Try deep linking, a powerful way to customize Windows 10's Start menu

You haven’t customized the bejesus out of Windows 10’s Start menu unless you’ve done deep linking. Sure, you’ve rearranged the left side of Windows 10’s Start menu, gotten your tiles just the way you like them on the right, and even added some website shortcuts to the mix. But with deep linking you can pin specific pages from within a Windows Store app to your Start menu.

Say you’re reading an ebook with the Kindle for Windows 10 app. You can pin the book itself to your Start menu instead of the entire Kindle app. That way you can always jump right back into your book even if the last time you closed the Kindle app you were looking at something else. Pretty cool, right?

Here are a few more examples of how you can use deep linking to practical use.

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Puzzle Bar for Firefox lets you stash your add-on icons where you want

Take the functionality of browser extensions and add-ons one step further by controlling where those icons show up in your browser window. A Firefox add-on called Puzzle Bars lets you place your add-ons and several built-in browser icons nearly anywhere you want. 

The convention is for add-on icons to reside at the right of the address bar, but if you have a lot of them, they won't all be in plain sight. Having control over your add-on icons' location can make it easier to see what's available and to quickly access a particular add-on when you need it—to, say, adjust a setting, reveal information (like with a password manager), or activate a feature (such as saving a web page to Pocket).

Location, location, location

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How to make OneDrive your personal music streaming service with the Groove app

OneDrive has an unsung feature you’d be crazy not to use: Its massive storage space can be harnessed to upload your legacy music collection—old MP3 files, not to mention music trapped on CDs and LPs. Add Microsoft’s new Groove app, and you’ve made your own, personal streaming service to rival Spotify and other competition.

Microsoft’s OneDrive is especially suited for storing music. Windows users tend to have generous storage allotments on OneDrive thanks to Microsoft’s various giveaways, not to mention the ridiculous amount of storage Office 365 subscribers receive. Of all the various cloud storage services you use, OneDrive probably has the most room to spare for your collection.

Here’s how to set it up.

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How to turn Google Chrome into a Microsoft Office-loving browser

Say you’re a Windows user who prefers Google’s Chrome browser—it is, after all, easily one of the best browsers today, and far superior to Internet Explorer. Still, you’ve probably been frustrated at times by Chrome’s built-in Google bias, particularly if you use Microsoft services such as Office Online. A Chrome extension from Microsoft, aptly dubbed Office Online, has you covered.

The Office Online extension imbues Chrome with an Office-first mandate and gives you one-click access to your Office documents.

chromesettingsofficeonline

To add drag-and-drop functionality, click the box to allow access to file URLs.

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How to know if your PC is ready for virtual reality

The virtual reality revolution is fast approaching. Products like the Oculus Rift headset are up for preorder, and the HTC Vive will follow suit at the end of February. These gadgets and others will let you experience computer games and other programs in a 3D space—if your PC is up to the task.

Luckily, there's an easy and free way to know whether your rig is VR-ready. Oculus VR, the company behind the Oculus Rift, recently released a simple software utility that does all the checking for you. HTC hasn’t announced its minimum system requirements for the Vive yet, but it’s assumed they will be similar to the Rift’s.

You don't need to preorder the Rift to try this tool.

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How to turn your Android phone and Windows 10 PC into a dynamic duo with Cortana

One of the best features of Windows 10 is its integration with Cortana, Microsoft's personal digital assistant. Cortana is pretty powerful on its own, but until recently you needed a Windows 10 mobile device to experience the service's full power. That's changing, however, with Microsoft adding new features to Cortana for Android to help your Google-licious phone fit into a Windows 10 world.

Here are three useful Cortana features that turn your Android phone and PC into a powerful combo.

Note: Cortana for iOS was released in December, but does not have the new call and text features that are currently on Android. We will update this post should that situation change.

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Why you need a cloud backup service, and how to use one

Cloud backup is exactly what it sounds like. Your data is stored in an online repository, where it’s accessible to you when you need it. It works like this: You download a desktop client to your PC, select the folders you want to back up, and that data uploads to the service on a set schedule. Then if catastrophe strikes, such as a house fire or robbery, you have a clean, up-to-date copy of your data stashed on a server somewhere, all safe and sound.

Cloud backup does not eliminate the need for a local backup on an external hard drive of some sort, but it provides an easy solution for keeping another backup off-site. Your other options are to circulate a few hard drives that you keep in a safe at the office (a pain to remember), or run a remote server (technically challenging). Pay a few bucks a year to store your hard drive data online with a third-party provider is the easiest choice for most people.

Finding a service is easy enough, too. There’s Backblaze (the service I currently use), Carbonite (a service I have used), Mozy, SpiderOak (another service I’ve used), and many others.

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