Windows Phone Help & How-to

Personally I've been loving the new Notification center in Windows Phone 8.1. The other day I joked about the Windows Phone dark ages where I’d hear an alert on my phone and would have to search the various Live tiles on my Start screen for which app wanted my attention. Missing that initial toast notification meant you’d need to put in some work to find out what’s going on. The Notification center in Windows Phone 8.1 changes all that of course. Here’s a quick tip on how to prevent others from seeing your Notification center when your phone is locked. A lot of you have been asking, so here’s the solution.  

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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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Do you swipe with your Windows Phone 8.1 keyboard?

Word Flow is the new name for the keyboard in Windows Phone 8.1. That keyboard includes a Shape writing feature where you swipe letters on the keyboard as opposed to the traditional touch-typing method. You slide your finger across the keyboard, pausing ever so slightly on the keys you want used and the software does the rest to create the words (here's our hands-on video).

While many will swear by Shape writing (it even set the World Record for typing speed), some aren’t yet sold on this new keyboard feature. WPCentral reader, PxuLL, has started this discussion over in the Forums asking if you use Shape writing.

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How to set up custom alerts in Windows Phone 8.1

We’ve enjoyed the ability to set custom alerts with our Windows Phone contacts for a while now and with Windows Phone 8.1, we know have the ability to extend this customization to our app notification alerts.

While custom alerts for our contacts may be old hat for some, for those new to the Windows Phone platform all you need to do is go into your contacts and choose the edit button. You will see two options to set a custom ringtone and text tone just below their name. Customizing an alert sound for an app is just as simple.

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The Nokia Lumia 1520 on AT&T is an amazing phone. However, the lack of support for the Qi wireless charging standard is its biggest flag. You remember what happened. AT&T had opted to neuter the device by giving it PMA support through a wireless charging shell. PMA is the other wireless charging standard competing for acceptance. It’s also a standard that AT&T publically supports. They said it couldn’t be undone, that every Lumia 1520 from AT&T would need an accessory to wireless charge. Well, never say never when it comes to the Windows Phone community.

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A few days ago we took an in-depth look at how Microsoft improved Data Sense in Windows Phone 8.1. Everyone on limited data plans should become intimately familiar with how Data Sense can help you. There are a few more ‘senses’ in Windows Phone 8.1 including Wi-Fi Sense and Storage Sense. Today we’re going to check out Wi-Fi Sense and make sure you understand everything there is to know about it.

Let’s make sense of Wi-Fi Sense!

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You may not know this, but Microsoft has actually overhauled their Maps app for Windows Phone with the 8.1 release. The reason you may not be aware is due to the majority of you using Lumias. Nokia has their HERE Maps application, which prioritizes over Microsoft’s Maps. But with the Preview being available, Microsoft’s Maps app is once again back on the Apps list (if not, you can use third-party apps to re-create the shortcut).

So what’s new in Maps for 8.1? There are quite a few features, which we’ll discuss below, including how best to use them!

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In Windows Phone 8.1, consumers are now able to check for app updates manually. There have been a number of third-party apps published to the store to achieve this in past versions of the operating system (prior to the 8.1 Preview), but now Redmond has added this functionality to the platform. It's a great trick in case you think you're missing an app update or you know a new version of your favorite app or game is due to that day.

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The integration of map navigation throughout our Windows Phones can be a handy feature. From tapping on an address to a contact, in an email and now with Cortana, generating voice directions is but a tap away.

If you have multiple navigation apps installed on your Windows Phone you will be given a list of these apps to choose from when generating voice directions. That extra step in getting directions may not be a big deal to most, but there is a way to set one of your navigation apps as a default with Windows Phone 8.1 and avoid this step all together.

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How to open websites by voice with Cortana

You seem to keep finding new things while playing with the Windows Phone 8.1 Preview for Developers! Did you know that you could open websites by voice with Cortana? WPCentral forum member, jrdatrackstar1223, has recently discovered this feature. It requires a few steps to get it working, so head past the break to watch our how-to video.

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Earlier today we updated our official Windows Phone app to version 4.4.18.8. You’ll find a lot of things in there that you’ll like if you’re on Windows Phone 8.1. We’ve fixed our app to look great on your Start screen with its very own transparent Live tile. You’ll also be able to pick up our notifications in the new Notification center. Bonus, all features in available to paid users is now available to those in the free version of the app. Before you get on with your weekend we just wanted to make sure you all had the transparent Live tile and Notification center working for our app. Here’s how if you’re not sure.

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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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Windows Phone 8.1 has brought a lot of new features, most of which we detailed in our massive review and overview. Now, we’re picking up the crumbs with all the little improvements.

Word Flow is what Microsoft calls their keyboard technology, which also now includes Shape writing. Word Flow has the best auto-complete and text prediction engines around, but how do you capitalize a word when using Shape writing?

Shape writing is the new swipe keyboard feature that allows you ‘draw’ the word instead of touch-typing. Simply drag your finger across the display to each letter and let the Word Flow keyboard do the rest. But it may not be clear how to capitalize a word that is not in the dictionary for auto-complete. Swiping to the shift key doesn’t work. Luckily, Microsoft has you covered. You don't want to miss this tip!

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Earlier today we told you guys and gals about Microsoft’s Project My Screen app for your PC. This is the app you’ll need installed and running on your PC in order to share what’s on your Windows Phone 8.1 screen to your PC. We haven’t had time to play around with it yet, but Microsoft’s Cliff Simpkins (@cliffsimpkins) has a great guide on how to use it and troubleshoot any potential problems.

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Windows Phone 8.1 introduces a handful of new features like Cortana, Notification Center and Wi-Fi Sense, but also improves on older features like Data Sense. We’ll be going into detail over the next few days about all the various features. We figured we’d make ‘sense’ of Windows Phone 8.1 by spending quality time with Data Sense, Storage Sense and Wi-Fi Sense. Here’s the page you bookmark to know everything you want about Data Sense.

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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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For those looking for a portable tablet gaming experience, Windows tablets can sure hit the mark like no other platform. Whether you are looking at the fully equipped Razer Edge with an Nvidia GeForce GPU and dual joysticks, or you are looking at a Surface 2 – experiences are ready to be had.

The power of a full Windows 8 tablet allows gamers to experience their favorite titles like Counter Strike: GO, Team Fortress 2, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, and Titanfall anywhere they go.  If you are using a Windows RT based tablet, the fun does not end just because you are limited to the Windows Store - not if you have an Xbox 360 controller.

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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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For those of us who love our apps, or have limited storage on our phones, freeing up space can be a concern. Prior to the Windows Phone 8.1 update, we were limited to installing apps directly on the phone, so when things got tight, one might take to uninstalling rarely-used apps to free up precious space. And anyone who has had to uninstall a bunch of apps at once can tell you how much of a hassle it can be to go through the list one by one to clear them out.

However, in this new post-8.1 era, we now have the ability to conserve device storage by installing apps directly to a micro SD card, should our device have one. With Storage Sense, it becomes easy to move apps that are already installed on your phone over to micro SD in a group, rather than individually. Similarly, if you want to uninstall several apps at once, you can use Storage Sense to do that as well.

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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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The more we use Windows Phone 8.1 the more features we discover. Such as re-installing apps and games you’ve purchased in the past.

In the past there were basically two ways to re-install an app or game you had deleted from your Windows Phone. First, you could hunt down the app in the Store and re-install it. Second, you could pull up the Windows Phone Store’s website and go into your account to view your purchase history to find the app or game to re-install.

While those two options still exist, Windows Phone 8.1 now offers you a third option.

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Let us be honest, what people really want when they ask for Windows 7 back is that it be done with the modern Windows 8 Start Screen and make their machine more mouse and keyboard friendly.

Windows 8 has placed a large amount of its reliance on touch based PCs that is the Microsoft future. If you do find yourself without a touch screen and are yearning for the days of Windows 7, then read on as we bring you as close to the experience as we can.

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