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Hopefully, everyone who was on Windows 8 should be running Windows 8.1 by now. There’s so much that was improved since Windows 8 released, some very noticeably (such as the return of the Start button, if you consider that an improvement) and some, less so – like all the Enterprise functionality that changed. Not to mention the changes that have come in as part of the Windows 8.1 Update 1, as featured in Tip o’ the Week #222

One of the more obvious new features is the Smart Search capability, and yet it can take a bit of getting used to  before it changes the way you use your PC.

You could still use the normal methods for getting to Bing – clip_image004viewing the lovely picture or video on the homepage and searching from there, try just typing your query into the address bar of the browser and let it make suggestions or just carry out the search terms… or use the Bing Desktop App.

clip_image006If you type your search query into the standard Search mechanism in Windows 8.1 (just start typing at the Start screen, or press WindowsKey+S or swipe to bring up the Search charm), then the PC will be able to combine results from your own documents, from popular web sites like Wikipedia, it’ll show you images and videos that correspond to the same term as well bringing results from certain apps (even from sources who have apps you haven’t installed yet).

Try a few special terms out, and you’ll get even more context – a flight number will show you current status and related searches (such as the historical performance and the current position, from Flightradar… who also have Apps for Windows Phone and Windows 8.1 should you want to interact some more, as Paul Barlow recommends).

Type in a place name and you may well be greeted with weather reports, links to restaurant recommendations, details from Bing Travel and other apps in the store that might be relevant.

Enter a musician and you may see results from the Xbox Music app Xbox Music app (latest updates, here), allowing you to play their tracks directly from within Windows 8.1 – and did you know that streaming Xbox Music is free for 6 months for Windows 8.x users?

For more tips on using Smart Search, see here, here and here.

There’s a great opinion piece by Ed Bott at ZDNet, which discusses the role that Bing plays in Microsoft’s future. Well worth a read of the whole thing.