Windows Phone Help & How-to

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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Microsoft recently released the Windows Phone 8.1 Preview for Developers and introduced a collection of new features, including an updated version of the mobile Internet Explorer 11. The new software update brought forward a collection of new exciting features along with an ability we have had for quite a bit in Windows 8.1’s IE11 browser – Reading Mode.

The Reading Mode embedded within IE11 on Windows 8.1 has spent quite a bit of time being overlooked, but in fact, can provide a simple and distraction free reading experience for your favorite news and blog sites (including Windows Phone Central!)

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Internet can almost be called the lifeblood of our society; if the internet goes down or our phones lose signal, it is like a part of us dies. Whether you view the aforementioned statement as a glum view of today’s society or an undoubtable truth – we are going to make sure you get internet onto your tablet or PC as long as you have a Windows Phone by your side.

We are going to dive into two different methods to get LOLcats and the rest of the internet to your PC. The first involves using your phone’s built in tethering ability and carrier support to get the job done; the second involves a bit of a proxy configuration, but we will be sure to walk you through both.

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The more we use Windows Phone 8.1, the more we discover such as the changes to our call history. For starters, we now have a Speed Dial page that sits alongside the History and Voice Mail pages. You also have the ability to pull up call details that reveal the date, time and duration of the calls.

Finally, the History page now groups calls from the same caller, based on the date, to avoid repetition. For example if Rich had called my Windows Phone four times today, the history would display “Rich Edmonds (4)” instead of four entries for those calls.

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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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Start backgrounds are probably one of the more interesting changes we’ve seen in Windows Phone 8.1. It’s another step Microsoft has made to allow users to customize and make their Windows Phone experience unique and personal. We happen to be very big fans of the Start backgrounds and have seen the community respond to them positively as well. A lot of you were timid and curbed your enthusiasm when Start backgrounds leaked a month ago, but the response after actually using it has been the opposite.

Today we’re going to highlight some tips, apps, resources and images to make Windows Phone truly beautiful with a unique Start background.  

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