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15 Tips and Tricks To Save You From Windows 8.1

15 Tips and Tricks To Save You From Windows 8.1

If you have Windows 8.1, chances are that you hate it, especially if you came from Windows 7 or XP. I deal with this daily since my work desktop is still on Windows 7, while my laptop is on 8, which means I’m pretty miserable every time I have to switch to the latter.

Here are a few ways to make your experience with this infamous operating system a bit more bearable…

1. Get your start button back.

1.2

    Windows 8.1 brought back the start button, albeit in an incredibly lame fashion. All it does it take you to that tablet-esque page with all of the useless tiles on it.

    To get a proper start button, you’ll want to check out an app called Classic Shell. Once you download that, you’ll be able to get something with some semblance of the old start button. It’s still not as good, but it’s better than nothing.

    2. Go straight to Desktop.

    2.2

      Get rid of those tiles once and for all! This will take you straight to your desktop, like Windows 7, when you log into your computer. To do it, right click on the toolbar at the bottom of your desktop, then click properties, navigation, and check the box that says “When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start.” The less you have to deal with the start screen tiles, the better!

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      3. Change the apps Windows 8.1 uses.

      3.2

        I used to hate how Windows 8 would resort to using the weird tablet-esque apps when I wanted to view a photo. Now, you can change that. Use your mouse and send your pointer to the bottom right of the screen. Hit settings, change PC settings, search and apps, and go to defaults. From there you can edit the default apps Windows uses. Now, you no longer have to use the pre-packaged mobile apps that come with 8.

        4. Remove those pesky Windows Store apps.

        4.2

          Why deal with all those apps when you have perfectly usable programs installed that do that same thing (and usually better at that)? To get rid of these apps, go to the change PC settings section I referenced in tip #3, except this time hit PC and devices. Now, click disk space, and wait for the page to load. Once that’s done, click “see my app sizes.” Now you’ll see a list of all the apps pre-loaded onto your PC. Feel free to uninstall them all if you want to, I won’t judge you.

          5. Organize your apps.

          5.2

            Windows 8.1 allows you to organize your apps in several different manners. First, go to your start screen and click the down facing arrow in the lower left corner. This will take you to the apps screen. From there, you can edit the big box next to the “Apps” title at the top. Choose to order your apps by the date they were installed, by how often you use them, etc. This is a useful tool to see whether there are certain apps you can uninstall (since they’re never used anyways).

            6. Make your start button more useful.

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            16.2

              Use this tip in the case that you don’t want to use the third party option referenced in #1. To do this, right click your taskbar on the desktop, click properties, then navigation. There, check the box that says “Show the Apps view automatically when I go to Start.” This way, you’ll see a list of apps when you hit your start button instead of the start screen.

              7. Easily shutdown your PC.

              7.2

                Back when we were all forced to use vanilla Windows 8, there really wasn’t a way to easily shutdown your computer. You either had to drag your pointer to the corner or do it from the start screen. Now, all you have to do is right click the start button and hit shut down. Simple as that.

                8. Adjust your display settings.

                8.2

                  To find the Windows 8.1 display settings, go to settings (which can be easily accessed using the hotkey windows button + C), change PC settings, then PC and devices. After that, navigate to display on the left-hand side, and from there you can change your resolution and orientation. You could do all of this by right-clicking your desktop as well, but some will probably prefer the streamlined interface Windows 8.1 offers.

                  9. View multiple apps at the same time.

                  9.2

                    This is sort of like Windows 7’s snap to the side feature, though a bit more advanced. First, open up multiple apps. Choose one of them to display on your screen (I chose weather). Now, move your pointer to the top left of your screen so you can see the other apps you have running. Choose any of them, right click, and select “insert left.” Now you’ll have two apps on the screen. Then, repeat this process, except this time when right clicking the app select “insert center.” Now you’ll have three apps on the screen. This is useful if you need to keep track of a lot of information at once, or if you’re running your PC through a large television screen and have the real estate to view multiple things simultaneously.

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                    10. Disable hot corners.

                    17.2

                      While the hot corners in Windows 8 sometimes prove to be useful, often they can be a nuisance, especially if you accidentally move your cursor to the edge of your screen and something pops up when you don’t want it to.

                      To turn them off, navigate to PC and devices, which you access in the same way you did before (settings > change PC settings > PC and devices). Instead of going to display, this time go to “corners and edges.” Under the corner navigation subheading, turn off both options. Now, neither the charm bar nor the recent apps list will pop up when your cursor creeps onto the right or left edges of your screen.

                      11. Take advantage of smart search.

                      11.2

                        Smart Search is one feature that I’ll give Microsoft credit for. From the start screen, just start typing and Smart Search will initialize. You can search for a file, a program, or even something you want to find on the web. Smart Search will literally search everywhere for what you’re seeking. Use it when you don’t have time to open your web browser, or are too lazy to search your cluttered desktop for a program you want to use.

                        12. Find obscure settings easily.

                        12.2

                          This is a slight variation of the Smart Search trick. Instead of setting Smart Search to look for “everything” use the drop down menu to set it to only look for settings options. This makes it much easier to find regularly sought options related to mouse pointer speed, projecting to a second screen, and changing your desktop background.

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                          13. Save online articles for later.

                          13.2

                            This is useful if you are going to an area where there’s no internet connection, or if you see an article you want to read but have to leave in a few minutes. To do this, find the article you want to save, and launch the settings bar (windows button + c). Then, click the share button, which should open the Reading List app. From there, add the article to the app, and it will be there for you to read at a later date.

                            14. Use the cloud.

                            14.2

                              A lot of people use Drop Box, but if you want to stay in the Microsoft ecosystem OneDrive comes preloaded into Windows 8.1 (it used to be called SkyDrive, for the record). To back up documents to the cloud, go to settings, change PC settings, OneDrive. There, set “save documents to OneDrive by default” to on. Now your documents are protected in the cloud, useful in the case that your hard drive crashes or your computer takes a swim.

                              15. Do something cool with Xbox Music.

                              15.2

                                If you’re going to be saddled with all of these Microsoft-related apps, you might as well put them to good use. This one actually has a semi-cool feature, in that it can create a playlist based on the website you are currently viewing. It does this by searching for songs or artists mentioned there, and pulling them up for you to listen to. To access this feature, go to a website, open the settings sidebar (windows button + c), and click share. Now, select Music, and it’ll create a playlist for you. While a lot can be said about Windows 8.1’s negatives, I’d say this is a pretty nifty little tool!

                                Windows 8.1 is far from perfect (as evidenced by the fact that Microsoft is pushing hard to release a Windows 9). Still, it’s packed with plenty of  interesting features if you’re willing to look for them. If anything, hopefully what I talked about in this list will keep your brain from dreaming of Windows 7…at least for a little while!

                                 

                                Featured photo credit: ms-gum.jpg/ MorgueFile via mrg.bz

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                                Last Updated on November 3, 2020

                                20 Best Mac Apps for Productivity You Need in 2020

                                20 Best Mac Apps for Productivity You Need in 2020

                                Whether you use your Mac for work or just for your personal projects, you’ve likely found yourself wondering how to improve your productivity. There are only so many hours in a day, and so much mental stamina you can muster before you run out.

                                There are dozens of tricks you can use to improve your own productivity and outlook, but if you’re looking for a more objective, comprehensive fix, the best thing to do is equip your Mac with productivity apps designed to help you do more in less time.

                                This Lifehack-exclusive list has some of the best productivity apps to help you feel less tired, improve your energy, and ultimately help you get more done every day.

                                What Makes For the Best Productivity Apps?

                                Beyond productivity tips, there are dozens of productivity apps to choose from too. With that in mind, here are some of the core aspects of ideal productivity apps that have formed this list.

                                • Non-intrusive – you want a productivity app to weave seamlessly into your workflow and not cause disruptions. From using the app to the overall display, it shouldn’t cause any interruptions.
                                • Good interface – Again, you want to be able to use these apps easily and have them benefit you. The easier you can navigate around these apps, the better.
                                • Fair pricing – Many of these have free trials that allow you a good chance to test before you buy. If you do decide to pay for it, the monthly pricing plans should be reasonable for what you are getting.

                                1. Todoist

                                  Available for all iOS devices, Todoist is a note-taking and organization app that can keep you on top of all your projects—both personal and professional.

                                  Its best features are all free to use, including browser extensions, task creation, and interactive boards you can use to organize all your notes.

                                  If you want to pay the optional $29 yearly fee, you can get even more advanced features like backups and automatic reminders. Even with the free version, you’ll stay far more organized.

                                  Download: Todoist

                                  2. 1Password

                                    You may not realize it, but you probably spend a ton of time recalling your passwords, especially if and when you forget one to an app you use on a regular basis.

                                    1Password is an app for Mac that saves and remembers all your passwords for you in one place, so you can access all your favorite sites with a single click.

                                    You’ll save time and keep all your accounts secure simultaneously. A personal plan is $2.99 per month.

                                    Download: 1Password

                                    3. Bear

                                      Bear is a unique kind of note-taking app designed to make it easier for Mac users to jot down notes on the go. With it, you can create to-do lists, give yourself reminders, and outline concepts for future brainstorming sessions.

                                      It comes with many different inline styles so you can customize your notes to your personal preferences, and remember the context in which you wrote them. The core version is free, with a $14.99 per year version available as well.

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                                      Download: Bear

                                      4. Hazel

                                        Hazel by noodlesoft is an automated organization tool designed for Mac that will help you automatically organize your files based on any custom rules you want to create.

                                        For example, you can set it to move untouched items from one folder into another folder labeled “action items” if they haven’t been addressed within a week. It can save you hours of organization over the course of a few weeks. A single license is a flat $32.

                                        Download: noodlesoft

                                        5. Alfred

                                          Alfred is an all-in-one app designed to save you time with Mac shortcuts and convenient custom actions. You can use it in a variety of ways.

                                          For example, you can access Alfred’s clipboard memory so you don’t copy and paste the same material over and over, or set up custom workflows to automate some of your most repetitive tasks.

                                          It’s a paid app, with multiple price points based on the features you desire.

                                          Download: Alfred

                                          6. TextExpander

                                            TextExpander does exactly what the name suggests; it allows you to type a short snippet of text, and expand that text automatically.

                                            For example, you can create a custom expansion that allows you to conjure a full paragraph you type repeatedly by simply typing a unique abbreviation. Once you get used to your custom combinations, you’ll spare your fingers from typing thousands of words.

                                            An individual account is $3.33 per month.

                                            Download: TextExpander

                                            7. Backblaze

                                              If you’ve ever experienced a crash, or theft of your Mac, you know how much time a system restore can cost you. You’ll spend hours replacing the files you lost, and lose thousands of files that are irreplaceable.

                                              Backblaze is an automated, inexpensive way to back up your entire Mac for just $5 a month.

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                                              Download: Backblaze

                                              8. Keyboard Maestro

                                                Keyboard Maestro is an older app that still has the power to make your life easier. With it, you can automate any number of tasks based on a certain trigger (such as a hotkey combination, or an event like connecting to a wireless network). A single license only costs $36.

                                                Download: Keyboard Maestro

                                                9. Snagit

                                                  There are many applications for a good screen-capture app, whether you’re trying to illustrate a tech problem you have or just want to make an interesting meme. Snagit makes it easy, with built-in editing for both still images and video. A single license covers two machines, and costs $49.95.

                                                  Download: TechSmith/Snagit

                                                  10. Bartender

                                                    Bartender is the cleverly-named app that helps you clean up and organize all your menu bar icons. You can also access them quickly with keyboard shortcuts.

                                                    If you’re like most Mac users, those icons get cluttered quickly and stop you from working efficiently. It’s free to try for 4 weeks, after which you’ll need a $15 license.

                                                    Download: Bartender

                                                    11. Otter

                                                    Otter is the Mac app for the note taker who hates typing. It’s an intelligent voice-recognition system and note-taking app that will help you transcribe your conversations, keep notes during meetings, and even take contextual notes to yourself in your own time.

                                                    Best of all, it’s free to get started!

                                                    Download: Otter

                                                    12. Flux

                                                      Do you often find yourself feeling tired throughout the day, or feeling unable to get to sleep after a day of staring at your computer? That could be because of the unnatural blue light that radiates from your Mac.

                                                      Flux naturally adapts your display to emit light that matches the time of day, so you can sleep better and feel less tired. It’s also free!

                                                      Download: Flux

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                                                      13. PDFpen

                                                      If you deal with PDFs on a regular basis, you probably find yourself wishing for some kind of tool that can let you mark up those PDFs however you want. Without a dedicated app like PDFpen, this can be difficult.

                                                      PDFpen lets you edit PDFs in almost any conceivable way, giving you more power and saving you time. A single license is $74.95.

                                                      Download: Smile Software/PDFpen

                                                      14. OmniFocus

                                                        OmniFocus is all about task management. It has a clean interface that allows you to tag your tasks, schedule events, and even automate certain features.

                                                        It’s one of the most comprehensive solutions on the market, so there’s a bit of a learning curve to get the most out of it.

                                                        A standard license is $39.99, while the pro version is $79.99.

                                                        Download: OmniFocus

                                                        15. Franz

                                                          It’s tiring to switch between dozens of different chat programs like Facebook Messenger, Slack, and WhatsApp, whenever you want to have a conversation with a different contact.

                                                          Franz’s solution is simple; offer access to all these apps in one convenient package. And best of all, it’s completely open source.

                                                          Download: Franz

                                                          16. MindNode

                                                            If you’re the brainstorming type, you need an app like MindNode to help you efficiently organize your thoughts. There are dozens of tools you can use to connect ideas in a mind map, or simply jot down notes for future reference.

                                                            The core app is free, with in-app purchases available.

                                                            Download: MindNode

                                                            17. Focus

                                                              The internet is a wonderful thing, but it can be awfully distracting. And if you’re like the majority of us, you’ve interrupted work on a project because of some attention-grabbing site or bad online habit. That’s where Focus comes in.

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                                                              This app allows you to block the worst offenders with custom time limits and other constraints, so you can focus on the task at hand. A single license is $19.99.

                                                              Download: Focus

                                                              18. CleanMyMac

                                                                Chances are, your Mac isn’t working as fast as it could, thanks to gigabytes of clutter and unnecessary files on your system. CleanMyMac helps you scan your Mac, monitor its health, and ultimately clean it up—so you can handle all your tasks that extra bit faster. A single license is $39.95.

                                                                Download: CleanMyMac

                                                                19. Grammarly

                                                                  A spelling error or grammatical mistake can cost you big time. It could be the source of a worse grade on a big paper, or compromise your credibility in the workplace. Thankfully, Grammarly can help you.

                                                                  This Mac-integrated writing assistant monitors all your writing and makes live corrections, so you’re alerted to your potential mistakes before they become permanent.

                                                                  A free version exists, but the premium version will cost you between $11 and $30 a month, depending on how you pay.

                                                                  Download: Grammarly

                                                                  Focus To Do

                                                                    Focus to-do is one of the top productivity apps for your iPhone around. It even has a desktop client that you can connect to effortlessly. The app is built around two things: the Pomodoro technique and task management. It achieves these things with amazing balance. All that you have to do is create a task and then set the timer right within the app itself.

                                                                    There is also great flexibility with the Pomodoro technique as well. You can choose whether to take a 5 minute break, take a longer one, or even skip it. On the task management side, you can also create reoccurring tasks, reminders, and place a priority on tasks too.

                                                                    Download: Focus To Do

                                                                    The Bottom Line

                                                                    These productivity apps should help you squeeze more productive hours out of every day, but they aren’t the only tools you’ll have to help you find success.

                                                                    Make the time to learn about and experiment with all the life hacks that can make you more productive. By improving your devices as well as your outlook and focus, you’ll be able to get far more done in a day, and feel better doing it.

                                                                    More to Boost Productivity

                                                                    Featured photo credit: Patrick Ward via unsplash.com

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