Customizing and Optimizing Windows 8.1 to Work Your Way

Part of the Windows 8.1 All-in-One For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Windows 8.1 has lots and lots (and lots and lots) of options. Remember that there's always at least a dozen ways to skin whatever cat may come calling. The following is a highlights reel of Windows 8.1 customizations and optimizations you'll want to check out:

  • Check out your e-mail, calendar, and photo-organizing option. By all means, kick the tires on Microsoft's Metro apps for Mail, Calendar, Contacts (the People app), and Photos. If you don't like them, remember that the latest iterations of the old Windows Live programs — Windows Live Mail (which has contacts and a calendar) and Windows Photo Gallery in particular — still work (for now), but on the old-fashioned desktop side of Windows 8. They aren't as visually fetching, or touch friendly, like the Metro apps on the Start screen, but they get the job done, and they're free. Also remember that Google offers excellent alternatives: Gmail, Google Calendar, and Picasa.

  • Looking for a productivity tip? Set up a picture password. Even if you use a keyboard, you'll find it faster and easier than typing or mistyping a password.

  • Think about installing a different browser. Internet Explorer 11's cool and all that, but many people are moving away from it. Chrome is getting better every day, Firefox doesn't track your surfing, and there are other options like Opera and Maxthon.

  • Don't have a Facebook account yet? Sheesh. There's another billion people you haven't caught up with. If you've never worked with Facebook, or you have a Facebook account and haven't locked it down, first get Facebook whipped into shape and then hook your account into the Metro People app.

  • Want to speed up your computer? With rare exceptions, there's very little you can do that will make any difference. (Installing a Solid State Drive (SSD) may be the only reliable exception: SSDs almost always speed things up, but they're a pain to retro-fit into an existing computer.) To really speed things up, spend your money on a faster Internet connection.

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Windows 8.1 All-in-One For Dummies Cheat Sheet

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