10 Cool things Windows 8 can do, you probably didn’t know

Windows 8 has brought many drastic changes to the desktop (and lap!).

Start button is gone, so is the Aero look. Everything is flat and chrome-less now. Another thing is hidden features. Everything is now hidden around the corners (start button!) and you have to find a lot of things on your own.

In this article, I am going to tell you about 9 things that you can do with Windows 8 but probably didn’t know.

1. Arranging and Naming Tile Groups

You most probably know that you can arrange tiles on Start Screen by dragging and dropping them. And that they form a group if you put them closer to each other.

But did you know that you can move whole groups and name them as well? Here’s my home screen for example:

image

See the names above groups. You can do the same by following these steps:

  1. Go to Start Screen.
  2. Look for a small minus icon in lower right corner. Click on it. You can also do a pinch gesture if you have track pad.
  3. The screen will zoom out and you will see something like this:
  4. image
  1. Right click on the group you want to rename. A “Name Group” option will appear in lower left corner.
    image
  2. Click “Name Group”. Enter the name and click “Name”.

And that’s it. You can easily arrange all your tiles and name them depending on usage.

2. Trackpad Gestures

Windows 8 supports standard trackpad gestures like scrolling and pinch with these 3 new ones:

  1. Swipe from left corner to switch apps. (Metro apps only, legacy Windows software is not switched)
  2. Swipe from top corner to reveal more options, like “All Apps” on start screen, temperature format in weather app.
  3. Swipe from right corner to reveal charms bar.

If you have a new laptop that came with Windows 8, you must have noticed the trackpad gestures.

However, if you upgraded to Windows 8 on an older laptop, these gestures will not work out of box. You will need to update the drivers. Just go to Synaptics Website and download latest drivers.

Warning: The new drivers may or may not work for you. Please take a backup. We are not responsible for any damage caused by installing or uninstalling software.

3. Contextual Sharing, Search and Settings

Have you been looking for settings in Metro apps? I spent some 10 minutes when I upgraded to Windows 8 on this thing.

I right clicked, went to Settings app but nothing worked. Here is a small but lifesaving tip for you:

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The charms bar is contextual.

You can get charms bar by swiping from right corner or moving your mouse to top or bottom right corner and then moving up/down.

The search, share and settings options are contextual and show you the relevant options for the app that you are using right now.

Here’s me accessing settings for weather app:

image

4. Taking Faster and Easier Backups

If you have tried taking a backup in Windows 7, you know how long it takes. The utility works well but is a bit slow.

With Windows 8, there is a better backup solution: File History.

File History allows you to take quick backups of your data. Restoring is also fast and works well. However, you need an external drive for this to work.

To enable file history, go to start screen and type “backup”. Now click “Settings” and you will see first result: “Save backup copies of your files with File History”.

Click it and you will get to choose the drive and files you need to backup.

It is a good feature and much needed improvement over slow backups of Windows 8.

5. Fresh Starts, Without Installation Media

If you are a power user and find your computer slowed down every few months, then you should reinstall Windows once or twice a year.

Till Windows 7, you needed an installation media to do this. This is a problem as generally PC vendors don’t supply any installation media. And if you upgraded to Windows 8, then you most probably didn’t create a disk or USB drive.

There’s a good news though. You can now refresh your PC without any media.

Just go to Start Screen and type Refresh. Click “Settings”. You will see following options:

  1. Refresh Your PC
  2. Remove Everything and Reinstall Windows

Here’s what they do:

Refresh You PC

This will remove all the installed software and reset settings. However, no personal data will be lost and all apps from Windows Store will be kept intact as well.

Remove Everything and Reinstall Windows

All personal files and applications are removed. It is like installing Windows from a USB Drive or DVD.

I have tried refreshing my laptop and it went well. So whenever your PC gets slow, just refresh it and you will see the increase in speed.

6. Better Task Manager

Task Manager in Windows 8 has been improved and it is very powerful now.

Take a look:

image

The statistics are quite detailed. However, the most important feature is Start-up management. You can easily see which apps and software automatically start up when you turn on your PC and how they affect start up time.

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Open task manager by right clicking on taskbar and clicking “Task Manager”. Then, click the fourth tab “Start-up”.

You can easily disable services from task manager itself. Previously, you needed a software like CCleaner but that’s no longer needed.

7. Better Multitasking Through Snapping

If you want to run Metro apps side by side or a metro app and a desktop app side by side, snapping is a great feature for you.

Metro apps always take full screen. However, some apps can be snapped for a smaller view. So, for instance, if you want to browse and chat at same time, you can snap Messages app and chat and browse easily without having to switch apps. Here’s me doing it:

image

If you have a minimum resolution of 1366 x 768, you can snap apps by following any one of these methods:

Snapping App You Are In

If you are inside an app, you can take mouse to top edge and when it turns to a hand, hold the left mouse button.

Now move app to left or right edge and it will get snapped.

Snapping Background Apps

Move to the top/bottom left corner and then move mouse downward/upward to reveal a list of open apps.

Just drag the app you want to snap to left or right corner to snap the app.

Alternatively, you can also right click the app thumbnail to get “Snap left” and “Snap right “options.

Here’s a screenshot:

image

This is a very handy feature when you want to do two things at once and it quite an improvement over multitasking in previous Windows versions.

8. Quick Access to Admin/Power Tools

Previously, you had to remember specific program names or commands to open tools like Event Viewer and Device Manager.

Windows 8 makes it super easy to open these and many other important tools with just 2 clicks.

Follow following steps for easy access to Desktop, Run, Task Manager, File Explorer, Program And Features, Event Viewer, Disk Management etc:

  1. Move the mouse to lower left corner of screen.
  2. Right click. You will see this menu:
    image
  3. ???
  4. Profit!

There you have it, quick and easy access to all power tools.

9. Avoid Overspending With Metered Connections

Windows can sometimes get you robbed. If you’re using your phone as hotspot, background apps may download lots of data.

With Windows 8, you can set connections as Metered Connections. Just click the Wi-Fi icon in taskbar. Now right click the connection you want to set as metered.

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Second option is “Set as metered connection”. Click it and you are done.

Now Windows will not download updates (except critical ones) over this connection. Other apps may or may not download content in background.

Please note that this works only for Metro apps for now.

These were the 9 things that Windows 8 can do. Now that you know about these, pick up your favorites and apply them. And let us know via comments how it goes.


Hi, Mani Karthik here. Having lived in USA, India & Middle East, and worked for big MNC’s to startups, I have a lot to share with you. My aim is to help people, by sharing everything I’ve learned in life, through this blog. It’s read today by more than 150K people world over! I currently live in LA, California and visit India occasionally. Here’s my full story on who I am and why I blog. Connect with me on FacebookInstagram, Twitter or WhatsApp (+001-408-489-4785). Happy to help! 🙂

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