Windows 8.1.1 largely boils down to making the operating system friendlier for traditional keyboard and mouse users; but there’s more. We’ve complied a few tips and tricks you’ll need to know to get the most out of the latest version of Windows.
An aspect of Windows 8 that was challenging for long-time users of previous Windows editions was the taskbar; Microsoft first made a change to the taskbar with Windows 8.1 by reintroducing the Start button even though all it really did was take you back to the Start screen (still, it was a start, pun intended). Windows 8.1.1 makes additional changes in this area.
The taskbar is now accessible from the Start screen andWindows Store apps – move your mouse to the bottom of the screen to bring it up. This is a help to users that prefer to switch between programs by clicking them on the taskbar. Previously the taskbar was available only from the Desktop.
That brings up the second major change: Windows Store apps now show up on the taskbar just like programs. Previously apps just ran in the background; you had to know the shortcuts to find out which ones were running (moving your mouse to the lower left corner of the screen and up or pressing the Windows Key + Tab keys simultaneously). You can also now pin apps to the taskbar just like programs.
Start Screen Differences
Seasoned Windows 8 users will notice the new power and search buttons residing in the upper right of the Start screen. These functions were previously hidden from the user; you had to bring up the Charms by moving the mouse to the lower right corner of the screen and then up to see them. It’s Microsoft’s way of being more up front with users. To look really proficient using Windows 8.1, try these shortcuts:
- Windows Key + I: bring up the Settings charm
- Windows Key + S: bring up the Search charm
- Or, type anywhere while on the Search screen to start searching automatically
Check out our guide to improving productivity using Windows 8.1for more handy shortcuts and tips.
Right clicking on apps and programs in the Start screen now brings up a more familiar right-click menu for mouse and keyboard users, instead of showing your available options arrayed across the bottom of the screen.
This simple change should go a long way to helping Windows XP and Windows 7 users make use of the new Start screen without struggling to figure out what to do.
One final difference end users will notice is minimize and close buttons available within Windows Store apps; move your mouse to the top of the screen to reveal this menu. Remember as we discussed earlier, you can move your mouse to the bottom of your screen in an app to reveal the taskbar as well. Minimizing apps prior to this was something less than elegant; you had to go back to the Start screen (usually accomplished by pressing the Windows key or pressing the Alt + Tab keys to switch applications).
Windows 8.1.1 is a step forward for usability and user acceptance; the operating system’s design and behavior is more consistent especially in Windows Store apps (which previously behaved much like apps on a smartphone). These usability enhancements should make it considerably more straightforward for users coming from previous editions of Windows. It’s refreshing to see Microsoft responding to user complaints by making positive changes, though that still leaves us wondering whether they might have foreseen these user difficulties.
For a full list of what’s new in Windows 8.1.1, see Microsoft’s article here.
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