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Putting the Windows 10 Action Center to work

The Windows 10 Action Center is a carryover from Windows Phone that puts all your notifications in one place. It also makes accessing some features and settings easier.

The Windows 10 Action Center aggregates notifications and makes some tasks -- such as accessing the Control Panel -- much faster.

Windows 10 borrows many of its features from Windows Phone 8.1. The Action Center was an extremely welcome addition to Windows Phone because it allows the user to view all his notifications simply by swiping downward from the top of the screen.

The Windows 10 Action Center has some of the same capabilities as the Windows Phone version, but it isn't exactly the same.

If you currently use Windows 8 or 8.1 then you are probably familiar with toast notifications. Even if you have never heard them called "toast notifications," you have seen them; they "pop up" from the bottom of the screen, much like bread popping up from a toaster.

The problem with toast notifications is that they don't exactly wait around for you to read them. Typically a toast notification is visible for a few seconds, and then it disappears. It's great that the notifications don't stick around and clutter up the desktop, but the fact that they disappear so quickly can be problematic. If you are busy with something else, leave your desk or look away for a moment, you could miss the notification completely.

Windows 8.1 doesn't have a place where you can review notifications you might have missed, but that is the exact purpose the Action Center serves in Windows 10.

From Windows Phone to Windows 10

Windows Phone users can access the Action Center by swiping down from the top of the screen, but Windows 10 exposes the Action Center in a different way. In Figure A, you will see the Windows 10 task bar. The last icon on the right (just before the clock) is the Notification icon --it's the one that looks like a speech bubble. Clicking on this icon opens the Action Center.

Action Center tutorial

Clicking on the last icon on the right launches the Action Center.

When you open the Action Center, you will see a screen similar to the one shown in Figure B. The interface shown is sparse, but that's because Windows doesn't have any notifications to display at the moment.

Windows 10 Action Center
This is the Windows 10 Action Center.

As you look at the figure above, you will notice that there are tiles at the bottom of the Action Center labeled Tablet Mode, Display, Connect and All Settings. These tiles are another feature carried over from Windows Phone.

Prior to the release of Windows Phone 8.1, there were some routine tasks that were fairly cumbersome to perform. For example, if you wanted to put the phone into airplane mode, you had to press the Start button, swipe the display to access the apps screen, go to Settings, go to the airplane mode setting and then place the phone into airplane mode. In Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft decided to make this and a few other common tasks easier by placing shortcut tiles in the Action Center.

Microsoft has done exactly the same thing in Windows 10. For example, clicking the Display tile launches the Control Panel and takes you directly to the display-related settings. You can still launch the Control Panel manually, and you can access the display settings in the same way that you always have. The tiles within the Action Center merely act as a shortcut.

You might have noticed the Expand option shown just above the tiles in the previous figure. Clicking on Expand reveals a second row of tiles that includes Location, virtual private network and WiFi. Microsoft is also adding the Expand option to Windows Phone 10. The Windows Phone 10 Action Center displays the most commonly used tiles, but you will be able to expand the display to reveal some additional rows of tiles.

The Windows 10 Action Center is a handy place to access your notifications and shortcuts to common configuration options. For those who don't like to be bothered by notifications at all, you can silence them by right clicking on the Notification icon and telling Windows how long you want the notifications to be silenced.

As of this writing, Windows 10 is still in preview release (beta testing), so it is conceivable that Microsoft could make some changes to the Windows 10 Action Center by the time that Windows 10 is ultimately released.

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This was last published in July 2015

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