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!

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Nokia Lumia 510 with Windows 7.8

I just got a new Nokia Lumia 510. This is going to be a review of some of the features in it. I think many of these will be similar  in other  Nokia Lumia phones too as they run Windows 7.8

Out of the Box

The Box comes with the phone, battery, ear phones, plug point charger and the USB cable. My phone came with Windows 7.5 installed in it. I took it to the Nokia Center where they upgraded it to Windows 7.8 for free. This phone uses a Micro-Sim.

Specificationproduct-banner-v4-jpgs

  • Dimensions – 120.7 x 64.9 x 11.5 mm (129 g)
  • Display resolution – 800 x 480 pixels
  • Display size – 10.16 cm (4 Inch)
  • Battery capacity – 1300 mAh
  • Internal Memory – 256 MB and Mass Memory – 4 GB (Not extendable)
  • Camera – 5 Megapixels
  • Talk time – 8.4 h and Stand by time – 653.2 h
  • Available colours – Black, White and Red

The Buttons on the Phone

The Screen has three touch buttons at the bottom.

The first one is the back button. It does what it’s supposed to do and takes you to the previous screen you were looking at. Holding this button for a couple of seconds brings up a menu that shows you the five previous apps you have used and you can click on any off them to go straight to those apps.

The next is the windows button. Clicking on this will take you to the start screen. This is also sort of like ‘Close’ button. Apps can’t be closed in a windows phone, so when you’re in an app you just have to click the windows button to go the the start screen and open a new app. The app that you just came out from may run in the background or be closed based on how much RAM it is using. Not closing an app doesn’t slow down your phone in any way.

The final touch button is the Search button. This takes you to Bing search engine and if you search for something it will list the search results. Clicking on any of the results will open that webpage in the built in Internet Explorer.

There are three other buttons on the side

The first one is a Volume control. This can be used to control the Volume of the Ringer. This also controls the total volume of the phone. So if you’re listening to music, this button will also function as your volume control for that. This can be quite frustrating sometimes because if you reduce the volume while listening to music and forget to increase it later, you may not hear your phone ring when you get a call. Clicking on this brings down a mini music player menu which can play/pause music and skip to the next or previous track. This menu also has the option to put the phone on vibration mode.

The Second button is used to lock/unlock the phone and also to turn on or off the phone. To lock the phone, just click it once. To Unlock you’ll have to click it once and the slide the lock screen wallpaper up on the touch screen. To turn off the phone, click and hold this button for a couple of seconds and an option will show up saying ‘slide down to power off’. Sliding this down will turn of the phone. To turn it back on just hold this button for a couple of seconds when the phone is off.

The Last button is the camera button. This has a few interesting functions. I’ll explain them when I talk about the camera.

Tiles

2013-01-21 15.13.44The start screen has all your apps. The apps appear as tiles. Some of these tiles are live tiles, meaning they show live information. To open any app you just have to click on the tile. You have the option to re-size the tiles. Windows 7.8 has three sizes. But the largest size is only available for some selected apps (calendar and pictures). To re-size an app just hold down on the tile for two seconds. It will give you the option to either re-size the app or unpin from the start. You can move the apps around and re-arrange your start screen by holding down on a tile and dragging it around. In the settings you can change the theme colour which is basically the colour of the tiles and also set the background to dark (black) or light (white).

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The start screen only shows some of the apps that are in your phone. To see all the apps in your phone just slide to the right from the start screen and all apps in your phone are listed here. You can also go to this screen by clicking on the side arrow that appears at the bottom of the start screen if you scroll all the way down. To open an app click its icon. If you press and hold on an icon here for a couple of seconds it’ll show you three options – Pin to start, rate and review and uninstall. If it’s an app you use frequently, it’s best to pin it to the start. There is also a search option at the top left of the screen here.

Basic phone functions

Phone Call

The phone call app is the first tile in the start screen. Clicking on it takes you the history of calls. Here all your latest incoming and outgoing calls are listed. The numbers have a small ‘phone’ icon next to it, clicking on which will directly call that number. If you click on the number instead, it takes you to a menu that gives you the option to either call that number, text that number or save that number to your Phone. At the bottom of the History menu there are four options. Voice mail – To configure your voice mail, Keypad – To type phone numbers to call, People – which is the contacts list (Phone book) and Search – This only searches through your history of calls and does not search your People app. At the end of the four options there are three dots ‘…’ you will see this in many apps. Clicking on this will bring about extra options or settings available for that particular app.

People

This is the contacts list. Windows calls this ‘People’, this is because you can pretty much sync all your contacts from Facebook or any Mail account here and manage them all together. You can then sync all your contacts with your Windows Live ID. At the bottom of this app is the ‘+’ option which lets you add a new contact or a new group. There is also the option to import your contacts from your Sim.

Messaging

This is used to send SMS. This is pretty straight forward. The first screen in the app shows you your messages as threads like most new smartphones. At the bottom is the ‘+’ to send a new message to some one. The settings has the option to get SMS delivery confirmation. This app can also be used for online chat like Facebook chat I’m told, but I haven’t tried that.

Other features

Calling and texting used to be the basic functions of a phone, but I’m not sure if you can call that basic anymore. But anyway I’ve listed the other features in the phone below.

Camera

There are couple of ways to open the camera app. In the start screen you can click on the camera tile to open the camera. Or you can click and hold camera button at the side of the phone. Clicking and holding the camera button even when the phone is locked will automatically unlock the phone and take you to the camera app. To take a picture there are two ways again. First is to use the camera button at the side. This has to be half clicked to focus and once it’s focused you’ll have to fully press the button to take the photo. The second method is to just tap the screen. You have to tap that portion of the screen which you want to focus. When you tap that portion, the camera will automatically focus that side and take the picture. The pictures taken are saved in the Camera Roll folder in the Pictures app. The Lumia 510 has a 5 Mega pixel camera. The photos taken are pretty good for this range of phones.

At the bottom of the camera app there are some settings that you can use like Scenes, White Balance, Exposure Value, ISO, Metering Mode, Effects, Contrast, Saturation, Focus Mode, Resolution and Flicker Reduction.There are a couple of other settings that you’ll need to be aware of in relation to the camera app. These settings are in the settings app –> applications –> pictures + camera.

  • First is ‘Tap screen to take pictures and videos’. Only if this is ‘On’ you can tap the screen to take pictures.
  • The Second is ‘Press and hold camera button to wake up the phone’. This has to be ‘On’ if you want to hold the camera button to automatically unlock the phone and take you to the camera app when the phone is locked.

Video mode – this option is also available in the bottom of the camera app. Clicking this will change the camera to video mode. To take/stop a video either tap the screen or click the camera button.

Internet Explorer

This phone comes with an inbuilt Internet Explorer app. I believe this is IE9. It functions like a standard mobile browser. The settings has the option to add websites to your favourites. You can also pin a particular website to the start menu if you use it that frequently. Websites can be opened in Tabs so you don’t have to close one website to open another.

Music + Videos

This is not the Nokia Music app but the Music + Videos app. I find this app better than the Nokia Music app to play music. You can use this app to play the Songs, Videos and Podcast that you have stored in your phone. It also has an FM radio. You have to connect your ear phone for this to work. The player is nice and the ear phones that came with the phone are actually pretty good. I read somewhere that they weren’t that great, but I found it quite good.

Pictures

PictureThis app is where all the photos and videos are stored. This has a Camera Roll folder where all the photos or videos you’ve taken with the phone are stored. Then there are other folders created by syncing photos and videos from your computer. There is no way to rename these folders in your phone. Whatever name you have for the folder in your computer is the same name it will have here. I found it interesting that there was no option to delete multiple photos on the phone. You’ll have to use the Zune software for this. This can be quite frustrating I think.

Zune Software

I just want to say a bit about this software here because this is used to sync songs, videos, podcast and photos to your Nokia phone. This Software is really easy to use. You have to add songs to your Windows Media Player Library for it to show up in your Zune library. And from here it’s pretty much just drag and drop into your phone. To add photos, my suggestions is to create a folder or folders with the photos you want to sync in the ‘My Pictures’ folder in your computer and then directly drag that folder into your phone. If you have photos in different folders in your PC and then drag each photo into your phone this will create many folders which could be quite messy on the phone.

I’m a huge hater of itunes because it automatically transfers purchases and doesn’t let me just sync just the things I want at a time. Like if I want to just sync an app, it will start syncing some album I recently added to my music library even though at that point of time I don’t want to sync any music.  So when I used the Zune, it was a pleasant surprise as to how easy it was to sync things.

Calendar

Opening the app has a day view. It shows you your schedule for the day. At the bottom are options to add a new appointment or view the monthly calendar.  I think there is no option to sync any other calendar like your Goolge Calendar or something.

Mail

The mail app has the option to add your Windows Live Account, Outlook Mail, Yahoo Mail, Google Mail or other such accounts. This app is also quite standard. You can read mails, send new mails, reply to mails, view folders etc. In the Yahoo Mail account I checked there is no option add folders, but you can move mails to already existing folders.

Nokia drive and Nokia maps

I haven’t had the chance to use these apps much. But one of the coolest features in this is that you can download the map. For example I’ve downloaded the Tamil Nadu map. Once downloaded you don’t need the internet while using it. You just need to set the destination location and there is either a 2D or 3D drive type map showing you how to get there.

Office

This phone has an Office app. This is quite limited. But you can create new Word, Excel or PowerPoint files. You can edit them. This is connected to your SkyDrive so you can sync documents from your PC and edit them on your phone or create documents on your phone and then later edit them in your PC

Marketplace

Microsoft has it’s own Marketplace for Windows Phone apps. Apps are quite limited I should say when compared to IOS or Android. But I’m sure it will pick up or so I hope. Some of the apps I’ve installed from the MarketPlace are

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  • Whatsapp – It’s quite slow not sure why. On my android phone ironically my whatsapp is faster than my messaging. But in this phone Whatsapp takes a long time to load
  • Bible(YouVersion) – It is only available when online. There is no option to download any offline versions. That’s quite disappointing
  • Evernote – This is not bad. Most basic features from Evernote in IOS and Android are here too
  • YouTube – This app is a joke because this is just a link that takes you to the mobile version of YouTube in the Internet Explorer.
  • TuneIn Radio – Nice app to listen to online Radio
  • SkyDrive – You can store files in the cloud using this

There are some other inbuilt apps that I didn’t really talk about like Alarms, App Highlights, Bluetooth Share, Calculator, Contacts Transfer, Games, Maps (Microsoft), Nokia Music and Ringtone Maker.

My Thoughts on Windows 7.8 and Nokia Lumia 510

I’m summarizing as Windows/Nokia because I think if there are Pros and Cons both Microsoft and Nokia are somewhat equally responsible for that. This is an entry level phone for Touch Screen Smartphones so it should be graded based on that and not in comparison with flagship model phones

On the Positive side

  1. Overall it’s a great phone for this price
  2. The UI is very smooth. There is no feeling of any lag and the apps open quite fast.
  3. The Camera is good when pictures are taken in well lighted places
  4. The Keyboard feels really good to type on due to the larger screen size I think
  5. Music/Photo managing is quite simple and easy
  6. Nokia drive can be used without the internet
  7. The screen size is perfect. Any bigger than this would have been quite annoying. I had a look at the Nokia 920 last week in the Nokia store. It’s too big in my opinion!

On the Negative side

  1. Apps are quite limited in the Microsoft MarketPlace
  2. Skype cannot be used because it only has 256 MB RAM (But my Android phone with lesser RAM has Skype!!)
  3. Can’t delete multiple photos
  4. No extendable storage. Only about 2GB of the 4GB built in storage is usable
  5. No Auto Rotation Lock. Annoying if you’re lying down sideways in your bed
  6. The Ringer Volume and the Media Volume is the same.

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!!