Windows 8.1 For Dummies
The new tile-filled Start screen and apps in Windows 8 presented a huge shock to upgraders. Windows 8.1, by contrast, merely polishes many of the roughest edges found in Windows 8. Here are the biggest changes in Windows 8.1, the ways to find its hidden hotspots, and the tricks for using it on a touchscreen device (instead of the old familiar mouse and keyboard).
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If you're interested in getting more information and insight about Microsoft's 8.1 operating system, visit Windows 8.1 eCourse. You're free to test drive any of the For Dummies eLearning courses. Pick your course, fill out a quick registration, and then give eLearning a spin with the Try It! button. You'll be right on course for more trusted know how. You also can find the full version of the Windows 8.1 self-paced instruction at Windows 8.1 For Dummies eCourse.
5 Big Changes in Windows 8.1
Windows 8 created two separate worlds: the touch-oriented Start screen and the mouse-bound desktop. Windows 8.1 tries to blend those two worlds a little more evenly. Here are some of the biggest changes and improvements in Windows 8.1:
Windows 8.1 brings back the Start button. Windows 8 dropped the Start button, a mainstay of Windows for a decade. To eliminate one source of confusion, Windows 8.1 puts the Start button back in the screen's bottom-left corner. However, clicking it doesn't fetch the familiar desktop Start menu. No, the Start button simply returns you to the Start screen, that tile-filled launching pad for programs.
It's easier to stay on the Desktop. To stay on the desktop, right-click the desktop's Taskbar, choose Properties, and click the Navigation tab. There, you can choose to head straight for the desktop when signing in. You can also disable the top-corner pop-ups and show desktop programs first on the Start screen.
SkyDrive offers easy online storage. When you first sign in with a Microsoft account, Windows asks permission to begin storing your documents on SkyDrive, the Microsoft storage space in the cloud. SkyDrive, your new storage cubbyhole on the Internet, now appears in every folder's Navigation pane, making it easier to manage your files in the cloud.
Searching is more convenient. The Charms bar's Search icon no longer searches through your currently viewed app. Instead, it searches everywhere: your computer's files and settings, as well as the Internet itself.
Libraries have gone poof. Windows 8.1 drops libraries from the Navigation pane, although they can be turned back on by right-clicking a blank portion of the pane and choosing Show Libraries from the pop-up menu.
Finding Hidden Hotspots in Windows 8.1
Most apps in Windows 8.1 fill the entire screen. The full-screen view lets you concentrate on the information in front of you. But that also means you can’t see any menus. When you need those menus — to switch between apps, close them, or change their settings — you need to find the hotspots in Windows 8.1. Each hotspot triggers a different reaction.
Windows 8.1 adds some quick pop-up tutorials to help you find the hotspots. (You must complete the tutorial to make it go away.)
The following three tables explain three methods of finding hidden hotspots in Windows 8.1: using a mouse, using a keyboard, or using your fingers on a touchscreen tablet or monitor.
For many people, the new Windows 8.1 Start screen is a distraction to be avoided. The sooner they move onto the desktop, the better. For moving quickly to the desktop, reposition the Desktop tile to the Start screen’s top-left corner so it’s the first app listed. Then, whenever you see the Start screen, just press Enter to head straight for the desktop.
|To Perform This Action . . .||. . . Point the Mouse Here|
|Return to the Start screen.||Lower-left corner and then click the Start button.|
|Choose from currently running apps.||Upper- or lower-left corner and then slide the mouse pointer up or down along the screen’s left edge. Click an app’s thumbnail to return to it.|
|Open the Charms bar.||Lower- or upper-right corners.|
|See options for current app.||Right-click a blank part of the app’s screen.|
|To Perform This Action . . .||. . . Press These Keys|
|Open the Start screen.||Windows key.|
|Choose from currently running apps.||Hold down Alt and press Tab repeatedly until you’ve highlighted the desired app. Then release both keys.|
|Open the Charms bar.||Windows key and C.|
|See the currently viewed app’s menus.||Windows key and Z.|
|To Perform This Action . . .||. . . Do This|
|Open the Charms bar.||Swipe from the right.|
|Open the Start screen.||Open the Charms bar and then tap the Windows icon.|
|Cycle through last-used apps.||Swipe from left and then tap the desired app.|
|See options for current program.||Swipe from bottom.|
Windows 8.1 Touch and Mouse Commands
Windows 8.1 brings users into a new era of touchscreens, whether they're built into tablets, laptops, or even desktop monitors. When you're faced with a touchscreen device, these commands help you maneuver through Windows 8.1. (The term swipe simply means to slide your finger along the screen.)
Swipe from the right edge to see system commands: Swiping from the right side of the screen reveals the Charms bar. The Charms bar contains five icons that let you choose how to deal with what you're seeing onscreen. You can Search its material, Share it with others, return to the Start screen, send it to a Device (a second monitor or a printer), or see Settings for that particular item.
Mouse equivalent: Place the mouse pointer in the upper- or lower-right corner of the screen to summon the Charms bar and then click the desired icon: Search, Share, Start, Device, or Settings.
Swipe from the left edge: Swiping from the left brings up your last-used app. Also, swipe in from the left and then slide your finger back slightly to the edge; your previously used apps cling to the left edge as a strip, letting you tap the one you want to revisit.
Mouse equivalent: Place mouse pointer in upper-left corner to see last used program or app; slide the mouse down the left edge to see other recently used programs. Click the app or program to bring it to the forefront.
Press and hold: You can see detailed information without having to commit to an action. In some cases, pressing and holding opens a menu with more options.
Mouse equivalent: Hover the pointer over an item to see more options; if that doesn't work, click the mouse's right button.
Tap to perform an action: Tapping something causes an action, such as launching an app, following a link, or performing a command.
Mouse equivalent: Click an item to perform an action.
Slide to drag: This is mostly used to pan or scroll through lists and pages, but you can use it for other interactions, too, such as moving an object or for drawing and writing.
Mouse equivalent: Click, hold, and drag the item. A scroll bar often appears at a screen's edge, letting you shift your view by dragging the box embedded in the scroll bar.
Pinch or stretch: Place two fingers on the screen and then move them as if you were pinching or stretching a sheet of paper. The onscreen image expands or shrinks accordingly.
Mouse and keyboard equivalent: Hold down the control key on the keyboard while using the mouse wheel to grow or shrink an item on the screen.
Rotate to turn: Hold down two fingers onscreen and rotate them, just as if you were moving a sheet of paper on your desktop. As your fingers move, so does the onscreen object.
Mouse equivalent: None.
Swipe from the bottom or top edge for app commands: App commands are revealed by swiping inward about an inch from the bottom or top edge. Swiping from the very top to the very bottom of the screen lets you close the current app.
Mouse equivalent: Right-click a blank portion of the app to see the app's commands.