When Microsoft released Windows 8, it was a confusing endeavor for many early adopters. The touchscreen-focused operating system was a drastic departure from the mouse-and keyboard-based previous iterations. It left many users at least partially handicapped. Within a year, Microsoft released a major update that included a number of tips and easier-to-access tutorials. Even with the improvements, getting a handle on the numerous changes in the current Windows operating systems can be daunting. For those who really want to master Windows 8.1, David Pogue and O’Reilly Media have released Windows 8.1: The Missing Manual.
Though Pogue did write a Windows 8.0 Missing Manual book for O’Reilly, he dedicates a couple of the new tome’s pages to the initial reboot. From there he outlines the biggest changes in 8.1 and highlights the more limited Windows RT which he also covers in depth. The rest of the 928-page book is well laid out, with the more basic functions at the beginning and less common tasks, like networking, relegated to the end. The nine-page index is equally easy to use and the individual pages are tabbed with task names to make flipping through the book easy.
The heart of Windows 8.1 is its new and improved “Tile World,” a touchscreen- and tablet-friendly icon system that seems to confuse many desktop and laptop owners. While it’s inarguably a more visually pleasing interface, many of the standard right-click options are moved and almost all of the menus are now contextual. There is certainly a steep learning curve, but The Missing Manual explains how to master the new system and take advantage of the numerous improvements. Yes, there really are some things that are much better than the legacy Windows operating systems.
From the new swipe gestures to drive encryption, Windows 8.1: The Missing Manual has almost everything covered. What it doesn’t cover in depth, it will at least put you on the right path towards, but at nearly a thousand pages, it’ll probably provide all the answers you’ll need, and it’s easy to read. For detailed insight into Windows 8.1, there are few choices. The software package itself certainly won’t help much and with most publishers, Microsoft included, going the way of the cloud, they are inadvertently creating a secondary market for publishers like O’Reilly.
Most O’Reilly books are, if nothing else, easy to read. Windows 8.1: The Missing Manual is no exception. Though the size of the physical book may seem intimidating, the explanations are simple and Pogue’s prose is often even humorous. Whether you’re a power user or not, there is plenty in here to take advantage of and the Missing Manuals website provides all of the supplementary materials you may need. Honestly, every Windows 8.1 user should probably own this book. Yes, you could figure everything out yourself with trial and error and by digging in, but the amount of time and research you’ll need to put in far outweighs the cost of this book.