KEY TAKEAWAYS

  •  Set up a GodMode folder for quick access to the most common Control Panel settings.
  •  Enable scrolling inactive windows to multitask more efficiently.
  •  Use keyboard shortcuts for window management, launching pinned apps, and resizing folder icons.
  •  Use shake to minimize to quickly minimize all the windows except the one you’re working on.

As much as I dislike Windows 11 (I’m daily driving Windows 10), it’s almost three years old now, and has become the standard for most new PC users. Windows 10 might still be running on around 70% of the world’s computers, but it will soon reach its end of life, at which point we’ll likely see a huge influx of users to Windows 11. Microsoft’s latest operating system has changed Windows for the better in a lot of ways, but you might still be unaware of some of its best features.

I know that I, for one, wasn’t aware of many of the features that I’m about to dive into below. Some of these might give you whole new ways of interacting with Windows 11, while others will boost your productivity if you’re using the OS on your work PC.

1 GodMode folder

Become a God… of Windows settings

If you’ve only recently moved to Windows 11 from Windows 10, you might not want to learn all the new ways to manage the most common Windows settings. In this case, you can make use of the simplified GodMode — a folder containing shortcuts to various system settings. You can create this folder anywhere you want, but it should probably reside on your desktop for the quickest access to the most common Windows settings.

Setting up the GodMode folder is pretty easy. You simply need to create a new folder on your desktop and rename it to GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}. After renaming it and pressing Enter, the folder name will disappear, and the icon will be replaced with a Control Panel icon. Open the folder and you’ll find all the settings you’ll ever need. GodMode is a nifty way to access many Control Panel settings usually hidden away in Windows 11.

2 Scrolling inactive windows

This is a game-changer

Two open windows on Windows 11 desktop

I never knew this feature existed until I switched to my Windows 11 device to begin writing this piece. It might seem like a small thing, but being able to scroll through another window in the background while the focus is on a separate window can be a huge boon, saving you tons of frustration. You no longer need to keep switching focus by clicking on the other window first before interacting with it.

To enable this feature, open the Settings app by pressing Win + I, navigate to Bluetooth & devices > Mouse, and ensure that Scroll inactive windows when hovering over them is turned on. With this enabled, you can simply hover your mouse over any open window and scroll away.

3 Keyboard shortcuts for window management

You might not know these

Snapping active windows in Windows 11 using keyboard shortcuts

Even though these shortcuts also exist in Windows 10, I have to admit I didn’t know about them until now. But, I have a feeling that I’ll be using them often going forward. The first set of shortcuts I’d like to highlight are the ones for the Snap feature — resizing and “snapping” active windows to the desired area of your desktop. To do this, simply combine the Windows key with one of the arrow keys to perform one of the following functions:

  • Windows key + Up arrow — Maximize the active window so it takes up the entire desktop. On a maximized window, snap the window to the top half of the screen.
  • Windows key + Down arrow — Set the active window to a smaller size if it’s maximized. Hide the window in the taskbar if it’s not maximized.
  • Windows key + Left arrow — Snap the active window to the left half of the screen.
  • Windows key + Right arrow — Snap the active window to the right half of the screen.

The next shortcut I’ll be using often is the one that allows you to quickly launch your desired pinned program from the taskbar. Pressing the Windows key + <number key> will launch the pinned app in the taskbar position corresponding to the number you pressed. It can also be used to switch to said app if it’s already running.

Launching pinned taskbar items with shortcuts in Windows 11

Lastly, I like the shortcut to resize folder and file icons with a simple key combination. Pressing Ctrl mouse scroll wheel up or down will make the icons bigger or smaller respectively.

Resizing folder icons in Windows 11 with keyboard shortcuts

4 Shake to minimize

One of the coolest features you’ll see

Multiple windows open on Windows 11 desktop

If you often have too many windows open while working, there’s a cool little feature to bring some order to the chaos. Windows 11 allows you to use the “Aero shake” feature to grab a window and shake it to minimize every other open window. This gets rid of distractions and allows you to focus only on the window you want to work on.

You need to enable this feature using the Settings app. Navigate to System > Multitasking and turn on Title bar window shake. Now you can hold your desired window by its title bar and shake it a few times to minimize every other window. Previously, I used to achieve the same thing by clicking the Show desktop button on the bottom-right of the screen and then opening the window of my choice. Looks like I just learned a new way of doing things.

5 Clipboard history

Never lose a copied item again

Windows 11 desktop with Clipboard history settings windows

Clipboard history allows you to save multiple items to your clipboard (text, images, etc.) and access them in a single place whenever you need them. Instead of pasting only the most recent thing you copied, you can now press Windows key + to open the clipboard history to access all the items you’ve copied. You can also pin any items that you want the clipboard to always retain, even after a reboot.

Enabling clipboard history is fairly simple. All you need to do is navigate to System > Clipboard in the Settings app and turn on Clipboard history. You can also choose to enable Share across devices if you want to be able to paste items across multiple Microsoft devices.

6 Focus sessions

Get rid of distractions

Screenshot of a Windows 11 desktop with the Clock app showing the Focus sessions page

As part of Windows 11 version 23H2, Microsoft introduced Focus sessions to its newest operating system. Focus sessions help you focus on the task at hand by using a set of features that enable a countdown timer, allow you to track focus progress, and include break times. Using Focus sessions in the Clock app is the most common way to make use of the feature. You can also access the Focus settings separately.

Navigate to System > Focus in the Settings app to configure various elements of the feature, such as Do not disturb and taskbar flashing. You can turn on Focus mode from the Notification Center by clicking the date and time on the taskbar and then clicking Focus.

Virtual desktops

Cleaner distinction between work and play

Screenshot of Task view in Windows 11 showing two virtual desktops and some open apps

Virtual desktops have been around since Windows 10, but they still offer the same useful functionality to separate your apps into different environments. This is perfect for when you need two different desktops for your work and entertainment purposes. Virtual desktops retain the icons on your desktop, but you can pick and choose which apps you want to have on which desktop.

Using virtual desktops in Windows 11 comes with a lot of features, but basically, you can enable the feature by pressing Windows key + Tab to open the Task View, then clicking the New desktop button at the bottom. This will create a new desktop with the name Desktop 2, and you can start opening the apps you want in the new desktop. You can switch between desktops using Windows key + Tab at any moment.

8 Screen recording

Time to update your Snipping Tool

Windows 11 Snipping Tool new recording feature with audio and video.

The Snipping Tool in Windows 11 is a great app to capture screenshots. But did you know that you can also record your screen using the same tool? It also captures system audio and microphone inputs, so you can easily record video tutorials to help your friends or family. Recording your screen with the snipping tool follows a familiar process — press Windows key + Shift to launch the Snipping Tool, then press the camcorder icon, select the recording area, and click Start to start recording.

Screenshot of Snipping Tool with video button highlighted

You can click the microphone and system audio icons next to the recording time to record your voice and the system sounds respectively.

9 Dynamic refresh rate

Adapt your refresh rate to your workflow

Screenshot of advanced display settings in Windows 11 showing a dropdown menu to change the refresh rate

You probably know that you can change your refresh rate in Windows 11 via Display settings in the Settings app. On compatible systems, you also have the option to switch to a dynamic refresh rate. This way, you aren’t locked into a single refresh rate; instead, this allows Windows to change your refresh rate on the fly depending on what you’re doing at any moment.

This can come in handy for laptop users who want to save battery by automatically dropping the refresh rate when needed. To enable this, navigate to System > Display > Advanced display in the Settings app, and click the drop-down next to Choose a refresh rate. If your system is compatible, you’ll see a Dynamic option listed in the drop-down.

10Insert emojis and symbols

Special characters at your fingertips

Screenshot showing Windows 11 emoji panel

How many times have you encountered a sentence where you feel the urge to insert an em-dash, degree symbol, or an emoji? Well, now you have a handy shortcut to access all special characters in a single place. The emoji picker in Windows 11 allows you to quickly insert emojis, symbols, and even GIFs. You can also access your clipboard history from the same tool.

Press Windows key + . (period) to open the emoji picker and choose between the various panes to select your desired emoji or symbol. You can also press Windows key + to bring up the same screen.