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Windows 10 Tip: Understanding Universal Apps and Menus

Windows 10 includes a plethora of applications to get you up and running immediately. Windows 10 includes two types of applications — Windows apps and Windows Universal apps. A Windows app is your standard Windows application normally desktop oriented in design, like Notepad and Microsoft Paint. If you’ve been using Windows for many years, these are some of the common applications you interact with when using a Windows based PC normally with a keyboard and mouse. The Universal apps, (called Metro or Modern apps in Windows 8.x), are new and provide a lot of benefits.

Universal Windows 10 Apps and Menus

Universal Windows Apps (UWAs) present some differences from your standard Windows applications. These new conventions are critical to getting the most out of using these new kind of applications. Windows 10 in particular includes critical interface elements to make navigating and managing these applications on screen easy on the desktop with floating windows, and also easy to use on touchscreen devices.

Types of Apps

Split View with the Hamburger Menu
If you have been using a smartphone or tablet on a modern mobile OS, you should already be familiar with the so-called hamburger menu (three horizontal lines) in many popular apps such as Facebook. This menu provides more settings, and is generally replacing the ellipsis menu (…) — the three dots.

hamburger menu Windows 10 Weather

The Split View menu provides quick access to popular app functions without cluttering the interface. They are what you would describe as the new drop down menu. So, if you are looking for a function, this is the first place you should look. The shot below is an example of the new Calculator UWA that uses Split View. In addition to replacing the older standard Calculator Windows App, the new Calculator is optimized for touch just as well as it works with keyboard and mouse. Unlike the old calculator, you can resize it on-the-fly, too.


Split View is a function commonly associated with mobile apps that have made the jump to the desktop

Not all Universal apps feature the Split View menu. Microsoft Edge, the next generation web browser included with Windows 10 you will not find a split view menu, neither will you find it in modern versions of Microsoft Office for Windows 10. The Split View is really intended to provide access to functionality only when needed, while keeping it out of your way when not needed. So if there is an UWA you are using that doesn’t have it, don’t be surprised. Some UWAs will have a menu that looks like Split View, but its not, this is called the App Command menu. This menu provides quick access to functions such as Search, Sharing, and Settings.


A sample of some of the apps that use Split View in Windows 10

Back and Full Screen Commands

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Minimize, Restore, and Close are three commands that are land marks of the Windows application interface for the past 20 years. With UWAs, a new command is featured beside them called the “Expand” command. When you click it, this will make your application become an immersive experience hiding the Title bar and Taskbar. You can still access them by hovering the mouse pointer at the top or bottom of the screen.

Another feature of UWAs is the back button. This will normally take you back to the main interface of an application. For example, if you are navigating through an application such as a play list in the Music app or a photo library.


When you want to exit this mode, just click the ‘Restore’ button.


Windows 8 users who love the immersive experience of apps, can still enable full screen apps in Windows 10

Hidden Commands

One of the common gotchas of learning Universal apps in Windows 10 is how they express themselves. I mentioned earlier the Split View menu which focuses on hiding frequently used commands until they are needed. Some UWAs will require that you activate commands by swiping if you are using a tablet. For the purposes of this article which primarily focuses on keyboard and mouse, you normally have to left-click within the interface to bring up a command menu, or right-click to activate other functions.

Take for example, the Photos app. Here I see a photo I would like to edit. As you can see, I only see the picture.


If I want to access tools within the app, I simply left-click and I will see a command bar appear. If I need additional functionality, I can right-click to bring up a menu with additional functions.

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Share Contract

Apps are socially designed, a lot of computing task involves sharing information these days, whether it is a picture with friends on a social network such as Facebook or Twitter or a news article with a colleague at work. In Universal apps, you will find the Share Contract for accomplishing such tasks. Lets Share a Photo for example:


Click the Share symbol, and you’ll get a list of apps you can use to share. If you don’t see the Share symbol, look for the word Share. For example, in Microsoft Edge, I can find the Share Contract under the More Actions menu.


Universal apps do not feature the full power of desktops and probably never will. This is really the beginning, but we are seeing progress since the days of Windows 8.x which featured a drastic departure from the days of floating apps to now a cohesive experience. Another thing worth noting about the UWAs is that many of them have lives tiles that you can access from the Start menu.

Universal apps have matured significantly in the past three years to the point a modern and classic desktop app can work together in harmony while achieving productivity and delighting users. Has your universal app usage increased since upgrading to Windows 10? If so, tell us about your experience in the comments.

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2 Responses to Windows 10 Tip: Understanding Universal Apps and Menus

  1. Robert J. Good September 8, 2015 at 8:04 am #

    Productivity hack articles like this are a great help to those who aren’t aware of new features in this world of rapidly changing operating systems. Well done!

  2. Don Ebberts September 13, 2015 at 5:47 pm #

    Thank you for this article. I have an, admittedly, inexpensive Toshiba Satellite C-55A laptop and I don’t know if that is the problem that I have or if it is a Universal problem.

    I find that these Universal Apps really take a long time to load. And, if I open one and then click away to work on something else, it stops loading until I come back to it. I had Windows 8.1 and now am using Windows 10. I thought it might get better with 10 but it doesn’t seem that it has.

    I seldom use any of these apps and don’t even try any new ones, because I can usually find a program to do what I want.

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