Windows Wednesdays – Focus Assist & Night Light

In my last Windows Wednesdays post, I began exploring Windows 11’s new Quick Settings panel. This week, I’m going to highlight two features that were actually introduced in Windows 10, Focus Assist and Night Light, which didn’t get much attention at the time because Microsoft didn’t do anything to call attention to them. Windows 11 brings them nearly to the forefront by featuring them on the default Quick Settings menu. So, unless you had reason to seek out these features before, you’ll probably notice them for the first time after upgrading to Windows 11.

Focus Assist is an interesting, almost ironic addition to Windows. Back in 1990, I attended a Microsoft product roll-out presentation for Windows 3.0, which had just been released to the public. The presenter was quick to show how Windows constantly “talked” to you. (I put that in quotation marks, because few computers in those days had sound capabilities beyond the tiny “beep” speaker inside the case, and software that could actually talk to you didn’t exist yet.) And, if you weren’t sure what to do, just clicking anywhere with the mouse would probably make something happen. Contrast this with an article I read about Unix at around the same time, which described Unix as a terse operating system, because, to quote from the article, “…when there’s nothing to say, Unix says nothing.” Each subsequent version of Windows ramped up the amount of information relayed to us by the operating system, the ever-increasing variety of software running on computers meant even more messages for us to see, and networking, which brought web site messages, e-mail notifications and various kinds of instant messages, have all made the average Windows Desktop a very noisy place. As far as I know, Focus Assist is the first feature built into Windows that’s specifically intended to quell your computer’s constant calls for your attention, ostensibly so you can get your work done.

Focus Assist aims to do this by letting you decide what programs may interrupt you during various kinds of activity. You set this up by clicking on the Network/Volume/Power icon group in the Taskbar Notification area to display the Quick Settings panel, right-clicking on Focus Assist, and then choosing “Go to settings” from the context menu. After that, you activate Focus Assist by clicking on its pad in the Quick Settings panel; doing that rotates among Priority Only, Alarms Only and Off modes.

A detailed explanation of how to use Focus Assist is beyond the scope of this post, but if you’re interested in trying it out, here is a link to a great article to get you started:

Night Light is a much simpler feature with a much simpler mission: to reduce eye strain by reducing the amount of blue light radiating from your screen when you’re using the computer in a darkened room. As with Focus Assist, you can change its default settings by right-clicking on the Night Light pad in the Quick Settings panel and choosing “Go to settings” from the context menu. The relevant settings allow you to determine the balance of blue vs. red/green light (accomplished with a simple slide control), activate Night Light immediately so you can test your selected color balance, and schedule the computer to automatically turn Night Light on and off at certain times of the day.

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