Windows 8.1: Five Key Windows 8.1 Tips for New Users

New to Windows 8.1?. Now that the RTM is out to manufacturers, you need to know your way around. Here are five key Windows 8.1 tips to get you started. Our Brian Burgess keeps the Windows 8.1 How To galleries coming … — Now that Microsoft has announced that its Windows 8.1 is at the Release to Manufacturing (RTM) stage, it’s just a matter of time before PC makers begin shipping it pre-installed. Expect to see Windows 8.1 on PCs, laptops and other devices starting October 18. Here’s what you need to know about Windows 8.1 once you start using it — and five key Windows 8.1 tips to help get you started.

I’ve been using the Windows 8.1 Preview edition since it was released back in June. It’s improved a lot since the first iteration. The upgrade will be a free upgrade for existing Windows 8 users through the Windows Store. But if you’ve yet to try the Windows 8.1 preview, check out the following Windows 8.1 tips I gathered for you.

Boot to Desktop and Other Navigation Tricks

The main thing is to make the transition between the modern interface and traditional desktop as easy as possible.

To do that, hit the Desktop tile from the Start screen, right-click the taskbar and select Properties.

Then click the Navigation tab.

Here is where you customize Windows 8.1 to behave exactly how you want. This menu lets you to minimize the amount of the modern UI — the tile-based user-interface formerly known as the Metro UI — that comes up on the desktop and shows desktop programs first on Start.

Experiment with these settings to see what works best for you. I definitely recommend checking the option Boot to Desktop if you’re on a traditional PC without touchscreen capability.

All following screenshot image credits: Brian Burgess

Windows 8.1 Taskbar and Navigation Properties

For more on this, check out my piece Windows 8.1 Navigation Essentials: How to Get Around

Now Get to Know the New Built-in Bing Apps and Utilities

The built-in apps Bing currently included in Windows 8 are updated in Windows 8.1. And they include more features. There are also two new ones: Bing Food & Drink and Bing Health & Fitness. Take a look around.

Bing Health Fitness

Also familiarize yourself with other new utility apps in Windows 8.1. These include Alarms, Sound Recorder and Reading List. That last one I suggest you get to know right away. Readling List lets you easily collect articles from Internet Explorer 11 and other apps so you can read them later. Reading List also lets you sync saved articles via SkyDrive so you can get to them from other devices.

To use Reading List, hit the Share charm and select the Reading List icon to save it.

Reading List App

For more, check out our article Windows 8.1: New Built-in Apps for Bing, Utilities, Reading (preview)

Definitely Get to Know the New Unified Search

The search feature in Windows 8.1 has improved quite a bit since Windows 8 — and it’s backed by Microsoft Bing.

Use it to search for and launch apps on your local system, find web-based content, files and folders, content on your SkyDrive and a lot more. Searching is easy. From the Start screen, just start typing your query. Or use the keyboard shortcut Windows Key + C to bring it up from the Charms bar.

search everywhere

For best results after you execute a search query, set the system to Search Everywhere.

If you want to narrow down your results, click the dropdown menu and select among Settings, Files and web images or Videos. Here’s an example of a web video search.

Video Search

Check out our article: How To Run Unified Search in Windows 8.1

Enable Libraries in Windows 8.1

One thing you’ll notice when you go in to File Explorer in Windows 8.1 is that Microsoft has removed the Library folders from plain sight.

This feature was originally introduced in Windows 7. It used to let you organize files and folders across hard drives. But few Windows 7 and 8 users ever used that feature so now it’s out — kind of.

You still can access it though. The feature is still there – you just need to display it so you can see it.

To do this, open File Explorer and right click the empty space in the left pane. Select Show Libraries. That’s it.

Display Libraries File Explorer

Find Your Newly-Installed Programs and Windows Apps

Finding your newly-installed apps in Windows 8.1 is slightly different, too. In Windows 8, when you installed a new app from the Windows Store, it would appear on the Start screen as a tile. Now, in Windows 8.1, the system will add new apps to the All Apps page.

To find that, just swipe up on a touch screen — or hit the down arrow with your mouse.

Here you organize apps alphabetically — or by date installed, most used and by category. Also note that you can have your desktop programs display first in this list by using the first tip in this article.

All Apps View

These tips should allow you to get started with Windows 8.1 easier. And they’ll help you avoid some of the pain a lot of Windows 8 users experienced when they got into that operating system the first time around.

Based in Pelican Rapids, Minnesota, Brian Burgess is a tech pro and journalist renowned for his work at He served as executive editor at teamBYTE and these days he is editor-in-chief at GroovyPost. He is the How To gallery captain here on Email him at or and find him on Google + and on Twitter as @mysticgeek.