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Five essential Windows 8.1 time-saving tweaks

Is Windows 8 really the second coming of Vista?

That's the conclusion of Windows expert Paul Thurrott on his Supersite for Windows. Thurrott claims that Windows 8 "has set back Microsoft, and Windows, by years, and possibly for good."

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of Windows 8's death are a bit premature. Sure, Microsoft has tweaked Windows 8.1 to give it more of a resemblance to earlier versions of the OS than the original Windows 8 release, and the update planned for this spring may look and feel even more like Windows 7.

But there'… Read more

How to back up and restore your Windows 8 Start screen layout

The Windows 8 Start screen is the gateway to your PC and usually the first thing you see when you log in, unless you've chosen to go directly to the desktop. The update to Windows 8.1 also introduced many more customization options to the Start screen.

Whether you use the Start screen only on occasion or rely on it heavily, you've probably spent some time setting it up just the way you like it. To save you from having to go through it again when you reinstall Windows or if your Start screen gets rearranged accidentally, you … Read more

Return of the Start menu rumored for Windows

CNET Update is counting down the days after Christmas:

In this episode of CNET Update:

- Hold on to hope that this report is true: Microsoft may bring back the Start Menu to Windows.

- Make your own Street View tour by uploading panoramic photos (aka: photo spheres) to Views.

- Stream video and music from new apps compatible with Chromecast.

- Score 12 free downloads after Christmas with Apple's 12 Days of Gifts iOS app

- Play as Santa in Temple Run 2 (but it'll cost you if you don't have 60 gems).

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Review: StartPage HTTPS Search for Safari for Mac lets you search anonymously

StartPage HTTPS Search for Safari for Mac provides an elegant solution for anonymous Web browsing in the form of a small but powerful Safari extension. The service is based on Google, which means that users can enjoy the benefits of the world's top search engine without any of the major security concerns. If browser security is important to you, you'll like this extension.

After installing StartPage HTTPS Search for Safari, you'll notice a new button on the toolbar to the left of the address field. Clicking on it pops up a text field that links to StartPage'… Read more

Review: Launch8

Pros:

Appeal: Launch8 brings a fresh take on the modern Start screen by giving you access through a familiar user path to your apps, now more commonly found on mobile devices.

Tweakable: In addition to its clean look, the app dock's effects can be customized by color and transparency. Icon sizes also scale accordingly to size, should you opt for a larger dock. You can also add both desktop and modern apps.

Accessibility: Recent apps and files pop up in a drawer-like fashion, similar to the drawer found on OS X's application dock.

Cons:

Constrained: The placement is … Read more

How to sync your Windows 8.1 Start screen and desktop

Bouncing back and forth between the Start screen and desktop remains a jarring experience in Windows 8.1. But you can make the trip smoother by giving both environments the same look.

Windows 8.1 offers a new option that lets you splash the same background image onto the Start screen and desktop and even keep the two images in sync. Here's how to set it up:

Launch Windows 8.1, open the desktop, and then right-click on the Taskbar. Select Properties from the popup menu. In the Taskbar and Navigation properties window, click on the Navigation tab. Check … Read more

Replace the Windows 8.1 Start screen with the Apps screen

Still not fond of the Start screen in Windows 8.1? You can tweak the new Start button so that it takes you to the Apps screen instead.

The Windows 8.1 Start screen displays tiles for all the built-in apps and for any apps that you've pinned. But you may not want to clutter it up with every single app you install. The Apps screen does show you every installed app but in a more compact view. And you can change the sorting of the Apps screen to display your apps by name, date installed, most used, or … Read more

Review: Access your Start Menu and more with StartMenu9 Free

We had a lot of fun with PapaT's StartMenu9 Free. Not as a desktop start menu widget, though it's not bad at it, but as an example of the sort of "handcrafted" software that's less common these days. S9's "look" isn't for everyone, but its functionality is up-to-date. What S9 does is place a floating desktop icon that you can right-click to open an enhanced start menu (extra stuff like My Scratch Pad and various Modules) or double-click to show the desktop (like Windows' Show Desktop button).

S9's Splash Screen … Read more

Square lets you send money using e-mail

CNET Update pays you back:

In this episode of Update:

- Learn how easy it is to send money over e-mail for free with Square Cash.

- See if a free smoothie can convince you to try Isis Mobile Wallet, a new service competing with Google Wallet.

- Get tips on the new features of Windows 8.1, including how the Start button works.

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Review: Delay Start for Mac can open any app at a predetermined time

Delay Start for Mac can start apps automatically, without your interaction, as well as delay apps from running on their own. It's a small and useful app with basic features and a plain interface that can turn out to be more useful than you thought, once you get used to it. It works as expected but suffers from some minor glitches.

Delay Start for Mac features a basic but streamlined interface that lets you adjust delay settings or view the remaining delay time. To set up a delay you have to click on the setting box and type the … Read more