How to Tell Windows 10 What to Do

By Peter Weverka

How do you get Windows 10 to do what you want it to do? You can command a computer in many ways, depending on your equipment (hardware). For example, a desktop computer has different options from a handheld phone. You may have any or all of these choices:

  • Mouse

  • Touchscreen

  • Keyboard

Another device for controlling Windows is a touchpad, which is commonly found on a laptop keyboard. You move your finger on the touchpad to move the pointer on the screen.

If you have a computer with more than one of these devices, you might use one device exclusively or, more likely, vary your choice according to the task. Use whichever technique is easiest for you, but don’t be afraid to experiment. Here, you discover the ins and outs of using all these methods of controlling Windows 10.

In these steps choose or select refers to using a mouse, the touchscreen, or a physical keyboard. Drag refers to using a mouse or a finger.

Move the mouse

For many years, computers have had a mouse, which is a soapbar-sized device that you move across a desk with your hand. Move the mouse and note how the arrow called a mouse pointer moves across the computer screen. A mouse has two or more buttons; some also have a scroll wheel between the buttons.

The following terms describe methods for using a mouse with Windows 10. In each, move the mouse first to position the pointer over a specified item before proceeding:

  • Click: Move the onscreen arrow-shaped mouse pointer over a specified item and press and release the left mouse button: that’s a click (sometimes called a left-click to distinguish it from a right-click).

  • Right-click: Press and release the right mouse button to display available functions. Note that the word click by itself means use the left mouse button.

  • Drag: Press and hold down the left mouse button, and then move the mouse pointer across the screen. When you want to move an object, you drag it. Release the mouse button to release the object.

Watch for the word click to indicate using a mouse button and roll to indicate using the mouse wheel.

Touch the screen

A touchscreen, as the name says, enables you to touch the screen to tell your computer what to do. You typically use one finger or two, although touchscreens may allow you to use all ten digits. In some cases, you can also use a special pen called a stylus instead of your finger. Tablet computers and some smartphones have touchscreens. Touchscreens are less common on desktop or laptop computers, but that situation is changing. Not sure what type of screen you have? When you have Windows 10 running, give the screen a poke with your index finger to see what happens.

The following terms refer to ways you interact with a touchscreen:

  • Tap: Briefly touch the screen. You select an object, such as a button, by tapping it.

  • Drag: Touch and hold your finger on the screen, then move your finger across the screen. You move an object, such as an onscreen playing card, by dragging it.

  • Swipe: Touch and move your finger more quickly than with drag. You can swipe your finger across the screen from any of the four sides of the screen to display options and commands. You swipe pages to move forward or back. You may see the word flick instead of swipe. Some people insist that a flick is faster or shorter than a swipe, but let’s not get caught up in that.

  • Pinch and unpinch: Touch a finger and thumb or two fingers on the screen. Move your fingers closer to each other to pinch and away from each other to unpinch. Generally, a pinch reduces the size of something on the screen or shows more content on the screen. An unpinch zooms in, increasing the size of something onscreen to show more detail.

Watch for the words tap, swipe, or pinch to indicate using your finger. Touch actions are often called gestures.

Use a keyboard

A typewriter-like keyboard is a traditional device for controlling a computer and is especially useful when you must enter a lot of text. Special key combinations, called shortcut keys, are often the quickest way to do anything (though they require some memorization).

The following keys are particularly noteworthy.

Press indicates that you use the keyboard (physical or virtual) for the specified key or sequence of keys (just as click indicates a mouse action and tap indicates touch). Combinations of keys are not pressed simultaneously. Instead, press and hold the first key in the specified sequence, press the second key, and then release both.

  • Windows key: This key is usually located on either side of the spacebar, which is the largest key. The Windows works by itself, as you’ll soon see, and also in combination with many other keys.

  • Tab: Press the Tab key to highlight an item. Press Tab repeatedly to skip items you don’t intend to select.

    The keyboard can be used to select objects but is less direct than using touch or a mouse.

  • Arrow keys: Press the arrow keys to move the cursor or selection of an object in the direction the keys point (left, right, up, or down). In some contexts, Tab and the right arrow do the same thing. Sorry to be vague, but context matters at times.

  • Enter: In most cases, the Enter key on the keyboard chooses a selection, much as clicking or tapping do. However, you may need to use the Tab key or an arrow key to select an item before pressing the Enter key.

  • Ctrl, Alt, and Shift keys: These keys are used with other keys for commands. For example, press Ctrl+C to copy selected text or an object. (That is, while pressing and holding down the Ctrl key, press the C key — no need to press Shift for an uppercase C. Then release both keys.) The Shift key is used with another key for uppercase.

  • Backspace: As you enter text, each press of Backspace erases the character to the left of the cursor.

  • Delete: As you enter text, each press of the Delete key erases the character to the right of the cursor. On some keyboards, this key is labeled Del.

  • Function keys: All keys function, but Function keys are labeled F1 through F12. You don’t use these much in this book, but you should locate them. Laptops often have a separate Function Lock key to turn these keys on or off.

  • Page keys: Locate the Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys for future reference. Use these to move the screen, a page, or the cursor. (On some keyboards, the Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys work as numbers when the Num Lock key is activated.)