My last post was about Windows 8.1 tablets and how they are generally better than iPads or Android based tablets. Apparently I’m not the only one who recognized their utility, as these tablets are selling pretty well now. I thought I would post some pointers I learned playing with mine. I mentioned a few at the bottom of my last post, here are a few more.
The most annoying thing is that Windows 8.1 is not Windows 7. The PC marketplace has been in the doldrums ever since 8 was released. Windows 7 is way ahead of 8 and 8.1 combined, and still growing as people continue to order new PCs with Windows 7 pre-installed instead of 8.
I thought about posting suggestions to Microsoft to “fix” 8.1 and make it more acceptable to PC users and the business community, like get rid of the “Live Tiles Start” menu completely, move live tile icons to the desktop without auto arranging them, allow folders in the “Apps” menu for better organization, and allow the apps menu to only take a fraction of the screen instead of the whole screen. Also allow “live tile” software to be “windowed” so it can be run from the desktop if we want. Microsoft probably has heard these suggestions before, and they are not coming anytime soon so no point to dwell on them. I think it is only a matter of time before they actually happen. Maybe in Windows 9?
Despite these annoying shortcomings, there are some useful features in 8.1 worth keeping especially with tablets.
Pro Tip #1: After playing with Windows 8.1 for 10 days, I have come to the conclusion that the “Live Tiles Start” screen is completely useless and only exists so that the marketing boneheads at Microsoft can market windows desktops, windows tablets, windows phones and XBox One as being the same and cross compatible (see above picture) which they are not.
If you have Windows 8, upgrade to 8.1, if you have 8.1, right click on the taskbar (on a tablet you “right click” by pressing and holding down for a couple of seconds) and click “Properties” then the “Navigation” tab, then check everything. You will never have to look at that stupid dumbass “Live Tiles” start screen ever again!
There, now we have eliminated the most annoying thing in Windows 8.1
Pro Tip #2: Learn Touch screen gestures. There are two types of programs in Windows 8.1, classic “Windows” software, and new “Live tiles” software. The biggest difference between the two is that the latter programs run in full screen, and they are missing the “red X” close icon in the corner. The Windows 8.1 desktop is actually a “live tile” program itself.
Live Tile designed programs can run in the background and instantly recalled to the foreground just the way you left them, just by pointing to the left side of the screen and sliding to the right. You can also open up to four of them side by side.
The “Desktop” is one such app sidebar item. The “Live Tile” Internet Explorer 11 is another. With one flick of a finger I’m on a browser, with another flick I’m back to Desktop. The “Live Tile” version of IE11 is, in my humble opinion, the greatest browser ever made. No tool bars, or link bars, or search bars, or favorites, just nothing but web page filling the whole screen. If you need the IE bars, just touch the bottom of the page and slide up (or right click on your mouse), then slide back down. Left swipe brings back the desktop again, easy peasy.
There are four basic gestures and they all start by touching an edge and sliding towards the center. As pointed out, left edge slide right will switch from program to program. Variations on this gesture will put two programs side by side, or a list of programs running in the background. The keyboard equivalent is “alt tab”.
The right edge slide left brings up what Microsoft calls the “Charms” menu. This is basically the stuff that used to be in the start menu, like “Programs”, “Settings”, “Run/Search”, etc. The keyboard equivalent is pushing the windows key.
The bottom edge slide up brings up the options of the current program you are running. This varies from program to program. The options of the “Live Tile” version of IE11 is where you can find the address/search bar, favorites, tabs, history, and status, thus eliminating the need for that stuff to clutter your browsing window which now takes up the entire screen. That’s why I like it, completely clutter free browsing (not counting the ads). On a keyboard hold the windows key and press Z, or if you have a mouse, right click.
The top edge slide down is how you close a program. That is why there is no need for a “red X” any more. The left slide right gesture is a very cool way to switch from program to program, but it is easy to end up with a lot of programs open that you have to flip through before you reach the program you wanted. Top edge slide down is how you get rid of those extra programs. Alt+F4 on the keyboard still works, too.
Pro Tip #3: Invest in a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, or at least a stylus pen. The biggest drawback of a windows 8.1 tablet is the small screen, with small lettering, and the need to occasionally select stuff with fat fingers. While you can do an awful lot with fingers and the onscreen keyboard, “House cleaning chores” such as transferring selected files and organizing them into folders are a lot easier with a keyboard and mouse.
Note: A bluetooth keyboard is a bluetooth keyboard. I have one designed for Android that I also use on my PS3, my Apple TV, and now my Windows Tablet. Apple keyboards work too as they also use bluetooth. A “Wireless” mouse is not the same as a Bluetooth mouse, the former will not work on a tablet as they require a special USB dongle, so be careful what you get.
There are other ways to deal with the smallness of stuff, like set your folders to default to “Extra large icons” whenever a new folder is opened. I also have extra large icons set on the desktop screen too. I wish the taskbar had an option for large icons. Add that to the list of things Microsoft needs to do to improve Windows 8.1.