Doing more with Windows

Windows has become more stable, versatile and better in recent years. On the other hand, there is macOS from Apple that is plagued by bugs with every major release and hardware that in terms of reliability and maintainability is no longer what it has been. I hope this page helps you to make Windows work for you, to make it better and discover what good hardware is (written by an ex-macOS person).

Are you currently on macOS, then you read Mac-A-Like with tips on how to get useful Mac functions on Windows.

windowsHacks icon with a tool to adjust settings

Windows settings: the basics

Display

The default setting of Windows tends to display texts, icons and other things quite large. Because of this you may see less on the screen then you want. You change this in "Settings > "System" > "Display". With scale and layout you have the option to change both the resolution and the size of text and apps. Choose to adjust the latter. The percentage depends on it screen. If the scaling is at 125% then you can try 100%.

Connecting devices

You pair a wireless mouse, headset or other device by going to "Settings" > "Devices" > "Bluetooth & other devices". Make sure bluetooth is enabled on the device you want to pair and click "Add bluetooth or other device".

Touchpad

MacBooks are known for their very good touchpads and they are still the best. Microsoft saw this too and with the addition of Windows Precision Drivers it offers manufacturers the option of adding better touchpads to Windows laptops. Manufacturers such as Dell, Razer and of course Microsoft have good touchpads nowadays. You also have the option to assign tasks to movements on the touchpad such as scrolling or switching desktop. You change this in "Settings" > "Devices" > "Touchpad".

Browser

Windows comes with Microsoft Edge as the default browser. Internet Explorer is also still included, but this is so obsolete that you should no longer use it because it doesn't support modern web technologies and many websites don't work as they should in Internet Explorer.

You are free to install other browsers such as Firefox, Google Chrome or Brave. Microsoft released a new version of Edge in the short term based on Chromium, the engine behind Chrome. It works works very well, offers various privacy options and you can use the Chrome extensions that you are used to.

Download Firefox Download Edge Chromium

Default apps

Windows offers a lot of freedom when choosing default apps for browser, e-mail and more. Go to "Settings" > "Apps" > "Default apps".

Do you want to change with which program a file type is opened by default? Scroll on the same page to "Choose default apps by file type".

Startup apps

Certain programs are started by default when the PC starts up for Windows to function properly. You can add more programs that you want to start by default, because you use them often. Think of apps like a password manager or an app such as Dropbox for synchronizing files. You select which apps this applies to in "Settings" > "Apps" > "Startup".

Dark Mode

Do you want Windows in dark mode, but certain apps like OneNote not? No problem. Many apps offer an option for a dark or light mode or for the app to follow the Windows settings. Go to "Settings" > "Personalization" > "Colors" and select Dark at "Choose your color".

Free up disk space

On both Mac and Windows, it is sometimes a mystery why so much storage is used. Microsoft has created something handy that makes it very easy to see which data can be deleted without that you need to be scared that an important file is thrown away or that you are breaking something.

Open "Settings" > "System" > "Storage" > "Configure storage sense or run it now".

Here you can, for example, set when temporary files are wiped and for which files you want to do that. In In overview click on "Temporary files" and a new windows opens with al temporary files that can be deleted. Select what you want to delete and Windows will do that. Very convenient.

You should also check your browser(s) on a regular basis to delete data or let the browser do this in the background.

Add fonts

Microsoft made it very easy to add new fonts to Windows. All you have to is download the font of your choice and in Windows you go to "Setting" > "Personalization" > "Fonts" eAnd drag the downloaded font here. If you have the font as a ZIP file, you must first unpack it.

32-bit

Windows, unlike macOS, supports 32-bit applications. Apple did announce a while ago that 32-bit applications would no longer work on versions of macOS released as of autumn 2019. You can defend this decision but it is a fact that for many people this is very inconvenient. With Windows you are not bothered by this.

Gaming

If there is one thing that \everyone agrees on then it is that Windows is better t gaming than macOS. There are various reasons for that, but it is a fact and that is why there are more games for Windows. Even if you are not a hardcore gamer, it is nice that you can play the games that you want on Windows. And with regard to the prevision point about 32-bit; many (older) games are all still 32 bit.

Keyboard for shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts

Just like macOS, Windows has many keyboard shortcuts that make life easier, making you work faster while being less dependent on a mouse. An important difference with macOS is that on macOS CMD is the magic key and on Windows that is CRTL and the Windows key. That can be confusing in the beginning, but you get used to it quickly.

There are a lot of keyboard shortcuts, but these are the most useful.

Shortcut Action
Alt + Tab Switch app
Alt + E Open edit
Alt + F Open file
Alt + F4 Close app
Ctrl + A Select all
Ctrl + D Deselect
Ctrl + C Copy
Ctrl + X Cut
Ctrl + V Plakken
Ctrl + N New item
Ctrl + T New tab
Ctrl + W Close tab
Ctrl + Shift + T Reopen closed tab
Ctrl + Delete Delete word
Ctrl + Backspace Delete word
Windows key + A Open Action Centre
Windows key + D Minimize all windows
Windows key + G Open Game Bar and capture screen
Windos key + P Presentation mode
Windows key + Shift + S Screenshots
Windows key + . Emoji + spectial characters
Windows key + Tab Task view
Windows key + Ctrl + D New desktop
Windows key + Ctrl + F4 Close dekstop
Windows key + Ctrl + pijl rechts Next desktop
Windows key + Ctrl + pijl links Previous desktop
Windows key + number Opens app on the taskbar
back with logo for downloading apps

Apps

Notes

Where you have many good note taking apps for the Mac such as Bear, Apple Notes, Evernote, OneNote and more, there are a lot less for Windows. For all-round note apps you have to rely on Evernote and OneNote. On new Windows PCs, OneNote is installed by default.

Just like on macOS, you have Notion on Windows, but that app has the disadvantage that notes are only offline available when they have been opened recently. Although it is a good app and NOtion goes beyond a note app. You create Kanban boards, to do lists and more. Other apps do this too, but not like Notion.

Evernote has fallen behind the competition in recent years.They are working on a major update and might bring them back to the top. It is still one of the better all-rounders. Do you just want an app for taking notes without frills? Then try Simplenote. A good app that does exactly that and it is free.

Do you like taking notes with a pen and if you have something like a Surface Pro, then you should try Nebo as alternative to OneNote. It costs € 9.99 and it is worth every penny. You make handwritten notes and Nebo easily converts the note into typed text and it does that almost flawlessly.

Download Evernote Download Simplenote Download Nebo Download Notion

To Do

Many productive people write things down so that they don't forget it and it is out of their head. A to do app helps with this. There are many to do apps and Microsoft To Do is among the best. You quickly create new tasks, lists and groups with options such as:

Microsoft To Do is versatile with and free. An alternative is Todoist. The basic version of Todoist is free, premium starts at € 3 per month. Both apps are available on Windows, macOS, Android, iPhone and iPad.

Download Microsoft To Do Download Todoist

Writing

A note app is great for taking notes and writing short pieces of text. Writing apps offer more structure and overview when writing texts. Moreover, they use Markdown which lets you write faster and with less distraction. Are you done with a text then you can export or copy it to Word, PDF, Markdown or HTML.

Both iA Writer and Typora do an excellent job, with an important difference being that Typora instantly convert Markdown texts to rich text.

Typora is officially still a beta version and currently free. iA Writer costs around € 20 for Windows. If you also want to use it mobile on Android or iOS, the app will cost around € 10 there.

Download Typora Download iA Writer

Netflix

Unlike on macOS, you have a separate app for Netflix on Windows. That does not only mean that you can watch series and movies, but you can also download them for offline use. And the latter is ideal for vacations where you have limited internet access.

Download Netflix

Pocket Casts

If you listen to podcasts, Pocket Casts is the app you need. It's just very good app that available is on iOS, Android, macOS, Windows and as a web app. For the last three you need the premium version and that will cost you € 0.99 per month. That will sync everything flawlessly with all your devices. Of course you can also use Spotify and iTunes for podcasts, but Pocket Cast is doing the job better. Its design is nice and you can continue to listen effortlessly on the PC where you stopped on the phone.

Download Pocket Casts

f.lux

Staring at a screen with blue light the whole evening is not the most pleasant thing for your eyes. Windows has a built-in solution that adjusts the colors of the screen, but if you don't like it or don't like how it works on your PC then there is f.lux. This app goes beyond the built-in solution of Windows, or macOS, and offers you options to adjust colors and times to your liking. You can download it for free and try out.

Download f.lux

Photo editing and graphic design

Photoshop is the best-known photo editing program, but Adobe subscriptions are too expensive for many of us. Affinity has a very good alternative for both Photoshop (Photo), Illustrator (Designer) and InDesign (Publisher). Each app costs around € 50 and that is a one-time fee, which also gives you updates. For most users, the Affinity apps are full substitutes for Adobe.

Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer zijn ook beschikbaarare also available op Mac and iPad (separate purchases).

Buy Affinity

Social

Are you tired of all the separate social apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Skype, Slack and mail? With Franz you combine everything in one app and it is free.

Download Franz

Email

BlueMail is one of the better email apps for Windows. The design ensures that you see which actions you can perform and just like Outlook it has a calendar function. Where with Outlook the agenda covers the entire window, the calendar at BlueMail is shown as a slide-in on the right. This works nice and intuitive. You have a dark mode, can add multiple accounts and all other options that you expect from an email app.

For many people the standard mail app from Windows will work fine, if you want more than Outlook and BlueMail are good options.

Download BlueMail

Sticky Notes

With Sticky Notes you make post-its, only digital. It is a handy little app for quick notes. If you use OneNote on your phone or tablet, the sticky notes will also be available there.

Download Sticky Notes

Your Phone: integration with Android phones

If you use an Android phone, you can use it on your PC with Your Phone. You view and edit recent images, read and send text, see notifications and perform phone calls wity your PC. Apple offers something similar to the iPhone in macOS. The iPhone does not (yet) work with Your Phone. This app is part of Windows 10.

PWA

Many apps are only available as web application. You can open it every time within a browser, but that is not great. PWAs (Progressive Web Apps) fix this issue . You still open a PWA within a browser, but if you have Chrome or Edge (Chromium) then you can save it as an "app". This works very well for applications such as Google Translate, Google Docs and Evernote. Technically, you still work in a browserbut it feels more like an app and it has itss own icon on the taskbar.

Read more about PWAs
An apple with the windowsHacks icon for apps that make Windows a bit more like a Mac

Mac-A-Like en apps that are just useful

In recent years, many MacBooks users have made the switch to Windows due to persistent problems with the keyboards on MacBooks and because the reliability of both hardware and software in general became worse. If you have used macOS for years then it takes some time getting used to Windows and not all apps and Mac features are by default available on Windows. With these apps you will make that transition a bit easier.

Quick look

If you select a file, for example an image, in macOS and you tap the space bar then a preview appears. With Quicklook you also get that function on Windows.

Download QuickLook

Wox: Alfred for Windows

Spotlight and Alfred both boost productivity on the Mac by allowing you to quickly open apps and files or to perform tasks. In Windows you can launch apps quickly by pressing the Windows key and then typing the name of the app. Wox goes beyond that and does for Windows what Alfred does for macOS. You open apps and files with it, but you can also uses it as a calculator. Press Alt + Windows and type what you want to do. Blast is an alternative to Wox, but Wox works better.

Download Wox Download Blast

WinXCorners: hot corners

On both Linux and Mac you can assign functions to the corners of the screen when you move the mouse to the corner. WinXCorners does that for Windows, although is not entirely identical to that of Linux and Mac.

Download WinXCorners

ShareX: screenshots

Making screen shots on Windows was a drama not too long ago. Luckily Microsoft has improved this feature which you can run by using Windows + Shift + S. If you want more than the default option then there is ShareX. With ShareX you can easily make and share screen shots. It saves the last made screen shot and you can even set what should happen by default after making a screen print.

Download ShareX

MacType: better font rendering

If there is one thing that macOS does better than Windows then it is font rendering. Especially with lower resolution screens. MacType solves that and renders fonts better.

Download MacType

SharpKeys

With keyboard shortcuts make life easier, But keyboards and on Windows differ from those on Macs. If you can not or do not want to get used to it, you reassign keys with SharkKeys..

Download SharpKeys

WinDynamicDesktop

WinDynamicDesktop brings the dynamic desktop backgrounds from macOS to Windows 10. Based on location it determines sunrise and sunset and changes the desktop background throughout the day. You can import or personalize custom themes, and customize the app to the Windows theme color.

Download WinDynamicDesktop

Ditto: clipboard manager

Windows nowadays has a decent clipboard manager (Windows key + V). If that does not do the job for you, you might want to give Ditto a shot.

Download Ditto

SmartTaskbar

macOS hides the taskbar (dock) automatically when you maximize a window. SmartTaskbar does that for Windows. It can hide or shrink the taskbar.

Download SmartTaskbar

iCloud

Apple released an improved version of iCloud for Windows in 2019 in collaboration with Microsoft. The functions seem similar to the earlier version with a few new options for syncing files and it just works better. You can synchronize bookmarks with Safari, iCloud documents and photos.

Download iCloud
door handle with key combination for security

Security

Security is not the strongest point of Windows by default and there are a few things everyone should do. Even those who have "nothing to hide",because you don't want some random person to be able to install software that follows your activity and sends information about things like making payments.

Passwords

The first step in security is to ensure that your PC is protected with a strong password. If you don't do this, you will leave the door wide open and other security settings will be of little use. A strong password is preferably long. Use for example a sentence that you can remember. Of course you shouldn't reuse passwords, that's why you might need a password manager so you only have to remember one strong password and the password manager takes care of the rest.

The most popular password managers are available on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. Two good password managers are 1Password and LastPass.

Download 1Password Downsload LastPass

Updates

Make sure that you install updates. The computer may work well for you, but Updates ensure that security holes are solved and that it is less easy for a malicious person break into your PC. Microsoft has improved the installation of updates in recent years. You can turn off major updates, which means you have a little more control.

You can change the settings in > "Settings" > "Update & Security" > "Windows update".

Disk encryption

A laptop is not protected enough with only a password, because files are still easily accessible because the hard disk is not encrypted by default in Windows. Apple has beenoffers FileVault on Macs for disk encryption, but you have to enable it yourself. The moment a user doesn't do this then files on a Mac are insufficiently protected also.

Disk encryption on a Windows laptop is is a bit cumbersome compared to a MacBook. Microsoft offers Bitlocker, similar to FileVault in macOS, but there is a snag. You have different versions of Windows and Bitlocker is only available from Windows Pro and up. Most people at home have Windows Home and have to encrypt the disk in a different way. Veracrypt is a good alternative. This is an open source program and works somewhat similar to Bitlocker.

By enabling Bitlocker or Veracrypt, all data on the hard disk is encrypted, which means that they are not or difficult accessible for third parties. Another reason why a strong Windows password is important, it affects Bitlocker's encryption.

Bitlocker only works for hardware with a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip. You can check this on you laptop:

  • Type Windows key + R (or start PowerShell)
  • Type: tpm.msc
  • A TPM windows opens. If it says "Compatible TPM cannot be found" then your PC doesn't have a TPM chip.

Interested in more about privacy and security? Check a href='https://watchyourhack.com/'>Watch your hack.

Download Veracrypt

Windows security and viruses

Windows Defender has become a decent alternative for separate anti-virus software such as Norton or McAfee. That's great because these programs canhave influence the performance of a PC or interfere with other programs. Of course you shouldn't download and install everything.

As a user you get insight into the status of the security in Windows and you can change the settings in "Settings" > "Update & Security" > "Windows Security". In the window that opens you see which components require your attentention.

Windows security overview

To make things easier for the user, a number of options, such as a firewall, are turned on by default.

Opening files

Downloaded files, or received by email, such as PDF, Excel and Word can contain viruses or malware. Therefor it is safer to open PDF documents in a browser as Edge or Chrome instead of Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you have a Word or Excel document, you can open it in the browser in Google Docs or Sheets.

Dynamic lock

Lots of people don't lock their laptop when they walk away. This means that someone else can access files, install malicious software or make other changes. Locking your PC is easy with the keyboard shortcut "Windows key + L". Another option is that Windows automatically locks your PC when your phone is no longer in the around. This increases security without you having to do anything yourself.

You do this by following these steps:

  1. Connect a phone or tablet as a bluetooth device to your PC. This is done in: "Settings" > "Devices" > "Bluetooth & other devices" > tik op "Add bluetooth or other device".
  2. After connecting the device you go to: "Settings" > "Update & Security" > "Windows security" > "Account protection" and select "Dynamic lock".
Windows laptop

Windows laptops

One of the drawbacks of macOS is that it is only sold with devices made by Apple. Yes, the build quality is good, but for many people they are too expensive and in addition to that quality and repairibility isn't what it used to be. And that does not only apply to the keyboards. With Windows you can choose from a wide range of manufacturers and a even more models. That is nice, although it is difficult forto choose which one is right for you. The following laptops are goed laptops in terms of price and performance.

What you should know

There are a number of things to look out for when buying a Windows laptop. First you have to think about what you will use the laptop for. For example, If you often take the laptop to college, school or appointments then you want something light and small (< 13" screen). And that laptop probably doesn't fit when you are a gamer./p>

Reminder these things when shopping for a laptop:

What Explanation
RAM (memory)) This is the memory (not to be confused with storage) and influences the tasks the laptop can do at the same time. For most people it is 8 GB enough and that is also the minimum you should get. If you are going to play games or do more graphic intensive tasks, you will probably need 16 GB or more.
Processor A processor is the main chip in a laptop and determines how quickly tasks can be executed. Most laptops run on Intel processors and the most common processors are an i3, i5, i7 or i9. For a Ultrabook an i5 usually is powerful enough for most people. Consider an i7 if you are going to do more complex work or gaming.
Storage For storage you should go with a SSD. These are faster and more reliable than traditional hard drives. The size depends on your personal needs, but take at least 256 GB because the smaller SSDs are often slower. If you have a lot of photos, movies of games, then you want more storage.

Beste budget laptop (less than € 750)

Budget Windows laptops are tricky. It is a heavier operating system than Linux or Chrome and if you have a limited budget you might want to ask yourself what you are going to do with the laptop. If that is mainly browsing the internet, writing documents and maybe some Excel plus an occasional presentation, then maybe a Chromebook is a better option. Of course you can buy a Windows laptop for € 650, but then you have at best a moderate laptop while you can get a good Chromebook with the same budget . Be aware that a Chromebook can' t run all programs that you run on a Windows laptop or MacBook.

Both Lenovo and HP offer good laptops for a lower price. The build quality is less than that with more expensive laptops and that also applies to the screen quality and speed of the SSD. But if you have a limited budget, then the HP Pavillion 13" and the 15" Lenovo IdeaPad S340 are worth considering.

Buy HP Pavilion Buy Lenovo IdeaPad S340

Best 13" Ultrabook

Microsoft makes incredibly good hardware and the 13 "Microsoft Surface Laptop is 3 convincingly one of the better Ultrabooks that you can buy right now. Not because it is the best on all fronts, but the build quality is excellent and the integration with Windows almost perfect. In addition, the screen has an aspect ratio of 3-2 where most laptops have an aspect ratio of 16-9. Due to the 3-2 ratio the screen has a height which is equal to that of most 15 "laptops. And that is noticable when you're working. Another great feature is instant on. Due to Windows Hello ?Windows Hello is a biometric authentication method Windows 10. It works with face recognition, iris scan and fingerprint scan. It makes that the laptop is about ready for use as soon as the lit is open.

The Surface Laptop with the i5 processor, 8 GB memory and 256 GB SSD is the best buy. With $ 1,300 it is not a cheap laptop, but with a little searching you will find one on sale for about $ 200 less.

An alternative to the Surface Laptop 3 is the Dell XPS 13 (model 2020). This one has a 13.4" screen with an aspect ratio of 16-10 (similar to MacBooks). Dell's makes good hardware, but can have quality issues and the support from Dell is often poor. The ones without problems are great laptops.

Buy Surface Laptop 3 Read my review

Beste 2-in-1

With Windows 8 Microsoft wanted to make the switch to hybrid devices where you have a laptop and tablet in one. Currently Microsoft is offering the best device in this category with the Microsft Surface Pro 7. It is not cheap device, especially when you consider that you have to buy the keyboard and optional pen separately, but it is a multifunctional laptop that you use for reading, working, watching movies and writing with a pen. It has a 12.3" screen with, just like with the Surface Laptop, an aspect ratio of 3 by 2.

Also similar to the Surface Laptop is that the best buy for the Surface Pro 7 is the model with the i5 processor, 8 GB memory and 256 GB SSD. This one costs € 1,200. The keyboard will cost you another $ 130 and the pen $ 100.

Buy Surface Pro 7

Heavy duty laptops (15" and up)

If you perform more demanding tasks or if you play games, then you probably don't want an ultrabook. There is a lot choice of 15 "and 17" laptops with 6 or 8 core CPUs and powerful GPUs that often are more versatile than the GPUs on a MacBook Pro. The overview below contains a number of good laptops in this category. The prices vary between $ 1,300 and $ 3,000 depending your configuration.

Laptop Note
MSI GE65 or MSI GE75 Very good, but the laptops are a bit thick and on the heavy side. Positive is that you can easily upgrade memory and SSD. The MSI GE Raider laptops perform well for productivity and gaming.
Microsoft Surface Book 2 The most versatile option on this list with excellent build quality. You can use the screen as a tablet, but when you brake the Surface Book, there is little to repair and therefore it is not very durable. The Surface Book 2 will probably get a successor in the course of 2020. The processor and graphics card are a bit older, but on the other hand there are a lot of sales because it is older.
Lenovo Thinkpad Extreme Powerful, fast, light and very good. It is a pity that you cannot upgrade the memory yourself. Otherwise it is an excellent laptop.
Razer Blade 15 Razer is the MacBook among the Windows laptops. Excellent build quality, slim and good performance. This is an alternative to the MSI if you are willing to spend more money.
Buy MSI GE65 Buy Surface Book 2 Koop Thinkpad Extreme Buy Razer Blade 15
Linux pinguin for development on Windows and WSL

Development

Linux (WSL)

Microsoft made a 360 under CEO, Satya Nadella, and that also applies to Windows. The current Microsoft has fully embraced Open Source and Linux as where the previous CEO, Steve Ballmer, compared Linux with cancer. These days you install Linux as a subsystem on your Windows PC and you can even download different Distros from the Windows Store. With the Linux option, Windows has become more attractive for many developers.

Linux on Windows

Package managers

Many users (mostly the more technical people and developers) on Linux and macOS use Homebrew as a package manager, on Windows you have alternatives such as Scoop or Chocolately. The latter is one of the most popular. You install Chocolately with PowerShell. Open PowerShell as administrator and enter:

"Set-ExecutionPolicy Bypass -Scope Process -Force; iex ((New-Object System.Net.WebClient).DownloadString('https://chocolatey.org/install.ps1'))"

If you use WSL, you can also use Homebrew on Windows.

Code editors

Numerous code editors are available for Windows, including Visual Studio Be a code. There is a good chance that you will not have to adjust your workflow or only a little. Xcode is not avalaible.

the digital nomad behind windowsHacks

About & Why?

The idea for this page originated during my search and switch from macOS to Windows, after another MacBook hardware got problems in a short time and the software getting more bugs with each release. The switch to Windows, which I didn't want to touch for years, was challenging at first. I was looking for the right hardware and apps. I collected the things I learned from general settings to hardware and from apps to security. Windows has just become good alternative to macOS. Especially with a few personal adjustments andand I have come to a point where I no longer miss the Mac. As soon as I have something new I will add it to this page. Do you have suggestion? then send them to one email or contact me on Twitter.