If you followed the Windows 11 launch in 2021 or have recently started using Microsoft’s latest operating system, you’ll be familiar with its main features.
A redesigned Start menu and taskbar, new multitasking functionality and Android app support are among the most well-known, but there are lots more you might not be aware of.
In this article, we’ll run through 12 of the best Windows 11 features which aren’t obvious or easy to find. Some are buried deep in Settings, while others are just a couple of clicks away. Several are also available in Windows 10, but you might not have been using them there, either.
Copying and pasting is something many of us do every day, but there’s no need to be limited to one thing at a time. Windows 11’s Clipboard history feature lets you access everything you’ve recently copied in one place, including both text and images, but it needs to be enabled first:
Head to Settings > System > Clipboard
Make sure the toggle next to ‘Clipboard history’ is turned on
Now, just use the Windows Key + V shortcut at any time to open Clipboard history, then click any recently copied item to paste it into your new location.
You can take this to the next level by turning on ‘Share across devices’, which lets you access all copied items from all your Windows 10 or 11 devices:
Head back into Settings > System > Clipboard
Next to ‘Sync across your devices’, either turn on the toggle or click ‘Get Started’. In the case of the latter, you’ll be prompted to verify the email linked to your Microsoft account
Once enabled, click the drop-down next to the toggle and choose either automatic syncing (everything you copy is shared) or manual syncing (you choose specific text to share)
Did you know that Windows 11 can help you stay on task? The Focus sessions feature turns on do not disturb and hides flashing taskbar apps to reduce distractions.
Customisation is available at Settings > System > Focus, but starting a session via the Clock app is easier. Focus sessions is the screen you’ll see as soon as the app opens, with options to specify duration, breaks and a daily goal. There’s also integration with the Microsoft To-Do app and Spotify for music.
Do not disturb turns off all notifications by default, but you can set ‘priority notifications’ to still be delivered via Settings > System > Notifications.
Taskbar keyboard shortcuts
You’ve probably pinned apps to the taskbar to make it easy to access them. Why not make the process even faster?
For any windows you have open, Windows Key + 1 opens the first one, Windows Key + 2 opens the second and so on. But if you have nothing already open, the same shortcuts will open pinned apps in the corresponding position from left to right.
It’s worth noting that this only applies to apps that you’ve manually pinned. It won’t open the Widgets panel, Start menu, search bar, Task View or Microsoft Teams chat.
File History was introduced on Windows 8 to allow for automatic back up of specific files and folders – provided you always have a USB storage device connected.
The option has been removed from the Settings app in Windows 11, but it’s still available:
Search for ‘Control Panel’ and select the relevant app to open it
Under ‘System and Security’, click ‘Save backup copies of your files with File History’
Choose where you’d like files to be backed up to if you have the option, then click ‘Turn on’
It’s worth noting that the BitLocker warning above will only appear if you have Windows 11 Pro. It’s not available on Windows 11 Home, so can safely be ignored here.
Voice-to-text technology has been around for a while, but did you know there’s a version built into Windows 11? It’s generally accurate and works everywhere that will let you type, although you’ll need to stay connected to the internet.
To get started, simply use the Windows Key + H shortcut and click the microphone icon if recording doesn’t begin automatically. Stop at any time by clicking the microphone icon again. It was used to type this sentence, and no edits were required.
Live Captions is a great accessibility feature which provides real-time text transcription of any audio or video that you play. It’s not perfect, but you usually get the gist of what’s being said.
To get started, just search for ‘live captions’ and open the relevant app or use the Windows Key + Ctrl + L shortcut. Agree to the terms and conditions and click ‘Download’ if you’ve never used it before. Once you see the message ‘Ready to caption’, head to the audio and start playing it.
Just like most smartphones and tablets, Windows 11 has a built-in Night light, which shifts your display to warmer tones to help you sleep.
To turn it on, head to Settings > System > Display > Night light and click ‘Turn on now’. But you might prefer to set a schedule – either specific hours or sunset to sunrise (if you have location turned on).
From the same screen, you’ll also find the option to choose the strength of the night light.
Dynamic Refresh Rate
If your display can output at a higher refresh rate than the default 60Hz, it’s worth checking if it can dynamically adjust according to what you’re doing. This means you get the extra smoothness and fluidity of a 90Hz or 120Hz screen without such a hit to battery life.
To check, head to Settings > System > Display > Advanced display and choose your display from the drop-down next to ‘Select a display to view or change its settings’.
Next the drop-down next to ‘Choose a refresh rate’ and see which options are available. You may have only one or several, but the ‘Dynamic’ mode is the one which will automatically adjust.
Microsoft has its own screen recorder tool pre-installed on Windows 11, but you might not be able to find it. It’s built into the Xbox Game Bar, but offers all the functionality you’d expect.
To start using it, navigate to the app or page you’d like to record, then use the Windows Key + G shortcut. Click the ‘Capture’ icon (it looks like a small webcam) to begin recording, then the microphone icon at any time to start talking.
All files are saved within File Explorer > Videos > Captures by default, but this can be changed via Settings > Gaming > Captures.
Shake to minimise
If you’ve got lots of windows open at once, shaking the title bar of one can be used to minimise all the others. But the feature isn’t turned on by default.
To enable it, head to Settings > System > Multitasking and turn on the toggle next to ‘Title bar window shake’.
Time stamp in Notepad
The pre-installed Notepad isn’t the most advanced note-taking app, but it can be useful to quickly jot things down. One worthwhile feature is a shortcut for adding the current date and time at any moment.
Simply press F5 on your keyboard and it’ll appear like below. You can also add this via Edit > Time/Date if you’d prefer.
Hardware and Devices Troubleshooter
Microsoft still uses troubleshooters to solve issues in Windows 11, but the older ‘Hardware and Devices’ one has been removed from Settings. Fortunately, there’s still a way to access it:
In the search bar on the taskbar, type ‘Command Prompt’, then choose ‘Run as Administrator’ followed by ‘Yes’
From the window that appears, type ‘msdt.exe -id DeviceDiagnostic’ and hit enter
The Hardware and Devices troubleshooter will now appear. Click ‘Next’ to get started, then follow the instructions
How to use Windows 11 22H2’s best new featuresWindows 11 23H2 update newsWindows 11: Everything you need to know