, even talking to us. Hello Cortana! On our Windows 10 device this communication principally occurs in the form of notifications. In this chapter you see how to manage those notifications.
You also explore how a group of settings labeled Ease of Access can make interacting with a Windows 10 device much easier for you or others you might know. Finally, you learn about some of the power settings that control how your device behaves and how you can manage these settings when necessary.
Managing Notifications You Receive
Notifications can enhance your experience with apps you have installed, or they can be a nuisance. These can be updates that appear briefly on the screen regarding new emails, game updates, messaging, and much more. You can disable notifications globally, or you can be selective about which apps can push notifications to you. You can even establish quiet times that respect your sleep or work schedule.
In Windows 10 you can see banner notifications, sometimes called toast notifications, which are small notifications that appear for a few seconds on your screen. While these generally disappear automatically, some may stay onscreen longer, allowing you to take some action as shown inFigure 12.1. You can take a closer look at notifications by selecting the Notifications icon on the taskbar, as shown in Figure 12.2. This enables you to review notifications you might have missed when they appeared as banner notifications. You can select individual notifications to clear them from this list, clear all notifications from an app, or select Clear All to start fresh.
FIGURE 12.1 Banner notifications can appear onscreen for a variety of reasons, such as alerting you to emails received, app updates, or reminders about appointments.
FIGURE 12.2 You can check for missed notifications right from the taskbar.
Most apps are enabled by default to send banner notifications. They can alert you to promotions or appointments or simply to make you aware of updates that have occurred since you last used an app. You might decide that some of these are unwelcome or frivolous. You can disable banner notifications globally or just disable the feature for specific apps.
To modify your settings for notifications, follow these steps:
1. From the taskbar, start typing notifications in the Search field.
2. Select Notifications & Action Settings. The Settings app will open with Notifications & Actions selected in the left navigation bar, as shown in Figure 12.3.
FIGURE 12.3 You can change settings globally for notifications.
3. Under Notifications, you can make changes to the way notifications behave in general. For example, you can turn Show App Notifications to Off from here. This will prevent all notifications from being created and might be a bit extreme.
4. Under Show Notifications from These Apps, you can scroll down and turn off apps individually to prevent notifications from select apps (see Figure 12.4).
FIGURE 12.4 Suppress notifications for individual apps.
5. Select an app to reveal specific types of notifications that can be switched on or off to suite your preferences, as shown in Figure 12.5.
FIGURE 12.5 Very specific types of notifications can be disabled.
Notifications can also be audible. To learn more about enabling or disabling audible notifications, see the “Managing Sound for Windows Events” section in Chapter 11 on page 197.
Yet another way that you can manage notifications is by enabling a temporary suppression of all notifications. This is great if you will be doing a presentation or need to avoid distractions for a period of time. You can easily do this from the Action Center.
To temporarily suspend all notifications, follow these steps:
1. Open the Action Center by selecting the Notifications icon on the taskbar or by swiping in from the right with a touchscreen device (see Figure 12.6).
FIGURE 12.6 Notifications can be suppressed temporarily when needed using the Action Center.
2. Select Quiet Hours. All notifications will be suppressed.
3. Select Quiet Hours again to allow notifications to resume.
Finally, notifications can have unique settings that are best controlled from within the app itself. The Facebook app has individual notification settings for all types of events. To access the notification settings, open the app and then select Settings from the Commands menu. SelectNotifications from the Settings pane, and then disable any events for which you do not need to receive notifications.
Twitter is another good example of this feature. Select Settings from the Command menu, and then select Options from the Settings pane. As shown in Figure 12.7, you can select types of notifications and even the source of the event. Notice also that toast notifications can be disabled from here, as can live tile updates.
FIGURE 12.7 Some apps have their own settings to manage notifications, like the Twitter app shown here.
Ease of Access
With Windows 10, the accessibility options, known as Ease of Access, provide you with powerful options. Accessibility options are of use both to individuals with disabilities and individuals without. You might find it easier to work with the display configured in a high-contrast format; hearing a voice confirmation of commands also can be helpful. Larger mouse pointers or thicker cursor lines are other settings you can modify here to make things easier to find on the display.
Ease of Access settings that can be enabled include
• Narrator—Use the Narrator settings to provide vocalization for text that is on the screen as well as controls and options you can select. You can select the voice and tweak the voice quality as well as how voice interacts with onscreen content.
• Magnifier—The Magnifier can be enabled to make a portion of the screen larger (see Figure 12.8).
FIGURE 12.8 This image shows the Ease of Access settings screen enlarged with the Magnifier option turned on.
• High Contrast—High contrast includes a few predefined themes that are combined to make text stand out on the screen, as shown in Figure 12.9.
FIGURE 12.9 The image shows the Ease of Access screen with the High Contrast setting turned on using the High Contrast White theme.
• Keyboard—Although it might look like the touchscreen keyboard, enable the Ease of Access keyboard to have access to an onscreen keyboard you can use with a mouse. Select Options, as shown in Figure 12.10, to enable or disable features like predictive text.
FIGURE 12.10 The onscreen keyboard is part of the Ease of Access tools and is different from the touch keyboard that appears when using a touchscreen device.
• Mouse—Use Mouse settings to control variables such as the mouse pointer size and color.
• Other Options—Other options include Visual Options such as leaving toast notifications onscreen for a longer period, up to five minutes. Also, if using a touchscreen device, you might find Touch Feedback settings to be useful (see Figure 12.11).
FIGURE 12.11 Especially useful when sharing your screen, enable the visual Touch Feedback for touchscreen devices. The dark circle shown here indicates where the screen is currently being touched.
To use the Ease of Access settings, follow these steps:
1. From the Start menu, select Settings to open the Settings app.
2. Select Ease of Access.
3. To use one or more of the following options, select from the categories to the left, such as Magnifier.
4. Enable the feature, as shown previously in Figure 12.8, by moving the slider to the right to the On position. Scroll through the options and turn on additional options as needed.
5. Select other options from the left to enhance readability and usability by using the Narrator, High Contrast, Keyboard, Mouse, or Other options.
Managing Power Options
Windows 10 is designed to help you be efficient and control power consumption, but these options are helpful beyond wanting to be a good citizen of the environment. You might be interested in options to automatically reduce the brightness of your screen after a period of nonuse, as well as other options to reduce wear on your computer.
If you travel with Windows installed on a laptop, you might be interested in putting the computer to sleep when you close the laptop lid, which makes restarting your computer easy and quick. Desktop computers are designed to be left on all the time with the ability to power down to an almost powerless state.
Windows enables you to customize how power is managed on your computer in extreme detail. More than 20 settings can be tweaked. Although the most basic settings can be accessed using the PC Settings app, the Power Options applet in the Control Panel offers the greatest range of settings.
Before diving into the details, there are a couple terms you should know:
• Sleep mode—When your computer goes to sleep, Windows saves any unsaved work and reduces power to the monitor, hard drives, fan, and network connections. Windows takes notice of your system when it goes to sleep, and it uses enough power to retain your settings and data in a memory where the settings can be accessed and applied quickly. This mode protects your work while the computer sleeps but returns the computer to full power in the same state that you left it in just a few seconds.
• Hibernate mode—Hibernate mode is much like Sleep mode. Hibernate mode also captures the state of your computer so that it can restore it on request, but in Hibernate mode, your computer is fully powered down. This means restoring a computer from Hibernate takes a bit longer than recovering from Sleep mode because data and settings have to be restored to the memory from where they were saved on your computer’s hard drive.
A Simple Approach to Using Power Plans
If you are nervous about changing something on your computer that could cause unexpected damage, you can relax. Often you are well served by simply choosing one of a group of power plans. A power plan is a prebuilt set of approximately 14 options, each of which manages some aspect of power or energy consumption, such as preventing a slideshow from running when the computer is low on battery life. Windows includes one or more power plans, and the company that built your computer might have loaded a plan onto the computer. You can even create a plan from scratch, change one and give it a new name, or delete one.
Here are some sample power plans:
• Balanced—Conserves energy when the computer is not used but employs full power when you are actively working at the computer, perhaps using multiple applications.
• High Performance—Uses full power all the time and will drain power quickly for laptop computers running on a battery.
• Power Saver—Reduces power consumption as much as possible, which causes applications to run a bit more slowly, reduces the display’s brightness setting, and more.
Follow these steps to select a power plan:
1. From the Start menu search for power.
2. Select Power Options from the list of results. The Power Options dialog box opens, as shown in Figure 12.12.
FIGURE 12.12 You change from a balance power plan to one that is more energy efficient.
3. Select the plan you want to use from the list of plans. To review the settings for a plan, select the corresponding Change Plan Settings. Click Cancel when you have finished reviewing the plan’s settings.
4. Close the Power Options dialog box. The power settings in the plan you selected will now be active.
Common Options Related to Power
You can tweak several options that determine when your computer goes to sleep and what happens when it awakes:
• Specify whether a password is required to unlock your computer after it has been awakened.
• Choose what happens when you press the Power button on your computer.
• Specify the length of time during which you’re not at your computer before the display turns off.
• Specify the length of time during which you’re not at your computer before the computer goes to sleep.
These options probably give you all the control you need over power use. For example, to have your laptop shut down automatically when closing the lid on battery power, follow these steps:
1. Open the Power Options dialog box. To do so, from the Start menu search for a setting named power, and then select Power Options from the list of results (refer to Figure 12.12).
2. Select Choose What Closing the Lid Does from the list on the left.
3. Under the choices labeled On Battery, expand the drop-down menu labeled When I Close the Lid.
4. Select Shut Down from the list, as shown in Figure 12.13.
FIGURE 12.13 Select from options in the Power Options applet of the Control Panel to control what happens when you close the lid on your laptop.
5. Click Save Changes.
6. To make additional changes, return to the Power Options dialog box and then select the option you are interested in from the list on the left. The options are self-explanatory.
The Manual Method to Manage Power Options
While not for the faint of heart, you can also dive into the power plan settings and manually tweak the advanced settings for a customized power plan. I do not recommend doing this unless you have a clear objective in mind and are familiar with the settings you are modifying. Changing the power settings so that your hard drive never powers down, for example, can actually shorten the life of a hard drive. On the other hand, some settings, such as the default behavior when your device is on low battery power or whether your laptop fan runs to cool the processor while on battery, need to be addressed here.
The manual method calls for you to specify a value for each of the 14 or so setting types. It takes time to do so, but the payoff is a power plan configured to your exact requirements. To do so, select a plan, as previously described in step 3 under “A Simple Approach to Using Power Plans.” Before you close the Power Options dialog box, as instructed in step 4, select Change Plan Settings and then Change Advanced Power Settings. Change the settings as needed, click OK, and then click Save Changes. This updates the plan you selected. Review the steps in the “Adjusting Brightness” section of Chapter 11, “Configuring Display and Sound Settings,” for an example of this manual method. Use Restore Plan Defaults to undo changes and restore a power plan to its original state.
Changing advanced settings in the power plan can improve performance; however, doing so can also have a negative impact on hardware if set incorrectly. Change an advanced setting only if you are familiar with the setting and know what the effect will be on your hardware.
The Absolute Minimum
• Disable unwanted notifications from applications that you do not need updates or alerts from.
• Temporarily hide notifications when you need to work without interruption or will be sharing your screen.
• Use Ease of Access settings to enhance your Windows experience by enabling visual and audible features or by modifying how your mouse and keyboard work with Windows.
• You can apply a few built-in, ready-to-use power schemes. You can also build your own power scheme that leverages up to 60 individual settings.
• Use Power Options to assign actions to the use of power buttons, closing the lid on a laptop, or sleep times.