Windows 8.1: Customising and Using Windows 8.1

The user interface of Windows 8 at default settings is simply terrible with a Tablet interface enforcement ruining the overall "Windows" Desktop experience.

The Start Screen is usable with Windows 8.1 if its customised accordingly. The Metro Applications could be useful in some cases however they disrupt the "Windows" Desktop experience entirely and I recommend avoiding them. Microsoft have resolved some of the main issues of Windows 8 in Windows 8.1. Metro Apps will remain more or less useless until Windows 10 is released in Late Summer. Windows 10 treats these Applications as "Windows" and will be a free upgrade to both Windows 7 and 8.1.


The video below is displayed in two formats, natively on WordPress and also on YouTube. Ensure to select HD to the top right or watch on YouTube with the maximum video quality for best results:

Player 1: YouTube

Player 2: WordPress

Part 1: Taskbar and Navigation

Right click an empty space on the taskbar and select properties:


You may then alter the Taskbar and Navigation Properties:


Select the Navigation Tab in particular:


I prefer to disable the Metro interface when the mouse is moved to the corners.

I also prefer logging into the Desktop instead of Start and listing the Desktop Applications when the Apps view is listed.

The default user customisable screen is as shown below:


To get to All Programs renamed "App View" press the down arrow.

It by default lists the annoying Metro Apps first so you need to scroll past them all the time when you want to open up something proper on your computer.



You can "Check display the All Apps view when I go to Start to bypass the user customisable Start Screen" if you prefer this screen however I won't do this as I will customise the Start Screen later on.

Part 2: Default Applications

Unfortunately Microsoft have setup the defaults of Windows 8.1 to take you to the terrible Metro interface. Open a pdf and it'll open in Reader, open a second pdf and the first one will close down, goodbye multitasking.

Open a music file and it'll open in Metro, a video it'll open in Metro and a picture file it'll open in Metro and this usually leads to user frustration…

In order to use your computer properly we need alter these settings so they open up in regular desktop applications. First install Adobe Reader (or another Desktop pdf reader) and also other programs like Skype for Desktop.

Once this is done go to Start and select the down arrow to get to All Apps. Scroll to the right (using down on your mouse wheel) until you get to Windows Ease of Access and select Default Programs:


Select "Set your Default Programs":


Then look at the list of default applications to your left. I advise selecting the Windows 8.1 Desktop applications and Microsoft Office Applications as default. This will stop Metro Applications from lunching when you open a pdf, video or picture for example:

default1 default2

This greatly reduces your interaction with Metro.

Part 3: Internet Explorer

Microsoft made Internet Explorer schizsophrenic, if you open it on the Desktop you get the following:

IE Desktop

If you open it from the Start Menu you get the non-functional Metro version:

IE Metro

To rectify this open the Internet Explorer from the Desktop and then to the top right select the settings cog. Select "Internet Options":

internet explorer 2

Select the Programs tab

internet explorer 3

Select always open Internet Explorer on Desktop for links and tick open Internet Explorer Tiles on the Desktop then select Apply.

Internet Explorer will then work like it does in Windows 7.

You may also change your default browser to Google Chrome.

Part 4: The Windows and X Menu

The following menu can be brought up by pressing [Windows] and [x] or right clicking the Start Button.


This menu contains much useful shortcuts to get to the most commonly used settings and utilities which users spend quite a bit of time searching for with the Metro Start Menu.

Part 5: Customise the Start Screen

Take a couple of minutes and customise the Start Screen. The default Start screen looks like the following:


Most of the items by default are Metro Apps which I find a hindrance so I will remove them. I can do this by right clicking an tile and left clicking unpin. To unpin multiple, hold down the [Ctrl] key and right click multiple tiles and then select unpin. Unfortunately it does not allow you to scroll left and right with the mouse wheel up and down when multiple tiles are selected, so you may need to do this in a couple of steps.

All the tiles selected will show a tick.


The same Start Screen scrolled to the right to see additional tiles.


The Start Screen with most the Modern Apps removed. I have left PC Settings which unfortunately has some settings not in the traditional control panel and some Windows Explorer shortcuts. Internet explorer on the Start Screen will be a Metro App but this will be addressed later:


Select the down arrow to go to the All Apps screen. Hold down the shift key and right click any Desktop Applications of interest and select pin to Start. Again unfortunately it does not allow you to scroll left and right with the mouse wheel up and down when multiple tiles are selected, so you may need to do this in a couple of steps:


The tiles on the start screen will likely not be in the order you desire and you may reorganise them by highlighting a tile and holding down the left click on it and dragging it to position. Tiles tend to be listed in groups, you can drag it to a group of tiles to join the group or drag it away to start a new group of its own:


You can select many individual tiles by holding down the [Ctrl] key and right clicking all the ones in interest (similar to before). If you then hover the mouse over one of the tiles you want to move and then hold down the left click, you can drag all the highlighted tiles together:


Multiple Microsoft Office tiles moved together:


You can assign the group of tiles names, right click on the area above the group of tiles and left click Name Groups, name as desired:


One of the most useful things about the Start Screen is the search, just start typing and it will search for a program for you or folder or file. You may right click any of the search results and pin to Start if desired:


This is my customised Start Screen:


These settings make Windows 8.1 far more usable with a traditional mouse and keyboard and should arguably of been closer to the default.

Part 6: Still Don't Like the Start Screen?

If you still don't like the Start Screen you can resort to one of the many popular third party utilities such as the free Classic Shell or the cheap StarDock Start8/ModernMix Bundle:


Start8/ModernMix Bundle:

Windows 10 aims to fix user woes with the Start Screen.




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