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11/19/2013
08:06 AM
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Windows 8.1: 8 Essential Tips, Tricks

Microsoft Windows 8.1 is highly customizable -- but only if you know your way around its menus. Our tips help you get more from the new OS.

4. Decide when to use SkyDrive
SkyDrive is fully baked into Windows 8.1; it's listed right in the file structure, alongside more familiar categories such as Documents and Downloads. The OS's beefed-up cloud hooks offer several advantages. As mentioned, they can allow users to negotiate storage limitations. They also enable on-demand access to files, which can be a lifesaver if you ever unexpectedly need a document that's not locally stored on whatever machine you have handy. And if you use multiple devices, SkyDrive lets you synch content across machines with minimal maintenance.

One problem? Microsoft encourages users to store all files in SkyDrive. Compelling as the cloud can be, many people don't want to put everything there, after all.

To customize SkyDrive, you'll need PC Settings again. It contains controls to dictate whether SkyDrive is enabled by default, as well as how it handles specific types of content, such as photos taken with a device's built-in camera.

That said, even if SkyDrive is activated, you can still choose where to put files on a case-by-case basis. If you save a new Microsoft Word document, for example, you can select a different storage destination, such as your "Documents" folder, when you name the file. And transferring files between the cloud and local drives is as simple as dragging a file from one location within the file structure to another.

5. Change the number of Live Tiles that appear on the Start screen
As mentioned above, many users will find the Start screen most useful if it's not overpopulated with apps. That said, if lots of Live Tiles are more your style, you might want to increase the number of apps that are visible at once. This option could be particularly useful if your device includes a large, high-definition screen, as the extra pixels can easily accommodate an extra row of tiles.

To control how many tiles are displayed, you'll need the Settings charm -- which, just to be clear, is different from the PC Settings menu that's also accessible via the charms bar. From Settings, select Tiles and activate Show More Tiles.

Windows 8.1 also enables users to customize the size of individual tiles. To do so, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to open the Tile Customization bar. Next, select Customize from the bottom right, and then choose the tile you want to modify. Once you've done so, you can use a menu in the bottom left to control different tile attributes, including size and whether the tile stays pinned to the Start screen.

6. Learn how to control automatic app updates
Windows 8.1 automatically downloads updates, just like Windows 8. But app updates are now automatically installed by default; in Win 8 this final step isn't initiated without the user's manual approval. For Win 8.1, if you want more granular control over which apps are updated, open the Windows Store and then access the Settings charm. The charm must be activated from within the store; otherwise, the necessary menus will not be listed.

Inside Settings, navigate to App Updates. Here you'll find the option to disable automatic updates.

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J_Brandt
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J_Brandt,
User Rank: Ninja
11/24/2013 | 4:47:31 PM
Re: Wary Upgrade
If you could switch over to all apps that use the Metro interface, then your learning curve would be easier.  The one foot in both worlds is a real drain on productivity.  Most people have enough issues mastering one world, let alone two.
PaulS681
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PaulS681,
User Rank: Ninja
11/20/2013 | 8:59:06 PM
MS eventually listened somewhat
It seems as though MS does listen to it's users. Not as much as I would like but they did listen. The boot to desktop option is a nice one although I'm not sure why that wasn't in the first release. The important thing is it's there now. These are great tips for windows 8.1.
MitchS925
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MitchS925,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/20/2013 | 5:34:12 PM
More comfortable with 8.1
I have been running 8.0 on a non-touch laptop since release.  Barely used the modern UI.  Upgraded to 8.1 and began using modern UI more once new apps started showing up like a real Facebook and twitter app plus Netflix, tripAdvisor, Flixster, Kayak etc. But finally, the release of FlipBoard is what made the difference for me. All apps that I use regulary on my android tablet.  Got to the point where I decided to purchase a Lenovo Yoga since I love the hardware and the multiple configurations. For me it is the most useful hybrid/convertible/ whatever you want to call it and really makes 8.1 better.  Just sold my android tablet on eBay and now getting really comfortable using Windows 8.1.  With the apps view under the Start screen, I don't miss the start Menu at all, even for Win 7 apps.  I won't be trading in my android phone anytime soon, but I really don't miss my android tablet. And when I need to do real work, I just flip the keyboard into laptop mode and launch Citrix Receiver and I am in business. That last part lends for a very bad experience from an android tablet or iPad.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
11/20/2013 | 8:00:13 AM
Re: Wary Upgrade
While Win 8 and 8.1 can be a bit frustrating with a mouse and keyboard it's not impossible to navigate it just takes some adjustment.  When I first started playing with Win 8 I would get fed up after a few minutes and just shut it down then go back to my Win 7 install after spending some time with it the interface has become a bit more natural even if scrolling left to right when on the home screen to launch apps.  The biggest hurdle is that we have started to depend on the Start menu, once you get past that the UI starts to make more sense and you feel less lost.  In time I think a lot of the complaining will fall to the wayside but I can also see Win  7 holding on the way XP has for desktop users.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
11/19/2013 | 1:51:26 PM
Re: Wary Upgrade
Given both Windows 8's status and the hardware available when you were probably looking, I don't blame you for going with Windows 7.

I think some who shared your experience might be pleasantly surprised by the new Windows 8.1 devices, though. 8.1 won't be just like Windows 7; there's still a learning curve, albeit not the steep one that was in Windows 8. But 8.1 gives you a lot more flexibility to ignore the Tiles, and on my Surface Pro, I find the 8.1 desktop much faster and stabler than any Windows 7 machines I've ever used. I think Windows 8.1's native apps are actually useful, so I'd encourage people to check them out, even those people who were turned off by the Modern UI in the original version of Windows 8.

Windows 8.1 is still probably most geared for tablet/hybrid users, but I think it will be more popular than Win 8 among "regular" laptop users as well-- not as popular Windows 7 was, but probably good enough if you're in the market for a new, high-quality laptop and don't want/ can't buy a MacBook Air or Pro.
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
11/19/2013 | 1:22:43 PM
Re: Wary Upgrade
I have to say, I was looking at Windows laptops a while back, and Windows 8 was the biggest turn off in that decision process. I don't even know truly whether it's as bad as people tell me it is, but the bottom line is that I am happy with Windows 7. I don't /want/ to change, given a choice - I just want new hardware. Maybe 8.1 will resolve those issues; I sure hope so because the tile interface is just hideous.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
11/19/2013 | 1:22:09 PM
Re: Wary Upgrade
If you're on a non-touch machine, I think Windows 8.1 will be a worthwhile upgrade. It gives you more ways to customize the mouse-and-keyboard experience, and in my experience, almost everything runs faster than it did in Windows 8-- both desktop software and Windows store apps. I personally don't mind the new Start button, but I understand why a lot of people do. With a replacement like Classic Shell, Windows 8.1 should be even more like a "faster version of Windows 7" than before.
J_Brandt
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J_Brandt,
User Rank: Ninja
11/19/2013 | 12:03:50 PM
Wary Upgrade
I was not really happy when my laptop died and I had no choice in getting a new one with Windows 8 on it.  I've reached an uneasy truce with Metro on my non-touch Toshiba.  I added Classic Shell, reassigned all the default program launches and avoid Metro as best I can and it sits (mostly) quietly in the background consuming CPU cycles. It pretty much works like a faster Windows 7.  Although I'm not enamored with SkyDrive, it looks like it might be time to look at the 8.1 upgrade.
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