Living and working with a Win8.1 tablet: Day 1

Lincoln Spector

As a test for Windows Secrets, I’ve put away both my Windows 7 laptop and my iPad for 30 days. In their place, I’m using a small, light, and relatively inexpensive Windows 8.1 tablet. My new workstation includes a generic docking station to connect the tablet to a full-sized monitor, keyboard, and other peripherals. More on that another day.

Monday was my first full day without either the laptop or the iPad. (Well, in fact, I turned on the laptop a few times to grab files I thought I had.) Getting things done on the tablet was slower that expected — everything took longer than it should have.

To be fair, it wasn’t really Windows 8’s fault. It was Word 2013’s — an ugly version that really, really wants you to save to the cloud. That’s what’s taking more time to get used to than I expected.

And then there’s Skype.

I use Skype as my office phone. This saves the cost of another land line, and it lets me not share my cell number with PR people. So as you can imagine, it’s important that I have Skype running.

In theory, running Skype with Windows 8.1 should be easy; it’s built into Win8.1. But that wasn’t the case with my new setup. Every call I made just failed. Skype told me that there was a problem with my microphone. But I knew the tablet’s built-in microphone was fine. So I downloaded and installed the Windows desktop Skype program. No learning curve, and it works perfectly. Excellent!

First lesson on Day 1? Avoid Modern/Metro apps, at least in a configuration that includes a generic docking station.

I hope you follow my future posts on my attempts to be productive with a Windows 8.1 tablet.

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Lincoln Spector

About Lincoln Spector

Lincoln Spector writes about computers, home theater, and film and maintains two blogs: Answer Line at and His articles have appeared in CNET, InfoWorld, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other publications.