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Sunday, August 10

Windows 8.1 tips & tricks: 13 ways to increase productivity

Windows 8.1 tips & tricks: 13 ways to increase productivity

1 – Boot to desktop
In Windows 8.1 users can now boot directly to the desktop. However, this feature needs to be activated manually. To do this right-click the Taskbar > Properties > Navigation tab.
Under Start screen (bottom pane), tick the first option that says, “When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start”. Then click on OK or Apply.
2 -  Get a proper Start Button
Windows 8.1 is reintroduced a dumbed down Start button, but thankfully there are a range alternatives that bring back the fully featured Windows 7 version.
One of the most popular is Classic Shell and it’s free. The app offers three types of Start Button - Classic, Two Column and Windows 7.
Version 4 offers improved compatibility with Windows 8.1. New features include a dedicated shutdown button, the ability to pin programs to the taskbar from an explorer windows and better Windows Search functionality.
3 – Re-open Libraries
Microsoft has disabled the libraries feature by default. However, this can be reactivated easily. To do this open up Windows Explorer > View > Options. Tick the box Show libraries in the navigation pane to re-activate the feature.
4 – Uninstall unused apps at the same time
Windows 8.1 allows users to select multiple apps and uninstall them all at the same time. If you ever need to do this, right click on the Start screen > Customise > Tick apps you want to uninstall.
5 – Disable Charms
Charms in Windows 8.1 aim to speed up access to menus. But if you find yourself inadvertently activating the menu with your mouse, it’s possible to disable it.
Go to Taskbar > Properties > Navigation and untick the “When I point to the upper-right corner, show the charms.”

6 – Open files in the desktop instead of Modern UI
Music, videos, pictures and PDF files are automatically opened using Modern UI apps by default, but you can changed to be opened within the desktop.
To do this, from the Windows Start screen type “default programs and click on the Default Programs icon under results. Click "Set your default programs" and choose the app you want to set as your default for your files.
7 – Keyboard shortcuts
Many people still use the mouse to perform tasks which can be done quicker using a keyboard shortcut. Here are a few useful combinations which will get you started.
Windows key + C: Opens up the charms menu
Window key + O: Locks the orientation of the screen
Windows key + Q: Opens up the App Search pane. This now appears alone and without the Start screen.
Windows key + M: Minimises all windows and brings you back to the desktop.
Windows key + H: Opens the Share charm in any app you are currently in.
Windows key + F: Opens up the Search box to help find files.
Windows key + I: Opens up the Settings Charm.
Windows key + (full stop) + Arrow key: Moves app to the left or right of screen so you can view more than one app at a time. Using the down arrow key with this combination will close the app you are in.
8 – Turn off notifications to minimise distractions
If you want to get work done without being distracted by notifications Windows 8.1 has got you covered.
Go to PC Settings > Search & apps and then make sure the Quiet Hours switch is on. You can then choose which times you want to be left in peace.
9 – Search locally and on the internet
The search function in Windows 8.1 searches files on your device and also for answers on internet simultaneously. 
When you enter a term, the local files will appear as normally, but swiping to the left will bring up other web pages Bing has trawled through. This also shows up files on SkyDrive too.
10 – Get SkyDrive under control
SkyDrive is baked into Windows 8.1. Files stored here are listed alongside other categories, such as downloads and documents. Whilst cloud storage is a boon to those who use files across multiple machines, you may not want all you fires in the cloud.
To ensure that Windows 8.1 isn’t storing stuff in the cloud without your permission, go to PC Settings. Here there are settings for the cloud storage tool that will determine whether it is enabled by default as well as how specific content types are handled.
SkyDrive also tries to save space on the hard drive by using what it dubs “Smart Files”. This is a great feature as long as you have an internet connection, but useless when you don’t. To make sure that all SkyDrive files are accessible when you need them go toWindows Explorer > right click SkyDrive > select Make Available Offline. This will download all files stored in the cloud and save them locally.
11 – Ditch Command Prompt and go for PowerShell
In Windows 8.1 right clicking on the Windows icon in the taskbar brings up a list of power user commands. 
For those of you that need to carry out more intensive, complex tasks using DOS-style commands you can replace CMD with Windows PowerShell.
To do this go to Navigation Properties > Tick the box marked Replace Command Prompt with Windows PowerShell in the menu when I right-click the lower-left corner .
12 – Show all apps instead of live tilesIf you want to retain the Modern UI start screen but want to change the layout, it’s possible to display all apps.
To make this more productive in use, it is best to tick all of the last four boxes in the Taskbar and Navigation Properties dialogue box.
When you click on the Start button you will see all your desktop applications first on the list (Modern UI apps appear at the end). Of course you can still go back to the live tiles by clicking the little arrow at the bottom to go back to that view, but why would you?

13 – Pinning your apps to the taskbar & emails folders to desktop
You should pin your most frequently used apps to your taskbar so you can access them faster.
Right click on an app within Modern UI. Then select the option at the bottom that says “Pin to Taskbar”.
If you like to set up rules and filters in your email that moves messages into certain folders (for example, all emails from your boss go into one folder), you can pin these folders to the start screen to save extra time in locating them.
From within the Mail app in Windows 8.1, right click a folder you wish to pin, then click on the “Manage Folders” icon at the bottom, the click “Pin to Start”. After selecting the tile size, you can then go back to the Start screen and place it wherever you want.
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Wednesday, April 30

Speeding Up Your PC

Tips On Speeding Up Your PC

1. Slow Startup

If when you turn on your PC it is taking ages to boot, it’s not the computer but rather all the programs that are switching on, which are making your machine slow. To remedy this little problem you can disable programs during startup. There is a number of tools out there that will easily disable the programs for you, CCleaner by Piriform is one of them. However Windows also has a built-in utility commonly known as ‘msconfig’.
To access this utility press CtrlAlt and Delete all at the same time and select the Task Manager. Once the Task Manager window pane has opened, select the Startup tab. From here you can disable programs during startup by right clicking on one and selecting Disable.

2. Uninstall Unused Programs

Over time you will collect applications that most of the time you don’t actually need or use. These will contribute to clogging up your PC and slowing it down so now is the time to have a spring clean and clear them out. If it’s an unused app on your Start Screen that you want to get rid off, then just right-click on the app tile and then click Uninstall.
To remove a desktop application, search for the Control Panel from the Start Screen. Select Control Panel and from View by select Large Icons. Click Programs and Features. You will then be shown a list of all your applications, you can then click on them and choose to uninstall.

3. Automatic Updates

So are you one of those people who, when presented with a notification of an update, click ‘remind me later’? The only problem with that is, you are left with a list of applications that need updates so to cut this out why not just set up automatic updates.
From My Computer, head to Properties and then Automatic Updates. Select Download and Install Automatically and away you go – no more annoying notifications.

4. Speed Up Browsing

If you’re PC is particularly slow when you are browsing the internet, then the free software program CCleaner by Piriform will help with this. It removes temporary files from all browsers as well as Windows and the registry. You can download the latest version of CCleaner on FileHippo, just click on the link.

Of course another way to speed up browsing, is to change browser!

5. Add more RAM

This is perhaps a little more involved than the above tips but if you have less than 2GB of Ram then you should definitely consider purchasing yourself some. There are plenty of good deals out there so it shouldn’t cost you the Earth – and let’s face it, it’s cheaper than a new machine!

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Saturday, March 29

Windows 8 tips, tricks and hacks

5 tips, tricks and hacks for Windows 8 

1. Put "God Mode" in easy reach

You wouldn't know it by looking at the Desktop or Start screen, but Windows 8 practically bristles with settings you can customize. The problem is that they're scattered throughout Windows 8, and it can be time-consuming to track them down individually.
However, there is one way to find them all in one place: You can use what some people call "God Mode." While the term "God Mode" has a powerful ring to it, the truth is it's not a separate mode that you put Windows into. It's really a hidden folder that gives you fast access to many settings spread out across Windows 8. It's easy to put that folder right on the Desktop.
First, make sure that you can view hidden files in File Explorer, the system navigation app that in earlier versions of Windows was called Windows Explorer. Run File Explorer, click the View tab, and check the boxes next to "Hidden items" and "File name extensions" in the Ribbon at the top.
Then right-click the Desktop and select New --> Folder. That creates a folder on the Desktop named "New folder." Rename the folder:
The folder icon changes, and it has the name GodMode.
(Note that the "GodMode" text isn't what turns the folder into a special folder; instead, it's that long string of letters and numbers inside the curly brackets. You can use any text you want before the period just ahead of the opening bracket, and it still points to the same folder and everything works the same.)
Double-click the icon, and you'll launch a folder filled with dozens of actions, tools and tweaks, from "Change Automatic Maintenance settings" to "View update history." They're organized by category. Expand or shrink each category by clicking the small triangle next to it. Each category displays a number next to it, showing how many settings there are in it.
To start any action or tweak, double-click it in the list. In some cases you'll follow a wizard, in other cases you'll need to fill in dialog boxes, and in yet other cases you'll be sent to the Control Panel or another Windows location to do the work.

2. Put a quick-and-dirty Start menu on the taskbar

Particularly high on the list of things that annoy people about Windows 8 is the omission of the Desktop's Start menu. Microsoft did its best to stomp it to death -- but it didn't quite succeed. In the Windows 8 cheat sheet I showed you how to use free or paid add-on programs to get the Start button and menu back.
If don't want to use third-party software to get a Start menu, you can build your own quick-and-dirty one in no time. You won't get the full traditional Windows Start menu with Search button, recently run apps, the Control Panel, your network and so on. Instead you get a menu that lets you browse through applications and launch them.
First make sure that you can view hidden files in File Explorer, as outlined in the tip above.
Now right-click the Desktop's taskbar and select Toolbars --> New Toolbar. From the screen that appears, navigate to
C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu
where username is your account name, and click the Select Folder button. That will place a Start Menu toolbar on the far right of the taskbar. Click its double arrow to display a variety of folders (such as Programs and Computer) that you can browse through until you see the item you want; click it to launch it.
To make the Start Menu toolbar go away, right-click the taskbar and select Toolbars, then de-select the Start Menu listing.
By the way, you may have noticed that when you right-click the taskbar and select Toolbars, there are other pre-built toolbars you can put on the taskbar. Here are your choices and what each does:
Address: Adds a box on the Taskbar into which you type URLs. After you enter one, press Enter and you'll head to the site in Internet Explorer.
Links: Displays your Internet Explorer favorites on the Taskbar.
Touch Keyboard: Displays a keyboard icon on the Taskbar. Click it to display an onscreen keyboard.
Desktop: Displays a list of every icon on your Desktop. It even displays some items that aren't visible on the Desktop, such as Homegroup. For any item with a subfolder beneath it (such as Homegroup and Network), you'll see an arrow next to it. Move your cursor to the arrow to see all of the subfolders beneath it.
To turn off any toolbar, right-click the taskbar and choose Toolbars, then uncheck the toolbar.

3. Use and hack the Power User menu

Microsoft giveth and Microsoft taketh away. In Windows 8 it took away the Start menu, but it also provided a very useful new tool: the Power User menu. Right-click in the lower-left corner of the Desktop (or press the Windows key + X) and up pops a text-based menu that gives you access to 16 tools, including a Run box, a command prompt, an administrative command prompt, the Device Manager and plenty of other useful power tools.
Most choices are self-explanatory, but not all. For example, click "Programs and Features" and you get sent to a Control Panel applet that lets you uninstall Desktop programs, look at Windows updates you've installed and turn certain Windows features on or off.
The Mobility Center sends you to an applet that lets you do things such as change your display brightness, screen orientation, presentation settings and so on. And in case you didn't realize that the Control Panel still existed, there's a link to that as well.
Another nice thing about the Power User menu: It's hackable. You can delete items you don't want to appear there and add items you do want to appear there, such as programs you run frequently or even individual files.
To do it, you'll first have to make sure that you can view hidden files in File Explorer, as outlined previously. Then go to
where username is your account name. You'll see three folders there: Group1, Group2 and Group3. Each has shortcuts to the apps that appear on the Power Menu. Group1 contains the Desktop; Group2 contains the Control Panel, File Explorer, Run, Search and Task Manager; and Group3 contains two for the Command Prompt (one of which is an Admin command prompt), Computer Management, Device Manager, Disk Management, Event Viewer, Power Options, Programs and Features, System and Windows Mobility Center.
Look back at the Power User menu. Notice that there are three groups separated by two faint lines? They correspond to the folders in the WinX folder. The app in Group1 (Desktop) is at the bottom, then there's a line, then there are the apps in Group2, then there's a line, and then there are the apps in Group3.

To edit the Power User menu, just make changes to the contents of the folders Group1, Group2 and Group3. Delete a shortcut and it vanishes from the menu; add a shortcut and it appears on the menu.
Delete a shortcut as you would any other shortcut: Select it and press your Delete key. (When you delete a shortcut, the file it points to isn't deleted; only the shortcut goes away.) To add a shortcut, open the folder into which you want to place it, right-click on an empty spot, select New --> Shortcut, and follow the wizard that appears.
After you've finished deleting shortcuts and adding new ones, sign out of Windows and then sign back in. Your new Power User menu will be waiting for you on your return.

4. Customize the lock screen

When you boot up your PC or wake it from sleep, it heads right to Windows 8's lock screen. Along with a large image, the screen displays the time and date as well as notifications and status updates from certain apps -- email, social networks, calendar and more. It provides a quick rundown on things you might be interested in seeing without having to sign into Windows 8. Just wake up your Windows 8 device and the info is there, waiting for you on the lock screen.
By default, the lock screen shows notifications from the Messaging, Mail, Calendar and Weather apps. But maybe you'd like to see Twitter updates or info from another app, or you'd like to change the image. You can easily customize all that.
The place to go to do it is the Lock screen settings screen. To get there, press the Windows key + C to display the Charms bar, and then select the Settings icon. Click "Change PC settings" at the bottom of the Settings pane. The "PC settings" screen appears. Under Personalize, choose "Lock screen."
You'll see your lock screen image at the top of the screen. Just beneath the image are other images you can use. Click one to make it the new lock screen image. To find other images you can use for the lock screen, click the Browse button and browse through your pictures. Select the one you want to use and click the "Choose picture" button to make it your new lock screen image.

Just below the image on the Lock screen settings screen is the "Lock screen apps" section. Here you'll find icons for the apps that automatically display notifications and updates on your lock screen.
Over to the right of them are several plus signs. Click a plus sign and you'll see a list of apps that can display notifications and updates. Pick one and it will display alerts and other information on the lock screen.
Note that when you click a plus sign, you'll see both the apps that are already displaying notifications and alerts on your lock screen as well as those that aren't currently doing so. If you choose one that already displays its notifications on the Start screen, nothing new happens -- the app still displays notifications, with no change. To stop an app from displaying notifications, click it and then click "Don't show quick status here."
Underneath that section is one that's a little more baffling: "Choose an app to display detailed status." The app in this section displays more information on the lock screen than other apps.
Only the Calendar app and the Weather app can show this kind of detailed information, and only one at a time. To change from one to the other, click the icon that's there and select the other icon. From then on, that app will show its detailed status.

If you want neither app to show detailed status, click the icon and select "Don't show detailed status on the lock screen." Neither app shows detailed information, and the icon changes to a plus sign. If you want to reinstate detailed weather or calendar information, click the plus sign and select either app.

5. Lock the lock screen image

If you share a Windows 8 PC with others and don't want them messing with the lock screen image, you can lock it so that it can't be changed. To do it, though, you're going to have to get down and dirty by editing the Registry.
Caution: Keep in mind before trying this that you can do damage to your system if you use the Registry incorrectly, so if you don't feel comfortable with Registry editing, stop right now. (See our story "The tweaker's guide to the Windows Registry" for more information about Registry editing. And be very sure to read the instructions for backing up the Registry before you attempt any Registry edits whatsoever.)
For those who do feel comfortable, when you're on the Start screen, typeregedit, click Apps on the right-hand side of the screen, then click the regedit.exe icon that appears on the left side of the screen.
security window appears asking if you want to allow the Registry Editor to make changes to your PC. Click Yes, and the Registry Editor launches.
Now navigate to
See if there's a key called Personalization there. If the key already exists, don't create another one. Instead, follow the instructions in the next paragraph. If the key doesn't exist, you'll have to create it. To do so, click Edit --> New --> Key. That creates a new key, but it will have a name like "New Key #1." You have to rename it. Right-click it, select Rename, and rename it Personalization.
Now that the Personalization key is there, create a new DWORD value under it called NoChangingLockScreen. To do that, right-click the Personalization key and select New --> DWORD (32-bit) Value. Rename the DWORD value NoChangingLockScreen. Double click-it and change its value from 0 to 1. Now exit the Registry Editor.
Log out of Windows or restart it, then log back in. The lock screen background shouldn't be changeable -- consider it locked. If you want to allow the background to be changed in the future, use the Registry Editor to change the value of NoChangingLockScreen from 1 to 0.

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