Tips

Ever since the arrival of the Preview for Windows Phone 8.1, we’ve been documenting frequent questions posed by you, the eager user. One of those topics deals with ‘Background tasks’ having been seemingly removed from the OS by Microsoft. But here’s a secret: it hasn’t.

The ability to control how programs behave in Windows Phone 8.0 was found under Settings > (swipe right) > Applications > background tasks. In that section, you could easily see which programs installed on your phone were doing things in the background e.g. checking for updates, or pushing Live Tile refreshes. It’s a useful tool used by many to help save on battery power. After all, if you have installed a few weather apps due to changing preferences, you don’t want all of them running at once!

In Windows Phone 8.1, many users are under the impression that this feature has been removed, but it has not. It has, however, changed, both in function and where it can be found.

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The Windows Phone keyboard became even better with the 8.1 update. A few enhancements that you may not know about include auto-importing of names from your contacts, which improves the auto-complete feature in Word Flow. Another is the awesome Shape writing, which we’ve come to love in our daily usage.

But what about swearing? (Warning: curse words ahead).

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For those in the US whom also have Windows Phone 8.1 installed, Cortana is probably one of your most frequented new features on your phone. If you’re outside the US, you’ll have to wait a little longer for Microsoft to localize your language (unless you follow our simple tutorial).

When sharing images of my 8.1 screen, a lot of people have asked me why I pin Cortana as a wide Tile. After all, I could just hit the dedicated Search key (Tip: you can long press the Search key on the Lock screen to call up Cortana). On the surface, it’s seems like a simple question, but I’ll explain why if you have Cortana, making her a permanent Tile on your screen may be a good idea.

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Windows Phone 8.1, released yesterday through the Preview for Developer program, sure has a lot of new features. We tried to document most, if not all, of those in our colossal review/overview of the OS, but as suspected some items will fall through the cracks.

Reader of the site Nicholas M. brought to our attention that 8.1 not only has independent volume levels for Ringer + Notifications versus Media + Apps, but also a separate volume slider for headphones. We looked into the finding and also discovered that there’s a fourth volume slider, one for Bluetooth.

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Cortana is a super useful personal assistant now available for Windows Phone 8.1. Microsoft released the Preview for Developers today and we're sure you're all eagerly wanting to test out the Halo AI on your smartphone.

But how does one manage to interact with Cortana when it's only available within the US, at least for the time being? After a few simple steps to alter your region and language settings, it's possible to get Cortana working outside the states. Read on past the break for all the details!

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With Windows Phone 8.1 being released today to those participating the Preview for Developers program, there is a lot to chew on. I wrote about the OS in a 5,500 word review and overview, but there’s so much in there, I figured you folks needed some quick tips on features you may not have known about!

Head past the break to see our eight must-know tips for Windows Phone 8.1!

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When it comes to Microsoft’s Xbox Music, it’s certainly a work in progress. Setting up a globally competitive, all-in-one, music streaming and shopping service is certainly no small task. The service itself sports one of the largest collections of music, giving users the ability to stream or buy songs with one or two clicks. But what if your favorite band or album is not available?

Luckily, there’s an easy trick for telling Microsoft exactly what they are missing, giving them the ability to focus resources on getting that selection.

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All of us here at Windows Phone Central use Bing for our day-to-day searches, and we are positive that most of our readers do also. For those of you who have installed the Google Search app onto your Windows Phone or Windows 8 machine, we will try not to judge you. Despite your choice of search engine, we reached out to the community to find out what your favorite Bing features are, and presented them in our beautiful typeface below.

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Niche apps are always tough to write about. For some, they’re indispensable. To others, they don’t make sense. DayGlance is one of those apps, designed specifically for Lumia devices running Nokia’s Glance screen.

You may not have noticed, but Nokia’s Glance screen omits the date. Instead, it just shows the time and any notifications. While I understand the logic – keep it simple – for some, knowing the calendar day is important. Luckily DayGlance fills that gap by let users show the date in the notification bar.

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You've seen something awesome on your Windows Phone (perhaps a sunny day in England reported by a weather app) and you wish to share this screen with the world. Taking screenshots is super easy and fast (hold power and tap the Start key).

The only issue with taking screenshots on any Windows Phone, especially when wearing earphones and listening to music, is the camera shutter sound when an image has been saved. Luckily, there's an easy way to disable this audible alert.

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What does the Heart button do in Xbox Music + Video?

Xbox Music is the phoenix that rose from the ashes of Zune. As you know, Zune wasn’t just digital media hardware from Microsoft. It was an entire ecosystem of music and videos that went with you from your smartphone, to your desktop and to the browser. The entire Zune brand and marketplace was more or less killed off in late 2012 so that Microsoft could instead focus on building Xbox Music and Xbox Video.

Microsoft learned a lot from doing Zune. They made a few mistakes here and there, but overall there weren’t too many complaints from users about the service itself. It definitely laid the foundation for Xbox Music. You’ll even still see relics from Zune in Xbox Music, like that little heart button.

What does that thing do, anyway?

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Nokia Windows Phones are solid smartphones running Microsoft's mobile operating system and we've previously looked at how physically durable the devices are. According to AdDuplex reports, almost 90 percent of all Windows Phones are part of the Nokia Lumia family of devices. Consumers have enjoyed both stability and reliability when it comes to said Nokia hardware, but there are times when things can go wrong.

The Finnish manufacturer has made its Software Recovery Tool available for consumers to download, should they experience issues with their Nokia Windows Phone and its OS. It seems to be a re-brand of the 'Nokia Software Update for Retail', which we covered months ago as a solution to fixing your Lumia.  Nokia appears to have made now made it 'public' instead of a tool for themselves.

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Here's a neat little trick to get your on your way to customising your Start screen with Nokia's App Folders solution. The app was recently published to the Windows Phone Store and just like you could with contacts, you're able to copy and paste emoticons from the SMS text box to App Folder titles to add some personality. Putting together a games folder, why not add a controller? 

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Microsoft has published a new post on the official Outlook blog, detailing some upcoming changes to the service that make it even easier to switch from Gmail. It's no secret that many consumers have switched from Google's email service to Outlook.com and Microsoft is looking to further push tools and services available to make the switch as seamless as possible.

These are said to be rolling out in the coming weeks, so sync on past the break to read up what's new.

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The Microsoft Store’s 12 Days of Christmas Deals kicked off yesterday with some serious discounts on the Dell Venue 8 Pro Windows 8 tablet. During Monday’s deal, the first 20 people at the Microsoft Store could purchase the Venue 8 Pro for only $99. Everyone after that had the option to buy it for $199 until stock ran out.

We already posted a photograph of one Microsoft Store’s Venue Pro line yesterday in our article about the leaked 12 Days of Deals schedule. But it also happens that I was on-hand at the Houston Microsoft Store to check out the promotion. Head past the break to learn just what Houston-area Microsoft fans experienced at the sale, shopping tips for the rest of the 12 Days of Deals, and whether I ended up with a cheap Venue 8 Pro or not!

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It's already set in stone that Microsoft's next-generation console, the Xbox One will require a day one patch - just like the PlayStation 4. Unfortunately, with the next Xbox, you'll not be able to play any games (or really do anything at all) until you've installed the update.

Luckily, should you be afraid that something may go wrong on the day to prevent you from getting on with some gaming, Microsoft has made an offline version of the day one patch available for manual installation via a USB drive.

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