WINDOWS WEEK: 10 tips & tricks for Windows 8.1

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Today, the Windows 8.1 Update goes live. It’s effectively an update to last year’s Windows 8.1 upgrade that brought back the Start button (among other things), and it’s aimed at polishing Windows 8.1 to an absolute shine with a few changes of its own.

We’ve detailed many of them previously, so today we’re going to look at a few tips and tricks to keep in mind once the update has been made available in South Africa, and you’ve downloaded and installed it.


Windows 8.1 Update boots to the desktop by default, and to the Start Screen if on a tablet.

1. Boot to Desktop

This one is easy – you don’t even have to do anything. While booting straight to the desktop was made possible by the last year’s 8.1 update, this new update makes the process automatic, depending on the hardware you’re using. With the 8.1 Update installed, Windows boots to the desktop by default, and to the Start Screen if it detects it’s running on a tablet. You can change that in the settings, of course, but that’s the default behaviour.


Status Bars for Modern UI apps. Hooray!

2. Modern UI Apps Now Operate like Windows

Apps run directly from the Start Screen have, until now, not offered minimise or close buttons. No longer: Windows 8.1 Update adds status bars to Modern UI apps, so now you can close and minimise them by clicking on the familiar X and minimise buttons now visible above every app in their shiny new status bar.


Windows Store comes pre-pinned to the taskbar.

3. Windows Store Pre-pinned to Taskbar

When you boot into the Windows 8.1 desktop, you’ll see that the Windows Store is pinned onto your taskbar by default. It’s entirely removable, of course, but it’s still the quickest and easiest way to visit Microsoft’s digital storefront to buy and try the various apps developers are putting out for Windows 8 these days.

Pin any Modern UI app to the taskbar.

4. Pin Frequently-used Apps to the Taskbar

Everyone has apps they use quite frequently, and with the Windows 8.1 Update you can now pin those often-used apps directly to the Taskbar. All you need to do is right-click on the app you want, and choose Pin to Taskbar from the context menu that pops up. Voila, you can now open that app right from your desktop.


A context menu now appears in the Start Screen when right-clicking.

5. Context Menu in Start Screen (Right Click)

Right-clicking on the Start Screen now brings up a context menu, rather than a useless status bar along the bottom of the screen with none of the options you’re actually looking for.

Hark at yonder dedicated power button!

6. Power Button

You’ll notice that just to the right of your profile information that’s located in the top right corner of the Start Screen, a new Power button has appeared. Turning your PC off is now as easy as clicking that and choose Shut Down, rather than digging through menus and sub menus. Clearly, Microsoft’s engineers were wrong when they figured people would just close their notebooks or let them go to sleep after an automatic timeout.

And its sibling, the new Search button!

7. Dedicated Search Button

A lot of people probably didn’t know that simply typing on the Start Screen would initiate a search. Now, they don’t have to know that because a dedicated Search box appears on the Start Screen. Simply click on it and start typing to find what you’re looking for.

Delve deeper into desktop dogma.

8. Deeper Desktop Diving

A very easy way to access many of the desktop’s functions is to right click on the Start Button (or press and hold if you’re on a touch device). This brings up a Quick Link menu that has shortcuts to many of your PC’s most common functions (Power, Device Manager, Command Prompt and many more). Use Windows Key + X to open it from your keyboard.


9. Modern UI Apps now Support the Taskbar

If you move your mouse cursor to the bottom of your screen when running a Modern UI app, the taskbar now appears, making it easier than ever to switch between open apps.

Flip Ahead will anticipate the links you’ll click on in the future.

10. IE11’s Flip Ahead

Did you know you can tell Internet Explorer to guess which webpages you’re going to view next and pre-emptively load them in the background? To do it, simply open Internet Explorer in Modern mode, click on the Settings charm, click on Privacy and then select “Flip ahead with page prediction”. Swiping to the left and right now navigates between pages.

Deon du Plessis

Deon du Plessis

Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.