Top Tips 5 : Getting started with Windows 8.1

Window Start

Those of you who read Top Tips 4 will know we were getting quite grumpy with Microsoft. Two weeks on and our laptop has a new hard drive, we’ve installed Windows 8.1 and we’re almost back on speaking terms with Microsoft. We’ve had 3 days with their new OS.

Here’s what we like:

The Start button – This is the “click here for everything” button in the bottom left corner of your screen. Windows 8 didn’t have one, which was a bit like driving without brakes. With 8.1, the Admin menu is back when you right click – including all the old start button options such as “Control Panel” that you need to stay in control of your computer. In a face-saving move by Microsoft, the left click is reserved for alternating your desktop between the Start screen (see above – the big, brightly coloured square tiles preferred by Microsoft executives and children) and the Windows desktop (see below – the way you expect a computer to look, preferred by grown-ups).Desktop

Start screen – OK, maybe we’re showing our middle-agedness a bit with that last comment. Now that the traditional desktop is just a click away, we quite like the tiled Start Windows 8 App PiningScreen. It is very easy to set up with shortcuts to all our favourite apps (that’s a “programme” for the traditionalists amongst us)  and websites, including a big coloured square that takes us to our preferred desktop.

Here’s how:

click the down arrow (at the bottom left of the Start screen) to bring up the apps screen, click on the app you want and at the bottom of the window choose ‘Pin to Start’ to put a coloured tile on the Start screen and ‘Pin to taskbar’ to put an icon in the taskbar that runs along the bottom of your regular desktop.

Boot to desktop – If you’re not as down with the kids as we are and you just want things to be back to normal, then you can set your computer to skip the big coloured squares altogether and start up with the more familiar desktop:

right click the taskbar (the strip along the bottom of the desktop)

choose Properties then Navigation.

under ‘Start screen’ select

‘When I sign in or close all applications on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start’.

Apps charmsCharms  these are a selection of useful shortcuts. When you are in an app such as Word, either move your mouse up to the top right corner (no click needed) or press the Windows key and the letter C at the same time. Take a minute in each app to familiarise yourself with its Charms – once you start using them, they can save a lot of time.

Keyboard shortcuts  There are 4 other short-cuts that we think are worth learning:

Windows + S (press the Windows button and the letter S at the same time) – this opens a search box: just type in what you are looking for and the computer does all the hard work of finding and remembering where you put something 

Windows + X – this opens the Admin menu – the traditional Start menu mentioned earlier

Windows + I – this opens the Settings menu for the app you are working in, as well as volume, brightness and power 

Windows + H – this is the shortcut to the Share menu, which allows you to instantly send an email with the thing you are working on or post it on a social network 

One to avoid: Windows + Enter – this starts the Narrator reading everything on your screen. To stop it, use Caps+Esc key

That should be enough to get started.

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