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After a few weeks of using the Windows 8.1 Update, it finally feels like Microsoft is moving in the right direction with Windows 8. With the GUI changes and addition of Internet Explorer Enterprise Mode, several new Group Policy settings are also available.
Windows Store apps and the Taskbar
One of my favorite changes made in the Windows 8.1 Update is the improved GUI for Windows Store apps. In addition to adding much clearer Minimize and Close controls in the upper right corner of the apps, these apps can now be minimized to the Taskbar.
Apps can now be minimized to the Taskbar
You can go to User Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > Start Menu and Taskbar > Show Windows Store apps on the Taskbar and control this new feature in Group Policy. Enabling the policy forces the icons to be visible, and disabling turns the icons off. Like most policies, setting this option removes the ability for end users to change the setting. Leaving the setting Not Configured gives end users the ability to control the configuration.
Show Windows Store apps on the Taskbar
Microsoft CHS Pinyin IME
Another new option is the ability to enable the checking of an online service when entering Chinese characters in User Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > IME > Turn on cloud candidate.
Turn on cloud candidate
Internet Explorer – reporting site problems
In Internet Explorer 11, you can report problem sites to Microsoft by clicking the Tools icon and then clicking “Report website problems.” If you need to disable this feature, you can go to Computer/User Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Internet Explorer > Browser Menus > Turn off the ability to launch report site problems using a menu option. Like quite a few other Group Policies, mind the double negative. Enabled turns off the feature, and Disabled leaves the feature on.
Turn off the ability to launch report site problems using a menu option
Report website problems
Internet Explorer Enterprise Mode
Last, but certainly not least, on the list is Internet Explorer Enterprise Mode. Enterprise Mode is a new compatibility mode for IE 11 that renders sites in a mode similar to Internet Explorer 8, allowing older legacy web apps to run correctly.
By default, this feature isn’t visible to end users and must be enabled in Group Policy. To do this, go to Computer/User Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Internet Explorer > Let users turn on and use Enterprise Mode from the Tools menu. Enabling the policy allows users to access Enterprise Mode, and disabling the policy (or leaving as Not Configured) leaves the menu option disabled.
Let users turn on and use Enterprise Mode from the Tools menu
After the Enterprise Mode menu options are enabled, users that have the Menu Bar enabled in IE can go to Tools > Enterprise Mode to have sites rendered in Enterprise Mode.
Internet Explorer Enterprise Mode
Changing a site to Enterprise Mode will result in the display of a blue and white building icon next to the URL of the site. Clicking the icon shows that the site is in Enterprise Mode.
Enterprise Mode is On
In addition to allowing end users to enable Enterprise Mode for sites, you can specify a list of sites that should have Enterprise Mode enabled or disabled. To do this, go to Computer/User Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Internet Explorer > Use the Enterprise Mode IE website list. Set the policy to Enabled and then specify the URL to your XML file.
Use the Enterprise Mode IE website list
To create your XML file, you’ll need to download the Enterprise Mode Site List Manager. After installing the application, you can add each web application that your end users will be accessing. The Enterprise Mode Site List Manager also accounts for sites that may be running multiple applications on subdirectories and allows you to set different modes for each of those web apps.
Enterprise Mode Site List Manager
Once you’re done, just click File > Save to XML. You’ll end up with a file that looks something like this:
Enterprise Mode Site List Manager XML file
The really great thing about Enterprise Mode in Internet Explorer 11 is that it also works on older operating systems, such as Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. All of the Group Policy settings for Enterprise Mode work across all OSs that can install IE 11 as long as the April 2014 Cumulative Update has been installed.