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It’s easy to overlook one of Windows 10 most useful features. The Windows 10 Action Center is called up by clicking or tapping on a small icon that is almost hidden in the lower right corner of the screen. This icon will be either an empty rectangle or a rectangle with a blue circle with a number in it, as shown below.

Windows 10 Action Center

Using the icon will bring up the Action Center which is a slide-out pane that appears on the right side of the screen. There are also several other ways to bring up the Action Center. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Windows key +A. If you are using a touch screen, you can swipe from the right side of the screen. If you are using a trackpad, just tap four fingers on the pad to bring up the Action Center.

The Action Center might also be thought of as the Windows 10 notification screen. It is a unified place for all system notification and quick access to important settings. The number on the taskbar icon indicates the number of notifications that you have not yet looked at.

Previous versions of Windows also had something called Action Center, but that was simply a panel for checking on security and other issues. The new Action Center is really an entire new beast that is much more useful.

One reason that the Action Center is so useful is that it also gives you shortcuts to often used functions. The first time you use it, you will see four square tiles at the bottom of the screen with the following labels “Tablet mode, Network, Note (which brings up OneNote), and All Settings, as shown below.” These are called Quick Actions.

Windows 10 Action Center

Above these tiles you will see the word “Expand.” Pressing or tapping that word will add several more choices to this menu including “Airplane mode, Location, Quiet Hours, Bluetooth, VPN, Project, and Connect.” The first four of these which appear in the second row (Airplane mode, Location, Quiet Hours, and Bluetooth) are toggle switches which will turn these functions on and off. The Quiet Hours setting allows you to not be disturbed by notifications between 12 am and 6 am. The last row, like the first row will open a screen showing the requested functionality.

NOTE: Depending on the device you are using, the number and locations of these tiles may vary.

Windows 10 Action Center

The beauty of the Action Center is that it is customizable. Just open the Settings windows and click or tap on Notifications and Actions. As shown below, you can rearrange the tiles to suit your use. You can also add or remove the tiles as you choose.

After you start using the Action Center, you will notice that many programs and apps often add notifications to the Action Center. Depending on your needs, you will probably want notifications from some apps but not from others. Just scroll down in the Settings page shown above. Under the words “Get notifications from these senders,” you will see a list of apps. You can turn the notifications from each of these on or off to suit your needs.

Windows 10 Action Center

You can also customize the Action Center’s appearance in the Settings, Personalization page. In this area you can change the colors of the panel and can also change its transparency. You can either have Windows automatically pick a color based on your theme, or you can pick one yourself from a rainbow of colors. Be careful though, at this time, the changes you make to the Action Center may affect the Start Menu and Taskbar, as well.

Like other functions in Windows 10, the Action Center is constantly changing.  The Action Center got a big upgrade with the Windows 10 Anniversary update, which is reflected in this article.

In the spring or early summer of 2017, Microsoft will be releasing another huge upgrade for Windows 10. Called the Creators Update, this update will enable 3D creativity, mixed reality, and gaming features.  There will be major updates to drawing apps as well as to the Edge browser and Windows Defender. In this new version, Microsoft will also focus on connectivity and sharing, which is sure to affect the Action Center.

Preview versions of the Creative Update offer a glimpse of an updated, even more useful Action Center. It looks like in this version Microsoft will allow notifications to sync from Android devices to Windows 10 PCs and mobile devices. This feature is being referred to as “Notification mirroring.”  Along with these feature changes, there are to be some improvements in the interface for notifications in the Action Center. Microsoft has already showed off brightness and contrast sliders in the next Action Center. While we cannot yet be sure exactly what these changes will be, we can expect that the Action Center will be even more useful in the near future.

Neither the Control Panel nor the Setting Menu is going away. Yet the Action Center is becoming a larger area of focus in future Windows 10 releases. Start using it now. It is quite useful. Also, it is sure to be even more useful in the near future.

Sandy Berger, respected computer authority, journalist, media guest, speaker, and author, has more than three decades of experience as a computer and technology expert. Her eight books include: How to Have a Meaningful Relationship with Your Computer, Your Official Grown-up's Guide to AOL and the Internet, Cyber Savers –Tips & Tricks for Today’s Drowning Computer Users, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Better Living through Technology, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to the Internet, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Gadgets & Gizmos, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Health & Wellness, and Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Travel. Sandy’s newspaper column, magazine articles, feature stories, product reviews, and computer tips can be found at her website, Compu-KISS.