Windows 8.1 provides all kinds of customizable settings, letting an administrator or user fine-tune the operating system for a high level of productivity. Let's look at some settings such as Windows 8.1 boot to desktop that can save users time.
Bypass the Start screen and boot directly to the desktop
With all of its colorful app tiles, the Start screen is the default entry point after booting into Windows 8.1. Unless your users have touchscreens, it might be more convenient for them to start on the desktop where they tend to spend most of their time. Follow these steps to configure Windows 8.1 to boot directly to the desktop:
- Right-click the Windows 8.1 taskbar and select Properties.
- Click the Navigation tab.
- In the Start screen section, check the When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start checkbox.
- Click OK.
The next time a user signs in, Windows 8.1 boot to desktop will occur.
Prevent the Charms bar from appearing by accident
The Charms bar is a handy addition to Windows 8.1, which lets a user quickly access settings and perform searches. However, many users -- especially those working on laptops -- report that the Charms bar often appears when they don't want it to, which is distracting mainly because of the sheer number of occurrences.
It appears frequently because Windows 8.1 includes gesture settings for touchpads that enable a user to slide a finger across the touchpad from right to left to invoke the Charms bar. That's a common action for using the touchpad in general, so the Charms bar appears repeatedly when a user simply wants to move the pointer from one side of the screen to the other. Let's look at some techniques for preventing the Charms bar from appearing by accident:
- Disable the Edge Swipe gesture: From the desktop, open Control Panel, and then open the Mouse applet. In the Mouse Properties dialog box, click the tab that contains the touchpad (or track pad) settings. Look for the Edge Swipes setting, which should be associated with application gestures. Disable edge swipes, typically by unchecking a checkbox, as shown below.
- Update the touchpad driver: If the previous method doesn't resolve the problem, you should update the driver for the touchpad. You'll probably have to disable the Edge Swipe setting again after the new driver is loaded.
Create a shortcut to the Devices feature in Windows 8.1
The built-in Devices feature in Windows 8.1 lets you add and remove devices, but it can be a challenge for users to find. Here's how to create a shortcut on the Windows 8.1 desktop to frequently used devices:
- Right-click the desktop, select New and then select Shortcut. The Create Shortcut Wizard starts.
- In the "Type the location of the item" box, enter:
- Click Next.
- Enter Devices or something similar in the Type a name for this shortcut box and click Finish.
You can change the icon to something more desirable by right-clicking the shortcut, selecting Properties, clicking the Change Icon button and selecting the icon of your choice. You can also pin the shortcut to the taskbar for user convenience.
Make a Shutdown shortcut on the desktop
More about Windows 8.1 features
What's new for enterprises in the Windows 8.1 update
Some IT shops feel railroaded by rapid Windows 8 updates
Windows 8.1 includes new security capabilities
Power users will like Windows 8.1 features, but limitations still lurk
After Windows XP's demise, learn to adapt to Windows 8.1
The Windows 8.1 Start button includes an option for shutdown or sign out, but you can create a desktop shortcut for shutting down and pin it to the taskbar for one-click access. To make a shutdown shortcut and pin it to the taskbar:
- Right-click the desktop, select New, and then select Shortcut. The Create Shortcut Wizard starts.
- In the Type the location of the item box, enter:
shutdown /s /t 0.
- Click Next.
- Enter Shutdown in the Type a name for this shortcut box and click Finish.
Change the icon using the shortcut's Properties dialog boxand then right-click the shortcut and select Pin to taskbar. When the user clicks the icon, the computer begins the shutdown process.
Tip: To create a Restart shortcut, replace the letter "s" with an "r" in the Type the location of the item box, and name the shortcut Restart.
Relocate the Desktop tile on the Start screen
By default, Windows 8.1 positions the Desktop tile along the left side of the Start screen, near the bottom of the first set of apps. To get to the desktop, a user can click on the Desktop tile. If the user was already working in the desktop, he or she can click in the upper-left corner of the Start screen to return.
By moving the Desktop tile to the upper-leftmost position on the Start screen, the user can tap or press the Enter key on the Start screen to return to the desktop. To move the Desktop tile, click and hold the tile while dragging it to the new location.
Enable Quiet hours to temporarily disable notifications
For users who get frequent app notifications, you can use the Quiet hours feature to disable notifications during a regular period of time. To set:
- Open the Charms bar, and select the gear icon.
- Select Change PC settings.
- Select Search and apps on the left side of the screen.
- Select Notifications on the left side of the screen.
- Scroll down to the "Quiet hours" section.
- Make sure the Quiet hours setting is on, and configure the times that notifications should be turned on and off.
About the author:
Kim Lindros is a full-time writer, content developer and project manager who has worked around high technology and computing since the early 1990s. She co-authored MTA Microsoft Technology Associate Exam 98-349 Windows Operating System Fundamentals (Wiley, 2012), PC Basics with Windows 7 and Office 2010 (Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2010), and Introduction to Computers and Application Software (Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2011 and 2014), among other textbooks, and developed numerous college and corporate courses focused on IT security, Microsoft technologies and Microsoft Office. She has also co-authored certification-related articles with Ed Tittel.