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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.

Microsoft Office For iPad Vs. iWork Vs. Google
Microsoft Office For iPad Vs. iWork Vs. Google
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Heading into July, just under half the combined Windows 8 and 8.1 user base is still using the first version of the new operating system. That's puzzling. After all, critics and users both trashed Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 Update has earned significantly better marks.

Some of the resistance to Windows 8.1 can be explained. A number of users have experienced update problems, the most extreme and long-running of which simply disallows Windows 8.1 from installing through the Windows Store. Microsoft is working on a fix. But the problem isn't widespread enough to explain why half the Win 8/8.1 user base has stuck with the maligned original version.

New device sales contribute to Windows 8.1's share, which means that among Windows 7 users who upgraded to Windows 8, a huge number -- perhaps over half -- have ignored upgrades. These people use non-touch machines, which only makes their hesitancy more baffling. Whereas Windows 8 is awkward for mouse-and-keyboard users, Windows 8.1 Update works well on both touch and traditional hardware.

[Does Microsoft finally have a winning tablet? Read Microsoft Surface Pro 3: Customers Speak.]

Some industry watchers, including those with ties inside the company, have said the Windows 8 brand is tarnished beyond repair. The operating system's poor reputation explains, or so the commentary goes, why Microsoft is allegedly barreling toward a new Windows version codenamed Threshold. Likely to launch as Windows 9, it reportedly will restore the Start menu to the desktop interface and de-emphasize Live Tiles for non-tablet devices, among other major changes. Have Windows 8 users become so disenchanted they have simply lost faith in Microsoft and are dismissing subsequent updates?

Whatever the reason for hesitancy, if you're still using the original version of Windows 8, especially on anything other than a traditional tablet, consider giving Windows 8.1 a try. No, it's not perfect, but it's miles ahead of the Frankenstein-esque original edition, especially if you're a multitasker.

To multitask in Windows 8, you had to jump between drastically different UIs, but the newest versions offer a much more cohesive and productive experience. Whether you're new to Windows 8.1 Update or an experienced user looking to hone your multitasking skills, we've got you covered. Here are five tips to get you started.

1. One person's tool is another person's distraction.
If you didn't like Windows 8's changes, the OS didn't give you many options. Want to boot directly to the desktop? Too bad. But Windows 8.1 Update is much more flexible. It not only recognizes whether it's running on a tablet or PC and attempts to choose the right settings, but also gives you plenty of options to customize the interface to your preference. With a few minutes' work in PC Settings, you can enable or disable a variety of features, such as boot-to-desktop mode and smart corners. If you want a touch-centric Tile interface, you got it. If you want Windows 8.1 Update to act like a faster, more secure version of Windows 7 (minus the Start menu), you can more or less do that, too.

There are several ways to get started. From the Start screen, you can click the new PC Settings Live Tile, or activate the Charms menu (swipe from the right of a touchscreen, or mouse to the top-right hot corner) and select Change PC Settings. Once you've reached PC Settings, choose PC and devices, which includes a variety of personalization controls.

2. Use the taskbar to switch between legacy and Modern apps.
If you use both Modern and desktop apps, the taskbar makes a great navigation center. In Windows 8.1 Update, you can pin both types of apps to the taskbar. By launching apps from the taskbar (instead of, say, the Start screen, or a desktop shortcut), you'll save yourself the disruption of jumping between the desktop and the tiled Start screen. When Modern apps launch,

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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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