Windows 8.1 – What’s changed?

The Windows 8.1 update came out about a week ago. I’ve been using it and I’d like to share a bit about what’s new in Windows 8.1. On the whole, I think this is a welcome update to Windows 8. Microsoft has got some things right. The start screen has become more usable for a PC user and it doesn’t feel like an inconvenience anymore.

I’ll just list out some of the new useful features in Windows 8.1 that weren’t available in Windows 8.

The Start Button

Microsoft has brought back the start button. Unlike the start menu in XP or Windows 7, this is just a button which will take you to the start screen in Windows 8.1.

The Start Screen

  • The start screen tiles have two more sizes. One bigger size and one smaller size than what was previously available.
  • In Windows 8, if you use multiple monitors you can’t leave the start screen open in one screen while working on the other. Now that’s possible.
  • When you click on the down-arrow which is at the bottom-left corner of the start screen it takes you to the list of apps that are installed in the computer
  • The start screen background is more customizable. I don’t see much use for this as using the desktop background in the start screen seems like the best option for me. But if you like a well designed start screen, then by all means use the options available here.

Start Screen

The Search Bar

The search function has been improved a lot. Searching for a word will show you not only files and programs associated with it on your PC, but also information available on the web. One welcome feature is the fact that clicking on search doesn’t take you to the start screen like in Windows 8. In Windows 8.1 the search just appears at the right side of the screen.

Search

Desktop And Start Screen Background

The desktop and start screen can have the same background. In my opinion, this is one of the best changes in Windows 8.1. It’s such a small thing but it makes a huge difference in making people actually use the start screen. I’ve pinned all the apps and programs that I frequently use to the start screen and now I feel more comfortable going to that screen to open a program. Previously having a different background just made it seem like you were leaving the desktop, going to the Metro UI and then coming back to the desktop. But it doesn’t feel that way anymore. This option is found under the heading ‘Start Screen’ in the navigation tab of the ‘Taskbar and Navigation Properties’. To get to the ‘Taskbar and Navigation Properties’ – right click on the taskbar (this is at the bottom of the desktop) and click ‘properties’.

Boot To The Desktop

You can now boot directly to the desktop. This is a feature that should have been there in Windows 8 when they launched it. This option is also found in the ‘Taskbar and Navigation Properties’. It is coupled with another option to go to the start screen when you close applications. I have no idea why. I found it a bit uncomfortable that closing an app takes me to the desktop instead of the start screen.

Other Features

  • Right clicking on the start button brings up a menu that has the option to shut down the computer.
  • The pre-installed apps available have been improved a lot. But that will only be useful for those who use them.
  • You can set it so that you go to the apps view instead of the start screen when you click the start button.
  • Facebook has an app in Windows 8.1. I just use a browser to view it though.

These are just some features that I found useful in my daily work while using Windows 8.1. Obviously there are many more updates and features that have been brought into Windows 8.1, but I didn’t really come across them. For a more in-depth look at all new options in Windows 8.1 you can refer to Microsoft’s own website. If you know of something new in Windows 8.1 that everyone should know about, then do let me know!

Advertisements

The 5 Best Games In Windows 8

Windows Store for the PC has started to get some really good games now. All these games are already available for the IOS and Android. You can check out my review of the Games I like in the iPod here. These are five of the best games in Windows 8 as of now.

iStunt2

This is a skiing game. There is a guy on his ski and he needs to go through obstacles while performing some stunts to increase his score. The control seems to be a little difficult as you have to use the arrow keys for controlling the skier. In the iPod the character is controlled by tilting the iPod which gives you better control.

iStunt2

Gravity Guy

The next game is gravity guy. This is also a game that is already available for the IOS. The objective of the game is to keep running and not get stuck at obstacles. There is guy chasing you, so if you get stuck even for a second he will get you. The only thing you can do is run normally or run upside down against gravity. You can switch between these two position by either a click of the left mouse button or the space bar. You definitely get better control of your character in a PC than in the iPod

Gravity Guy

Jetpack Joyride

This is a very simple game. There is a guy running forward and he can also fly using his Jet Pack. The objective of the game is to keep going forward without touching the flames or getting zapped by the laser beam or getting hit by a rocket. On the way you have to collect as many coins as possible. There are three missions assigned to you to complete at a time. As you complete each mission you level up and the missions become more complex. You may have to repeat the game several times to finish a single mission. You get bonus vehicles sometimes and if you’re riding them and you get hit by any obstacle only the vehicle gets destroyed and you you will continue with your Jet Pack. In this game also, controlling your character is much easier on the PC, especially with the left mouse button.

Jetpack Joyride

Where’s My Perry

This is another interesting game. It’s kind of like a puzzle. Agent P is stuck in a container and the only way to free him is by directing the water towards the right direction. Some of the levels are quite challenging.

Where's my Perry

Brain Cube Reloaded

This is my final game in this review. Brain Cube Reloaded is a puzzle game. You have to direct the block along the maze from the starting point to the end destination. Of the five games, this is the most challenging game in terms of having to think.

Brain Cube Reloaded

Hope you liked the games. Like I said earlier Windows 8 has started to get some really good games now. So if I do play some other games in the future I will definitely write about them. If there are any other games that are interesting do let me know.

And as always, if you have the time do check out my Personal Blog

Multiple Monitors in Windows 8

I’ve got a dual screen set up at my home with my laptop (Dell Studio) and the TV (Sharp – HDTV). The second screen is to my right while the first screen is in front of me usually. The multiple screen set up is really nice to have, especially if your second screen is an HDTV. You can instantly watch videos on the TV while you work on your laptop or desktop.

Dual Screen

How to set it up

To setup the dual screen you’ll first need two screens (obviously!) then you’ll either need a VGA cable or an HDMI cable depending on what your laptop/desktop and second screen offer. I’ve used a VGA cable for my set up though my laptop and TV have the option to use an HDMI cable too. Like most new systems, it’s pretty much plug and play and you don’t need to restart your computer or TV.

Dual Screen Options

Similar to other Windows OS like XP, Vista or Windows 7, Windows 8 also offers four options for use with a second screen. In Windows 8 to turn on the second screen you have to go to the Charms menu. If you are not quite sure how that works, do read my other post about how to use Windows 8. Once the Charms menu comes up, the fourth Icon says ‘Devices’, when you click on that it shows ‘Second Screen’ and clicking on that brings about the four options to use the Second Screen. Alternatively you can right click on the desktop, click on Screen resolution and check the ‘Multiple displays’ option also to turn on or off the second screen. These are the four options available.

Second Screen

  1. PC Screen Only – As it suggests this will turn off the second screen
  2. Duplicate – Both screens will display the same thing
  3. Extend – This is the best mode to use a second screen because you can use the two screens for different purposes
  4. Second Screen Only – This will turn off the first or primary screen

The usage of the four modes are pretty much based on individual preference and also based on which is your primary monitor and which is your secondary monitor. You can use either your laptop or your other screen as your primary monitor and you can switch them any time you like. I use my laptop as the primary monitor and use the second screen which is a TV as my second monitor. So mostly when I’m just using a single screen it will definitely be my laptop screen. I use ‘Second screen only mode’ if I’m watching a movie or something. One thing I’d like to mention is the fact that the duplicate mode doesn’t work in my set up. I’m still not able to figure out why. The mode I use the most is the ‘Extend’ Mode. This way I can use the two screens for different things. All the remaining things that I’ll write about will refer to this set up only.

General settings for Dual Screen set up in Windows 8

If you right click on either of the screens in the general desktop area you can see the option ‘screen resolution’. Clicking on that will open the screen resolution settings page. Here you have the option to change either of your screens to function as the primary screen. You can also change the resolution of the both screens separately. There are some other settings you can change here too.Settings

Generally the desktop icons are in the primary screen but you can move them to the second screen if you want. At any point if you turn off the second screen then the icons from the second screen will automatically move to the first screen and switching the second screen back on moves the icons back to the second screen also. Though the taskbar appears on both screens, the clock and system tray only appear in the primary screen. There are two other settings available for the taskbar in the multiple screens setup. You can make the taskbar only appear in the primary screen or appear only in the screen where the program is active.  To see how to change this and also for some other useful information about how to use multiple monitors refer to this link from Microsoft

Metro UI and the Start Screen

One thing that I like about the dual screen setup in Windows 8 is that it gives you the option to use one of the screens for the desktop while the other screen can be used for the metro applications. I mostly use the metro apps in the second screen while I run the desktop in the laptop. To open the start screen you can either go to the charms and click the icon for start or you can press the windows key on the keyboard. The start screen will appear on whichever screen you brought out the charms bar in. Some things that I’d like to point out about the usage of the metro UI are

  • The start screen functions like the start menu, even if you open the start screen in the second screen but click anywhere on the first screen the start screen will immediately disappear.
  • You can run desktop programs/windows simultaneously on both screens, but you can’t run two metro apps on two different screens at the same time. So at any given time only one of your screens can be used for metro apps.
  • If you open a metro application in the second screen and drag the application by going to the top and then dragging it into the first screen, the first screen will now function as the metro display and your desktop will appear on the second display.
  • If you are running a metro app in the second screen and you drag a window/program from the first screen into the second screen, both screens will immediately start to function in the desktop mode.
  • When you are running a metro app, you can use Windows key +Page up (or page down) to move or change the metro app between the two screens.
  • For moving the desktop program/window between screens use Windows key + Shift + Right or Left Arrow.

Drawback in the Dual Screen mode

The only thing I found quite inconvenient in my setup is that, if I have to bring out the charms menu in my primary screen (The Laptop) I have to be careful when I move the cursor to the right edge as I can end up moving the cursor straight into the second screen without bringing out the charms.

So that’s how I use the dual screen setup. Do let me know if you know any other tricks/tips on using multiple screens in Windows 8 or if I’ve left out any important features or functions.

Windows 8.1 is currently out, do check out what’s new in Windows 8.1

Please leave a comment if you find the information here useful and do check out my personal blog if you have the time!!

Windows 8

I’ve been using Windows 8 for a month now and thought I should write a page about the basics of using Windows 8. Most of the things that I’ll be talking about have to do with the new Metro Interface. But I’ll talk a bit about the Desktop side of it as well.

Start Screen

Start Screen

This is the start screen. As you can see it has all the apps which appear as live tiles. The tiles have two sizes – small and large. And they have two options live tile on or live tile off. To change these all you have to do is right click on the tile and it gives you the option to make the tile smaller or larger depending on the size it is now and it also gives you the option to turn the live tile on or off. The size and live tile on/off function depends on the app. Some apps don’t have the option to make the tile smaller/larger or turn live tiles on. You’ll notice that the tiles are already grouped. Tiles can be moved within the group or to a different group by just clicking on them and dragging them around.

New Group

Creating a new group

To create a new group, you have to drag a tile to the center space between two groups till a small bar appears and then you can leave the tile in the new group. Then you can move other tiles to this group. To name a group go to the bottom right corner of your screen and click on the ‘-‘ (minus) sign there. The tiles becomes smaller and it’s easy to view the groups in this screen. Now right click on the group and you find the option to name the group. The tiles in this screen can be the icon for the apps in the metro UI or for programs in the desktop. So depending on the app/program, when you click on the tile it may open here or in the desktop screen.

Charm

Charm

Charm

Next we come to the Charm. To bring out the charm bar you have to take your mouse pointer to either the bottom right corner or the top right corner of the screen. Moving the pointer to just the right side will not bring out the Charm, you have to go to the corner. Once the Charm appears and you move your cursor over it, the time and date appear on the lower left corner of the screen. The Charm has five options in it.

  • The first one is the Search function. Depending on where you bring out the charm, the search functions differently. For example if you are in the start screen and bring out the charm and click on search, then it searches for apps with the name you typed. But while using the music player if you bring out the search, then it can be used to search for songs, artists, albums etc. Many of the apps don’t have a search function in them because the charm search is used as the search feature within apps.
  • The Share feature can be used to share content from on app onto other social networking sites or things like that.
  • The next one is the Start button. This is pretty straightforward, it takes you to the start screen. Clicking on the windows button on the keyboard also does the exact same thing
  • The Devices button is used to connect to other devices like a second monitor and stuff, but I haven’t still checked out this function much so I won’t be explaining anything about it.
  • The final button is the Settings. This has a lot of things stored in it. The first thing – to shut down the computer this is what you’ll need to click on. Then click on power and then shut down. Other general information like the internet connection, keyboard, notifications, brightness and volume are also in this place. At the bottom it has PC settings. Clicking on this opens a whole new app with all the PC settings like the general settings, lock screen, start screen images and a whole lot of other such settings. Another thing about this is that when you are inside an app, clicking on settings also shows you the settings of the apps. For example when you have opened the mail app and the click on this settings it shows the accounts, options, help, about, feedback, permissions and rate and review. All of these are associated with the app and not with the general computer settings.

General functioning of Windows 8

In the start screen, left-clicking on the top left corner of the screen makes it toggle between the different apps that are open. While toggling through the screens, the desktop will only appear once, meaning the different programs that are running in the desktop will not be toggled through. The desktop almost functions like a single app. In the desktop mode or the start screen moving the pointer to the top left corner and dragging it down (without clicking) will show you all the apps that are currently open. Here also the desktop will be one of the apps in the side bar, this will not show you all the programs open in the desktop individually. Moving the pointer to the bottom left corner of the screen and left-clicking will take you directly to the start screen, unless you are already in the start screen. In that case it will take you to the previously used app. Here again, if you were working in the desktop and came to the start screen – then clicking on the bottom left corner will take you back to the desktop.

Apps

The main new thing about the windows 8 is usage of apps. Right now there are some pretty cool apps already available in the windows store and Microsoft is hoping that many more apps will be made for the windows store. To open an app you just need to click on the tile of the app. If you are not able to find where the tile for a particular app is, then you can always use the search function in the charm to find where your app is. All apps don’t need to have a tile in the start screen. You can just delete the tile of apps you don’t frequently use and only keep those you do use. To see all the apps/programs that are currently installed in your computer – right click on the general area (any place other than on a tile itself). When you do this an option will appear on the bottom right corner of the screen called “All apps”. Clicking on this will take you to a screen that will show you all the installed apps. This includes the apps and the software/programs installed in the computer.

Once you open an app, right clicking on the general area brings out all the options that are available for a particular app. For example in the calendar app, right clicking on the screen brings out the options to view the calendar as day/week/month and also the option to add a new calendar event is also available only when you right click on the screen. The search and settings options in the charm should be used within an app to search for things and change setting of the apps respectively. To close an app, move the mouse pointer to the top of the screen and this will automatically change the pointer into a ‘hand’. Now click and drag it all the way down. This will close the app.

When you’ve moved the pointer to the top and clicked (after it turned into a ‘hand’), instead of dragging in all the way down if you drag it to either of the sides then the app ‘snaps’ to that side and now two apps can be viewed at the same time. This can also be done by moving the pointer to the top left corner of the screen and then moving the pointer down which will show you all the apps currently running. Then you can right-click on any of the app and then click ‘snap left’ or ‘snap right’. One of the apps will occupy about 25% of the screen and the other app 75% of the screen. You can run the music player in the smaller screen while working in the larger screen or something like that. Those who have used windows 7 will know that dragging a program all the way to the side re-sizes the program to fit half the screen. This option is still available for the desktop programs.

Desktop

The start screen has a tile that you can click which will directly take you to the desktop. The Desktop side of Windows 8 is almost identical to Windows 7. The main difference is that the start menu is missing. So if you want to open programs you have to go the Charm and search for them or alternatively you can pin them to the Taskbar or create an icon for it in the Desktop. If you right click in the bottom left of the screen while in the Desktop, it brings out a small menu. This contains the Control Panel, Device Manager, Task Manager, Run, Command Prompt, Power Options etc., Most of the other things here are similar to Windows 7 so if you’ve used that before there is nothing that difficult here.

Desktop

Apps I find useful or interesting

The first picture in this blog is my start screen. And those are the apps I use frequently. The official Mail app from Windows 8, Skype, WordWeb, Bento (News app), Calendar, Jetpack Joyride (Game), YouVersion (Bible), Quick Note, Milligram (Instagram), Official Music app, Tunein (Radio), Fresh Paint and MusixMatch (Song lyrics)

My thoughts on Windows 8

Once you get used to how things work in Windows 8 it is quite easy and fun to use. It generally feels much faster, but this could also be because I’ve just installed the OS newly. The only downside is the fact that some times it becomes a hassle when you have to work on a program running in the desktop and an app in the Metro UI. Lots of new apps are being added to the Windows store so I expect that there will many useful apps there in the future though apps are quite limited as of now.

Check out my personal blog if you have the time!!