Et tu Blue-te..? – Is Windows 8.1 Your New Best Friend?

Boot to Desktop (and other Navigation Changes)

Windows 8.1 now gives users the ability to boot directly to the Windows 8.x Desktop. This allows you to bypass the Start or All Apps Screens and get back to the desktop here many users are more comfortable.  However, unless you have your main applications pinned to the Task Bar, you’re still going to have to deal with the Start Screen.

The biggest issue here is that you have to get to a preference pane to set this up, and it can only be accessed by right clicking the Task Bar while on the Desktop.  It would have been really nice if, during the setup process Windows 8.1 asked if you wanted to enable these options or not and then set them for you.

To get to these options,  right-click the Taskbar and choose Properties, and then click the Navigation tab. In the Start screen section, check the “Go to the desktop instead of Start when I sign in” box.

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Tile Groups & Start Screen Customizations

As I’ve stated above, customizing the Start Screen is a lot easier in Windows 8.1.  The new features really make this easy, in a number of different views, and honestly, should have been part of Windows 8.

Now that Windows 8.1 is released, features like this, make Windows 8 feel largely unfinished, especially when you consider that customizing Start isn’t as cumbersome as it used to be.  You can move more than one tile from one group to another in a single action instead of multiple ones. It really makes a lot more sense now, and again, should have been part of their original release.

Customizing your Start Screen background is also a lot easier in Windows 8.1. All Win8.1 backgrounds all have a parallax scrolling effect, putting them some distance “behind” your layer of tiles.  You can also use your desktop background as the background of your Start Screen, if you wish.  This gives your Start Screen the feeling that it sort of hovers over your desktop when invoked.  The color scheme is also consistent.

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Revamped Control Panel

ModernUI or Metro as it is now being called (according to Harry McCracken) is a mess. Its fragmented, with only part of your PC’s controls falling under its methods of modification.  However, with Windows 8.1, this gets a little better. In Windows 8.1, PC Settings gets a much needed boost in functionality.  It has hundreds of new options organized into nine categories and 42 subcategories, according to Microsoft.

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OS Level Support for SkyDrive

Microsoft’s cloud-based storage system is called SkyDrive, and Windows 8.1 has support integrated at the OS level.  This is a huge deal for storage in the cloud, as you’ll find the contents of  your SkyDrive just under your desktop and inside your personal folders in File Explorer.

When you setup your PC with Windows 8.1, you get the opportunity to connect to SkyDrive.  If you connect, the options are available in the OS’ PC Settings.  Sync is built in and takes place in the background.  You content – your files – just show up where you need them.

There are a number of different file services out there – DropBox, Google Drive, Box, iCloud, etc.  I can see MS bumping into issues with Cloud Service Integration as it did with browser integration if it doesn’t play its cards right.  Honestly, I’d really like to have the ability to have Google Drive (my cloud service of choice) be integrated into Windows 8.1. It would make integrating Google Drive with Windows’ Libraries a lot easier.

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