Increase your Productivity using Windows 8.1

Metro interface on Windows 8

Windows 8.1 hasn’t exactly been met with acclaim, instead it has become one of the most maligned version of Windows and an OS that many are loathe to adopt. However, there are a number of new additions to the interface that, if used correctly, could make the jump to Windows 8.1 more appealing.

So for those of you who have the OS or for those who are interested in getting it, here are some tips to help increase productivity on Windows 8.1.

Search everything

The Windows 8.1 search tool doesn’t just scan your system, but instead it’s now integrated with Bing. This means that it delivers internet results and sometimes even Wikipedia inspired summaries of whatever you’re searching for straight to your desktop.

If you want to give it a go, launch the Charms bar and type in your keywords – this will bring up the search box on the right of the screen. Hit enter and you’ll see any matches in your own documents, media library links, and you’ll get online links to explore as well.

There’s more increased functionality and if you swipe left (or spin the mouse wheel) you’ll find even more pictures and links. Clicking any of these links will take you to the webpage. You can effectively use the charms bar as a Bing search bar.

Search in Windows 8

The extra search power can be very helpful; however, it may not be for everyone. If don’t want the increased functionality it’s easy to disable this function. Simply launch the charms bar, click Settings > Change PC Settings > Search, and then set ‘Use Bing to search online’ to ‘Off.’

For those of you that loved the original start menu, which can be found on previous versions of Windows, it was announced at yesterday’s BUILD conference that it is to be reintroduced for 8.1. This is good news for both consumers of the OS and Microsoft itself, as it’s bound to drive better sales before the rumoured Windows 9 appears next year.

Navigation properties

One simple dialogue box hosts perhaps the most important Windows 8.1 improvement for those using a desktop and mouse set up.

This box is well hidden and to access it, go to the old-fashioned desktop view and right click on any blank area on the taskbar. Then choose properties, go to the Taskbar and Navigation properties dialogue box, and click the Navigation tab.

Everyone using a desktop PC should tick the box that reads ‘When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start.’ That’s the boot to desktop option and it increases productivity by giving the user a more familiar and controlled interaction with their PC.

 

taskbar navigation settings windows 8

This is a simple option and one that’s recommended. The new Metro interface doesn’t work as well and often users feel like they’re battling to do what they always could do. Booting directly to the desktop allows users a PC experience that’s more familiar to them and mimics the way that they have used Windows in the past.

Turn off the Charm

It can be really infuriating for users of Windows 8.1 when trying to close an app. The top right hand corner of the screen opens up the Charms bar and any unwary mouse movement can roll out the bar.

Many users feel that there is no good reason for the Charm application on the old-fashioned desktop set up and some users even feel that the Metro side provides very little worth using too.

For those users who would rather not have the bar on their screen, simply visit the Navigation Properties and uncheck the box that reads, ‘When I point to the upper-right corner, show the charms.’

If a use disables the Charms bar but occasionally needs it there is a keyboard shortcut available: Windows key + C.

Show All Apps

The last four settings in the Navigation Properties dialog control when and how the Metro Start screen gets swapped out for the All Apps list.

According to Microsoft, the All Apps list is the new, reimagined Windows Start Menu. This isn’t entirely accurate and instead the tiles just keep going and going, which may not be the best layout for those using a touch screen device. However for desktop mousers there’s not much doubt that the All Apps list is better than the Metro Start screen.

For desktop users it’s advisable to check all four of the settings available in the Navigation Properties dialog control.

Boot desktop apps faster

It’s possible for users to set up desktop apps to load when Windows 8 start. However, the thing is, they don’t have the same priority that they did on older Windows OS versions. Windows 8 delays the launch of apps to ensure that everything else starts more quickly. This makes the system more responsive as it boots, but if you’re switching straight to the desktop then it can slow you down. It may be worth disabling the delay and attempting to spot any improvement.

To do this:

Launch REGEDIT and browse to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Serialise.

Now create the Serialise key - if it already exists, simply select it in the left-hand pane.

Right click in the right-hand pane and create a new DWORD value called StartupDelayInMSec, and leave it set at zero (or if a value is already there set it to zero).

 

registry in windows 8

Restart your computer and you’ll hopefully find that your desktop apps launch more speedily. If not, try three or four test boots to see if there’s any improvement, and if there isn’t, delete the StartupDelayInMSec value and restore the default settings.

Please note that only users that are confident in what they are doing should edit the registry as getting it wrong can damage your Windows installation.

Quickly launch programs

Many users like to use keyboard shortcuts over scrolling through app tiles to find the necessary program. That’s fine and Windows 8 still allows users to access apps through the old fashioned keyboard.

Launch the desktop app, right click on any empty area of the screen and click New>Shortcut.

Then browse to the application you’d like to launch here. For the sake of an argument lets say you want to shut down your PC with a click.

Instead of selecting a program to open, enter shutdown.exe –s –t 100

The above command will let you shutdown your computer immediately; all with the click of a mouse button.

You can also tell it to hibernate. Simply type in this instruction:

Shutdown.exe –h –t 00

Then click next and title the shortcut something like ‘Hibernate’ and click finish.

Right click on the shortcut and select Pin to Start. Your new shortcut should appear on the far right of the Start screen and you can just drag the tile wherever you like.

Windows 8.1 hasn’t exactly been well received, and many of the productivity solutions merely circumvent the clunky and irritating Metro interface. However once that’s done it can be said that W8.1 is not a bad operating system, it just needs tweaking and adapting for the user in question.

Give some of these productivity boosters a go, perhaps you’ll find that Windows 8.1 suits your needs. If not, don’t worry, Windows 9 is likely to be out this year if rumours are to be believed. Hopefully Microsoft have ditched the Metro interface ensuring better productivity as users don’t have to fight for the functionality they want and expect.