Running Programs on Your Windows 10 PC

By Dan Gookin

Your computer day involves more than just staring blankly at the monitor. Your supervisor is probably watching while you use the computer. When you work by yourself or are at home, please feel free to stare blankly at the monitor. When you want to get something done, you need to rustle up some programs.

Hunting down programs in Windows

Microsoft tries to make things super easy for Windows users. Rather than have one boring, standard way to start a program — which would be easy and simple — you have a multitude of options.

In each case, start a program by locating its icon and clicking or double-clicking that icon. Here’s where to hunt:

  • The desktop: Locate a program icon or shortcut affixed to the desktop. Double-click to open the icon and run the program.

  • The taskbar: Programs pinned to the taskbar are opened with one click. Life is easier if you keep your favorite programs on the taskbar.

  • The Start menu: Programs you open frequently appear atop the Start menu, on the right. Other programs are pinned as tiles on the left. Click once on the program icon or tile to run the program.

  • The All Apps menu: Click the All Apps item on the Start menu to view a list of all apps installed on your PC. Click an item to run that app. Sometimes, you have to open a folder to find the app you’re looking for.

Here is the All Apps menu in Windows 10. The tiles appear on the right side of the Start menu, even when the All Apps menu is displayed.

The All Apps list.

The All Apps list.
  • Press the Win key to see the Start menu.

  • The All Apps menu is named All Programs or just Programs in some versions of Windows.

  • Some programs or apps may run automatically. For example, a program may start up when you first sign in to Windows.

  • Programs that run “in the background” may pop up on the screen from time to time. For example, the Steam online gaming system always runs, even though you don’t see its window on the desktop.

  • Clicking on a taskbar notification might launch a program.

  • Newly installed programs appear highlighted on the All Apps menu. That way, you can easily find stuff you’ve just installed.

  • The All Apps menu doesn’t show all the programs on your PC, but rather all the most useful ones. Though your computer has thousands of programs, you use only a handful regularly.

Starting an app from Tablet mode

If you run your PC with Tablet mode active, you see things the way people who disliked Windows 8 saw things: The Start menu is replaced by a tile-spangled screen. All programs and apps run full-screen in Tablet mode.

To activate Tablet mode in Windows 10, follow these steps:

  1. Press Win + A to summon the Action Center.

  2. Click the Tablet mode tile.

Officially what you see — tiles and other icons — is called the Start screen. To start an app, click a tile.

Windows 10 Tablet mode Start screen.

Windows 10 Tablet mode Start screen.

The All Apps menu is still available: Click the All Apps button.

To exit Tablet mode, repeat the steps above.

Finding a program when you know its name

Sometimes you know the name of the program you want to start. A fast, easy shortcut is to press the Win key to pop up the Start menu and just start typing the name.

For example, to run the Notepad program, press the Win key and, on the keyboard, type note — that’s all you need to type because Notepad appears at the top of the Start menu. Press the Enter key to launch the program.

Pinning a program

The best way to start a program is to click its icon on the taskbar. Second best is to double-click an icon on the desktop. Third best is to find a program right on the Start menu. How do these programs relocate to such prime Windows real estate? They are pinned.

To pin a program to the taskbar or Start menu, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Start button or press the Win key.

    Up pops the Start menu.

  2. Click All Apps in Windows 10; otherwise, choose All Programs.

  3. Right-click the program you want to pin to the taskbar, desktop, or Start menu.

  4. Choose the location where you want to pin a copy (or shortcut) for the program.

    Your options are Pin to Start and Pin to Taskbar.

If the item is already pinned, the commands (refer to Step 4) read Unpin instead of Pin. That’s the command you choose to remove an item from that specific location.

Placing a program shortcut on the desktop is a bit trickier, and it would be nifty if Microsoft had placed that shortcut on the menu in Step 4, but they didn’t. So in Step 4, choose the Open File Location command. A File Explorer window appears with the program file highlighted. Right-click that icon and choose Send To → Desktop (Create Shortcut).

  • Programs pinned to the Start menu become tiles, shown on the right side of the menu. These tiles also appear on the Start screen when the PC is using Tablet mode.

  • Not every program’s shortcut menu features the Open File Location command.

  • To remove an icon from the desktop, drag it to the Recycle Bin.

  • If you put more than three or four items on the taskbar, it becomes too crowded.