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Windows 8.1 Tips & Tricks

tipsntricksA great deal of people received new gadgets over the holiday season and are now sitting in front of a tablet, laptop or desktop running Windows 8 or 8.1. Now if your new device is still running windows 8 do yourself a favor an update to 8.1 as soon as possible. It is a free update and makes a huge difference on the usability of the operating system and will make a huge difference for new users who have never used Windows 8 before. If your system is running Windows 8 still here is a tutorial from Microsoft that will get you updated to 8.1

1. Boot to the desktop.
When I first started using Windows 8 the fact that it booted start to the new start menu took the most getting used to. Well you do not have to worry about that anymore you can configure the system to boot directly to the desktop. For a Windows 8 rookie this can make all the difference since Windows 8.1 brought back the start button on the desktop so it is a fairly familiar experience when the system boots to the desktop. To set this option you need to check option labeled “When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of start” on the taskbar properties.

2. Start Menu.
On Windows 8 every time you installed an App or a desktop program it would automatically add a shortcut to not only the All Programs listing of the start screen but also to the user configurable portion the comes up when you hit the start button. Now if you are like me you only want shortcuts on there for the programs and Apps that you use on a regular basis. Now it only adds them to the All Programs portion and you can pick and choose what you want on the start screen.

3. Easier Shutdown.
In Windows 8 to shut down or restart your computer you need to use the right side charm; which can be a pain for users without a touch screen. In Windows 8.1 you can right click on the start button (lower left hand corner of taskbar) and it gives you the option to shutdown, restart or sign out.

4. Universal Background.
In Windows 8 the desktop background and the start screen background were managed separately. In windows 8.1 you can set the start screen to use the same background as your desktop. This might sound minor but it definitely gives the system more continuity between the desktop and the start screen. To set this up you need to set option labeled “Show my desktop background on Start” on the taskbar properties

5. Lock Screen Slide Show.
In Windows 8.1 you have the option to configure the background image of your lock screen as a slideshow. This will basically make your lock screen a pseudo digital frame. This is one of those option that is cool depending on the circumstance and the device. On my tablet and laptop I do not use it but I do use it on my desktop. To configure it you need to use the right side charm and select “Settings” and then “Change PC Settings” and then “PC and Devices”. Under the area where you can select the background for the lock screen you will see an option labeled “Play a slideshow on the lock screen”. When you flip the toggle you will be able to configure your slide show to your personal preference

6. Multitasking.
In Windows 8 when it came to Multitasking Apps you were really limited to 2 apps side by side in a 50/50 ratio. In Windows 8.1 you can actually snap up to 4 apps side by side in various ratios depending on the resolution and DPI of your display you are using. I have seen 80/20, 60/40 and even 25/25/25/25 layouts all depending on your screen resolution and the apps themselves. This is one of those things that you have to play with because it will be different based on your apps and your hardware.

7. Sky Drive Integration.
Windows 8 had a pretty good integration into SkyDrive, but it was still app and program based. In Windows 8.1 it is integrated directly into the operating system. This gives you a more stable reliable integration and also opens up some really nice features. My favorite being the Save to SkyDrive option. This gives you the option to have your SkyDrive as the default save location for your files. This is a great feature on a mobile device that can potentially get lost or damaged. To set this option use the right charm and select “Settings” and then “Change PC Settings”. Under the SkyDrive option will see a toggle labeled “Save documents to SkyDrive by default”. Flip the toggle and the next time you go to save a document the default location will be your SkyDrive.

8. App Updates.
In Windows 8 the system would prompt you via the store app whenever any of your installed apps have an update available. My biggest complaint about this was that you would get bombarded by updates for several apps at the same time. In Windows 8.1 you can actually set it to update your apps automatically in the background. To set this option you go into the store app use the right side charm and select the “Settings” option. You will see an option for “App Updates”; select this and on the next page you will see a toggle labeled “Automatically update my apps”; flip that toggle and the app update process with be automated in the background.

9. Start Screen Organization.
Windows 8.1 has several updates to the start screen ranging from a wider selection of live tile sizes to the ability to add and change the names of your app groups on your start screen. The later may sound like nothing special but you would be surprised at how much easier it is to find items in your start screen when you can actually name the groups they are organized in. Personally I name them based on whether they are work or fun related and based on a common task. So I will have one group for the more common daily work tasks and another for all my media based apps (music, video, Hulu, iHeartRadio, etc) and another for all my general utilities and another for all my programming related programs. This way if I am going to be doing some coding all my programs relating to this are grouped together and the group is labeled Programming.
By Al LaPeter

Al LaPeter on Google+