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November 20, 2013

New PC settings to play with

A new OS means cool new settings to play with. Of course, sometimes it involves a bit of a learning curve, so you know where things are. In Windows 8.1 most of the new settings are in PC settings, and here are a few of the best of the newbies, in my opinion.

Obviously, the first step is to find the PC settings, and that is easy-peasy – just start typing “settings” from the Start screen, and PC settings will pop up in the list of results. Click it, and you’re on your way.


Lock screen slide show. My current favorite setting is the lock screen slide show, which basically turns your PC into a digital picture frame that sits on your desk looking adorable, when it isn’t being your swift, muscular work horse. I love the pretty, so I’m a huge fan of this little gem. You can set it to cycle through up to 10 folders of pictures to run as a slide show on your locked PC screen. Ten folders is potentially a LOT of photos, people, so there’s no need to pick and choose or edit stuff first. To create one, tap or click Lock screen in PC settings. (If you don’t see it, first tap PC and devices on the left.)

alternate lock screen image

Personalize. The lock screen slide show is just one of the ways you’ll find to personalize your PC. As I said, I like the pretty, so I’m a fan in general of the ability to change all the colorful, attractive bits—like picture password, wallpaper, and your account password—on my PC in one spot. To explore all your options, check out this handy Personalize your PC tutorial.

Search. Searching can now be as broad or as tailored as I choose it to be—so helpful! The default setting is a broad view that scans through all my files and folders, and also pulls from the web. But when I’m searching for a file I created and saved on my PC, I appreciate that I can turn off web search and keep the search confined to my own system. It’s a handy feature for keeping my data usage under control, too. Here’s more detail about Search.

SafeSearch. Nothing opens your eyes to the potential pitfalls of search like becoming a new mom. I entered the world of parenthood in 2013, and I have to say it carries a lot of weight with me that Microsoft went to the trouble of adding the SafeSearch option to Windows 8.1. Parenthood is overwhelming enough. A tool that makes the intersection of technology and childhood more pleasant and safe is something I can really appreciate. And, it’s nice to be able to filter out adult content from my search results as well.


Quiet hours. Speaking of how to make technology better serve your actual life, this wonderful setting lets you choose a quiet time during which app notifications are turned off. So I can, for example, watch a movie on my PC without being interrupted by constant email notifications and the like. Also, sometimes I just need a break from the notifications to focus on a specific project, and I appreciate anything that helps make that easier. Critical system notifications still show up, so I won’t be caught without battery power, but all the extras I usually enjoy can go take a nap for a brief span while I focus on something else. Check out the details about setting quiet hours.


Corners and edges. This is another setting, under PC and devices, that simplifies my life. Now it’s possible to turn off that upper-right and upper-left corner sensitivity that typically switches apps or shows the charms. I know I’ll be using this setting on days I seem to have 8 giant fingers instead of 5 lady-like ones. There are days when I can’t seem to close a window on my touch screen without first bringing up the charms 3 or 4 times. But no more! There’s something so satisfying about changing my PC to suit me, instead of trying to change my habits to suit it.


Apps view. The new Apps view in Windows 8.1 is amazing. It’s not in PC settings, per se, but it is a cool new way to understand your PC, visually: just swipe up on your Start screen to see it (or click the arrow at the bottom of the Start screen). I take a look whenever I want to get a snapshot of what, exactly, I have on my PC. The sorting here is very helpful—by name, date installed, most used, or category. When my PC seems a little slow, I go into the Apps view and sort by “most used.” And, presto! I can see which apps I still use and therefore need, and uninstall a few of the extras. I can also take a look under App sizes in PC settings, and see which apps are taking up the most space on my hard drive—and determine if they’re worth that space! Nothing is better for helping me keep my machine lean and swift.


Hidden gems. Actually, you can make the Apps view your default view, instead of the Start screen, if you prefer. And there are several other helpful, secret settings to try out in the Taskbar and Navigation properties window, including the default Apps view setting. To get there, right-click the desktop, then click Personalize, and choose Taskbar and Navigation. The Navigation tab has some of my favorite options, like showing my gorgeous desktop background on my Start screen.


So there you go, a few of the settings to play with on your new Windows 8.1 PC. Did I miss any of your favorites? Let’s hear’em—add yours in the comments.