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Deep inside Windows 8.1's hidden new features

Brad Chacos | June 28, 2013
Some of Windows 8.1's more useful tweaks occur behind the scenes.

After months of teasing and torture, the Windows 8.1 Developer Preview is finally here, ready to deliver us from many of Windows 8's glaring flaws. You've no doubt already heard about Windows 8.1's biggest new features: The Start button is back, Bing owns the Search charm, the split-screen Snap feature is customizable, yada yada yada. You know the drill.

What hasn't been talked about much are the subtler changes--the hidden secrets tucked away in the dark corners of Windows 8.1, whispering and waiting for a turn to shine rather than shouting their proverbial presence from the proverbial rooftops.

No, these gems aren't as flashy as Windows 8's newfound ability to sync apps and Internet Explorer 11 tabs across multiple devices, but they're arguably just as (if not more) handy. And there's no way you'll find them unless you dig deep...or read this enlightening guide.

Shut down from the Start button
 

Let's start with something basic, but far from obvious.

Yes, the Start button is back...but the Start menu isn't. So you still need to swipe through a multiclick process involving the charm bar if you want to shut down your PC--if you don't know about the Start button's secret menu, that is.

Right-clicking the Start button that appears when you hover your mouse cursor in the lower-left corner of the screen brings up a bevy of powerful options, including quick links to deep stuff like Disk Management and Command Prompt tools.

Now, the menu itself isn't new to Windows 8.1. What is new is the addition of a Shut Down option to said menu. Hovering over it for a second gives you options to shut down or restart your PC right then and there, no fiddling with hidden menus required.

Boot to desktop or All Apps, and more
 

The Taskbar Properties option is another old friend with a subtle new look--and a crucial one for desktop diehards. Did you hear that Windows 8.1 lets you boot directly to the desktop on start up? It does, but Microsoft clearly doesn't really want you to do it, since the option is buried in this obscure corner of the OS.

Head to the desktop, right-click the taskbar, select Properties, and then open the brand-spankin'-new Navigation tab. There, you'll find new options for disabling the uppermost hot corners. Those options are also available in the modern-style PC Settings, but many Start screen options can only be found here.

And how handy-dandy they are! Want to boot directly to the desktop or the All Apps screen? Here's your chance, and the other selections are just as useful. (Show the desktop background on the Start screen? Yessssssss.)

 

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