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10 Windows 8 tips, tricks and hacks

January 31, 2013 06:00 AM ET

By the way, you may have noticed that when you right-click the taskbar and select Toolbars, there are other pre-built toolbars you can put on the taskbar. Here are your choices and what each does:

Address: Adds a box on the Taskbar into which you type URLs. After you enter one, press Enter and you'll head to the site in Internet Explorer.

Links: Displays your Internet Explorer favorites on the Taskbar.

Touch Keyboard: Displays a keyboard icon on the Taskbar. Click it to display an onscreen keyboard.

Desktop: Displays a list of every icon on your Desktop. It even displays some items that aren't visible on the Desktop, such as Homegroup. For any item with a subfolder beneath it (such as Homegroup and Network), you'll see an arrow next to it. Move your cursor to the arrow to see all of the subfolders beneath it.

To turn off any toolbar, right-click the taskbar and choose Toolbars, then uncheck the toolbar.

3. Use and hack the Power User menu

Microsoft giveth and Microsoft taketh away. In Windows 8 it took away the Start menu, but it also provided a very useful new tool: the Power User menu. Right-click in the lower-left corner of the Desktop (or press the Windows key + X) and up pops a text-based menu that gives you access to 16 tools, including a Run box, a command prompt, an administrative command prompt, the Device Manager and plenty of other useful power tools.

Power User menu
Windows 8's new Power User menu.

Most choices are self-explanatory, but not all. For example, click "Programs and Features" and you get sent to a Control Panel applet that lets you uninstall Desktop programs, look at Windows updates you've installed and turn certain Windows features on or off.

The Mobility Center sends you to an applet that lets you do things such as change your display brightness, screen orientation, presentation settings and so on. And in case you didn't realize that the Control Panel still existed, there's a link to that as well.

Another nice thing about the Power User menu: It's hackable. You can delete items you don't want to appear there and add items you do want to appear there, such as programs you run frequently or even individual files.

To do it, you'll first have to make sure that you can view hidden files in File Explorer, as outlined previously. Then go to

C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\WinX

where username is your account name. You'll see three folders there: Group1, Group2 and Group3. Each has shortcuts to the apps that appear on the Power Menu. Group1 contains the Desktop; Group2 contains the Control Panel, File Explorer, Run, Search and Task Manager; and Group3 contains two for the Command Prompt (one of which is an Admin command prompt), Computer Management, Device Manager, Disk Management, Event Viewer, Power Options, Programs and Features, System and Windows Mobility Center.

shortcuts in WinX folder
These shortcuts show up as menu items on the Power User menu.
Click to view larger image.

Look back at the Power User menu. Notice that there are three groups separated by two faint lines? They correspond to the folders in the WinX folder. The app in Group1 (Desktop) is at the bottom, then there's a line, then there are the apps in Group2, then there's a line, and then there are the apps in Group3.

To edit the Power User menu, just make changes to the contents of the folders Group1, Group2 and Group3. Delete a shortcut and it vanishes from the menu; add a shortcut and it appears on the menu.

Delete a shortcut as you would any other shortcut: Select it and press your Delete key. (When you delete a shortcut, the file it points to isn't deleted; only the shortcut goes away.) To add a shortcut, open the folder into which you want to place it, right-click on an empty spot, select New --> Shortcut, and follow the wizard that appears.

After you've finished deleting shortcuts and adding new ones, sign out of Windows and then sign back in. Your new Power User menu will be waiting for you on your return.

4. Customize the lock screen

When you boot up your PC or wake it from sleep, it heads right to Windows 8's lock screen. Along with a large image, the screen displays the time and date as well as notifications and status updates from certain apps -- email, social networks, calendar and more. It provides a quick rundown on things you might be interested in seeing without having to sign into Windows 8. Just wake up your Windows 8 device and the info is there, waiting for you on the lock screen.

By default, the lock screen shows notifications from the Messaging, Mail, Calendar and Weather apps. But maybe you'd like to see Twitter updates or info from another app, or you'd like to change the image. You can easily customize all that.

The place to go to do it is the Lock screen settings screen. To get there, press the Windows key + C to display the Charms bar, and then select the Settings icon. Click "Change PC settings" at the bottom of the Settings pane. The "PC settings" screen appears. Under Personalize, choose "Lock screen."

You'll see your lock screen image at the top of the screen. Just beneath the image are other images you can use. Click one to make it the new lock screen image. To find other images you can use for the lock screen, click the Browse button and browse through your pictures. Select the one you want to use and click the "Choose picture" button to make it your new lock screen image.

lock screen settings screen
Here's command central for changing your lock screen settings, starting with the image.
Click to view larger image.


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