About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

September 8, 2015

Windows 10, Part 3

Cortana?  Is it a name to be loved or feared?

Cortana is the “Siri”-like and “OK, Google” personal voice search feature found now in Windows 10 for PC.  It was previously available the first part of 2015 for Windows 8.1 Phones.  If you read last week’s article on linked and/ local accounts this continues that train of thought.  So go check it out if you missed it.

If you set up W10 with a linked account Cortana (or “Hey Cortana” as it is also called) will work just fine.  If you choose to go the route of a local account, which I suggest to most, Cortana will not show up.

Cortana getting you to link your accountIf you choose a linked account you will need to run an easy setup.  After your upgrade to W10 click in the Search box located at the left side of the Taskbar on the bottom of your screen.  The Search window will come up and you will then click on the notebook icon, third from the top on the left.  Then Settings.  In the next screen you will see “Hey Cortana. Let Cortana respond to ‘Hey Cortana’.” Click the button to the “On” position if it is not already on. Then, if you have a microphone on your computer you can just say, “Hey Cortana” and give it a command.

There are many things Cortana can do so I will not list them all here, but you could try some.  Like, “Hey Cortana, search for Windows 10 help.”  You can also set alarms, search for directions, open programs, send email or try, “Hey Cortana, help” for a list of commands.


August 25, 2015

Windows 10, Part 1

As I mentioned for the last few weeks – today we will start the journey into Windows 10.

Visit Microsoft

It has had plenty of time to be tested.  Microsoft officially announced “Windows 10” (W10) on September 2014.  Then they started public beta testing or “Technical Preview” in October 2014.  If you have been paying any attention you realize that it was released to the public through a free roll out about three weeks ago on July 29, 2015.  It now comes on all new retail Windows computers.  This is supposedly the last version of Windows to come out, no more XP, Vista, 8.1, 7, etc.  W10 will be updated when needed.

Well, have you taken the plunge yet?  I have asked readers who have installed it to send me questions over the past weeks.  I have received many, so thanks!  Keep them cards and letters rollin’ in!

From my own experience, I have applied W10 to all of my computers, except company owned work systems.  That would be four computers I have updated.  There were no real problems.  However, one of my very old “experimental” systems ran very slowly with 10. I need to note that it also ran very slowly with anything past XP.  I ended up removing 10 from that and putting back Ubuntu which I had previously.


March 18, 2014

Windows 8.1, Part 3

W8.1, Part 3

For the past several weeks we have taken a look at Windows 8.1, the latest Operating System out of the gates at Microsoft.

I have been “teasing” you about how you can make it operate more like Windows 7 (my favorite OS yet). I talked about how to find programs and more easily start them. We looked at how you close them down and even how to skip the notorious Start Menu (or Metro Screen) entirely when your computer starts.

Today the big question is finally answered, “How do I get the old Windows 7, ‘Start Button’ which functions properly back on my computer?!” It is fairly easy to do; however, not with Windows 8.1 alone. The old W7 start button and menu that went with it is no longer there. The button that is present in W8.1 does some things but nothing like the previous version. So I would recommend you fix it. I would like to note here that Microsoft is rumored to be coming out with the addition of a “new” W8.1 that will have the functionality of the other but we will not know for sure until it hits.

To get a W7-like start button you will have to install a third-party application and there are way too many to pick from. Keep in mind that some of them cost and some are free…you know what type my favorite will be. All of them are under $10 so you will not need a loan if you decide to buy one.

A couple that I have tried are good and free. StartW8 ( and Classic Shell ( which is slick but has many more options than you will need and a little more difficult to set up.

Start Menu 8 ( then it is found under products) is the free one that I like the most. Download it and double click the file to install Start Menu 8. During the install it will ask if you want to install another Iobit application. It is a good program but you most likely will not need it. Once it finishes the new start menu is there, click it and feel good!

imageThere is also a “Settings” window that opens which allows you to customize the start button and menu in several different ways. I suggest leaving them all as the default, but feel free to take a look at them and try options if you like. The only one I would recommend is to click the “Start Button” menu item and change the button’s icon which is just for fun.

If you keep the default settings it will automatically start every time your start your computer. If you wish to get back to the settings for the Start Menu 8 again, click the start button and then “Settings” and change some more settings. You can also delete the desktop icon for the program since you will not need it any longer.

Have fun now that you have a “good” more user friendly version of Windows 8.

March 11, 2014

Windows 8.1, Part 2

Last week I mentioned that I am no longer "afraid" to use Windows 8.1 and that is only 8.1 not 8, about which I still have reservations.  I also said that you need to learn a few new things and make a few "edits" and changes to Windows 8.1 to make it work better for you.  For the following I will figure that you have set up your system to "skip" the W8.1 start screen. 

So today we will look at a few things I think you need to know before you become an 8.1 professional. 

First thing you will notice is that the desktop looks very similar to Windows 7.  One big difference is that there is no longer the familiar, "Start Button" in the lower left-corner.  This feature has been in all Windows OS since Windows 95.  I believe is there largest mistake with 8/8.1 since it was so easy to use and very well accepted by users.  There is a button that resembles the old one but not so helpful, in my opinion.  When clicked it you take you back and forth between the desktop and the start screen.  More on the start key later along with a way to get the old start key and menu back.

image In using 8.1 you will find that when you try to start programs you may have had to hunt for the program for quite a while.  Hopefully, you found it but possibly not…this operating system is not user friendly.   I have found, for me, that the easiest way to find your program is to press the Windows key on your keyboard and start typing what you are looking for.  For instance, I am now typing in Word and need to open an Excel Spreadsheet.  I press the Windows key and type, "excel" and then press enter.  Excel opens up and is ready to roll – easy.  You can search for folders, files, programs, documents containing specific words, etc.  Yes, if you have the word "Doyle" in one file, type "doyle" in the search menu and it will very, very quickly find the file.  Click it to open it. 

To close the program once you are finished, either click File/Close or click the large "X" in the upper right corner, just as in the "old" days.

Not all programs in 8/8.1 close as I said above.  The ones that do not close that way are usually the "native" Windows 8 programs.  Some of them are hard to find out how to close.  That is why I use a quick short-cut key.  This key combo has worked in all of the past versions of Windows OS.  While in the program you want to close, hold down the Alternate key and tap the F4 key (Atl + F4).  It will either ask you to save the current document if needed or shutdown the application automatically.  Be careful that you do not do this while on the desktop or it will ask to shutdown Windows.image

More to come.

March 4, 2014

Let the Party Begin!

~ Or…Windows 8.1, Part 1 ~

Since the beginning of the now infamous Windows 8 in the last quarter of 2012, I have pooh-poohed the notion of ever installing it on any of my computers.  Well, I have fought the good fight and have now succumbed.

I did test W8 several times throughout its premiere period and never really found it to be user friendly.  Even more than that, since the interface significantly changed from Windows 7, you would have no idea how to do some of the more simple things in the operating system.

image I will now make it known to the world that I have installed Windows 8.1 on my Dell notebook.  I have been using it for about 90 days.  I will tell you that there are some things I really appreciate about the new OS, though they are small in number.  Furthermore, there are some things that are in the, “You have got to be kidding me category.”  Other than the few in each of those categories, once you make a few changes and adjustments it works like W7 but is much quicker.

It was recently reported that Microsoft may be offering a free version of W8 to current W7 users just to get people using this “not well received” OS to upgrade.  That is not official but it has been floating around the internet for a little while now.

I would advise most users that upgrading to Windows 8.1 is OK, W8…well not a great idea.  That is because I feel that the large majority of people would not like the original release due to difficulty in the learning curve.  Windows 8.1 is just simpler to use…if you make a few easy edits.

Keep in mind that this is my opinion and I am sure that there are many 8 lovers out there who would disagree.

Let me guide you through a few changes to make the 8.1 experience better than, the “out-of-the-box” version.  First, I suggest again, that you only use W8.1 and not 8.  Next, I suggest that you skip the screen which I call the W8 screen.  In actuality the screen that it boots to is the new W8 start menu.  To me it is a total waste of CPU and screen space since the old start button menu system worked well for all users.

image Go to Control Panel and choose, “Appearance and Personalization” or “Personalization” which depends on where you are and how it is set up.  At the bottom-left corner click “Taskbar and Navigation.”  Click the Navigation tab at the top and look about halfway down the window and put a check mark in “When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start.”  Finally, click Apply (not required but a good habit to start) and OK.  You will no longer see the W8.1 start screen unless you accidentally get there or hover over the “Charms Bar” and click “Start.”

This is not nearly all you need to know but there will be more to follow.

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