How to mute/unmute system volume with a keyboard shortcut on Windows 10

Keyboards, whether they’re internal or external, both come with an entire set of media keys. The media keys generally allow you to change the volume of your system, mute/unmute it, manage the brightness of your display, toggle the WiFi, and play/pause anything that’s playing. These keys work reliably so long as you’re working with an internal keyboard but if you’re using an external keyboard, these keys often do not work leaving you without an easy way to mute/unmute system volume with the keyboard.

If your keyboard’s mute/unmute key isn’t working, you have two options; configure a different keyboard shortcut to do the trick with an AutoHotKey script, or use a touch pad gesture.

AutoHotKey Script

Make sure you have AutoHotKey installed. Open a new Notepad file and paste the following in it;

CapsLock::Send {Volume_Mute}

Give it a name that tells you what the script is for e.g. Toggle Mute, and save it with the AHK file extension.

Run the script and when you tap the Caps key on your keyboard, it will mute/unmute your system volume. The Caps key will act as a toggle so you will only have to use one key. You can of course use any other shortcut in the AutoHotKey script. Here’s a quick look at how to change it.

Touchpad Gesture

This option requires that you have a precision touchpad. Most users who opt to use external point and click devices don’t normally use touchpads with Windows laptops or PCs but if you have one, or you’d simply like to use your touchpad to mute/unmute system volume, the option is there.

Open the Settings app on Windows 10. Go to the Devices group of settings and select the Touchpad tab. You can configure three and four finger taps and swipes. The one and two finger gestures are locked down for the most part.

Look for and click on the ‘Advanced gesture configuration’ option. Scroll down to either the three or four finger gestures. Open the dropdown under the gesture that you want to use to mute/unmute system volume and select the ‘Mute’ option. That’s all you have to do. Give it a practice run to see if it feels natural.

The dedicated media keys on keyboards are useful if they work, if you can get used to them, and if you do not need to use the function keys. If they don’t work, or you need to use the Function keys on a daily basis, these are two alternative solutions to quickly muting system volume.

Read How to mute/unmute system volume with a keyboard shortcut on Windows 10 by Fatima Wahab on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

How to mirror/flip photos on Windows 10

Most photos today are taken on our phones and not on dedicated cameras and our phones are exceptionally smart. When you take a photo, you know that any text on it, or say a complex pattern on someone’s T-Shirt, will show up as it is. It won’t be ‘reversed’. This phenomena of reversed items simply doesn’t exist if you use your phone to take photos. That said, there may still be exceptions and if you have a photo with the text or other items showing up backwards, you can flip photos to fix it.

Flipping a photo is a fairly basic edit that most image viewers and practically all image editors have.

Flip photos

The stock Photos app on Windows 10 has basic image editing features and you can use it to flip photos pretty easily.

Open the photo that you want to flip in the Photos app. Click the Edit & Create button at the top. From the menu that opens, select Edit.

When the photo opens for editing, you will see a panel on the right with various controls for editing the image. One of these controls is a button called Flip. Click it, and the image will be flipped/mirrored. You can then save it over the original, or as a copy.

The Photos app only flips in one direction which is horizontal. If you need to flip an image on its vertical axis, you need to use a free app called IrfanView. Most Windows users have heard of this app as it’s a popular image viewer and editor that has been around for quite a few years.

Open the image that you want to mirror/flip in IrfanView. Go to the Image menu item and in the menu that opens you will find both Horizontal and Vertical flip controls. Use them to flip the image however you want, and then save it over the original, or as a copy.

Flipping photos normally doesn’t have an impact on their quality however make sure that when you save the flipped image, either over the original or as a copy, that you do not have any compression presets already enabled. IrfanView does allow you to compress images so be careful that you don’t accidentally use one of its compression features for a photo you want to preserve the quality of.

Photos doesn’t offer image compression nor does it allow users to convert photos from one format to the other so it’s a safer option.

Read How to mirror/flip photos on Windows 10 by Fatima Wahab on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

How to use multiple switches with app shortcuts on Windows 10

Switches are command line arguments that you can send to apps. If you don’t want to use the command line, you can append the switch to an app’s desktop shortcut, provided the app supports this. Normally, any app that you can use switches with in the Command Line will allow you to add them to its shortcut. If you need to use multiple switches with app shortcuts, you can.

Multiple switches with app shortcuts

Switches are basically commands that are sent to an app to execute. Normally, when you execute a switch on its own, it will work if the app supports it. If you’re trying to run multiple switches though, it will matter whether or not the two can run together.

In order to use multiple switches with app shortcuts, all you have to do is add one after the other after adding one space between the two.

If you want to try this out, you can do so with Chrome. The two switches you can use together are;

--profile-directory="Guest Profile"

--force-dark-mode

The first switch will prompt Chrome to ask you which profile you want run Chrome with. The second will force Chrome to use the dark mode.

To use multiple switches, you need to enter:

"C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe" --profile-directory="Guest Profile" --force-dark-mode

Apply a switch

If you’ve never applied a switch, we’ll walk you through it. Find the app that you want to use switches with. Create a desktop shortcut for it. Go to your desktop, right-click the shortcut and select Properties in the context menu.

Go to the Shortcut tab, and in the Target field, enter the two switches at the end. The path to the EXE file will already be entered in the Target field.

After you apply a switch, make sure you close all instances of the app that are open and then use the shortcut to launch the app. If the switches don’t work, it may be because they’re not in the right order. Check if the switches work individually, and then try changing the order you apply them.

Some switches won’t work with each other. Again, going with Chrome’s example, there’s a switch that lets you open Chrome in Incognito mode and it cannot be used with the –profile-directory=”Guest Profile” switch because Incognito mode does not work with specific Chrome profiles. This means that while a switch works individually, it may not necessarily work with other switches. It will take a little experimenting to figure out what does and doesn’t work.

Read How to use multiple switches with app shortcuts on Windows 10 by Fatima Wahab on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

How to install and uninstall File Explorer extensions on Windows 10

File Explorer is a really good file manager as far as features are concerned. It may not have the greatest dark theme but it is nevertheless a good file manager. As great as it is, it may lack in some areas but most of its shortcomings can be filled with extensions. You can change how File Explorer works with apps that modify it or with just stand alone extensions. Here’s how you can install and uninstall File Explorer extensions.

File Explorer extensions

There’s no particular repository for File Explorer extensions so I can’t point you to a website for it. You can look for them via a Google search, or you can try out this extension that lets you enable SVG file previews in File Explorer.

Install extensions

File Explorer extensions are really EXE files so all you have to do is run it like you would any other desktop app. You will need admin rights to install it. Like most apps, the extension should start working right away but if it doesn’t, you should restart File Explorer.

Uninstall extensions

Since extensions for File Explorer install like ordinary desktop apps, you will uninstall them the same way. Open Control Panel and look through the list of installed apps and you will find the extension that you installed. It is important that you know the extension’s name because the Control Panel doesn’t sort items by type.

Select the extension from the list, and click the Uninstall button to remove the extension.

File Explorer extensions are desktop apps because File Explorer itself is still a desktop app. Microsoft hasn’t introduced a UWP file manager, and we can only hope they don’t do so until they have a really, really good app to replace it with.

Extensions for UWP apps are also UWP apps themselves. An example of this are the various extensions that are available for the Photos and TV & Movies apps. UWP app extensions are uninstalled from the Apps group of settings in the Settings app.

File Explorer extensions are great but remember to only install them if you’re sure they’re safe. File Explorer is an integral app on Windows 10 so if you end up installing an extension that hijacks it, getting rid of it might be an ordeal. If you’re unsure whether an extension is safe or not, and you are still determined to install it, make sure you know how to run Windows 10 in safe mode so that you can uninstall it if it goes rouge.

Read How to install and uninstall File Explorer extensions on Windows 10 by Fatima Wahab on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

How to keep the Start Menu open when opening apps on Windows 10

The Start Menu has two different views that you can open apps from; the apps’ list, and the pinned tiles of apps that you frequently use. In both cases, when you click on an app, the app opens and the Start Menu closes automatically because it assumes you only wanted to open that one app. If you want to open multiple apps, you can keep the Start Menu open by pressing and holding the Windows key.

Keep Start Menu open

This is a simple enough trick that works in both the apps’ list view and the pinned tiles view. It’s not very well known because Microsoft has changed the keyboard shortcut that was used to keep Start Menu open. On older versions of Windows i.e. on Windows 7, holding down the Shift key did the trick. On Windows 10, it’s the Windows key on your keyboard.

When you open apps this way, they appear to open in the ‘background’ which basically means the windows are never forced into focus. The Start Menu is always in focus and you can continue to click tiles, and/or browse the apps’ list.

To be clear, you need to tap the Windows key once, and then release it. The Start Menu will not open until you release the Windows key. Once the Start Menu is open, you have to press and hold the Windows key and then click the tiles or apps in the list to open them and also keep the Start Menu open.

If you want the Start Menu to remain open without holding down the Windows key there is, unfortunately, no way to get it to do that. The Action Center can be kept open until you manually dismiss it by editing the Windows registry but there’s no such hack that works for the Start Menu.

You can look into apps that modify the Start Menu and perhaps one of them will do the trick. You do want to take into consideration if something this small is worth running an entire app over. The full screen version of the Start Menu acts the same way i.e., it will automatically close when you click on a tile or app. If you want to keep it open and have apps open in the background, you’re going to have to hold down the Windows key.

This isn’t a change in functionality. The Start Menu always automatically dismissed after a user clicked an item on it. The only change is how it’s kept open.

Read How to keep the Start Menu open when opening apps on Windows 10 by Fatima Wahab on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter