Windows 10 - Using the Action Center

 windows 10 action center

Windows 10 - Using the Action Center

This blog post is a continuation of my series I'm writing about the new features in Windows 10. Windows 10 has been on the market for several months now, and for a few more months, it's available as a free upgrade to anybody with a licensed version of Windows 7 or newer. That's a killer deal, and I honestly believe this is Microsoft's best operating system yet. It takes a lot of its design cues from Windows 8, but puts back so many of the features that people missed in Windows 7. On top of that, Windows 10 has some new tricks up its sleeve, and one of those is the new Action Center, which has replaced the much less functional Charms Bar from Windows 8.

Lights and... ACTION!

The Action Center is an overlay that swipes in from the right side of the screen. Accessing the Action Center is simple: if you have a touch screen device simply swipe your finger in from the right edge of your display. Windows 10, much like Windows 8, shines on touch screen devices. So much so that I find myself reaching for the screen on my MacBook Pro without even thinking about it! If, however, you don't have a touch screen you can alternately use the keyboard shortcut Windows Key + a. To exit out of the Action Center either tap anywhere else on the screen or hit Escape or even just Windows Key + a again.

Notifications Pop-ups

So what does the Action Center do and what is it good for? Unlike war (which is allegedly good for absolutely nothing), Action Center is pretty handy. It's divided into two sections.

action center
The bottom section has quick-action buttons, for setting the brightness of your monitor, or locking the rotation of your device, or toggling Airplane Mode on or off. This portion is collapsible, and you can choose to only show four items (giving you more room for notification, or all your quick action buttons. There is a slew of options in this section, and once you get used to accessing them in the Action Center, you'll never go hunting around in settings or control panel again for those settings. Some of my favorites are the “New note” button which launches OneNote with a new, blank note and battery saver, which turns off unnecessary background processes to eke out a little more battery life on your device. If you have a tablet device, you should definitely make use of the “Tablet mode” button, as Windows 10 can intuitively reconfigure the user interface depending on whether you’re using a keyboard and mouse at a desk, or using your finger or a stylus on the couch. In Tablet Mode, all the on-screen tap targets grow larger to accommodate the less-precise input of your fingers, and the Start Menu reverts to the Windows 8 style Start Screen. Another favorite of mine is the Bluetooth switch; good for disabling a coworker’s mouse when he leaves his PC unlocked and walks away! 

The top half of Action Center is for notifications from apps. If you have an iPhone or an Android phone, you're probably familiar with notifications, although on the phone they pull down from the top of the screen rather than the right side. The concept is the same in Windows 10. We live in a connected world, and there is often so much information being funneled in our direction, it’s easy to miss what’s important. Notifications in the Action Center exist to fix that problem. Although you'll likely not get notifications about text messages and missed phone calls on your work PC, individual apps will send you notifications of updates available, or let you know if there is action required on your part. You can be notified when new email arrives, or even when breaking news events happen. These notifications will pop up in a little box on the bottom right of your screen, then slide off to the right to let you know they’re available in the Action Center. If you wish to keep the action center neat and tidy, you can dismiss these notifications individually by swiping right on them, or collectively by clicking/tapping Clear all at the top right.

Tweaking Action Center

You can customize both portions of the Action Center to your liking in the Windows 10 Settings App (which I'll cover in a future blog post). There are several ways to get to Settings, but I’ll show you the quick way using the Action Center! Hit Windows Key + a to bring up the Action Center and then tap the All settings icon in the bottom right portion of the screen (it’s accompanied by a gear icon). Once Settings launches, click/tap System (which should be the first item on the screen) and then Notifications and actions (which should be the second item on the list.)

action center settings
From here you can select which four functions will be most useful to you that you’d like to assign to the quick action buttons in the collapsed portion at the bottom of Action Center. You can also select which Windows features you’d like to be able to see at a glance directly below the Action Center by clicking Turn system icons on or off in these settings. I find it useful to always show the clock, the speaker volume, network connectivity and power (so I can see if my battery is dying and I need to enable battery saving mode in the Acton center!) Finally, you can toggle notifications from individual apps in the Action Center. This setting is useful for quieting apps that try to send you too much information, or for focusing on specific apps you want feedback from instantly.

Windows 10 has introduced a lot of great new features, and the Action Center is just one of them. If you like what you see and need some help upgrading to Windows 10, we can do that for ya!


Samuel O. Blowes, Director of Solution Consulting
Samuel O. Blowes

Director of Solution Consulting