Using Windows 8.1: Customization, Tips, and Tricks

Windows KeyboardNow that you have Windows up and running, it’s time to make things pretty. The 8.1 update made several changes to improve certain aspects Windows 8 was criticized for. As you become more familiar with this operating system, you will find you can do a lot to make the Metro screen look amazing. While there are loads of options, we’re going to look at 10 tips and customization options for the OS.

1. Go Straight to the Desktop
Windows will take you to the Start Screen by default, but you want to go straight to the desktop when you turn the computer on? Not a problem. Right-click on the desktop toolbar, select Properties and go to the Navigation tab. Under the Start Screen options, just click on the box “When I sign in or close all applications on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start” and you’re good to go.

2. Change the Background
Inside Windows 8, switching between the Desktop and the Start screen was awkward because the backgrounds would change. 8.1 gives you the option to use the same background for each so switching is more seamless. Right click on the taskbar, select Properties, click on the Navigation tab, and check the box that says “Show my desktop background on Start.”

3. Disable or Enable Live Tiles
Live tiles give you access to immediate information without having to click on the app. For example, the Weather app tile provides you with live weather updates in your area. You can also get updates with sports, news, stocks, your calendar, and your mail. If you aren’t a fan of all these updates constantly flipping your apps around, simply right-click on a tile, click “Turn live tile off,” and you are done.

4. Add Custom Tiles
This is the next step in the ultimate customization of your tiles. By using the application Oblytile, you can add custom icons to your Start Screen. This program gives you the option to rename your tiles or direct the program path. (This means inserting the URL of a website or program on your computer that you want to open.)

What we like about this program is you can pick any image on your computer to act as the image of your tile. Change the background and text color as well. This program is a great way to liven up the tiles on Windows 8.1.

5. Go Hands Free
This is a useful feature inside 8.1. Let’s say you are cooking dinner using the Food & Drink app. You don’t want to touch your computers screen or keyboard with butter and flour all over your hands. Before you start, set the app on Hands-Free Mode and it will detect your hand motions via webcam and change screens for you. It’s pretty cool.

6. Stop Apps from Running in the Background
The update to 8.1 made it more complicated to close applications. With Windows 8, dragging an app down to the bottom of the screen would close the app, in 8.1, is simply makes the app disappear. To close Start Screen apps, drag the app to the bottom of the screen but hold onto it instead of letting it go. When the card flips over, you know it’s closed.

7. Configure App Updates
If you’ve ever owned a smartphone or tablet, you know that sometimes applications will just update without ever asking your permission. This can slow down you Wi-Fi or eat up data. Inside the Windows Store, access the Settings Charm menu. From there, select Settings, navigate to App Updates, and enable or disable the option for automatic updates.

8. Scale Each Screen Independently
If you can’t live without your dual-screen setup but have different sized monitors, Windows 8.1 allows you to scale each screen independently. This means you can adjust the screen resolution, make icons bigger or smaller, or make the text bigger or smaller on one screen without it affecting the other display.

9. Enter the App Bars
These aren’t real bars with drinks (sorry) but are instead the app’s functions and options. For example, if you are inside a recipe application, right-click on the screen to see things like recipes, home, shopping list, or a meal planner. These functions are on almost every application inside 8.1.

10. Use the Help & Tips App
This app was added to 8.1 and is your basic guide to pretty much everything inside the OS! The program has short animations to show you correct gestures if you have a touchscreen device. There are tutorials on helping you navigate the system and showing you basic mouse actions. These all go in depth and will have you flying through Windows 8.1 in no time.

What’s your favorite Windows 8.1 feature or trick? Share in the comments below!

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