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Upon its debut, Windows 8 faced a steady wave of criticism for its new user interface. But to Microsoft’s credit, its latest operating system has a lot of new features and enhancements that enable users to get the most out of emerging technologies such as convertible laptops and tablets.
And because Windows 8 is shipping as the default OS on most desktop and notebook computers, many users will end up working with it sooner or later.
Most users know that the Windows interface has undergone an ambitious (if not radical) redesign, but they might not be aware of a few simple tricks that will make navigating the new OS easier.
Not only does 8.1 contain a litany of bug fixes and updates for Windows 8, it also serves as Microsoft's answer to consumers who weren't enthusiastic about some of the more controversial design changes intended for tablet users. Among these improvements, users will find that a few key UI features have returned, not the least of which is the Start menu button. Though the Start menu itself remains a Metro-esque, tiled, full-screen menu, just having this shortcut will help users by returning them to the familiar Desktop “landing page” where the Start menu is invoked from the bottom, left-hand corner, enabling users to launch applications.
Readers who have used Windows 8 have no doubt discovered that not all applications appear in the Start menu. This can be remedied easily with quick tweak. First, go to the Desktop by clicking the Desktop tile in the Start menu. Then, right-click on the Taskbar and select Properties from the context menu that appears. Next, click the Navigation tab. Finally, check the box labeled Show the Apps View Automatically when I go to Start. Then click OK to apply the new settings. Now, all applications will appear whenever the Start menu is launched.
Many a user comes to a dead halt after logging in for the first time and seeing the Start menu (which doesn't really look like a Start menu). This can be avoided by configuring Windows to boot directly to the Desktop upon login. This setting can be found in the same place as the Apps tweak: Go to the Desktop, right-click the Taskbar, click Properties, then the Navigation tab. This time, check When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the Desktop instead of Start. Again, click OK to save the new setting. The system will now boot directly to the Desktop.
There are a lot of programs out there claiming they can make the Windows 8 user interface look more like earlier versions of Windows, and many do a respectable job of delivering on that promise. But be warned: While it may be a tempting (and an initially popular) decision to run with this as a standard solution on all user machines, the added cost may not be worth the benefit. Also, adding an entire layer of software to a UI can yield unexpected consequences (and will always be in the back of technicians' minds when troubleshooting strange issues). Think of this more as a “nuclear option” best reserved for users who really need the extra help and who may not have immediate access to help desk personnel.