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I’m getting there.  New material added 1/2/15

Windows 8 Idiosyncrasies

Windows 8 has creates some real frustration for the new user.  When I first installed Windows 8 just after it came out, it took me considerable time and a web search on a different computer to figure out how to shut it down.  Since then Windows 8.1 has eliminated that problem, but others still exist.

Install the Windows 8.1 Update

To find out if your machine has Windows 8.1 installed, open the charms bar (on the right side of the screen) and type “system” into the search box (click on the magnifying glass).  Then click on System in the list that comes up.  Your Windows version is toward the top of that window.

If you still have plain Windows 8, go to the Windows Store (in the Modern Interface it is a green box with a shopping bag on it) and download and install Windows 8.1.  It isn’t hard, but it takes a LOOOOOONNNNNNGGGG time.  You will need at least a couple of hours.  The program will download and then ask permission to install.  You have to respond to that prompt, or it doesn’t install.

Remember, it is updating the entire operating system, so it is a complicated process.  If you are using a laptop, be sure it is plugged in, and also be sure you will have a reliable data link (wifi or ethernet) during the entire process.  Don’t turn off the computer until it says it is OK to do so or the Welcome Screen (where you log in) appears.

Windows 8.1 has MANY improvements over the original OS, so be sure you get it installed.  I’ll be glad to come do it for you, but like I said, it takes a long time, and I charge by the hour.  😉

Choosing a Program to open Files

For example if you are opening a picture in Windows 8, it opens (by default) in the Modern Interface in something called Photos.  It comes up full screen as part of a slide show.  Most of us are used to using Windows Photo Viewer or a piece of picture editing software that came with a camera or scanner.  To close Photos, you had to click at the top of the page and drag down to the bottom of the screen (no, I’m not joking).  Windows 8.1 has made that easier and more intuitive (see below).

Figuring out how to open that picture in another program to crop or edit it is a whole different problem.

In order to close the window now (in Windows 8.1) you point your mouse at the top of the screen and a bar appears.  (top image) You then click on the X at the far right end of the bar OR you point your mouse in the lower left corner of the screen (bottom image) and click on the little Windows squares that appear to go back to the desktop.

It is unclear whether the second method actually closes the Photos program, though.  It may be running in the background.

Photos screenshot

Reset the Default Program

An easy way to get back to Windows Picture Viewer for your photos is to reset the default program for pictures.

Navigate to your pictures library on the hard drive. To do this in Windows 8.1 you can either click on the “File Explorer” icon on the task bar (it looks like a little stack of folders) or right click on the new Win8 start button and choose “File Explorer” from the menu.  Then double-click on “Pictures.”  The screen should look something like the picture on the right.

Open a folder that contains pictures.  Then right click on one of the pictures and point your mouse at “Open With” and then from the pop-out menu, choose  “Choose Default Program.”

From the list you are offered, choose the program you want to use whenever you double click on a picture.  I like Windows Picture Viewer, but Picassa or Photoshop would work fine (just a little slower).

Other File Types

Setting the default program to open other types of files works the same way.  You navigate to the document/file you want to open, right click on it, choose  “Open With” and then “More Options.”

One caution, though.  Be sure that the program you choose will open the type of file you are working with.  At the top of that “More Options” menu is a check box (with a check mark in it) that will assign that program to that file type permanently.  If you inadvertently choose a program that can’t open your file, you are stuck with the association until you change it.  If you uncheck the box, the computer will go back to using the default program after opening the one document/file you are working with.  If it doesn’t work, you aren’t stuck with it.

File Explorer
File Explorer image
choosing an alternate program to open a picture

No Start Button

With Windows 8.1 you actually have sort of a start button.  The only problem is that if you are on the Desktop (the one with the pretty wallpaper) and you click the start button, it takes you back to the Start Screen (the one with the boxy icons on a plain background) rather than giving you your usual assortment of choices.  The Start button in Windows 8.1 is the first image to the right.

If you RIGHT click on that Start button, it will pop-up the menu in the second image on the right.  As I see it, there are 3 things you can do.

  1. You can learn to use the right click mechanism to get to your programs and files.
  2. You can download Start8 from Stardock (more about that in the next section), and restore the familiar Start Menu from Windows XP/Vista/7.
  3. You can gripe and whine about the Start button and go back to your old Windows XP or 7 computer.

As far as I’m concerned, number 3 is right out.  I downloaded Start8 before 8.1 was released, and I have it on this computer, too.  I am not using it (it is disabled for “this” user).  For more information on User rights, go HERE.

I have a couple of reasons for this.  First I need to know how the OS works right out of the box, so I can help other people with it.  I also think it is a good idea to try to use new technology the way it is intended.  That said, there is a considerable learning curve, and Start8 is a cheap, easy fix.  You have to decide for yourself if you want to spend the $5.00 for a familiar Start button.

I’ll address the first option, first.  Learn to get around using what Microsoft has provided.



start button
start menu