Making the move from Windows 8 to 8.1

Whether you are collaborating on a large project, preparing for an upcoming conference or travelling for work, the new Windows 8.1 has under-the-hood enhancements to make your work life a tad easier. Here are some power tips:

Dive deeper into the desktop

The venerable Start button is back in Windows 8.1, but it does not work like the Start button of old. Instead of firing up a bevy of options, the Windows 8.1 Start button lets you switch between the Start screen and the Windows desktop.

Thankfully, there is a way to get to some Start menu options by right-clicking on the Start button. This brings up the Quick Link menu that you can use to accomplish traditional tasks, such as signing out of the device or tackling more advanced tasks in Task Manager and Control Panel. You can even access File Explorer to manage your files and folders with ease.

To access the Quick Link button, you can also press and hold the Start button on a touchscreen or press the Start and "X" buttons on a keyboard.

While you cannot launch programs from the Quick Link menu, there is at least a faster way to access system settings and shut down your device without using the Charms bar while you are in desktop mode.

File Explorer gets better

The familiar File Explorer has not changed much with each new version of Windows, but accessing and organising files in Windows 8.1 is now much easier.

For example, you can use the menu ribbon to accomplish common tasks, such as copying and moving, creating new folders and changing the view.

Also, use the left pane to go to all kinds of locations: your SkyDrive, folders on your PC, devices and drives connected to your PC, and other PCs on your network.

Not sure if a file is what you are looking for? Use the preview pane in File Explorer to view the contents of a file before opening it. Note that not all files can be previewed - Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, photos and videos are fine, but not PowerPoint slides.

Pin apps to taskbar

Launch frequently used apps from the desktop by pinning those apps to the taskbar. If you have an open app, right-click on its icon and select "Pin this programme to taskbar". Or search for a programme in the Charms bar and choose "Pin to Taskbar".

In addition, right-click on the taskbar to access a range of taskbar options. You can lock the taskbar in place, automatically hide the taskbar when not in use, reduce the size of the taskbar buttons or select a taskbar location on the screen.

Windows 8 To Go

With Windows 8 To Go, the Windows 8 OS can be loaded on bootable flash drives that road warriors and contractors can plug into any PC. It also helps organisations keep up with business productivity during unexpected events that compromise office PCs or work locations.

Windows 8 To Go is a premium feature of Windows 8 Enterprise, a version of Window 8 available to larger organisations through Microsoft's volume licensing programme. All applications that work with Windows 8 should work in Windows To Go, except for those that are tied to a specific PC.

Flip-ahead feature

Turn on the flip-ahead feature in Internet Explorer to make going from page to page more fluid. Swipe across the page or click the Forward button on the right side of your screen to go to the next page of content. To turn on the flip-ahead option with page prediction, which predicts the next page and loads it in the background, launch Internet Explorer, open the Settings charm and choose Privacy.

Then turn on "Flip ahead with page prediction". From Privacy, you can also customise your tracking settings, cookies, location and other Web services.

Wireless printing

Windows 8 now supports Wi-Fi Direct, a connectivity standard that lets you connect two devices over the air without a network router. The technology is useful in wireless printing, where you can send print jobs from a smartphone or PC to a compatible printer. Newer printers such as those from HP, Canon, Brother and Epson will support Wi-Fi Direct printing.

Create a wireless hotspot

You can already share your smartphone's data connection with other devices by creating a Wi-Fi hot spot. You can now do the same on a Windows 8.1 device with a built-in mobile broadband modem that connects to 3G or 4G networks.

To do so, go to PC settings, followed by Network. Then, choose your mobile broadband connection and turn on "Share this connection". Remember to set your Wi-Fi hot spot name and password, unless you do not mind sharing your connection with people around you.

Miracast wireless projection

Miracast is a wireless technology your PC can use to project your screen on supported TVs and projectors.

You can use this to share what you are doing on your PC, present a slide show or even play your favourite game on a larger screen.

If your PC came with Windows 8.1 and your wireless display supports Miracast, you are ready to add the wireless display to your PC to complete the connection and start projecting. But if you upgraded your PC from an older version of Windows, you need to make sure your PC supports Miracast.

To connect to a Miracast-supported display, swipe in from the right edge of the screen and then tap Devices. Tap or click Project and then tap or click the wireless display you want.

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