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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Top Tips 1: iPhone Dysfunction

So you’ve had iOS 7 for a fortnight and the honeymoon is over – you’re enjoying the new design, but it’s draining your battery at an alarming rate. Here’s some ways to give your phone a bit more stamina – keeping some battery power for things you really need.
iOS 7
1. Turn off location services for all but those apps that really need it – do you really want  the Angry Bird to know where you are?
Go to Settings – Privacy – Locations Services  then choose the apps that you really need location services for (like Maps and Camera) and switch off the rest.
2. Switch off Parallax – it’s the 3D effect for your app buttons. Cool for 2 minutes – a complete waste of battery.  Settings – General – Accessibility  and turn on  Reduce Motion.
3. Change your email settings so that you emails are ‘pushed’ to your account less often. Settings – Mail, Contacts, Calendar – Fetch New Data You can switch off Push altogether, or, if you have less important email accounts on your phone,  you can choose which of your email accounts to fetch or push.
4. Lower the brightness of your screen – sounds obvious, but this is a big battery drain. Settings – Wallpapers & Brightness; use Auto-Brightness or to be really frugal, manually set it low.
5. Turn off the system diagnostics and usage function – this is a setting for Apple to gather data about how you use your phone – enough said. Settings – General – About  scroll right down to the bottom to Diagnostics & Usage then select Don’t Send.
6. Stop notifications that you don’t need: Settings – Notification Center and then work out which apps you’d like to send you news and which you don’t need to hear from.
7. This isn’t new to iOS 7, but only have Bluetooth and WiFi on when you need them. It’s much easier to switch them on and off with iOS7. Just slide up the  Control Centre menu from the bottom of the home screen and switch them on and off.
Follow these 7 simple rules and your iPhone should last all day.