How to Improve Your Windows 8 Experience

Windows 8Windows 8 has been out for a while now and many users are scratching their heads about exactly what to think about Microsoft’s latest operating system. It seems to be a fairly mixed bag in terms of reviews by users I’ve encountered with some loving it and others wanting nothing more than to abandon it for either a previous version of Windows or something entirely different.

Personally, I like Windows 8. While I realize the experience can be jarring at first, I’m beginning to appreciate the subtle improvements Microsoft made to the OS that actually make my experience easier. I hardly ever use the Start screen, and I’d imagine most users who access Windows through a standard desktop would quickly realize that the Start button they know and loved really wasn’t as important as it seemed to be.

Still, there are a few things I’d like to pass on that have certainly improved my experience with Windows 8. These tips might do the same for you, or at least make you think differently about the processes many folks have issue with going into Windows 8.

Learn to Take Control of Windows 8’s Advanced Tools

Knowledge is a powerful tool for any user. The more you know about a system, the easier it is to understand why the developers of that system made the decisions they made. Microsoft worked very hard to create an operating environment that met the needs of today while also taking steps to meet the requirements of the future. Some of these tweaks come by way of customization options for users. There’s a lot a user can do to change Windows 8 and bend it to their will.

Windows 8 has an updated File Explorer, Control Panel, and Task Manager which makes monitoring and controlling your system easier than ever. I’ve found the Group Policy Editor to be an incredible resource for advanced users looking to tweak Windows 8 to meet their personal tastes without installing third-party apps to do so.

Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

Did you know that just about anything you’d want to do in Windows 8 can be accessed through keyboard shortcuts? Launching various programs, controlling features, and even shutting down is just a matter of using the right keyboard shortcuts to do so.

There are hundreds of shortcut combinations that work in Windows 8. I’ve outlined a list of keyboard shortcuts added in Windows 8 in the past and they only add to the extensive library of shortcuts already available on the platform. Some users opt to forego use of the mouse altogether in favor of using the keyboard almost exclusively. It’s all about finding a way to get things done that works best for you.

Consider Third-Party Utilities

Stardock makes a brilliant set of tools for users that prefer the experience of Windows 7 but aren’t quite at a point where they’re ready to downgrade to the older OS. Start8 is one of the most popular Start menu solutions out there for bringing the classic Start menu experience to Windows 8.

One of the changes that I personally didn’t care for was the new Mail app which doesn’t do much to support multitasking beyond being able to exist in a sidebar. Third party mail clients like Thunderbird (which has been discontinued but still works quite well) and eM Client are more than capable of giving you an excellent email experience without having to rely on what Microsoft offers you by default.

Give it Time

It took me about a week to get past the jarring shift between Windows 7 and Windows 8. At this point, after a few months of use, Windows 8 is practically invisible to me. The differences have faded and I rarely see anything about Windows 8 that gives me pause.

If you primarily use legacy apps that don’t take advantage of the modern UI, then you’ll probably notice the change even less after you get past not having the Start button there. I use hotkeys and integrated search to launch programs, have many of my programs added to the Quickbar, and I might see the new UI once per week.

It takes time to learn how to ride a bike, but when you do you’ll find yourself completely oblivious to the actions it takes to ride it. It’s very much the same experience with using a new operating system. It might take a while to get into the groove of things, but you’ll find yourself noticing the differences less and less as you continue to use them.

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