Internet Explorer 10 is available worldwide in 95 languages for download today. We will begin auto updating Windows 7 customers to IE10 in the weeks ahead, starting today with customers running the IE10 Release Preview. With this final release, IE10 brings the same leading standards support, with improved performance, security, privacy, reliability that consumers enjoy on Windows 8, to Windows 7 customers.

20% faster for real world Web sites

With IE10 we continue delivering the best performance for real world Web sites on your Windows device. As with Windows 8, IE10 on Windows 7 improves performance across the board with faster page loading, faster interactivity, and faster JavaScript performance, while reducing CPU usage and improving battery life on mobile PCs. In measurements in our performance lab, IE loads real world pages up to 20% faster in top sites for news, social, search, ecommerce, and more.

You can experience IE10’s leading performance first hand with demos on the IE Test Drive site with examples of hardware accelerated rendering, interactivity, touch, and real world site patterns. Minesweeper is a new test drive demo that is both a full featured HTML5 game and also lets you measure your browser’s performance.


Minesweeper is built on a breadth of Web platform capabilities including HTML5, CSS3, WOFF, touch, animations, transitions, audio, video, canvas, transforms, and power efficiency patterns. The game uses standards-based mark-up for interoperability across browsers, and makes the most of fully hardware accelerated browsers like IE10 on both Windows 7 and Windows 8, with consistent performance across a wide range of devices including tablets like the Surface RT. Minesweeper’s performance mode measures how long it takes the browser to solve the minesweeper board, so you can test your browser performance with different minesweeper boards with different complexity.

IE10 also improves hardware accelerated performance of SVG and HTML4 constructs. You can see improvements yourself with theChalkboard test drive where performance improves over IE9 by 15%. Similarly, improved drawing performance enables faster rendering patterns you can experience yourself with the Speed Reading test drive where performance improves by 30% over IE9 on comparable hardware.

IE10 continues to lead on JavaScript performance with many improvements to the Chakra JavaScript engine including profile-based, type-specialized JIT machine code, faster floating point operations, faster object and property access, and more. All of these improvements come to IE10 on Windows 7 and are consistent across the underlying operating system and hardware. As a result, with IE10 on Windows 7, performance on the WebKit SunSpider JavaScript benchmark improves by 25% over IE9 and leads the industry and other browsers by 17%.

In addition to raw performance improvements of real world sites, IE10 includes improvements to make common browsing activities you do every day faster. IE10’s integrated spell checking and auto-correct for common spelling mistakes, makes typing text for blog posts, social updates, and tweets faster and less error prone. Similarly, we tuned the tabs bar so closing many tabs is faster and more efficient, without having to moving your mouse as each tab closes.

60% increase in supported modern Web standards 

For developers, IE10 brings increased support for modern Web standards powered by hardware acceleration to enable a new class of compelling applications and fast and fluid Web browsing. IE10 adds support for over 30 new modern Web standards beyond IE9, for a 60% increase. These new supported standards in IE10 include many of the latest HTML5, CSS3, DOM, Web Performance, and Web Application specifications across important aspects of Web development including:

  • Create rich visual effects with CSS Text Shadow, CSS 3D Transforms, CSS3 Transitions and Animations, CSS3 Gradient, and SVG Filter Effects
  • More sophisticated and responsive page layouts with CSS3 for publication quality page layouts and responsive application UI (CSS3 grid, flexbox, multi-column, positioned floats, regions, and hyphenation), HTML5 Forms, input controls, and validation
  • Enhanced Web programming model for better offline applications through local storage with IndexedDB and the HTML5 Application Cache; Web Sockets, HTML5 History, Async scripts, HTML5 File APIs, HTML5 Drag-drop, HTML5 Sandboxing, Web workers, ES5 Strict mode support.
  • Beautiful and interactive Web applications with support for several new technologies like CSS3 Positioned Floats, HTML5 Drag-drop, File Reader API, Media Query Listeners, Pointer Events, and HTML5 Forms.
  • Improved Web application security with the same markup and support for HTML5 Sandbox for iframe isolation.

You can read more at the IE Developer Center and the updated IE10 Guide for Developers about the full set of new Web standards supported in IE10. Listed below with links to the W3C specifications.

AppCache HTML Editing APIs
Clipboard APIs and events HTML5 async attribute
Content Security Policy HTML5 Parser
Cross Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) HTML5 Sandbox attribute
CSS3 Animations IndexedDB
CSS3 Flexbox Navigation Timing L2
CSS3 Grid Page Visibility
CSS3 Image Values and Replaced Content Performance Timeline
CSS3 Lists and Counters Pointer Events
CSS3 Multi-column layout Progress Events
CSS3 Text Resource Timing
CSS3 Transforms (3D) Streams API
CSS3 Transitions Timing control for script-based animations
Efficient Script Yielding (setImmediate) Tracking Preference Expression (DNT)
High Resolution Time User Timing
Web Workers

Furthering our commitment to privacy

In keeping with our commitment on prioritizing the privacy of our customers, the Do Not Track (DNT) signal is turned on in IE10 for Windows 7. In addition to Tracking Protection, IE continues to lead in providing increased choice and control over your privacy online. Customers can choose to turn-off the DNT signal in the options settings in Internet Explorer.

Our commitment to keeping Windows customers in control of their privacy and data sharing continues, especially in the current environment of so much user data being collected online without explicit consent or user awareness.

A better Web today and ahead

The opportunities continue for HTML5 to make both Web sites and applications better. Those opportunities are exciting for everyone on the Web. Like IE10 on Windows 8, this release brings high performance HTML5 development to Windows 7.

For developers building on HTML5, now is time to get ready for IE 10. Developers can use the recently launched modern.IE to test and verify your sites, using a wizard that scans a Web page URL for common interoperability problems and suggests some ideas for how to address those issues to improve the user experience across modern and older browsers.

On behalf of the individuals and companies who have worked with us to deliver this product, and the many people at Microsoft who have built it, thank you for your feedback and for using IE10.

But lots of bugs still on the public bug tracker


Microsoft is close to wrapping up work on Internet Explorer 10 (IE10) on Windows 7, according to a report published Friday.

Citing sources enrolled in an invitation-only IE10 test group, Microsoft-watcher and ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley said that the Redmond, Wash.-based developer has told those testers that the latest build will be the last before the browser is released to the public.

Officially, IE10 on Windows 7 remains in "Release Preview," a build that debuted Nov. 13, 2012. At the time, Computerworld speculated that a final release would occur before the end of 2012, basing its estimate on the development timetable for IE9. Instead, the browser will apparently launch in 2013.

Today, Microsoft again declined to comment on IE10’s shipping schedule.

IE10’s public feedback website (requires log-in using a Microsoft account) — different from the one that Foley cited — contains a wide variety of bug reports, hinting that Microsoft still has work to do before shipping a final version. Among them, a glitch that disables Windows 7’s "Aero" interface graphical elements when IE10 runs.

IE10 will not be released for Windows Vista, the 2007 problem-plagued operating system, nor, with its retirement looming next year, Windows XP. Microsoft was the first, and so far, only, browser maker to drop Vista, just as it was the first — and again, the only — developer to abandon Windows XP last year when it shipped IE9.

IE10 is also the browser packaged with Windows 8 and its tablet-centric spinoff Windows RT.

10 Windows 8 tips, tricks and hacks

Posted: February 1, 2013 in Windows 8

Take control of Windows 8 on the Desktop, the lock screen and more.


Whether you’ve installed Windows 8 yourself or bought a new PC with it, you’re now faced with an unfamiliar operating system that at first glance seems more difficult to customize than earlier versions of Windows. What to do — give up and simply use it as it came out of the box?

Certainly not. There are plenty of ways to tweak, hack and make Windows 8 do things you wouldn’t think were possible. In this article you’ll see how to cobble together your own quick-and-dirty Start menu as well as customize the hidden Power User menu. I’ll show you how to use so-called "God Mode," hack the lock screen and Start screen, master File Explorer and much more.

So fire up Windows 8 and get ready to hear it cry "Uncle."

1. Put "God Mode" in easy reach

You wouldn’t know it by looking at the Desktop or Start screen, but Windows 8 practically bristles with settings you can customize. The problem is that they’re scattered throughout Windows 8, and it can be time-consuming to track them down individually.

However, there is one way to find them all in one place: You can use what some people call "God Mode." While the term "God Mode" has a powerful ring to it, the truth is it’s not a separate mode that you put Windows into. It’s really a hidden folder that gives you fast access to many settings spread out across Windows 8. It’s easy to put that folder right on the Desktop.

First, make sure that you can view hidden files in File Explorer, the system navigation app that in earlier versions of Windows was called Windows Explorer. Run File Explorer, click the View tab, and check the boxes next to "Hidden items" and "File name extensions" in the Ribbon at the top.

Then right-click the Desktop and select New –> Folder. That creates a folder on the Desktop named "New folder." Rename the folder:


GodMode icon

The GodMode folder on the Desktop.

The folder icon changes, and it has the name GodMode.

(Note that the "GodMode" text isn’t what turns the folder into a special folder; instead, it’s that long string of letters and numbers inside the curly brackets. You can use any text you want before the period just ahead of the opening bracket, and it still points to the same folder and everything works the same.)

Double-click the icon, and you’ll launch a folder filled with dozens of actions, tools and tweaks, from "Change Automatic Maintenance settings" to "View update history." They’re organized by category. Expand or shrink each category by clicking the small triangle next to it. Each category displays a number next to it, showing how many settings there are in it.

the God Mode folder with options

"God Mode" offers a plethora of settings and actions.

To start any action or tweak, double-click it in the list. In some cases you’ll follow a wizard, in other cases you’ll need to fill in dialog boxes, and in yet other cases you’ll be sent to the Control Panel or another Windows location to do the work.

2. Put a quick-and-dirty Start menu on the taskbar

Particularly high on the list of things that annoy people about Windows 8 is the omission of the Desktop’s Start menu. Microsoft did its best to stomp it to death — but it didn’t quite succeed. In the Windows 8 cheat sheet I showed you how to use free or paid add-on programs to get the Start button and menu back.

If don’t want to use third-party software to get a Start menu, you can build your own quick-and-dirty one in no time. You won’t get the full traditional Windows Start menu with Search button, recently run apps, the Control Panel, your network and so on. Instead you get a menu that lets you browse through applications and launch them.

First make sure that you can view hidden files in File Explorer, as outlined in the tip above.

Now right-click the Desktop’s taskbar and select Toolbars –> New Toolbar. From the screen that appears, navigate to

C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu

where username is your account name, and click the Select Folder button. That will place a Start Menu toolbar on the far right of the taskbar. Click its double arrow to display a variety of folders (such as Programs and Computer) that you can browse through until you see the item you want; click it to launch it.

start menu approximation

Here’s your quick-and-dirty Start menu.

To make the Start Menu toolbar go away, right-click the taskbar and select Toolbars, then de-select the Start Menu listing.

By the way, you may have noticed that when you right-click the taskbar and select Toolbars, there are other pre-built toolbars you can put on the taskbar. Here are your choices and what each does:

Address: Adds a box on the Taskbar into which you type URLs. After you enter one, press Enter and you’ll head to the site in Internet Explorer.

Links: Displays your Internet Explorer favorites on the Taskbar.

Touch Keyboard: Displays a keyboard icon on the Taskbar. Click it to display an onscreen keyboard.

Desktop: Displays a list of every icon on your Desktop. It even displays some items that aren’t visible on the Desktop, such as Homegroup. For any item with a subfolder beneath it (such as Homegroup and Network), you’ll see an arrow next to it. Move your cursor to the arrow to see all of the subfolders beneath it.

To turn off any toolbar, right-click the taskbar and choose Toolbars, then uncheck the toolbar.

3. Use and hack the Power User menu

Microsoft giveth and Microsoft taketh away. In Windows 8 it took away the Start menu, but it also provided a very useful new tool: the Power User menu. Right-click in the lower-left corner of the Desktop (or press the Windows key + X) and up pops a text-based menu that gives you access to 16 tools, including a Run box, a command prompt, an administrative command prompt, the Device Manager and plenty of other useful power tools.

Power User menu

Windows 8’s new Power User menu.

Most choices are self-explanatory, but not all. For example, click "Programs and Features" and you get sent to a Control Panel applet that lets you uninstall Desktop programs, look at Windows updates you’ve installed and turn certain Windows features on or off.

The Mobility Center sends you to an applet that lets you do things such as change your display brightness, screen orientation, presentation settings and so on. And in case you didn’t realize that the Control Panel still existed, there’s a link to that as well.

Another nice thing about the Power User menu: It’s hackable. You can delete items you don’t want to appear there and add items you do want to appear there, such as programs you run frequently or even individual files.

To do it, you’ll first have to make sure that you can view hidden files in File Explorer, as outlined previously. Then go to


where username is your account name. You’ll see three folders there: Group1, Group2 and Group3. Each has shortcuts to the apps that appear on the Power Menu. Group1 contains the Desktop; Group2 contains the Control Panel, File Explorer, Run, Search and Task Manager; and Group3 contains two for the Command Prompt (one of which is an Admin command prompt), Computer Management, Device Manager, Disk Management, Event Viewer, Power Options, Programs and Features, System and Windows Mobility Center.

shortcuts in WinX folder

These shortcuts show up as menu items on the Power User menu.
Look back at the Power User menu. Notice that there are three groups separated by two faint lines? They correspond to the folders in the WinX folder. The app in Group1 (Desktop) is at the bottom, then there’s a line, then there are the apps in Group2, then there’s a line, and then there are the apps in Group3.

To edit the Power User menu, just make changes to the contents of the folders Group1, Group2 and Group3. Delete a shortcut and it vanishes from the menu; add a shortcut and it appears on the menu.

Delete a shortcut as you would any other shortcut: Select it and press your Delete key. (When you delete a shortcut, the file it points to isn’t deleted; only the shortcut goes away.) To add a shortcut, open the folder into which you want to place it, right-click on an empty spot, select New –> Shortcut, and follow the wizard that appears.

After you’ve finished deleting shortcuts and adding new ones, sign out of Windows and then sign back in. Your new Power User menu will be waiting for you on your return.

4. Customize the lock screen

When you boot up your PC or wake it from sleep, it heads right to Windows 8’s lock screen. Along with a large image, the screen displays the time and date as well as notifications and status updates from certain apps — email, social networks, calendar and more. It provides a quick rundown on things you might be interested in seeing without having to sign into Windows 8. Just wake up your Windows 8 device and the info is there, waiting for you on the lock screen.

By default, the lock screen shows notifications from the Messaging, Mail, Calendar and Weather apps. But maybe you’d like to see Twitter updates or info from another app, or you’d like to change the image. You can easily customize all that.

The place to go to do it is the Lock screen settings screen. To get there, press the Windows key + C to display the Charms bar, and then select the Settings icon. Click "Change PC settings" at the bottom of the Settings pane. The "PC settings" screen appears. Under Personalize, choose "Lock screen."

You’ll see your lock screen image at the top of the screen. Just beneath the image are other images you can use. Click one to make it the new lock screen image. To find other images you can use for the lock screen, click the Browse button and browse through your pictures. Select the one you want to use and click the "Choose picture" button to make it your new lock screen image.

lock screen settings screen

Here’s command central for changing your lock screen settings, starting with the image.

Just below the image on the Lock screen settings screen is the "Lock screen apps" section. Here you’ll find icons for the apps that automatically display notifications and updates on your lock screen.

changing lock screen apps

Click a plus sign and choose an app to display alerts and notifications on the lock screen.

Over to the right of them are several plus signs. Click a plus sign and you’ll see a list of apps that can display notifications and updates. Pick one and it will display alerts and other information on the lock screen.

Note that when you click a plus sign, you’ll see both the apps that are already displaying notifications and alerts on your lock screen as well as those that aren’t currently doing so. If you choose one that already displays its notifications on the Start screen, nothing new happens — the app still displays notifications, with no change. To stop an app from displaying notifications, click it and then click "Don’t show quick status here."

Underneath that section is one that’s a little more baffling: "Choose an app to display detailed status." The app in this section displays more information on the lock screen than other apps.

lock screen with detailed calendar info

Here’s the Lock screen showing detailed information from the Calendar app.

Only the Calendar app and the Weather app can show this kind of detailed information, and only one at a time. To change from one to the other, click the icon that’s there and select the other icon. From then on, that app will show its detailed status.

If you want neither app to show detailed status, click the icon and select "Don’t show detailed status on the lock screen." Neither app shows detailed information, and the icon changes to a plus sign. If you want to reinstate detailed weather or calendar information, click the plus sign and select either app.

5. Lock the lock screen image

If you share a Windows 8 PC with others and don’t want them messing with the lock screen image, you can lock it so that it can’t be changed. To do it, though, you’re going to have to get down and dirty by editing the Registry.

Caution: Keep in mind before trying this that you can do damage to your system if you use the Registry incorrectly, so if you don’t feel comfortable with Registry editing, stop right now. For those who do feel comfortable, when you’re on the Start screen, typeregedit, click Apps on the right-hand side of the screen, then click the regedit.exe icon that appears on the left side of the screen.

launching the Registry Editor

Launching the Registry Editor.

A security window appears asking if you want to allow the Registry Editor to make changes to your PC. Click Yes, and the Registry Editor launches.

Now navigate to


See if there’s a key called Personalization there. If the key already exists, don’t create another one. Instead, follow the instructions in the next paragraph. If the key doesn’t exist, you’ll have to create it. To do so, click Edit –> New –> Key. That creates a new key, but it will have a name like "New Key #1." You have to rename it. Right-click it, select Rename, and rename it Personalization.

Now that the Personalization key is there, create a new DWORD value under it called NoChangingLockScreen. To do that, right-click the Personalization key and select New –> DWORD (32-bit) Value. Rename the DWORD value NoChangingLockScreen. Double click-it and change its value from 0 to 1. Now exit the Registry Editor.

Registry Editor

Setting the NoChangingLockScreen DWORD value to 1 prevents the lock screen image from being changed.

Log out of Windows or restart it, then log back in. The lock screen background shouldn’t be changeable — consider it locked. If you want to allow the background to be changed in the future, use the Registry Editor to change the value of NoChangingLockScreen from 1 to 0.

6. Kill the lock screen altogether

Not a fan of the lock screen? There are plenty of people who don’t find it useful and would prefer to bypass it so they can just sign into Windows and get straight to work. You won’t find a setting to do it. Instead, you’ll have to use the Registry Editor.

All the caveats about using the Registry Editor outlined in the previous tip apply here, so keep in mind it could be dangerous to use it. However, if you’re comfortable using the Registry Editor, follow the instructions in "Lock the lock screen image" above to launch the Registry Editor, and, if you haven’t already done so, to create a Registry key called Personalization in


Create a new DWORD value under the Personalization key by right-clicking it and selecting New –> DWORD (32-bit) Value. Rename the DWORD value NoScreenLock. Double click-it and change its value from 0 to 1. Now exit the Registry Editor.

The new setting should take effect immediately. The next time you reboot or wake your PC, you won’t see the lock screen. Instead, you’ll go straight to the Windows sign-in screen.

7. Bend File Explorer to your will

Windows 8’s File Explorer file manager is different from the old Windows Explorer in more than just name. It’s gotten a complete makeover, notably by the addition of a Ribbon interface that puts many tasks, features and views in easy reach. Following are my favorite ways to get more out of it.

But first you need to make sure that File Explorer displays the Ribbon, because it might not be turned on. To turn it on, press Ctrl-F1 or click the downward-facing arrow on the upper right of its screen. The Ribbon displays, and the downward-facing arrow turns into an upward-facing arrow. To turn it back off, press Ctrl-F1 again or click the upward-facing arrow.

Turn panes on and off

File Explorer has several useful panes you can turn on and off. Click the View tab to find them. You’ll find ways to turn them on and off on the far left-hand side of the Ribbon. Just click the pane you want turned on, and if there are options, select options from the menu that appears when you click the arrow next to the pane’s icon.

The first basic choice is whether to use the Navigation pane. That’s the pane on the left-hand side of File Explorer, and it’s what you use to navigate through your hard disk. Click its icon on the View tab and uncheck "Navigation pane" to turn it off, or check it to turn it on. There are also several other options available, such as whether to show favorite folders such as Desktop, Downloads and Recent Places.

File Explorer with preview pane

The Navigation pane on the left helps you get around your hard drive. The Preview pane on the right displays a large thumbnail of a file you click.

There’s another choice there: whether to use the Preview pane or the Details pane, or neither. (You can’t use both at once.) Either pane lives all the way over on the right-hand side of File Explorer. If you select the Preview pane and then click a file, you’ll see a large thumbnail of the file in the pane, or else the actual contents of the file, as long as you have an app that runs or reads the file. (For example, Office for displaying .doc files.)

File Explorer with Details pane

The Details pane shows detailed file information and a small thumbnail.

If you instead choose the Details pane, you’ll see details about the file, such as its size, when it was created, its file name and more depending on the file type. (For example, for pictures it displays the dimensions.)

Click the Preview pane or Details pane icon in the Ribbon to turn it on, and click it again to turn it off.

Display hidden files and folders

Microsoft assumes that most people don’t want to see the plumbing of Windows, and so hides many system files and folders, as well as file name extensions. But if you want to tweak how Windows 8 works, you’ll need to see that plumbing.

It’s easy to display it. On the View tab, check the box next to "Hidden items" to display hidden system files and folders, and check the box next to "File name extensions" to display those.

Hide files and folders

To hide those files and folders again, simply uncheck the "Hidden items" checkbox again.

Want to hide more files and folders? Simply select them, then click "Hide selected items" near the right edge of the Ribbon’s View tab. Then, when the "Hidden items" checkbox is unchecked, you won’t be able to see those items.

Change icon sizes

While you’re on the View tab, you can change the size of the icons that represent files and folders. You’ll find these options just to the right of the icons for turning panes on and off.

extra large and small icons

Here’s what you see when you choose extra large icons (left) or small icons (right).

Add columns

By default, when you open a folder, File Explorer shows three columns of information about each file in the folder: date modified, type and size. But you can add columns that show other information, such as the date it was created, its author, tags and more. Just go to the View tab’s "Current view" group and click the down arrow next to "Add columns" to add them.

adding columns to File Explorer

These are your options for adding columns of information about each file in File Explorer.
Near the "Add columns" choice, you get several options to change how those columns display, including how you sort them, group them and make them all fit on a single screen.

Use the invert selection feature

On the far-right side of the Home tab, there is a group of commands called Select. The "Select all" option selects all files in a folder, and "Select none" deselects them. The third option, "Invert selection," is confusingly named but surprisingly useful.

Let’s say that you’ve hand-selected certain files in a folder by holding down the Ctrl key while clicking them. Once you’ve selected them, you can perform a task on them all — delete them or copy them or move them somewhere else, for example.

Now imagine that you’ve got 30 files in a folder, and you want to delete 26 of them. The obvious way to do it would be to tediously hand-select 26 of them one by one and then delete them. Here’s where "Invert selection" comes to your rescue.

Select the four that you don’t want to delete, and then click "Invert selection." Now all the files that you selected are no longer selected, and the other 26 are selected. You’ve inverted the selection, and you can now mass-delete the 26 files.

8. Use (and tweak) the All Apps screen

One of the most disconcerting things about Windows 8’s dual interface is that it’s difficult to see in one place all the apps you can run — both Windows 8 Store apps and Desktop applications. You can find the Windows 8 Store apps on the Start screen, but all of your Desktop apps don’t necessarily appear there. And because there’s no longer a Start button on the Desktop, you can’t find all of your Desktop apps there, either.

However, there’s a way to see all of them in one place: Go to the All Apps screen. To get there, on the Start screen either right-click an empty space or press the Windows key + Z. That opens the App bar across the bottom of the screen. There’s only one thing you can do on the bar: click the "All apps" button at the right.

That displays the All Apps screen, which, as the name implies, shows you all the apps on your system. On the left you’ll find all the Windows 8 Store apps, and to the right, the Desktop apps. Click any to run it.

Windows 8 All Apps screen

The Windows 8 All Apps screen.

The Desktop apps on the right-hand side are organized into groups — Windows Accessories, Windows Ease of Access, Windows System, and so on. If you’ve installed software, those apps might be in their own groups as well. But you can rearrange the apps in these groups if you like. Here’s what you need to know.

The organization of the Desktop apps on the All Apps screen mimics the structure of two hidden Windows folders:

C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs


C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs

where username is your Windows 8 account name. The first folder has all the apps that all users of the system will see, while the second has those that show up for an individual user.

Any subfolder in those folders shows up as a group — such as Windows Accessories — on the All Apps screen. And all the shortcuts in those folders show up as apps inside the groups on this screen — for example, Calculator and Character Map. To change the organization of Desktop groups and apps on the All Apps screen, you only need to change the folder and shortcut structure in those two folders.

First, make sure you can view hidden files in File Explorer, as outlined earlier in the story. Then go into those folders, and add any folders that you want to show up as groups on the All Apps screen. In those folders, add shortcuts to any apps you want to show up as part of those groups. Delete any folders and shortcuts that you don’t want to appear. That’s all it takes. The changes will be reflected on the All Apps screen.

(Note: You can also rearrange and regroup the apps on your Start screen.

9. Build an Applications folder for quick program launching from the Start screen or Desktop

There’s an even quicker way to access all your apps, whether you’re on the Desktop or the Start screen: Create an Applications folder to house them all.

First, run File Explorer. Navigate to the Desktop and create a new folder. After you create it, rename it:


On the Desktop and in File Explorer, the folder will be called Applications. Double-click it to see a list of all your applications, including Windows 8 Store apps, traditional Desktop applications and many system apps such as Control Panel. To run an app, double-click it.

Applications folder

The Applications folder includes both Windows 8 apps and Desktop apps.

There’s still one problem, though: The folder doesn’t show up on the Start screen. It’s simple to put it there, though. Right-click it on the Desktop or in File Explorer and select "Pin to Start." It’s now pinned to the Start screen, though it might not be immediately visible there.

To find it, scroll all the way over to the right, and it’ll be there. Click it, and the folder opens with all your apps. If you like, you can move it to a more prominent location on the Start screen by dragging it to the left.

10. Fool the Mail app into using POP mail

The Windows 8 Mail app has a surprising shortcoming — it won’t work with email accounts that use the POP3 mail protocol. Instead, Windows 8 Mail works with Web-based mail accounts such as Gmail and and accounts that use IMAP.

However, there’s a workaround that solves the problem. You can tell either a Gmail or an account to get POP3-based mail from a POP3 account, and then tell Windows 8 Mail to get mail from that account.

Of course, you’ll also have to consider whether your POP email account might contain sensitive correspondence that you don’t wish to share with an additional cloud-based service. If you’re willing to route your mail through or Gmail, keep reading for how to do it.

Configure to get POP3 mail

Got an account? You might have one without knowing it. The service was formerly called both Hotmail and Windows Live Mail at various times in its history, and those accounts have been converted to automatically. So if you’ve got an old Hotmail account, for instance, just go to and log in; you’ll be redirected to

If for some reason your account hasn’t been upgraded, just log into your Hotmail or Windows Live Mail account, click Options, select Upgrade to and follow the instructions. Your messages, rules and so on will be brought over.

If you don’t have an account, sign up.

Once you’re logged into

1. Click the Settings icon in the upper-right of the screen, and then select "More mail settings."

2. Under "Managing your account," click "Your email accounts" and then select "Add a send-and-receive account."

3. From the screen that appears, click "Advanced options." Here’s where you enter the information you normally need to access your POP account, including the server address, port number and so on. If you don’t have it, check with your email provider.

You can also check whatever mail client you normally use for the information. If you’re using Outlook 2010, for instance, select File –> Info –> Account settings –> Account setting and click the E-mail tab. Double-click the account, and you’ll find the necessary information.

Configuring to work with a POP3 account

Configuring to work with a POP3 account.

4. Make sure to pay attention to a setting that’s easy to overlook: whether or not to leave copies of your mail messages on the server. If you’re planning to have Windows Mail be your only mail client for accessing your POP-based mail, consider having the messages deleted from the server. However, if you’re going to have multiple devices access the mail, make sure to leave the messages on the server. Click Next.

5. On the next screen, you’ll be asked whether you want to create a new folder for the mail or keep it in your Inbox. Make your choice and select Next.

6. A verification email will be send to your POP account. Click that link. You’ll be sent to a page on telling you that you’re set up. You’re now ready to tell Windows 8 Mail to get mail from

Configure Gmail to get POP3 mail

To configure Gmail to grab POP3 mail from an existing POP3 account:

1. In Gmail, click the gear icon on the upper-right corner of the screen and select Settings –> Accounts and Import –> Add a POP3 mail account you own.

2. On the screen that appears, enter your email address.

3. On the next screen, enter the information you normally need to access your POP account, including the server address, port number and so on. If you don’t have it, check with your mail provider.

You can also check whatever mail client you normally use for the information. If you’re using Outlook 2010, for instance, select File –> Info –> Account settings –> Account setting and click the E-mail tab. Double-click the account, and you’ll find the necessary information.

Configuring Gmail to get POP3 mail

Configuring Gmail to get POP3 mail.

4. After you’re done, click Add Account. From the screen that appears, tell Gmail that you want to send messages from the account, not just receive them. You’ll have to enter your outgoing email settings and have Gmail send the account an email to verify that it’s yours.

5. When you receive the verification email at your POP3 account, click the link and follow the instructions for verifying the address. That’s it; Gmail will start retrieving your POP3 mail. You’re now ready to tell Windows 8 Mail to get mail from Gmail.

Configure Windows 8 Mail to get mail from or Gmail

Run the Windows 8 Mail app, press the Windows key + C to display the Charms bar, and select Settings –> Accounts –> Add an account.

To get mail from, select Outlook on this screen. Enter your email address and password, click Connect, and you’ll start getting the POP mail via

To get mail from Gmail, select Google on the Add an account screen. Enter your email address and password and click Connect. You’ll start getting POP mail via Gmail.

Credits: Preston Gralla (Contributing editor for Computerworld and the author of more than 40 books, including Windows 8 Hacks (O’Reilly, 2012))

One of the complaints that people had about Exchange Server 2007 (and then again with Exchange Server 2010) was that the management tools became separated from the Active Directory Users & Computers console.

For those administrators who were used to doing all of their AD and Exchange admin with one tool (and OCS for that matter too) this came as a bit of a shock. In particular, new user and mailbox creation went from being a single-tool task to needing two tools instead.

Two tools to do what one used to do, seems like a step backwards right?

Even though there were good reasons for this change, people were still upset. Now we need to either use two different management tools (more if you throw in Lync), or develop our own PowerShell scripts and tools, for

Fortunately for those who are still struggling with the change a developer named Denny has released a free tool called Z-Hire Employee Provisioning App that unifies the account creation process for Active Directory, Exchange, and Lync into a single tool.

I took Z-Hire for a quick spin in my test lab. There is no installation to worry about, it runs as a standalone tool and saves settings to an XML file so you can share them with other administrators in your team. Running the tool from a shared folder is probably the best way to do that.

When you first launch the app you’ll probably want to configure one or more templates to speed up the user creation process.

There is an auto discover capability built in if you specify a few details first to help it along.

For your templates you can specify such details as the OU for creating the user object.

On my first run I didn’t specify a mailbox database, only a server, assuming that the automatic mailbox distribution would take care of that for me. Unfortunately not the case, so this is something Denny may want to look into for a future version. Not a show stopper, but some people do enjoy the automatic mailbox distribution.

When it comes time to create a new user it is all laid out for you in a detailed but easy to understand form, with a few extra tabs for some of the details.

There are even extra fields for some of the more common mailbox settings.

My test run created the user account and mailbox exactly the way I wanted it, so Z-Hire seems pretty reliable in that sense, at least from my own testing.

There are probably a few other minor improvements that could be made. One would be to allow the administrator to filter out some of the groups that user accounts are unlikely to be added to, eg the Exchange security groups or the built-in AD groups. This would probably help the larger environments by preventing the list of AD groups shown from being too long.

Aside from that I found this to be a nice, simple tool to use. Once you understand how the templates are set up (you can pre-configure just about any of the common settings such as user account format, group membership, office details, and so on) the account creation process is sped up quite a bit compared to using each separate administrative tool.

There is also a Z-Hire termination app that performs a similar task when removing users from your organization.

Check out the free Z-Hire Employee Provisioning App for yourself.

Microsoft’s latest version of Exchange offers cool new features you’ll unearth once you roll up your sleeves and dig in

The deeper I get into Microsoft Exchange 2013, the more I find to like. That doesn’t mean the transition has been free of frustrations. Some of my issues are merely aesthetic. For example, the new Exchange Admin Center is growing on me, but I’d like to be able to choose an alternate skin — the white space in the new 2013 design is blinding.

Other have to do with the experience of using Exchange 2013. The fact that I have to enable antispam agents on my Mailbox server through PowerShell, rather than a GUI, comes to mind. Some are more serious: I cannot migrate from Exchange 2007 or 2010 just yet because updates haven’t been released, and somehow Exchange 2003 has been cut out of the transition paths, meaning a double-hop from 2003 to 2010 to 2013 will be necessary.

But Exchange 2013 has several gems of note. Unified messaging, high availability, and, when combined with SharePoint, enhanced collaboration features like the new Site Mailboxes add up to an even more robust messaging system — so I can live with the frustrations.

Here are five cool features that are worth playing with when you get your Exchange 2013 environment up and running.

Cool Exchange 2013 feature No. 1: Apps
It’s easy to miss this little feature. The Organization feature in Exchange Admin Center includes a tab called Apps. Through this often overlooked feature, you can provide special apps for end-users. Granted, users can search for apps themselves when working with Outlook, but by setting this up via Exchange Admin Center, you can control the process. Apps include Bing Maps, LinkedIn, Action Items, and a host of others.

Cool Exchange 2013 feature No. 2: Antimalware
I’ll be the first to say Exchange 2013’s built-in antimalware settings aren’t the most robust I’ve seen. But the fact that they’re included is worth celebrating, especially if, like me, you hate buying a big software package only to find you have to add all the other essentials à la carte. With Exchange, this means antivirus, a better backup solution, and a solid monitoring tool, among others — frustrating. Nonetheless, antimalware is a welcome addition. You can configure it to react to messages and notify both internal and external senders that an email was not delivered (and notify administrators).

Cool Exchange 2013 feature No. 3: Enhanced e-discovery
I hated the ineffectual multimailbox search in Exchange 2010. With Exchange 2013, we see real strides in e-discovery. FAST Search has been built into Exchange 2013, and the value shows up in many ways, including the speed and flexibility of the new In-Place eDiscovery & Hold feature. It also enhances the Legal Hold (or Litigation Hold) options from Exchange 2010, which are designed to stop users from deleting important emails for legal cases.

Cool Exchange 2013 feature No. 4: Data loss prevention
On the surface, Exchange 2013 data loss prevention is just a set of templates for creating transport rules to help block or deter the sending of sensitive end-user data via email. This might include Social Security numbers, credit card information, and so forth. But again, having this functionality built in is a great plus for admins. And it works. It can use a mail tip to help users make the right decision, or it can enforce more stringent policies automatically. The templates make it much easier to implement, and they are based on existing legislature, such as the Patriot Act or, depending on your country, other regulations.

Cool Exchange 2013 feature No. 5: Modern Public Folders
Although the migration process for legacy versions of Exchange is still hazy, I’ve really liked what Microsoft has done with Public Folders in Exchange 2013. On the one hand, there is no longer a Public Folder database; now you create a Public Folder mailbox inside the mailbox database. On the plus side, this means that a Public Folder mailbox can be included in high-availability DAG (database availability group) setups. On the negative side, we don’t have replicas where you can put Public Folder content closer to employees in other locations — the Public Folder mailbox approach only serves content from the active database location. But the method for setting these up is easier than ever.

As the year progresses, I’m sure I’ll uncover more things to like about Exchange 2013. And as more folks make the transition, we should keep one another informed of our findings. Happy hunting.

Google revs up Chrome, crushes bugs

Posted: January 12, 2013 in Misc.

Patches 24 vulnerabilities in first upgrade in nine weeks

Google on Thursday upgraded Chrome, improving the browser’s start-up performance and patching two dozen security vulnerabilities.

Chrome 24 contained few major changes. That’s typical, as Google usually refreshes its browser every six to eight weeks.

Google called out only a handful of improvements and additions, including faster start-up, another small speed uptick of Chrome’s V8 JavaScript engine, and support for MathML (Mathematical Markup Language), which renders math formulas and symbols on browser pages.

The JavaScript performance boost was minor compared to Chrome 23, the version introduced nine weeks ago, but Google boasted that since October 2011, V8’s speed has improved by 26%.

Coincidentally, rival Mozilla touted JavaScript enhancements this week too, claiming a new JIT (just in time) compiler improved Firefox 18’s speed by 25%.

Chrome 24 also patched 24 vulnerabilities. Its security team labeled 11 of the flaws as "high," Google’s second-most-serious threat rating, eight as "medium," and five as "low."

Three of the vulnerabilities were reported to Google by a quartet of outside researchers, who received $6,000 for their efforts as part of the search company’s bounty program. Two of the four were Facebook researchers who together earned $4,000 for uncovering and reporting a bug in Chrome’s "same origin policy," a security provision intended to block browser-based languages, including JavaScript, hosted on one domain from running on another.

Five of the flaws were "use-after-free" bugs, a type of memory allocation vulnerability that Chrome’s security engineers have become adept at finding; and four, including one of the use-after-free vulnerabilities, that affected the browser’s built-in PDF viewer.

Chrome 24 also included a new version of Adobe’s Flash Player that contained a solo critical patch. Adobe had patched Flash for other browsers on Tuesday. It is rare for Chrome to lag behind Flash’s patch pace; in several instances, a new Chrome update has hit Google’s download servers before Adobe releases the fixes to the public.

Google updates Flash because it’s responsible for maintaining the bundled copy of Flash Player inside Chrome. Google has baked Flash into Chrome since March 2010. Last year, Microsoft mimicked the practice by including Flash in Internet Explorer 10 (IE10), the Redmond, Wash., company’s newest Windows 7 and Windows 8 browser.

Users can download Chrome 24 from Google’s website. Active users can simply let the automatic updater retrieve the new edition.

Others, including Adobe, Google and Mozilla ride Patch Tuesday’s coat tails

Microsoft today patched 12 vulnerabilities in Windows, Office and several server and development products, but as it hinted last week, did not come up with a fix for the Internet Explorer (IE) bug that cyber criminals have been exploiting for at least a month.

Today was also a spring tide of sorts for patching, as Microsoft’s updates were just some that vendors pushed to customers. Adobe also issued updates for Flash Player, Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat; Google shipped a new version of Chrome; and Mozilla delivered the next iteration of Firefox.

"More vendors are aligning with Patch Tuesday," said Jason Miller, VMware’s manager of research and development. "That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but with so many, it makes it harder to get your hands around what needs to be patched."

Two of Microsoft’s seven security updates were marked "critical," Microsoft’s highest-threat rating. The other five were tagged "important." Of the 12 vulnerabilities, only three were critical.

Security experts voted MS13-002, one of the two critical updates, as requiring immediate attention. The one-vulnerability update addressed a bug in XML Core Services (MSXML) in every supported edition of Windows, from the 11-year-old Windows XP to the two-month-old Windows 8 and Windows RT.

MSXML was last patched by MS12-043, another critical update, released in July. That vulnerability was one of several allegedly uncovered, then exploited, by an elite hacker group dubbed "Elderwood" by Symantec, which in September said the gang had an inexhaustible supply of "zero-day" bugs at its disposal.

"MS13-002 is at the top of the list because it affects so many components, applications and operating systems," said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Security. Last week, Storms put his money on XML or GDI as the likely culprits for what Microsoft called "Bulletin 2" in its monthly advance notification for today’s fixes.

Miller agreed. "Many users will have multiple XML Cores on their system, so there may be more than one patch applied," he warned.

MS13-002 affected not only Windows, but as Storms and Miller said, also Office 2003 and Office 2007; Expression Web, part of the Expression Studio web development suite; and SharePoint Server 2007, Groove Server 2007 and System Center Operations Manager 2007.

A few researchers dissented on the first-to-patch roll call. Paul Henry, a security and forensic analyst at Lumension, picked MS13-001 instead.

"[This] is probably the most important vulnerability," Henry said in an email. "From an attack perspective, you could create a bunch of print jobs with malformed headers, send them to the network printer so they queue up in order, and if someone else on the network prints to the same printer, Print Spooler will actually go through and enumerate all the pending print jobs, which gives you the remote code execution."

Storms and Miller, who both picked MS13-001 for this month’s No. 2 spot, thought the single-vulnerability update was as interesting as did Microsoft, which detailed the bug on its Security Research & Defense blog today.

The vulnerability in Windows Print Spooler — but only in the code contained within Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 — could be used by attackers, who must already have network access, to spread malware within an enterprise, where shared printers and multi-function devices are a dime a dozen.

"[MS13-001] was disconcerting at first, reminded me of Stuxnet," said Storms, talking about the notorious worm of 2010 believed to have been jointly created by the U.S. and Israeli governments to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. Stuxnet relied on several vulnerabilities to infect and spread, including a print spooler bug.

"But it’s more like a ‘watering hole,’ where [an attacker] puts something malicious in the spooler and the next user who comes along gets infected," said Storm.

Microsoft security engineers Ali Rahbar and Jonathan Ness called the attack vector for the MS13-001 vulnerability "a little different than previous spooler service vulnerabilities" when they explained why they devoted a blog to it.

Rahbar and Ness said that the bug could not be triggered unless a Windows 7 or Server 2008 R2 customer had "third-party software installed on the client that enumerates print jobs differently than built-in Windows components."

They did not name names — something Microsoft’s always hesitant to do, said Miller — but were talking about proprietary printer drivers and utilities included with printers sold by the likes of Hewlett-Packard, Epson and others.

"Essentially those DVDs you get with the printer are what will trigger this," said Storms. The flaw, however, is not in that software, but in Microsoft’s.

Other updates released Tuesday included one that quashed four bugs in the .Net development framework, which is bundled with every edition of Windows; another in Windows’ kernel-mode driver that affected Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows RT; and others that addressed vulnerabilities in System Center Operations Manager and the Open Data (OData) protocol.

Today’s patches didn’t end with Microsoft. Several other vendors also delivered updates. Adobe, for example, again patched Flash Player, the media software baked into Google’s Chrome and Microsoft’s IE10. And Mozilla pushed out Firefox 18, the newest edition of its every-six-weeks browser.

Among the torrent of patches, one not offered today was for the IE6, IE7 and IE8 zero-day bug that hackers have been exploiting since at least Dec. 7.

Neither Storms nor Miller thought Microsoft could wait until the next round of scheduled updates on Feb. 12, five weeks from today, to patch the IE bug — not with reports of attacks coming from additional compromised websites, as well as claims by Exodus Intelligence that it’s crafted exploits that sidestep both workarounds Microsoft has urged customers to use until a patch is provided.

"I wouldn’t be surprised if they go ‘out-of-band,’" said Storms, using the term for an emergency update. "They won’t want to wait for five weeks, and there’s enough pressure on them now to work on an out-of-band."

"They will go out of band on this," asserted Miller. "Windows XP users can’t get to IE9, and there are a lot still running XP. I think they’ll [have a patch] as soon as next week, and no later than two weeks."

IE9 and IE10 do not contain the bug, which according to Symantec, was used by the Elderwood group for cyber espionage. But because IE9 won’t run on Windows XP, those customers are stuck with a vulnerable browser. Data from Web analytics company Net Applications puts XP’s online usage share at 39% in December, meaning nearly four out of every 10 personal computer users runs the aged OS.

January’s security updates can be downloaded and installed through the Microsoft Update and Windows Update services, as well as via WSUS (Windows Server Update Services), the de facto patching mechanism for businesses.

PC maker also unveils a mini-ultrabook

With Lenovo moving up the ranks of the global PC market, the company is looking to solidify its momentum at the International CES trade show this week.

Lenovo, which is vying with Hewlett-Packard for the top spot in the PC market, is using CES in Las Vegas to present new products, including a hybrid laptop and tablet device, a mini-ultrabook and a table PC.

"Lenovo is very experimental," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "It tries new form factors, new types of devices. Some stick, some don’t. But they all contribute to the accurate impression that Lenovo is a lively company."

 Lenovo's IdeaCentre Horizon Table PC

Lenovo’s IdeaCentre Horizon table PC

On Sunday, the China-based PC maker unveiled the IdeaCentre Horizon Table PC, a multi-user, multi-touch, multi-mode consumer device. It uses Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system running on Intel’s Core i7 processors and Nvidia’s GeForce graphics.

Lenovo wants to make computing more social, said Jay Parker, a vice president with Lenovo. The table PC, which lies flat, is designed to enable users to make computing a shared experience.

"There’s this cultural phenomenon where people are using their phones or tablets individually," Parker told Computerworld. "They’re all sitting there at dinner using their phones individually. There’s an opportunity to bring the family back together by sharing games. Extend that to the school environment where they’ve started to roll out tablets but they’re using them individually."

Parker doesn’t see the Horizon Table PC as a computer for the enterprise but said it could replace the desktop in home or school environments. The table PC is due to be released in early summer with a starting price of $1,699.

Industry analysts have been talking about a convergence in technology – a combination of smartphones, tablets, laptops and even traditional desktops. Expect to see a mashup of these devices at CES this week.

Is the table PC a morphing of the desktop?

"People have been saying for a decade or more that the desktop is going away," Parker said. "I don’t think it’s going away, but certainly these new technologies are adding to it … This certainly could replace the desktop in some environments. It’s a full functioning, all-in-one PC."

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, predicts that new versions of desktops will start to show up in more homes.

"This form factor is in its infancy now, but given a few years, could be very popular," Moorhead said. "Microsoft kicked off the concept with the original Surface Table in 2008 and it has morphed into these portable desktops you see from Sony and now Lenovo. The future home will have many different sized displays hung on walls, in our bathrooms, on tables, or it will be the table."

According to Moorhead, the Horizon Table PC moves the form factor closer to what consumers want and, eventually, to what the enterprise will want, as well.

"This form factor will be part of the office of the future," he said. "Collaborating on one display will add richness and depth to discussions and make a meeting more of a participation activity versus a passive one."

More ultrabooks

Also Monday, Lenovo is due to take the wraps off two additions to its family of convertible laptop-tablet devices.

The ThinkPad Helix, is being touted as a high-performance ultrabook running Intel Core processors. The machine, which can perform as both a laptop and a tablet, has 10 hours of battery life, Lenovo said, and sports an 11.6-inch screen.

"It’s a full business notebook," Parker said. "But the big difference is that it has a rip-and-flip screen and can be used as a tablet or a standard notebook. You can pop off the screen, and then you have a tablet. Or you can fold it back on itself and use it in tablet mode."

The Helix is expected to ship in late February with a starting price of $1,400.

Lenovo also is showing off a new version of its hybrid ultrabook, the IdeaPad Yoga 11S.

The PC maker created a lot of buzz at last year’s show when it unveiled the original Yoga hybrid ultrabook.

This latest version runs Intel Core i5 processors and Windows 8 software. The 11S also has an 11.6-in. screen, which is smaller than the 13-in. screen on the original Yoga, and is .68 inches thick.

Considered a mini ultrabook, the Yoga 11S comes in gray, orange or cotton candy pink. It is due to ship in June with a starting price of $799.

We examine the HP Envy TouchSmart, Sony Vaio T13 and Toshiba Portege Z935 to see how these new Windows 8 ultrabooks shape up.

While much of the attention surrounding the long-awaited introduction of Windows 8 has focused on the latest tablets and convertibles, ultrabooks seem to have been lost in the frenzy. But although they aren’t Transformers that can assume several computing personalities, ultrabooks tend to be lighter and less expensive — and, for most business users, more useful.

"They may not be as flashy, but ultrabooks can provide more computing for the dollar than slates and convertibles can," says David Daoud, research director for personal computing at IDC. "They will likely be the value choice for businesses and consumers for the near future."

That’s not to say this genre isn’t changing with the times. There will probably be dozens of new ultrabook designs coming out in the next few months, including some with touch screens.

I was able to spend two weeks working, playing and living with three of the latest Windows 8 ultrabooks: The HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4t-1100, Sony’s Vaio T13 and Toshiba’s Portege Z935-P390.

All three have traditional clamshell designs with a full keyboard, hinged screen and touchpad. All use Intel’s HD graphics to create 1366-x-768-resolution images on their screens. However, while the HP Envy and the Sony Vaio T13 have touch screens that measure 14 in. and 13.3 in. respectively, the Portege Z935 has a non-touch 13.3-in. screen.

I put these next-gen ultrabooks through their paces with benchmark testing, hour-by-hour use and a few road trips to see how they compare.

How we tested

To see how these first-generation Windows 8 ultrabooks compare with each other, I used them at my office and on the road for two weeks. After measuring the thickness of each system with a digital caliper, I measured their lengths and widths. Then I weighed each on a digital scale with and without its AC adapter.

I spent some time getting to know each system, examining every major aspect. I connected to both private and public Wi-Fi networks and also tried them out with a mobile hotspot.

For those systems that have a touch screen, I used a finger to maneuver around the Windows 8 Start Screen and also tried them with a Wacom Bamboo stylus. To gauge if it could work with 10 individual inputs I opened Paint and drew all 10 of my fingers across the screen.

Because Windows 8 is a new operating system, I checked each system’s compatibility with a variety of peripherals likely to be around the typical home or office.

Next, I tested the WiDi capabilities of each system by establishing a connection between the computer and a Belkin ScreenCast receiver that was connected to an Epson MG-50 projector. I then walked away from the projector with the notebook in my hand to measure its range. When the picture or audio started to break up I took a step back towards the projector to reconnect and marked the spot.

Then, I tested the performance of each system. First I looked at overall performance with PassMark’s PerformanceTest 8.0 benchmark test. The software exercises every major component of the system, including processor, hard drive, 2D and 3D graphics, and memory operations. It adds several game routines as well as a visualization of a Mandelbroit fractal set. I ran the software three times and averaged the results.

I also ran the Maxon CineBench benchmarks for graphics and processor performance. The software renders several photorealistic scenes that stress the processor and graphics chip by manipulating up to a million polygons. It reports scores for processor and graphics performance, and I averaged the results of three runs.

To gauge how long each can run on its battery, I loaded PassMark’s BatteryMon, fully charged the system, set its power-management options to Balanced and adjusted the settings to prevent the computer from going to sleep. The screen brightness and volume were set to 6/10, and I used the shuffle feature on Windows Media Player to continuously play six videos from a USB flash drive connected to the system. I reported the average of three runs.


HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4t-1100

The HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4t-1100 may be a mouthful to say, but it is a well-designed touch-screen Windows 8 system.

The HP Envy is thicker than the Portege Z935 or Vaio T13 (while the company’s specs give it as 0.78 in., I measured it at a full 1.0 in.). Its 13.3-x-9.2-in. footprint is nearly an inch wider than the Vaio T13 or Portege Z935. However, it provides the luxury of a 14-in. screen vs. the 13.3-in. displays on the other two.

HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4t-1100

HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4t-1100

At 4.6 lb., the Envy 4 is nearly double the weight of the 2.4-lb. Portege Z935 and 1.1 lb. heavier than the Vaio T13. When you add the three-prong AC adapter, the Envy 4 has a travel weight of 5.1 pounds. That being said, I really liked the Envy’s rounded corners, soft rubberized coating on the bottom and brushed aluminum cover and deck.

The center of attention is its 14-in. 1366 x 768 touch screen that, like the Vaio T13, responds to ten-finger input. I was impressed with how bright and rich images were, and found that it greatly enhanced the process of working with Windows 8. However, I also found I had to be a bit careful — all it took was a hard tap at the top of the screen to make the display wobble and risk tipping it over.

For typists, the Envy has a comfortable keyboard that is backlit with white LEDs.

The test system came with an Intel Core i5 3317U processor (as did the Portege Z935) that runs at 1.7GHz and can overclock to 2.6GHz; that was accompanied by the Intel HD Graphics 4000 processor. The unit came with 4GB of RAM; the system is upgradeable to a 16GB maximum.

While the Vaio T13 and Portege Z935 use SSDs for storage, the Envy has a more traditional 500GB hard drive with 32GB of hard drive cache to boost performance. The computer includes two USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 connection along with an HDMI port, audio jacks and an SD card reader; however, the system lacks a VGA port for use with older monitors.

I really liked the inclusion of Beats audio and a subwoofer, which delivered a rich and full sound.

To communicate with the world, the Envy has a pop-open Ethernet port as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It can also wirelessly connect with a projector or TV via Intel’s WiDi. When I tried it out, the Envy remained linked with a projector as far as 46 feet away, 9 feet farther than the Portege (which also has WiDi) could.

The system comes with Windows 8, a two-month trial edition of Microsoft Office Home and Student, and a 60-day trial of Norton Internet Security.

Test results

With a score of 1,422.6 on the PassMark PerformanceTest benchmark, the Envy was 30% percent slower than the Vaio T13, a result I attribute to a lower amount of system memory, slower processor and the use of a traditional hard drive.

It was a virtual tie with the Portege on CineBench 11.5’s processor tests with a score of 2.38, but again, was well behind the Vaio T13’s 2.77 score. And as far as graphics goes, the Envy’s 13.12 frames per second (fps) was well behind both the Vaio T13 and the Portege.

At 5 hours and 15 minutes of battery life, the system’s 3,200mAh battery was the long-distance runner of the group, going for nearly an hour longer than the Portege; however, the battery is not user-removable.

Bottom line

The HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4t-1100 starts at an enviable $800, which includes a Core i3 processor and a non-backlit keyboard. The model I tested had a backlit keyboard and Core i5 processor, bringing the price up to $895.

While it is heavier and slower than the other two units in this roundup, the HP Envy is the value leader because it has the largest screen, is touch-enabled and it has the best sound.

Sony Vaio T Series 13 Ultrabook

If a nice balance between performance and battery life are what you’re after in an ultrabook, Sony’s Vaio T Series 13 delivers it along with an excellent touch screen.

There are a variety of configurations available in Sony’s T series of ultrabooks, including both 13.3-in. and 14-in. displays; touch and non-touch screens; Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 processors; hard drives and SSDs; and 4GB to 8GB of RAM.

Sony Vaio T13

Sony Vaio T13

The review unit is at the high end of this list. It offers a 13.3-in. touch screen and Intel’s 1.9GHz Core i7 processor (a step up from the 1.7GHz Core i5 CPU used on the other two systems), which can sprint to as fast as 3.0GHz if needed. It also includes a 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM.

I measured the Vaio at 12.6 x 0.8 x 8.0 in.; it weighs 3.5 lb., about 1.1 lb. heavier than the Portege (probably because of the Vaio’s touch screen). With its large two-prong AC adapter, the system has a travel weight of 4.4 lb.

Capable of responding to 10 individual finger inputs, the Vaio’s display reacted quickly and precisely to input. While I didn’t find it quite as bright as either the Portege or Envy 4, I still found the display quality quite sharp and clear; I doubt there will be too many users who will be disappointed.

The lid has two small feet that brace it when the system is open, making the display much sturdier than the Envy’s. Its keyboard, however, lacks the backlighting that the others provide.

The Vaio comes with one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 connection, down from the three USB ports that the others have. Over my time with the system, this proved to be a minor inconvenience.

There’s also an HDMI port, a VGA port, and a combo microphone and headphone audio jack. It has a flash card reader that can work with SD and Memory Stick modules.

For getting online, the system has Wi-Fi (because Sony uses an Atheros radio rather than an Intel, it can’t use Intel’s WiDi technology). The system also includes Bluetooth and an Ethernet jack.

Along with Windows 8, the Vaio T13 comes with a one-month subscription to Kaspersky Internet Security and a copy of Art Rage Studio, an excellent tablet drawing program. The system comes with a one-year warranty.

Test results

With its faster processor and larger cache of memory, the Vaio T13 swept the performance phase of testing with a 2,006.9 on the PassMark Performance Test suite of benchmark tests. Its scores of 2.77 and 16.62 fps on the Cine Bench 11.5’s processor and graphics tests were also well ahead of the other two.

When I tested the Vaio’s battery, it yielded a runtime of 4 hours and 57 minutes, a few minutes short of the Envy 4’s battery life and 35 minutes longer than the Portege’s.

Unlike the other two ultrabooks reviewed here, you can change the Vaio T13’s battery. It’s a little awkward, because rather than a slide latch, it has three screws that need to be loosened with a thick spade screwdriver or a penny, but it only takes a minute.

Bottom line

In the configuration I tested, the Sony Vaio T Series 13 is a bit pricey, but its top-shelf components, high performance and good battery life combine to make this touch ultrabook a winner.

Toshiba Portege Z935-P390

Not quite ready to take the plunge with a touch-screen computer? Toshiba’s Portege Z935-P390 is an ultrabook with a 13.3-in. display that lets you get the most out of Windows 8 without lifting a finger.

The Portege is slimmer than the Envy or Vaio T13: it measures 0.6 in. thick in the front and 0.8 in. thick in the back. It has a more businesslike, squared-off gray case with bright chrome accents on the hinges and around the touchpad. Its footprint measures 12.4 x 8.9 in., making it slightly deeper but narrower than the Vaio T13, which has the same size screen.

Toshiba Portege Z935-P390

Toshiba Portege Z935-P390

Weighing 2.4 lb., the Portege is remarkably light. With its AC adapter, the Portege has an enviable total weight of 3 lb., more than a pound lighter than the Vaio T13; happily, it requires only a two-prong outlet to power it up.

The Portege’s display was quite clear and offered rich colors; it was about as bright as the Vaio T13. Because it lacks a touch screen, the Portege relies on a 3.4-x-2-in. touchpad, which has a nice texture to it and a button for turning it off when doing a lot of typing. It was able to bring out the Windows 8 Charms Menu with a swipe of a finger right to left and let me zoom in by pinching an image, but I needed a bit of practicing before using it became second nature. The comfortable keyboard is backlit for late-night work or gaming.

Inside the Portege is the same 1.7GHz Core i5 processor that the Envy uses. It also includes a 128GB SSD and 6GB of RAM.

The system’s assortment of ports includes two USB 2.0 and a single USB 3.0 connection. It also has an HDMI port, SD card reader, audio port and old-school VGA port. The system comes with a Gigabit Ethernet connection as well as Wi-Fi. Its WiDi system was able to connect to a projector at a range of 37 feet, 9 feet short of the Envy’s range.

Along with Windows 8, the Portege includes Norton Internet Security with 30 days of file updates as well as a handy Toshiba PC Health Monitor for observing the system’s components. It comes with a one-year warranty.

Test results

The Portege scored 1,680.9 on the PassMark PerformanceTest suite, right in the middle of the pack. Its CineBench 11.5 processor score was halfway between the those of the Envy and the Vaio T13, while the system’s graphics score of 14.51 fps was 13% less than the Vaio T13’s score of 16.62 fps.

The system’s 3,000 mAh battery was able to go for 4 hours and 22 minutes on a charge. Unlike the Vaio T13, the system is sealed and has no way to swap batteries.

Bottom line

It might lack a touch screen, but the $999.99 Portege Z935-P390 provides a bridge between the old and new worlds with a thin, lightweight, high-performance system.


All three of these new ultrabooks are well made, reliable and are worthy of consideration for a place in your notebook bag.

At heart, I am a cheapskate, eager to save money on anything I buy. This time, however, my choice is the $1,300 Sony Vaio T13, the most expensive of the three. It has a great touch screen, the best configuration, excellent performance and the ability to run for nearly five hours on a charge. Of the three, it offers the best balance among size, weight and abilities.

Dell’s new Windows 8 system is one of the first convertibles, which try to be two devices in one. However, this may not be a winning combination.

The Dell XPS 12 is one of the first of the new Windows 8 convertibles (doing double duty as an ultrabook and a tablet) to hit the market. It sports a beautiful 12.5-in. screen, suitable power under the hood and a number of clever design touches. If you have a need for this type of a double-duty device, you’ll find it will do well — with some caveats.

The XPS features standard hardware for an ultrabook. The unit I tested has an Intel Core i5-3427 running at 1.7GHz and has 4GB of RAM, along with a 128GB SSD; it lists at the Dell site for $1,199.99. Other configurations are available with 8GB RAM, a Core i7 processor and/or a 256GB SSD hard disk. The top-of-the-line model, which has all these features, sells for $1,699.99.

Flipping the frame

What sets the XPS 12 apart from other ultrabooks is its "convertible" feature — the ability to work both as a tablet and as a traditional notebook. It accomplishes this with a very clever and well-executed design. The screen is set in a frame and flips 180 degrees on a hinge so that it can face away from the keyboard. Fold the screen down onto the body of the keyboard, and you’re left with a tablet. The design is simple, clean, and downright nifty.

The screen itself is a real standout and may be the best part of the XPS 12. Protected by Gorilla Glass, it sports a 1920 x 1080 resolution and is exceptionally bright and vivid, excelling both as a traditional screen and a touchscreen.

Performance was snappy, and I experienced no delays launching and running apps, watching videos and playing music. The speakers are adequate, with plenty of volume.

Dell XPS 12

The system comes with basic connections: two USB 3.0 ports (one with PowerShare, which lets you charge USB-connected devices even when the XPS is powered off or sleeping), a Mini DisplayPort for connecting to an external display and a headphone jack. There’s no Ethernet jack nor is there a slot for an SD card.

For those who want to check the battery power reserves, there’s a nice feature: Press a small button on the right side of the system, and a series of tiny lights illuminates letting you know how much power is left.

As an ultrabook, though, the XPS is heavy at 3.35 lb. A MacBook Air with a 13.3-in. screen, for example, weighs nearly a half a pound less at 2.96 lb., and the 13.3-in. Asus Zenbook UX31A Touch weighs in at 3.08 lb., despite its larger screen size.

Keyboard and trackpad

When you use the XPS12 as a notebook, you’ll spend plenty of time with its keyboard and trackpad, and you’ll find them a mixed bag. The keyboard feels slightly cramped, and those with large hands may take some time getting used to it. But the keys spring back as you touch them, making the keyboard easy to type on. The keys are backlit, so it’s easy to use in low light. All in all, it’s a solid keyboard for an ultrabook.

I ran into problems with the trackpad, though. When when I used it to scroll sideways, the cursor tended to cause herky-jerky motions. I also sometimes had problems getting the Windows 8 Charms bar to appear when I moved the cursor to the upper-right corner of the screen. And several times, the Charms bar appeared when I moved the mouse cursor to the center of the Start screen — for no apparent reason. I also initially found that I had to double-tap harder than expected for it to register with the device; once I got used to that, though, things improved.

The trackpad worked better when using multitouch Windows 8 gestures. Zooming in and out was smooth, and most Windows 8 swiping gestures worked similarly well.

XPS 12 as a tablet

With a big 12.5-in. screen, vivid display, quick response to touches and swipes, and smooth scrolling and zooming, the XPS seems perfectly suited for tablet tasks — or at least it does for a minute or two. Then reality sets in.

At 3.35 lb., the XPS very quickly becomes far too heavy to be useful — when I tried just holding it and working, or watching a video, I soon felt tired and uncomfortable. And when I put it in my lap, it got hot relatively quickly.

Then there’s the question of whether there’s any real need to have a device do double duty as a tablet and PC. Your mileage may vary, but I can’t think of many instances when it’s important to have a single device do both. I’d instead opt for a Microsoft Surface tablet with one of its nice keyboard covers, because with that you get tablet portability and a reasonable keyboard as well.

Based on my experience with the XPS 12, I suspect that convertible devices have been built merely because Windows 8 features a double duty operating system designed both for tablets and PCs, not because there’s a real need for them. Time will tell, but my guess is that convertibles won’t become a significant market niche.

Bottom line

What you think about the XPS 12 will depend upon what you think about needing a single device to do double-duty as a tablet and a traditional PC. If you need that type of device, and can put up with using an extremely heavy tablet, then you’ll find the XPS 12 to be a well-designed, solid bet, aside from some annoying trackpad problems.

However, if you’re on the fence about needing a convertible, you’ll want to shop around a bit more. As a tablet, it’s too heavy to be of much use. And as an ultrabook, it’s heavy as well, outweighing competing ultrabooks.

The upshot? Despite Dell’s best intentions, the XPS 12 underlines the limitations of a Windows 8 convertible device. Based on my use of this one, I’m not convinced this form factor has a future.