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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: Apprentice
7/7/2014 | 9:43:25 AM
Vista is gaining over 8/8.1
User Rank: Apprentice
7/7/2014 | 10:31:40 AM
This OS will go down in history as one of the most poorly designed, unintuitive, and least user friendly OS's ever made. It's a pile of steaming garbage designed to drive traffic to the Microsoft Store "Apps", which no one asked for or wanted.


With the introduction of the Ribbon garbage, windows 8, "subscription" software, and the forced kinect always online xbone fiasco, it seems that Microsoft is becoming more and more out of touch with its users.
User Rank: Ninja
7/7/2014 | 10:43:59 AM
Why half haven't upgraded - maybe?
Maybe half haven't upgraded because they don't KNOW they need to upgrade. Calling the follow on update to the original Windows 8.1 "update" was beyond dumb. When I ask friends,  relatives, and co-workers what version of Windows 8 they are running most don't have a clue. And the only way to tell if you do have Windows 8.1 UPDATE is checking the infernal Metro interface to see if you have a search box in the upper right corner. The O/S doesn't report what version of Windows you are running other than 8 or 8.1. The idiots at Microsoft should have called the Windows 8.1 UPDATE, Windows 8.2 and been done with it. At least the non-geek masses might have figured it out. Only by poking and proding my friends have I been able to get them to get the far better for desktop users Windows 8.1 UPDATE.

On one machine I upgraded for a friend (from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 to Windows 8.1 UPDATE) the update kept dying until I temporarily disabled her virus software. She would never have figured out she wasn't getting the update or any subsequent patches.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/7/2014 | 11:09:38 AM
It's always about choice. I installed StartIsBack and had a Windows 7 machine, albeit with the superior security and speed of a new OS along with the simpler Aero-free UI. No big. 

But I understand everyone's hatred of the new UI. For several years now Microsoft has been undermining, hiding and de-emphasising user interface standards they've promoted and lived by since the mid 80s, most notably in Windows and Office. It's foolish. Menus are gone or hidden, with busy, bulky ribbons taking their place. Shortcut key indicators are invisible unless you press the alt key, the help button is relegated to a tiny icon at top right -- the discoverability -- and much of the usability -- is gone. Hopefully they've learned their lesson and will return to better form with Windows 9.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/7/2014 | 12:45:49 PM
The devil!
Windows is the devil! use Ubuntu!
User Rank: Ninja
7/7/2014 | 2:25:46 PM
Re: The devil!
I do use Ubuntu some. I love it. But it won't run iTunes or other Windows based programs, not even under Wine, so I, like many others are stuck with Windows (and not willing to jump ship to Apple OSX). Over the last year I've installed Ubuntu on several friends' PCs and they are just fine with it.
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.
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.
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.
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
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