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Five Things You Can Tweak Right Away in Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 includes a number of features you can use to personalize the way the operating system looks and acts. This article spotlights five personalizations you can try as soon as you begin using Windows 8.1.
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1: Display All Apps

When you first press the power button and enter your password on the Lock screen, the Start menu appears. By now you probably know the drill—to start an app you want to work with, you swipe or scroll to the right and then click or tap the app tile. But what if you have dozens—or hundreds—of apps on your Start screen? You could be scrolling right for a long time to find the app tile you need.

Now in Windows 8.1, Microsoft has made it easy to get a quick look at all the apps you have installed. And even better, you can launch the app from that same view. This view—called appropriately, Apps view—is available whenever you swipe up on the Start screen or position the mouse in the lower-left corner so that the down arrow appears.

Figure 1 When you position the mouse pointer in the lower-left corner of the Start screen, the down-arrow button appears.

2: Reorder Your Apps

Apps view lists all the apps you have installed in Windows 8. By default, Windows 8.1 lists the apps by name, in alphabetical order. You can click or tap the arrow to the right of By Name to display a list of additional options: By Date Installed, By Most Used, or By Category. The apps are reordered according to the option you select.

Figure 2 You can reorder your apps so that Windows 8.1 lists them by date, by usage, or by category.

3: Change the Look of the Start Screen

Windows 8.1 makes it easy for you to change the theme and color scheme of the Start screen; and you can do it without displaying PC Settings. Simply choose the Settings charm, and in the top of the Settings panel, click or tap Personalize. Click or tap the theme you want to apply in the gallery at the top of the panel. To choose the background color, click in the color bar below the Background Color display and then narrow the color to the shade you want by clicking it in the gallery.

Repeat the process to set the Accent color. The Start screen changes in real time to show you the effects of your changes. Continue experimenting with the theme and colors until you get just the effect you want. Then click outside the panel to close it and return to the Start screen.

Figure 3 Choose Personalize in the Settings panel to display the theme and color selections.

4: Show More Tiles

Another way you can improve the way Windows 8.1 uses the real estate on the Start screen is to choose the Show More Tiles option. You can find this option by choosing the Settings charm and then clicking or tapping Tiles. In the Tiles pane, slide the Show More Tiles setting to Yes. This changes the size of the tiles on your Start screen so that more tiles fit in the screen area. Instead of your app tiles appearing three tiles deep, they now display four rows of app tiles by default.

Figure 4 Use Show More Tiles to reduce the size of your app tiles and fit more tiles on the Start screen.

If your computer or device supports it, you can also change the size of apps in PC Settings. Choose the Settings charm and select Change PC Settings. Choose PC & Devices and then tap or click Display. In the More Options area, you can click the down-arrow for the Change the Size of Apps on the Displays That Can Support It option, and choose the setting you want to apply. If this selection is grayed out on your computer, your PC or device doesn’t support changing this setting.

5: Launch Straight to the Desktop

As you’ve probably heard, many people were unsure about Windows 8. Although Microsoft was excited to offer such a dramatic new release, the general public was hesitant to adopt a different, touchable approach to traditional computing. People complained that the Start button was missing, and many folks wanted a way to bypass the Start screen altogether.

In Windows 8.1, you can opt to have Windows boot right to the desktop. It’s this simple: Display the Desktop by clicking or tapping the Desktop app on the Start screen. Right-click a blank spot on the taskbar, and choose Properties from the list that appears. When the Taskbar and Navigation Properties dialog box appears, click the Navigation tab. The top check box in the Start Screen area gives you the option of going straight to the desktop instead of the Start screen when you log in. Click the check box and click OK to save your changes.

Figure 5 You can easily tell Windows to launch to the Desktop by choosing an option in the Navigation tab of the Taskbar and Navigation Properties dialog box.

Also in the Navigation tab of the Taskbar and Navigation Properties dialog box, you can apply the same background to your Desktop and the Start screen; tell Windows to display the Start screen when you press the Windows key; display Apps view automatically by default when you go to the Start screen; and show your desktop apps first in Apps view when you sort apps by category.

Final Thoughts

You can apply many more tweaks to Windows 8.1 to further personalize your app-wrangling experience. You can do things such as display a slide show on the lock screen, make calls and take photos without unlocking your computer, use new touch gestures for entering data, and much more. Explore the new release, and most important, makes Windows 8.1 your own by experimenting to find the personalizations you like best.

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