Tips

Last night after much anticipation, Microsoft released their first beta for the Live Lock Screen app on Windows Phone 8.1 (see our hands on video). The app is maintaining a 4.1 (out of 5) rating on the Store, though the biggest complaint by far is the delay when turning on the phone. The reason for that has to do with the Live Lock Screen being an actual app that runs and a few other complications that developer Rudy Huyn says he is diligently working on to improve.

Regardless, if you do not want to participate in the beta, or would like to sit a few rounds out to see if Live Lock Screen improves, then you can always uninstall the app. Case closed, back to normal, right? Not so much...

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A few days ago I did a primer on InstantGo aka Connected Standby on the Surface Pro 3 and other Windows tablets. To refresh, InstantGo is a new low-power battery state the lets the system update email, Skype and other Modern apps while the device is in standby mode. But what if you think something is abnormally draining your battery?

Over on the Windows Experience Blog, Kevin Chin introduces readers to a new tool built into Windows 8.1 christened 'Sleep Study.' In short, Sleep Study is a diagnostic tool that reveals in high detail what is draining the battery on your Windows 8.1 devices with InstantGo enabled.

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The Notification Center in Windows Phone 8.1 is the new central location for managing notifications missed while away form the phone. When you have numerous apps firing up notification alerts it can prove a task to go through and delete them all. Luckily, there's a "clear all" button, but Microsoft has also included a sweet little gesture which is just as convenient to mark everything as read and start fresh.

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What does that Globe icon mean on my Windows Phone?

Every once in a while we like to step back and answer questions you may have about Windows Phone and things about it. Some questions are obvious, but others may leave you scratching your head or maybe you just didn’t feel like asking.

For example, when you swipe to the right to bring up your apps, and you tap on a letter, you get the Roman alphabet jump-list to find something specific.

Question: What is that Globe icon thingamajig at the end?

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When it comes to Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft has gone a long way in fixing many pet peeves of users. One of those pertained to those with a Nokia Lumia 1020, Lumia 1520 or Lumia Icon. Those users have the ability with the Nokia Camera app to shoot ‘high resolution’ photos, taking advantage of their respective 41 MP and 20 MP cameras. But auto-backups using OneDrive would only save the lower resolution 5 MP one, leaving the high-resolution version on the device. Not good.

As many of you have noticed over the last few weeks, Windows Phone 8.1 will now save those high resolution photos. We've finally gotten around to taking a look at it ourselves, and here are our findings.

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Microsoft’s Surface Pro line of tablet devices can be seen as the perfect companion for the traveling Photographer. No longer is there a need to carry around a bulky laptop powerhouse, Wacom tablet, and never-ending power cords. With the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2’s Core i5 processors, large amounts of RAM, long battery life, and Wacom powered display – there is a new Photographer’s best friend on the market.

However, as wonderful as the Surface Pro is out of the box, we can make a few tweaks and changes to make it the absolute best for those looking to make it their Photoshop companion device. Follow our guide below as we upgrade your graphics drivers, install extra Wacom software, and turn your tablet into a device Annie Leibovitz would be proud to use.

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Microsoft announced a lot of new features and opportunities for developers this month at their Build conference. One of those buzz terms was ‘universal Windows app’, which sure sounds remarkable. However, we’ve noticed some misunderstanding on exactly what that means. For instance, the impression by many is that if someone makes a Windows Phone app, developers can just hit a button to clone it for Windows and Windows RT devices. That leads to the ‘why isn’t this not a Universal app?’ question each time we mention a new release.

Microsoft is certainly on a unification kick. OneDrive, Xbox One, OneNote, mixing of Windows and Windows Phone developer registration, and expressions like ‘universal Windows app’ all suggest a merger of technology. It’s also a well-known secret that the Windows Phone OS and RT will eventually collide (starting with ‘Threshold’), leaving just two versions of ‘Windows’ for Microsoft.

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Windows Phone 8.1 brings a lot in terms of raw functions to end-users, but some things are going missed. For instance, the relevancy of the Me Tile is greatly diminished since notifications were moved to the Notification Center (and the stream was detached).

But perhaps the biggest function that people miss is the ability to cross-post status updates to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more. We explained the reasoning behind this in our guide on the new Social Extensibility framework in 8.1, but explanations in and of themselves don’t make people happy. And you’ve said as much.

Luckily, there is one way you can sort of get this feature back, though it’s far from perfect: Path.

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The new Word Flow keyboard in Windows Phone 8.1 has a lot going for it, but there's a subtle change in how you edit words using the caret (aka cursor for some, 'blinking vertical line' for others) that you may have missed. In Windows Phone 8.0, you had to hold-n-press to bring up the caret, but now in 8.1 you can just tap in between words. What's more, the caret now has a little circle at the bottom where you can "grab it" with your finger and move it around.

Curious about how it works? Watch our short video after the break which will compare and contrast it with Windows Phone 8.0.

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Windows Phone 8.1 is pretty awesome; there’s no doubt about that. Microsoft seems to have improved just about everything there is, but there will always be a few bits that are missing. One of those we even forgot ourselves: saving search results to contacts.

Case in point: you do a search in Cortana (or Bing, for non-US users) for an establishment like a diner or coffee stop. Powered by Bing, Cortana will do a great job of finding what you’re looking for in a jiffy. But let’s say you now wanted to add that find to your People Hub for future reference? Maybe you’re new in town, or you found a flower shop you really like. Evidently, you still can’t do that on Windows Phone, even with 8.1.

Liquid Daffodil, a popular developer firm who makes apps for Windows Phone and Windows 8, has released a brand new version of their ‘Add to Contacts’ app. We’ve covered this app in the past, and we’re happy to see it get a makeover and integration into 8.1.

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One of the great new additions to Windows Phone 8.1 is the ability to assign custom notification sounds for your apps. Previously, in Windows Phone 8.0 Update 3, developers could ship their own sound to be used, but only a few have taken advantage of that so far. But in 8.1, via the Notification Center, you can configure apps independently, including for alert sounds.

Melodia is a simple app, and it’s free. It’s basically a repository for ‘official’ alert melodies, which you can then play to sample and save directly to your phone. Once saved, they will appear in your custom alerts and by using the Notification Center, you can assign them to apps. Sure, you can do this on your own, but this is much easier using this app.

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Enjoy checking in when out and about? If so, you're likely a Foursquare user. 4th & Mayor is a premium experience wrapped up in an unofficial app. The third-party app is also ahead of the official client in terms of functionality, especially with the release of the Windows Phone 8.1 Preview. You can now integrate 4th & Mayor (Foursquare) into the Windows Phone Me tile with the new Social Extension app.

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There was nothing worse than accidentally exiting a game on a Windows Phone by hitting the search capacitive button. This turned gameplay into a terrible experience, especially if the game didn't pause and issues arose. It also made it difficult for players to hop back into the gaming seat and pick off where he (or she) left off. This has changed in Windows Phone 8.1.

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Remember all those years back on Windows Phone 8 when you had to dive into the operating system settings and pass into the ringtones area just to silence your phone? Those times are long gone as Microsoft has introduced a brand new volume area, which enables you to not only control the levels for the system, apps and media, but this center also provides convenient access to effectively mute and silence your Windows Phone.

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Since I’ve already shared with you my favorite wallpaper for Windows Phone 8.1 and some of my apps on my Start screen, I figured I’d finish the week up with something on my Lock screen. Granted, I’ve been known to change this often, depending on which app adds support for that feature. But today I’m back to an oldy but goody: The blurred Start screen.

As you can see in the above photo, it looks like my Lock screen is an opaque but see-through window to my Start screen. Unfortunately, transparent Lock screens are not back, but you can simulate the effect with a few easy steps.

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Yesterday we posted about folks being unable to set an alarm using Cortana. They’d try and meet error code 8000ffff. It undoubtedly made a lot of you frustrated as you played around with Cortana. Soft resets and hard resets didn’t fix the problem. What was going on? It’s most likely third-party alarm apps messing with Cortana on Windows Phone 8.1. Details below.

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While the vast majority of changes to Windows Phone 8.1 have been a welcome gust of fresh air to our phones, there are some things that take getting used to. The fact that Cortana doesn’t have Bing Vision may be chalked up to it being in ‘beta’, although we hope Microsoft at some point brings the feature back to search. The Bing service is used by many people on this site for scanning our app QR codes at the end of articles, so not having it readily available is a turnoff.

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Cortana is your personal assistant on Windows Phone 8.1. She’s great for finding nearby sushi joints, reminding you to get milk on your way home and much more. You won’t find Cortana confined to her app though, she’s hanging out in other parts of Windows Phone 8.1. Here’s a quick tip for adding events to your calendar from text messages and emails.

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