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John Paul Cook

Windows 8.1 Usability Enhancements

If your copy of Windows 8.1 is set to automatically install updates, you may have missed that you now have new usability enhancements to improve the user experience for both using a mouse and working in desktop mode. You can easily pin modern apps to your taskbar by right clicking a live tile.


Figure 1. After right-clicking the Skype live tile, a menu appears. Select Pin to taskbar to pin the application to the taskbar.

Not only does the shortcut appear on the taskbar in desktop mode, the taskbar is now available in the Modern UI. Drag your mouse cursor below the bottom edge of the screen in Modern UI mode and the taskbar appears.


Figure 2. Taskbar showing in Modern UI with Skype icon added.

The desktop taskbar allows Modern UI apps to be closed from the app thumbnail by offering the familiar red X to close.


Figure 3. Desktop taskbar with Skype icon added. Notice that Modern UI apps can be closed from the desktop taskbar just like desktop applications can be.

As a Modern UI app, Skype still takes over the entire window but now Modern UI apps have a title bar from which the application can be closed. Drag your mouse cursor above the top edge of the screen to make the modern app’s title bar appear.


Figure 4. Modern apps now have a title bar from which they can be closed.

The taskbar now has icons for Modern UI apps that are running, which provides you with a more complete view of what’s actually happening on your system.


Figure 5. Icons for modern apps (OneDrive and Weather) on the taskbar.

When invoking media files while in desktop mode, they no longer take over the entire screen. Instead, they open in a window.


Figure 6. Media files open in a window instead of taking over the desktop.

When you are in the Modern UI and want to shut down or restart, the addition of a power button makes things easier. Notice there is also a search button.


Figure 7. A power button and a search button have been added to the Modern UI.

Unfortunately, the Microsoft Reader app still takes over the entire desktop when opening a pdf file. It would be nice if it opened in a window like media files do now. My workaround for opening pdf files in a window is Foxit Reader. It has more features than Adobe Acrobat and is my preferred tool for reading pdfs. It allows me to annotate pdfs and insert a digitized copy of my signature.

Published Saturday, April 12, 2014 6:19 PM by John Paul Cook

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pmbAustin said:

Another thing I just noticed... if you go into the charms, Settings, "Change PC Settings", there's now a link to the desktop control panel at the bottom of the left pane.

Also, after installing new apps, the "All Apps" screen shows a highlight identifying it as newly installed, making it easier to find without having to change the sort to "Date Installed".

April 15, 2014 10:34 AM

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About John Paul Cook

John Paul Cook is a Technology Solutions Professional for Microsoft's data platform and works out of Microsoft's Houston office. Prior to joining Microsoft, he was a Microsoft SQL Server MVP. He is experienced in Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle database application design, development, and implementation. He has spoken at many conferences including Microsoft TechEd and the SQL PASS Summit. He has worked in oil and gas, financial, manufacturing, and healthcare industries. John is also a Registered Nurse who graduated from Vanderbilt University with a Master of Science in Nursing Informatics and is an active member of the Sigma Theta Tau nursing honor society. He volunteers as a nurse at clinics that treat low income patients. Contributing author to SQL Server MVP Deep Dives and SQL Server MVP Deep Dives Volume 2. Opinions expressed in John's blog are strictly his own and do not represent Microsoft in any way.

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