Today is April 8, 2014, and it is notable for two things: First, Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP (Click here to read my previous article on this issue.). Second: Microsoft is releasing an update for Windows 8.1, which is called… um… Windows 8.1 Update. This update brings some really useful touches to Windows 8.1, making it a bit easier to navigate for folks who have used Windows for a while.
Rather than writing about it myself, I’ll point you to Microsoft’s official writeup about the update, and then give you three things I think you should do with the update, once you’ve installed it.
Go directly to the Desktop when you login
If you don’t like the Start screen, you can set Windows to show you the Desktop when you login, bypassing the Start screen. You’ll still have to go back to the Start screen from time to time, but if you’re just looking to open your Documents folder and start editing files that are already there, this will speed that up a bit.
From the Desktop, right-click on the taskbar, and select Properties
In the Taskbar and Navigation properties box that appears, click on the Navigation tab
In the Start screen section, check the first option.
Pin apps to the taskbar
Since the taskbar can now appear when you’re on the Start screen or in full-screen apps (which Microsoft calls “Windows Store apps”), pin your most-used apps to the taskbar, so they’re always close at hand. To do this, right-click on an app’s tile on the Start screen, or right-click an app icon on your desktop, and select “Pin to taskbar.”
And then un-pin that green shopping bag, the Windows Store app. Unless, that is, you think you’ll be wanting to add apps frequently.
Explore the Start screen
I have spent a fair amount of time saying less-than-charitable things about the Start screen since Windows 8 showed up. However, it might work really well for you, so try it out, and see if you can make it do what you want it to do.
Remove tiles that you don’t want to see all the time, and tiles for apps that you do want to see. Resize tiles to make them fit the way you want. Some tiles are “live tiles,” meaning they will constantly update with new information, such as weather, stark market data, and news headlines. See what you can do with those tiles, and organize them in a way that makes sense for you.
If you want to add some of your installed apps to the Start screen, you can find them in the Apps listing that appears when you click on the arrow at the bottom left of the Start screen.
How to get the update
To get the Windows 8.1 Update, just run a normal Windows Update session. Move your mouse to the right side of the screen to show the Charms bar, and click on the magnifying glass to bring up Search. Type in Windows Update, and select the “Check for updates” option. Click on the “Check now” button, and let Windows update download and install all of the items listed as “important updates.” The update that applies here is the one that references KB 2919355, if you want to get real specific.
You may have to restart and re-run Windows Update to get all of the “important updates” completed. Once you see the new Shutdown and Search icons on the top right of your Start screen, you’ll have this newest update for Windows 8.1
And pay no attention to the goofy looking guy on the screen there.