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Windows 8.1 Multitasking: 5 Tips

To multitask in Windows 8, you had to jump between drastically different UIs. But Windows 8.1 changes that: Get more productive using these tips.

they still occupy the full screen (or at least the screen's full vertical space, if you're in Snap mode), but they now include desktop-style icons in the top right to minimize or close the app. Modern apps hide the taskbar, but it's still accessible if you mouse to the bottom of the screen. Essentially, whereas the original version of Windows 8's handling of legacy and Modern apps is jarringly different, Windows 8.1 Update lets you use both types interchangeably.

3. Navigate recently-opened apps.

If you're constantly switching among Modern-style apps, the taskbar is a great tool. Users can also rapidly shuffle between apps by opening a list of recently-launched titles. This was available in the original version of Windows 8, but because Windows 8.1 encourages multitasking, it's more useful now.

On touch-enabled devices, you can summon the list by swiping from the left then moving your finger back toward the edge. With a mouse, move your pointer to the upper-left corner, and then drag it down the edge of the screen. Keyboard users can access the list by simultaneously pressing the Windows key and Tab. If you're accessing this list from the Start screen, it includes a tile for the desktop, but if you're already in the desktop, the list contains only Modern apps.

4. Use Jump Lists.

Jump Lists have been around since Windows 7, but because Windows 8.1 orients navigation around the taskbar, they're more useful than ever. You can summon the Jump List for any app on the taskbar by navigating to the app's icon and right clicking. If you're touchscreen-inclined, you can also trigger Jump Lists by pressing down on the icon for a second, then releasing -- but keep in mind that taskbar icons, like other desktop UI elements, are small, and not particularly touch-friendly.

Once opened, the Jump List provides quick access to recent files, frequent destinations, or basic controls associated with the app. Jump Lists allow you to view the last 15 Excel files you've opened, for example, open a new tab, or unpin an app from the taskbar.

5. Keep an eye on file associations.

As mentioned, Windows 8.1 still isn't perfect. Some Modern apps, such as Internet Explorer and OneNote, have desktop equivalents. If you haven't tweaked your system settings, when you open a file, Windows might not choose the version of the app you wanted. This problem contributed mightily to Windows 8's reputation as a disjointed product. Users who clicked email links from the desktop were surprised and confused when they were thrust into the Modern version of Internet Explorer, for example.

With Windows 8.1 Update, Microsoft attempted to address this problem. Tablets still use Modern apps for many files, but laptops and PCs more often default to desktop versions instead. This change should make the OS less jarring out of the box, but to make things perfect, users can still manually select their preferred default programs. You can access the controls for this in both interfaces, either through the desktop Control Panel, or by taking the following steps: swipe the Charms menu, then select Settings, Change PC settings, Search and apps, and, finally, Defaults. The easiest way, though, is to simply search for Default Programs.

InformationWeek's June Must Reads is a compendium of our best recent coverage of big data. Find out one CIO's take on what's driving big data, key points on platform considerations, why a recent White House report on the topic has earned praise and skepticism, and much more.

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Ninja
7/17/2014 | 8:02:00 PM
Re: The hate for Win 8

Having recently purchase a Spilt, I have been introduced to Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 ( which makes me wonder why MS just didn't wait to release 8.1 in the first place ?  )   Oh yeah, shareholders.

Anyway, it has taken some adjustment and the frustration that comes along with it.  I now use it for very simple things like browsing and the occasional document.  It looks like I might have to use it more than I intended as my Mac Book Pro is running hot and the Split is just fine.

Hopefully I can get my Mac to cool down, otherwise I will become a Windows 8.1 expert against my will.

User Rank: Ninja
7/11/2014 | 2:38:55 AM
Re: Why half haven't upgraded - maybe?
At least when it moves to Windows 9, Microsoft gets to sort of re-start everything, from a brand perspective. Unless they really shock everyone and stupefyingly decide "Threshold" will be called Windows 8.2.

@Michael Endler

I'm hoping for something great for Windows 9. Besides what we've already seen, plus Cortana and something with kinect. what else do you think Microsoft should do with 9 to "shock everyone"?
Michael Endler
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
7/9/2014 | 8:04:22 PM
Re: Why half haven't upgraded - maybe?

I think you have a point. Microsoft's Windows branding is still a bit confusing. After it became clear "Windows 8" was toxic from a PR perspective, they started using "the new Windows" and "the new Windows, with Office." I'm not convinced the average Windows 8 user realizes that these commercials are advertisements for an updated version, rather than an attempt to repackage the version they already have. Updating through the Windows Store vs. Windows Update is also a point of confusion. At least when it moves to Windows 9, Microsoft gets to sort of re-start everything, from a brand perspective. Unless they really shock everyone and stupefyingly decide "Threshold" will be called Windows 8.2.
User Rank: Strategist
7/8/2014 | 9:20:19 PM
Re: The devil!
Thanks. I'll investigate it and may give it a try on Ubuntu...But so far I've not found much to be hopeful about. Heck I might even give Mint a try in a dual boot setting (keeping my tried and true Ubuntu). I am currently dual booting with Windows XP, and had thought to upgrade to Windows 7, but for $89 to $99 it just seems to not be worth it, especially since Microsoft is already sounding the death knell for Windows 7. 
User Rank: Apprentice
7/8/2014 | 3:57:30 PM
Re: Vista is gaining over 8/8.1
The idea of falling back to Vista or XP is misguided.  I have used Vista on a home PC with absolutely no problems or complaints until about six months ago when it became obvious that some high quality websites didn't work well in my browser.  That's when I learned that I'm stuck on IE 9 forever, there is no way to upgrade to IE 10 on Vista.  XP has to be even worse.  I don't mind using Chrome and other browsers, but some business apps for my work require IE.
User Rank: Ninja
7/8/2014 | 3:43:04 PM
Re: The devil!
According to this site, iTunes can be installed on Mint. It might work on Ubuntu as well.
Check it out:

iTunes on Linux
User Rank: Ninja
7/8/2014 | 7:42:22 AM
The hate for Win 8
One one hand this doesn't surprise me.  My first look at Win8 was the developer release and I thought for sure it was going to die in alpha and there was no way Microsoft would actually release such a poorly thought out UI.  Then I played with it long enough to get used to it.  I still didn't love it but it was less clunky than my first impression.  Now I'm running 8.1 and aside from the occasional "oops, I wanted the desktop version of that app"  I have no problems.  It is a bit odd jumping out to the Metro UI to launch apps but I have my home screen setup and organized so that I can find all my apps very quickly and it's actually faster than opening folders on the Win 7 Start Menu.  I will say the one thing that really annoys me is remote control of Server 2008+ boxes.  With no Start button it gets painful trying to hot key to open the home screen or launch apps.  I'm not sure that was thought out all.
Rich Krajewski
Rich Krajewski,
User Rank: Moderator
7/7/2014 | 8:14:46 PM
Left hand vs. right hand
When I installed MS Office on my Win 8.1 laptop, everything seemed to go just fine. Word, Powerpoint, and the rest opened just fine when I clicked on a file that needed those programs.

The odd thing was that, when I clicked on the MS Office App from Start (which is just the Win Apps page), it was as if Windows had forgotten I had installed Office. It even asked me, "Did you install Office?" The right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing, which made me think "schizophrenic" might be a better term than "multitasking" when speaking of Windows. Very disconcerting, and strange. Office still comes up just fine if I open a file that needs Office.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/7/2014 | 5:54:05 PM
Re: Why half haven't upgraded - maybe?
As a "non-geek" user disgraced with windows 8.0, I would like to agree and add to what hte above person has posted. My lap top is a non-touch screen with windows 8.0, and the user unfriendliness and the security holes I have experienced has made me want to pull my hair out. The reason I have not updated, is I am not sure if it will download with out a bunch of malware or some form of bug along with it. My daughter is geek, and when she has to help me with things I used to be able to do on her own, she often starts swearing, and tells me to downgrade to windows 7. I have seen many "non-geeks" do exactly that go back to windows 7. I would not be surprised, since these "non-geek" users maybe experiencing different OS on their phones, if they start getting up the courage and try a different OS on their computers now.
6 one way half a dozen another
6 one way half a dozen another,
User Rank: Strategist
7/7/2014 | 3:29:43 PM
8 or 8.1 or 8.1 update? Still haven't used almost any of it
I bought a new laptop in March when my old one died and got a new one with the 8.1 update. However, I mainly use it for the operating system only and excepting the photo/file viewing and video viewing aspects, I just have not had any need to be bothered to use any of the Windows programming (much of which I deem second-rate). Thankfully I was able to turn off many of the tiles that were sucking up my data with their relentless but unnecessary updating to unwanted tiles. I also removed nearly all of them from the "Modern" interface leaving only seven that I might possibly find useful in the future (and all of those are related to the computer manufacturer and my security system and only Windows help).

p.s. I work on an iPad for my job and can say, with confidence, that tablets and their touch screens just suck. The buttons are often too small to touch accurately and there is a great risk of changing screens because the touch is too sensitive during the scrolling process. They're not even that great for watching videos because the speaker points away from the back of the device and away from you. So, Windows attempt to design for the improbably popular tablets half-baked if you ask me.
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