Windows 8 and 8.1 Forums


Trying to Get Started With Windows 8.1

  1. #1

    Trying to Get Started With Windows 8.1


    I'm not a troll, I'm just a crotchety, oldster trying to figure out how to get Windows 8.1 to fit my workflow. I've been using Windows 7 for a while, so I'm a bit late to the Windows 8 party, but I'm building a new PC and figured I'd move to 8.1 instead of continuing with 7... So far, after 3 days, I'm still struggling with Windows 8.1, so I figure I'll get some guidance here...


    I did a rummage, but didn't find much on how I should change my workflow to make it easier in 8.1. In Windows 7 I had a desktop with icons for less frequently used applications, a taskbar with frequently used applications pinned, and a start menu (3rd party) with EVERYTHING organized hierarchically so it was easy to find what I need. I'm trying to use 8.1 without adding a bunch of 3rd party stuff to make it look more like older interfaces that were organized differently.


    In Windows 8, I appear to have the equivalent of THREE desktops, all different, none with any hierarchical organization.


    On the Apps screen, I already have a large number of items (apps?), despite deleting a bunch of the "modern" things. They already exceed the width of the 24" monitor I'm using for setup and I still have stuff to install. There doesn't seem to be any hierarchy, either. So, for example, for Office I have at least 12 icons/apps, including the ones I CARE about, like Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Outlook that I use regularly. AND a bunch of OTHER stuff I VERY rarely use like Clip Organizer, and Groove, and Uploader, and so on. But, I can't take them off the screen if I ever want to get at them, right? 'Cause there's no start menu any more...

    I also have stuff for handling e-books - Calibre, a Kindle Reader, OverDrive, Adobe Digital Additionsl, a Nook Reader, a couple 3M cloud things, and so on. On the Apps page they're all OVER the place instead of being grouped together (which at least the Office stuff is). And there doesn't appear to be a way to have them be together and hierarchical so I can quickly find the ones I want (Calibre, ADE), and only have to see the others (Kindle reader, Nook reader) when I want them... So how do folks organize so they don't have to wade through hundreds of things you only need once a year to get to the ones you use a couple times a month or once a week?

    I also have a bunch of stuff that's just a single application, like Syncback, but instead of just being "Syncback", there' ANOTHER line that tells me who the creator is - I don't care that 2BrightSparks made it, I just want to be able to find it QUICKLY when I need it - once in a while.

    And the Apps screen, how do I organize things hierarchically so I can have the few items I care about visible, with the rest not clogging up space but available for drilling down?

    The desktop is as it's always been, but I don't want 200 or 300 icons on there for a bunch of stuff I rarely use. The constantly used stuff will be pinned to the taskbar, and the less frequently can be icons, but where do I do to organize all the other stuff?

    I found the Name Group thing for the Start screen, but I can only group applications across the screen? Which limits me to 6 groups. How do I configure that screen so I can have multiple groups in a column?

    So, in my ignorance - is there a way to have 8.1 support MY workflow, or if not, how do other people organize things to make it as easy as possible to find what you need without having to wade through a ton of stuff you don't? And have it all fit on the screen.

      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  2. #2


    Posts : 2,627
    win8.1.1 enterprise


    just like to say i didn't read all your post yet but what i did read about 3 desktops ,i have to dissagree ,there is only one desktop .the otheres are start screen ,the replacement of the win7 start menu .I used my win8.1 desktop the exact same way i used it in win7 ,i put all the icons for every program i use on a day to day bases on the desktop in one way or another , I put some icons on the desktop ,and the rest on the taskbar .when i want to use something not linked on the desktop i jsut hit the windows key and use the program from the start screen ,sometimes refferd to as the Metro Start
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  3. #3


    Posts : 2,627
    win8.1.1 enterprise


    this tutorial will help organize the Start screen
    Start Screen Apps - Organize into Groups


    also a right click on the windows icon lower left corner will reveal a lot of system stuff .and a right click on the toolbar will reveal properties ,one being navigate,when you can change how windows boots ,like to desktop or start screen
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  4. #4


    Thanks for the replies... Yes, I probably should have called them 'three screens' rather than three desktops.

    I've continued fiddling with things. I understand I probably COULD put an icon for every piece of software I use on the desktop, but I'd prefer not to. That'll be as cluttered and clumsy as the Apps screen or the Start screen by the time I'm done.

    And yes, I can pin the ones I use all the time to the taskbar, but it still leaves the problem of putting all the things I use more rarely in some easily found place... As in being able to drill down to that stuff as opposed to having it splattered all over the apps screen. Or desktop.

    I found out that I can create groups on the Apps screen and put things together in those groups. Which HELPS. But it STILL doesn't get me a hierarchy anywhere as I'd have with an actual start menu.

    I read the link above to organize the Start screen. It works fine, and I can create groups, but again, it appears to be limited to 1 level - name/apps. So, it'd be ok for grouping stuff like the e-book programs or the image processing stuff...

    I'm starting to think my workflow that's always worked great in XP and in Windows 7 with a 3rd party start menu isn't going to be very compatible with Windows 8...
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  5. #5


    Posts : 2
    Win 8.1


    Get a program called "Start Is Back". It's small - only about 4 megabytes and it's cheap - only $2.99

    I am not affiliated in any way with the program. I just discovered it recently and it made me actually like (almost) Windows 8 for the first time. This tiny program, combined with the changes that were made in Windows 8.1 Update 1, turns Windows 8 into what it should have been in the first place.

    You get the benefit of all the improvements that have been made "under the hood" but still have a proper Start Menu, and best of all, you never have to deal with the godawful abomination of the "Start Screen" or the stupid "Charms" menus. (Charms? Really? We've been calling them icons for 30 years. There's no need to make up a new, stupid term)

    Of course, when I installed Windows 8 I immediately deleted all the completely useless "apps" that are installed by default, so I may not represent the "average user".

    When my computer boots up, this is what I see:

    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 4GbWUwk.jpg  
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  6. #6


    I, too, was hesitant to make the transition to Win 8.1. Once I did, I didn't take long to get the desktop to something similar to Win 7.

    The StartMenu was never an issue for me. The Desktop Toolbar that came with Win 7 and Win 8 works fine as its substitute. I rarely read of anyone either using it or having a problem with it. In effect, the desktop shortcuts can be organized in folders and hidden, or the 'orphan' shortcuts can remain out of sight, until a cascade menu brings the shortcuts out.

    The taskbar remains useful with pinned programs and files. And the desktop toolbar has its own pinned shortcuts that do not require associated files pinned.

    As for the elephant in the 'other' room, the Metro apps screen, there are actually two screens: the 'short one' and the bloated one with the programs creators' homepage and uninstall shortcuts. I don't use any application from the Metro screen. So, I basically uninstalled every app that can be uninstalled. If the icon's uninstall process takes me to the Desktop, that is not an app. I unpinned from the short screen those that can be unpinned. My short Metro screen has only one entrant, the Desktop. If I ever find myself there, that's what I see. The second, bloated Metro screen is out of sight. I have to actively click on an arrow to access that. If it can, it is gathering cobwebs.

    With the transition to Win 8, I lost Aero and the control of fonts usage. While I have choices in colors, they are quite limited. And the high-contrast themes don't work well with some third-party programs' user interfaces.

    To conclude, my workflow consists of a right-click StartMenu that gives me immediate access to Run and Cmd, a taskbar with pinned programs and their associated frequently-used files, a Desktop Toolbar that has pinned programs without frequently-used files. On the few occasions where drag-and-drop is the best method to run a program, the Desktop Toolbar can be arranged where such a shortcut is always shown. And the desktop is 'freshly-fallen-snow' clean except for the desired background, and the one bar that houses the StartMenu, the taskbar, the Desktop Toolbar and the Notification Tray.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  7. #7


    Desktop can be organized just the same as on W7 and all the way back to W95 and that's what I have done. Never had much use on Start menu so even with W8 it was a non issue to me.
    Start Screen (Metro ) can double for Start Menu as all, even desktop programs, are listed there, it takes just a bit of juggling to set it up according to needs. I grouped them by thematic ie. Accessories, Office, Graphics, Multimedia, Comms etc. I found that "out of the box" experience was not great but after a bit of fiddling now it's much handier for me. Once I find some useful Apps I will probably use them but alas, there's not much there for me.
    My suggestion for people coming from W7 is to set windows to boot to desktop, Use some addon to get back Start menu back and than experiment with Start screen and Apps. Meanwhile, there's not much to distinguish from W7, desktop and desktop programs can be used just as it was the case with previous windows versions.

    Click image for larger version

    Except for background I have desktop exactly same as I had it in W7.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  8. #8


    Harrisonburg, Va.
    Posts : 10,488
    Windows 8.1.1 Pro with Media Center


    In addition to everything so far suggested, there is---

    Classic Shell - Start menu and other Windows enhancements

    Click image for larger version
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  9. #9


    N. Calif
    Posts : 2,586
    W10 Pro (desktop), W10 (laptop), W10 Pro (tablet), W10 (laptop)


    Quote Originally Posted by 10soonerlater View Post
    ...
    The StartMenu was never an issue for me. The Desktop Toolbar that came with Win 7 and Win 8 works fine as its substitute. I rarely read of anyone either using it or having a problem with it. In effect, the desktop shortcuts can be organized in folders and hidden, or the 'orphan' shortcuts can remain out of sight, until a cascade menu brings the shortcuts out. ...
    I also use the Desktop Toolbar (have used it since Win 2000) and hide the icons on the desktop so my desktop is completely uncluttered. On my Win 8.x machines I also use an additional toolbar, the Programs Toolbar. The Programs Toolbar has links to every installed program, very similar to the Start Menu. To create the Programs Toolbar, right-click on the Taskbar and select Toolbars->New toolbar.... Enter this as the folder to point to: "%PROGRAMDATA%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs" (no quotes). This will create a menu structure on the right-side of the Taskbar that will look like this:
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails prgrms.png  
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  10. #10


    On my Win 8.x machines I also use an additional toolbar, the Programs Toolbar. The Programs Toolbar has links to every installed program, very similar to the Start Menu. To create the Programs Toolbar, right-click on the Taskbar and select Toolbars->New toolbar.... Enter this as the folder to point to: "%PROGRAMDATA%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs" (no quotes).
    I just tried it and it looked like it brought the second Metro screen to the desktop screen via the toolbar. I turned the new toolbar off. But I can see its usefulness in accessing rarely-used OS desktop tools.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

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Trying to Get Started With Windows 8.1
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