Whether you have a keyboard and mouse or a tablet or touchscreen ultrabook, one thing stands true: the new Windows OS has some useful and frustrating idiosyncrasies. I was an early adopter of both Windows 8 and 8.1, and I was pleased with everything. It took a few days for me to get comfortable with the OS, but I learned a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when you make the transition.


To the Cloud
The best part of all the new Microsoft software is how it integrates with SkyDrive. Microsoft's online cloud storage integrates with everything from Word to photo editing apps on your Windows phone. You can save documents, presentations and spreadsheets to SkyDrive to access them at work, and you can even share those documents and other files directly from SkyDrive to other people using Share Charm. This cloud storage is especially useful when you use an ultrabook without an optical drive.


Use Apps and the Desktop Side by Side
Windows 8 annoyingly wouldn't let you split between the Windows 8 desktop and the old-school desktop. This was especially irritating if you had a multi-monitor setup because either desktop you were working on would consume both of your monitors. Windows 8.1 changed this by letting you simultaneously work on a Windows 8 desktop and the traditional Windows 7 desktop side by side.


Boot to Your Desktop or Apps
The ability to boot directly to your desktop instead of your apps is a change brought to you by Windows 8.1, and what a positive change it is. The Windows 8 start screen and apps are great if you have a touchscreen, but on a PC, you may want to boot directly to the desktop. By going into the Taskbar and Navigation properties, you can select "Go to the desktop instead of Start when I sign in." The next time you boot up, you will go right to the desktop.


Categorize Your Apps
Downloading apps can clutter your start screen. Luckily, Windows 8.1 has implemented a new feature that lets you categorize your applications. First, you drag all the tiles you want to assign to a certain group to the right-hand side. Doing this automatically sequesters those tiles together. Using a zoom to get a bird's-eye view, right-click the group and select Name Group. Type in name you want and Windows will group the apps together.


Search Anything
One thing I love about Windows 8 is the ability to search for anything, anywhere. This isn't only true on your computer; the Windows 8 search tool includes the entire internet. Once you're in the Metro screen, just start typing. If you are looking for a movie, Windows will generate a list that first shows whether you have the movie on your hard drive; if not, it will give you search options as though you were searching with Google. This works for apps, files and the people in your social networks. The best part is that you can change your default internet browser so that you don't have to use Internet Explorer.


Share Everything
Windows 8 is connects to all your social media accounts. The Share button located in the Charms bar lets you choose from any number ways to share content. You can share to social networks, by email or even to your SkyDrive account. One convenience of the Share Charm is that you can share links, photos and info without ever having to leave the application you are in. It's easy to share with one or two people, or to share to your entire social network. To activate the Charm, just swipe down or right-click to select what you want to share, and then swipe in from the right and click Share. Once you reach this point, you can just follow the directions on the screen.


Create a Picture Password
Are you tired of remembering complex passwords every time you log in to your computer? Windows 8 has a fancy feature that lets you use a picture as a password. This gives you a fun way to log in to your computer that is great for ultrathin laptops that use touchscreens. Pressing the Windows key + I takes you to the settings Charm. Inside the User tab, you can click "Create a Picture Password," and then choose your own image and define three gestures over anyone in that image. Your gestures can include circles, clicks and swipes.


Refresh Your PC
Another thing I have enjoyed about Windows 8 is how much quicker my system runs, especially during startup and when I boot up applications. If your Windows 8 computer gets bogged down after a while, as most Windows systems will, you can refresh your PC. A PC refresh is a feature inside Windows 8 that saves all your personal data, important settings and Metro-style apps and then reinstalls Windows. You can also choose "Remove everything and reinstall Windows" for a true factory reset.


Super-Secret Start Menu
Windows 8 dispensed with the traditional Start button. Windows 8.1 brought a similar button back, but it just takes you to the Metro screen. By placing your curser in the right-hand corner and right-clicking, you can pull up a menu with 15 important options. Some of these include Shut Down, Restart, Run, Search, Control Panel, Task Manager, File Explorer, Network Connection, Disk Management, System Information and Device Manager.


Using the Windows Button + Shortcuts
If you learn the Windows 8 shortcuts, it will make your life much easier. It's a bit like playing a video game; if you know the shortcuts, things happen more quickly. Using the Windows key plus a variety of keys lets you do everything from viewing a list of currently running programs to taking a screenshot. You can find a list of shortcuts with a quick Google search, or create your own. Windows 8 and 8.1 have a slight learning curve, but this new OS has plenty of features that will help make you more productive and speed up a sluggish system.

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