Windows 8.1 - a slight improvement
Nov 4, 2013 / 5:00 am
If you’re running Windows 8, you will probably be glad to hear that Windows 8.1 is rolling out now and it’s free. If you’re using an older version of Windows, eventually you’ll be glad about this, too. Windows 8.1 doesn’t fix everything irritating about Windows 8, but it does make a few things a little easier.
I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is Windows 8.1 has a Start button. The bad news is that when you click on it, you still don’t get a Start MENU like we were used to in all the earlier versions of Windows. Instead, clicking on the Start button takes you to the new Modern interface called the Start Screen.
If you are clinging to an older version of Windows because of the new Start Screen, but you are also the sort of computer user whose desktop is cluttered with hundreds of icons, you have nothing to fear from the Start Screen in Windows 8 or 8.1. It’s just like your cluttered desktop now, but instead of little icons you have big tiles and they flash.
If you like an uncluttered desktop, you would probably appreciate a good Start Button/Start Menu alternative. There are quite a few and some of them are free. See this column from last April: http://rlis.com/columns/column418.htm and this one from a year ago: http://rlis.com/columns/column379.htm.
A popular feature of those Start Button/Start Menu alternatives is the ability to bypass the Start Screen completely and boot straight to the Desktop, just like we’ve all been doing prior to Windows 8. Microsoft seems to have gotten the message on this one, and with 8.1 you can do exactly that. Of course, that’s not the default, so you have to change some settings.
- From the Start Screen, click on the Desktop tile to get to your Desktop (!)
- Right-click on a vacant spot on the Taskbar
- Click on Properties
- Click on the tab called Navigation
- In the section called Start screen, put a check in the first box, for Go to the desktop instead of Start when I sign in
- Click OK
Next time you start up Windows 8.1, you’ll be presented with the sign in screen, then you’ll go straight to the Desktop. If you hate that, go back to that Navigation tab, clear the check box, OK your way out and reboot.
Finally, the extremely weak “Photos” app in Windows 8 has been beefed up for 8.1. You can actually edit photos there! Open any photo using the app, and click near the bottom of the screen to bring up “Rotate” “Crop” and “Edit” choices. Clicking on “Edit” brings up more editing tools.
The “Mail” app is still annoying, but at least now you can drag and drop messages to folders. I’m not sure Mail is better, but it sure is different.
The PC Settings have been reorganized and make a little more sense than in Windows 8. The grouping is more intuitive, but you still can’t get to Control Panel easily from here.
OK, OK. How Do I Get Windows 8.1?
Computers sold after October 17 might have Windows 8.1. If you buy a computer now, check to see if it already has 8.1. If it’s been in inventory for some time, it will still have Windows 8. You’ll need to do the upgrade to get to 8.1.
If you already have a Windows 8 computer, the upgrade to 8.1 will be available to you in the Windows Store. It is free. If you don’t see it there, it’s probably because you still have some Windows updates to apply. It won’t be offered until your computer is completely up to date.
You really need to prepare for this upgrade. It doesn’t take long but it is a major change. Back up your important files, make sure your laptop or tablet is fully powered up, and don’t start this when you have to be somewhere in 20 minutes. I will write more about how to safely upgrade in future columns, but in the meantime our friends at 7 Tutorials have a brief, clear upgrade plan for you: http://www.7tutorials.com/how-upgrade-windows-8-windows-81-through-windows-store.
Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!
Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].
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Read more Computers articles
- A little something extra Dec 2
- The lighter side Nov 25
- Thank you! Nov 18
- Odds and ends Nov 11
- Windows 8.1 - a slight improvement Nov 4
- Answers to your questions Oct 28
- Microsoft Security Essentials Oct 21
- Laptop tips Oct 14
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