Windows 8 was a complete flop on non-touch desktop PCs but Windows 8.1 cures some headaches. Here's how desktop users can get the most out of Microsoft's new operating system.
5. Set the Start button to launch the All Apps view.
The boot-to-desktop mode is a nice touch, but if mouse-and-keyboard users want to further purge Live Tiles from their workflow, they can do so by configuring the Start button to launch the All Apps screen. (By default, the button jumps to the Start screen.) Go to the Navigation tab and click "Show the Apps view automatically when I go to Start."
6. Configure the All Apps view to your liking.
Windows 8.1 users who spend most of their time in the desktop will probably pin essential applications to the taskbar. Still, the All Apps view offers new configurations that make it easy to organize both legacy software and Modern UI touch apps.
Desktop users especially might be interested in listing desktop apps ahead of all others. This view can be activated by selecting "List desktop apps first in the Apps view when it's sorted by category" in the Navigation tab, and then choosing "by category" in the All Apps view. The All Apps screen can also sort apps according to name, installation date or frequency of use.
7. Disable the hot corners.
Many of Windows 8's features, such as the Search charm, remain invisible until activated, either through a touch gesture or by pointing the mouse at a hot corner. Some users found this minimalism confusing. If this matches your experience, Windows 8.1 will let you deactivate hot corners through the Navigation tab.
8. Poke around the Modern UI once in a while.
Most of these tips help you treat your Windows 8.1 PC like an upgrade to Windows 7 -- that is, as if the Modern UI didn't exist. Still, Microsoft is committed to its new platform, and as it and its partners slowly add new apps, even hardcore desktop users might find a Live Tile or two to interest them.
If you find yourself in this position, Windows 8.1 makes it much easier to multitask between the desktop programs and Windows Store apps. The update not only provides more flexibility for snapping apps together, but also does so much more fluidly and quickly than before.
Also, the Modern UI's apps are much improved. The original Windows 8 Mail app, for example, was so basic that users were almost forced to either use a desktop email program or handle email via the Web.
Shortcomings like these did a lot to encourage people to spend most of their time on the desktop side of Windows 8. But with Windows 8.1, Microsoft is stepping up its game. It's too early to predict whether improved apps and better multitasking can reverse this trend -- but it's progress.