You might think that the Windows Control Panel has disappeared – it hasn’t

Control Panel iconThe Control Panel is a set of “utilities” (or “applets”) that have formed part of Windows since Windows 2 in 1987. The Control Panel allows changes to be made to how Windows looks and works (see the illustration at the end of this post for a list of the options in it).

So if, for instance, you want to install a new printer or change the resolution of your computer display, then the Control Panel has, for many years, been the place to go.

Control Panel - Windows 7

The Control Panel is always available from the righthand column in Windows 7

Beginning with Windows 8, however, we have had a competing set of “utilities” in Windows called “Settings”. Over time, more and more items have been added to Settings and a lot of people (myself included) have assumed that Settings would replace Control Panel entirely. And yet, here we are, almost seven years since Windows 8 was introduced and we still have both Settings and Control Panel. What is even more confusing is that there are places in Control Panel where you are suddenly moved to a “Settings” screen and vice versa. Try going to “User accounts” in Control Panel and then clicking on “Make changes to my account in PC Settings”. That’s right, you will suddenly be dropped into “Settings”.

In Windows 10, Settings is easy to find. Just click on the Start button (bottom lefthand corner of the screen) and click on the cogwheel that is just above the power button. In Windows 7, Control Panel is equally easy to find – just click on Start and Control Panel is listed as an option in the second column from the left.

Control Panel - access from Windows 10 Start Menu

Start typing “control panel” at the Start Menu to see options and access the Control Panel

So, where is Control Panel in Windows 10?

If you’ve never looked for it before, the chances are that you would look in the alphabetical list of programs visible after clicking on “Start”. Nope. It’s not there. For a while, it was accessible in Window 10 by right-clicking on the Start button. There is still a list of options that pop up when you do that (a hotch potch of items, actually), but Control Panel has mysteriously disappeared.

There are actually lots of ways that do still work in giving access to it, but there’s no need to learn more than one or two.

From the Start Menu, Control Panel is actually a sub-option within “Windows Settings” and can be accessed that way.

Possibly more easily, it can be accessed by starting to type “Control Panel” (without the quotes) in the search bar of the Start Menu. After typing just a few characters, it will appear just above where you are typing. Note that, once it has appeared like this, you can click on “pin to Start Menu”. Thereafter, there will always be a “tile” on the Start Menu that will take you to it immediately. Likewise, you could pin it to the task bar or you could “open file location” and copy a shortcut to it onto your desktop.

If you are of a mind to do a bit of exploring in Windows to see what options are available that you’ve never known about, then it might be better to have a poke around “Settings” than “Control Panel” (since my guess is that Settings is going to be around for a lot longer). If you are looking for something specific and can’t find it in Settings, then have a look for it in Control Panel.

If you are a dyed-in-the-wool old codger like me (who still regrets the passing of DOS) then the starting place for tweaking Windows will always be Control Panel (well, it will be for as long as I can still find it, anyway).

Control Panel

To see all Control Panel items, select “small icons” or “large icons” in the dropdown next to “View by” (top right)

We can exercise a (tiny) bit of control over Microsoft programs!

Individual programs in the Microsoft Office suite (Word, Excel, Access, Outlook, PowerPoint and OneNote) have their own set of “Options” that can be used to help you to use the programs in the way that you want.

Here is a guide as to how these work by giving some examples of configuring some options in Word 2010. The 2007 and 2013 versions of Microsoft Office programs work in a similar way. If you are still using a version of Office that is older than 2007 then it would be a good idea to upgrade as older versions are inherently less secure and more likely to harbour viruses and other such nasties.

There are several ways to access the “Options” for Word. The easiest way is to select the “File” tab and then click on “Options” near the bottom of the menu. The screen that opens shows the options grouped down the lefthand side and the individual settings for the selected group of options are displayed to the right of the options menu.

Word Options

Figure 1 – Word Options

For instance, in the “General” group (see figure 1) there is an option that turns on or off the “Live Preview” throughout the use of Word. In some cases, as here, there is a small letter “i” in a circle that shows some more information about a particular option if you hover your mouse pointer over that letter “i”. “Live preview” is the feature that shows you what would happen if you actually chose the option you are currently hovering your mouse pointer over (eg the “styles” options on the “Home” tab). Some people find the “live preview” a bit confusing and intimidating, whereas others find it useful. So, here in “Options” is the ability to turn it on or off.

OK, don’t worry – I am most definitely not going to go through every item that can be changed in “Options”! Let’s just look at a few others that you might find useful in the hope that you might be encouraged to have the occasional look at “Options” to see if you can “tweak” Word to work more closely to your own wishes.

Click on the “Proofing” group (lefthand side of screen) to show the “AutoCorrect Options”. The dialog box that pops up is very useful in showing what text replacements are already configured. For instance, if you type “(c)” (without the quotes) then Word will automatically change this to the copyright symbol (a letter “c” in a circle). You can add your own replacement text in the empty boxes above the current replacement list (see figure 2).

For instance, I get niggled at having to try and remember how the word PowerPoint is capitalised to make it appear the way Microsoft would like. Therefore, I have created replacement text so that when I type “ppoint” (without the quotes), Word replaces it with “PowerPoint”. Likewise, my fingers seem to insist on typing “Microsoft” as “Microsfot”, so I have instructed “AutoCorrect” to replace the wrong spelling with the right one.

Click the “OK” button at the bottom of the dialog window if you wish to save any changes made.

Word AutoCorrect Options

Figure 2 – Word AutoCorrect Options

Also in the “proofing” group is the option to “check spelling as you type”. This is another option that seems to polarise users into those who like the program to help them out with their spelling and the others (like me) who are disproportionately indignant at the idea that a computer program could possibly have anything to teach them about spelling (especially an American program teaching us how to spell English!) Well, here is the option to turn realtime spell-checking on or off.

In the “Save” group is the option to change the “default file location”. If Word assumes that you open and save your documents from/to a different folder than your preferred one, then you can change it here. Whenever you have the option to either type in a location or “browse” to it (as here), then I would always recommend “browsing” to it as there is much less chance of making an error in specifying the location.

Also in this group is the option to change the type of file that is created by default when you save a document. There is just a chance that you may wish to save as a Word document (1997-2003) if you habitually share documents with someone using a very old version of Word (as versions earlier than 2007 can not normally read documents made in Word 2007 or later).

So, if you find that you consistently need to change a setting that Word assumes you want, it may be worth spending a few minutes scanning through “Options” to see if there is a way of changing that particular setting to the default that you would prefer.

© 2011-2019 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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