There’s no doubting the fact that Windows 8 has been at the helm of discussion since day one of its release. While some people did fancy the change, others didn’t quite so much. If you’ve been keeping a tab on our Windows 8.1 coverage since its public unveiling a couple of weeks ago, you’d likely be aware that Microsoft has addressed many issues in it that plagued Windows 8. The Start Button is back and there is a boot to desktop option to skip the Start screen upon boot, but that’s not it; a host of new features have also been added, which purportedly should have been there in Windows 8 in the first place. However, there are a few elements hidden beneath those major changes that have remained unsung to the masses. In what follows, we’re going to unearth some of these lesser known features and tell you all about them.
The first lesser known feature, or more precisely a major change that remained out of the spotlight, is that killing apps by swiping from top of the screen is no longer the same. In Windows 8, swiping an app from top basically closes it. In contrast to that, Windows 8.1 handles apps a bit differently than its predecessor. When swiping down, the app is rather minimized, preserving its current state. This features proves to be useful if you temporally need to use some other application without quitting your current Metro app. To kill an app though, you will need to keep the app down at the bottom until it flips itself 180 degrees to reveal its tile icon.
Batch Tile Editing
Among a few subtle changes in the Start screen, most of which we have already covered in our previous posts, Batch Tile Editing is something that we found worth mentioning. This feature refers to the ‘Customize’ option that allows users to rename tile groups as well as uninstall, pin/unpin and resize more than one tiles in one go. For people who complained about Windows 8 not allowing them to uninstall multiple apps, this feature will definitely be a sigh of relief.
Another interesting bit of batch tile editing is that you can easily move multiple tiles around. All you need to do is select your desired tiles, and you’ll be able to drag and drop the items to rearrange them in your desired layout. The number of selected tiles also appear at the top-right corner of one of the selected items.
Batch Uninstallation, Pinning & Unpinning From All Apps Screen
Although the All Apps screen was also present in Windows 8, you can now perform a few time-saving actions from it related to the apps and files. Akin to batch tile editing on Start screen, batch unpinning and uninstallation of apps from the All Apps screen can make the experience less cumbersome. You can now pin or unpin multiple tiles to and from the Start screen with a single click or tap.
Similarly, multiple metro apps can also now be removed in one streamlined procedure. Just select the apps you wish to remove and hit Uninstall. Windows does ask you before removing the apps to prevent any accidental deletions. Furthermore, it asks whether the selected apps should only be removed from your current PC or all synced machines. Awesome, isn’t it?
Sorting All Apps
Another lesser known feature in the All Apps screen is app sorting. The update now allows you to sort app tiles by name, date installed, most used and category. All these options give you more flexibly and control over how they are displayed, letting you find the app you’re looking for in the least amount of time.
Outlook in Windows RT
Windows RT comes with a complete Office 2013 Productivity Suite and since Windows 8.1 has been released as an update for the RT platform as well, the OS has received one major addition that remained out of the limelight in Microsoft Build Conference: Microsoft Outlook. Similar to other Modern UI-based Office apps, Outlook sports a decent and clean interface, and does a marvelous job at handling most types of email accounts.
Microsoft has also included a new Quiet Hours feature in Windows 8.1 that allows you to schedule when the on-screen as well as audio notifications for emails, calendar events and messages etc. should be disabled. This feature works pretty much in a similar fashion to the ‘Do not disturb’ option found in iOS and Mac OS X. Quiet Hours can be toggled from PC Settings > Search & apps > Notifications window. When enabled, this feature ensures that Windows doesn’t make any noise or turn the screen on when a notification is received, and remain dead silent until Quiet Hours are over.
Slide To Shutdown
Many people loathed the cumbersome access to the shutdown options in Windows 8; one had to click or tap the Power button from Charms Bar in order to access and turn off their Windows 8 desktop, notebook or tablet. If you didn’t find the shutdown function quite conveniently located, then you will happy to learn about the new Slide To Shutdown option.
This hidden feature is buried in the System32 folder and you need to manually navigate there to activate it. It’s basically an EXE file name ‘SlideToShutdown’ that brings down the lock screen. You can then drag it down to shutdown your computer or device. The good thing is that you can easily create a desktop shortcut for it to quickly access it anytime.
To make things even simpler, you can assign a hotkey to the SlideToShutdown desktop shortcut. To do that, just right-click the desktop icon and select Properties. Under Shortcut tab, click the ‘Shortcut key’ field and press your desired hotkey, followed by hitting Apply.
Changes in File Explorer
For long, we’ve been quite attached to the ‘My Computer’ window in Microsoft’s decades-old operating system. From Windows Vista onward, the software giant decided to remove the ‘My’ part. With Windows 8.1, Microsoft seems to have taken a whole new approach; your computer is no longer called Computer or John’s Machine, but rather simply ‘This PC’. We’re not sure whether this is a temporary name or not, but it’s there for now.
When you launch the File Explorer, Windows 8.1 now opens you up to This PC window instead of Libraries. Another fundamental change is that This PC also now includes shortcuts for special folders like Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Pictures and Videos, eliminating the need to have them in the Favorites section (although a few of them are there by default too, rather redundantly).
Adding USB Drives to a Library
Lastly, Windows 8.1 also allows you to include a thumb drive or USB drive shortcut in a library. Creating one is fairly simple; just right-click your USB thumb drive and then under ‘Include in library’ menu, select your desired library. You can also create a new library for the purpose from the same menu.
Overall, one can see that Microsoft has significantly improved the user experience in Windows 8.1. Being able to do so much more things in Windows 8.1 makes the latest update a lot more desirable than its rather ailing predecessor.