Optimize Windows 8 for Desktop Use
Windows 8 is a whole re-imagination of the Windows operating system, and the biggest change in Windows that anyone has seen since Windows 95. In Windows 95, Microsoft introduced the start menu, which at the time was actually much hated by people who were used to the conventional Program Manger interface that appeared in earlier versions of Windows. Little did those people know at the time that the start menu paradigm caught on and would last 17 years through 9 different releases of Windows. With Windows 8, Microsoft wanted to make another huge change. Most of this change was centered around the need for the OS to run well on upcoming tablet devices, but at the same time it had to work well on conventional laptop and desktop systems. Obviously there are many many people out there who do not like the Start Screen and do not like the Metro, err Windows 8 Style, apps. The hatred from the start screen comes from many different things ranging from the fact that it is full screen or the fact that the default layout is less than stellar.
The whole purpose for this guide is to show people how to live more on the desktop and better optimize Windows 8 for desktop use. So if this is what you’re looking for, please read on and hopefully some of these tips help you use Windows 8 more effectively.
Start Screen Customization
One of the first things that should be done to optimize the Windows 8 experience is to customize the start screen to your liking. Unpin all of the things you don’t use, and pin the stuff that you use frequently. For me this meant pinning most of the things that appeared on the right side of the start menu in Windows 7. I was always used to clicking start and then Documents or Music etc… to go to those respective locations. So I obviously pinned all of my explorer shortcuts to the start screen. I also grouped my tiles and named them accordingly. I only keep my most used applications pinned, and you’ll notice I don’t have very many Metro apps pinned, and that’s because I don’t really use them that often. The only one I really use consistently is the weather app. Below is a screenshot of my start screen to show what I have done with mine:
One of the big things about the Windows 8 experience is the use of Metro style apps for some basic things in Windows. These things include image viewing, listening to music, and watching videos. Desktop users mostly don’t want to be thrown into the Metro UI every time they click on an image, video, or music file. So in this section I will show you how to set these file types back to opening in their desktop applications that you are used to.
In order to do this, do the following:
- open the Control Panel by pressing Winkey+X and going to Control Panel.
- Then View by: Large Icons.
- Go into “Default Programs”.
- Click on Set Default Programs
Look for the entries for “Windows Photo Viewer” and “Windows Media Player”, they should appear as in the below screenshots:
6. Now click “Set this Program as Default” on both of these entries so they appear as below:
Now your pictures, music, and video files will no longer throw you into metro mode.
Internet Explorer Metro vs. Desktop
One of the big new features in Windows 8 is the addition of a Metro version of IE10 which is mainly geared towards tablet users. If you’re a traditional desktop user, chances are you do not want to be using metro IE by default. Here is how to change Internet Explorer to only use the desktop mode.
- Go to Gear Menu —> Internet Options
- Go to the Programs Tab
- Where it says “Choose how you open links”, select “Always in Internet Explorer on the desktop”.
- Also check the option “Open Internet Explorer tiles on the desktop”.
Multi Monitor Settings
One of the VERY nice features that have been added to Windows 8 is native multi monitor support. This is a feature that has been wanted by enthusiasts for the better part of the last 10 years, and here we are with Microsoft finally adding support natively into Windows. The highlight of this support is the multi monitor taskbars, and there are a few different ways it can be configured. These options are as follows:
Show taskbar buttons on:
- All taskbars
- Main taskbar and taskbar where the window is open
- Taskbar where the window is open
As you can see they give you all of the options you could want relating to multiple monitor taskbars. And the real nice part is the taskbar scales up to however many displays you have, so dual, triple, quad etc… configurations have a taskbar on every single screen which is extremely useful.
Overall, Windows 8 is a good operating system that introduces a lot of new features and many optimizations to make it a worthwhile upgrade over Windows 7. The only downside is the push of Metro on desktop users, even for simple tasks such as opening image files, or music and video files. Some people clearly do not want this, and this guide is catered to those people. I hope these tips help you get more comfortable in the Windows 8 environment, I know they helped me and that’s why I decided to post them here for everyone.