Tutorial: Navigating Windows 8
By on August 28th, 2012

Windows 8 has been released to TechNet and MSDN subscribers. Microsoft has a lot riding on this newest operating system and it is certainly not the Windows you are used to. Today, I would like to show you around the new Windows 8, and point out some of the differences you should expect when this becomes the standard starting this fall.

start screen

Pictured above, is the “Start” screen in Windows 8. As you can tell it is a radical departure from the typical Windows you are accustomed to. Windows 8 is designed with the tablet in mind. That is why you see the brightly colored tiles on the main screen. The screen is designed to be easily usable on a tablet or touch screen computer. On the “Start” screen, Microsoft made some assumptions about the type of apps people commonly use.  Your not stuck with these “Tiles” as the start screen is fully customizable. In the upper right corner there is an icon where you can customize it to show your picture. Each corner of the screen has a purpose to help you navigate around. If you put your mouse in any corner it will show you a different menu. You may be accustomed to Windows having a little “Start” button in the lower left corner of the screen. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you can kiss that little guy goodbye. Instead of a “Start’ button, you get a start screen. That is the first and fundamental thing you need to grasp when dealing with Window 8.

Below, you can see where I zoomed in a little on the “Start” screen. One of the “Tiles” is labeled “Desktop”. If you click this tile it will put the computer in desktop mode. This is good news for those of you who are used to Windows XP.

Desktop Mode

In the image below, you can see what it looks like when you go into desktop mode. Notice what I I have highlighted. You’ll probably notice more what is missing. The old start menu button is gone!

No Start Menu

So how do you get around? Well, there are lots of ways to get around. I will try to show you a few of them. Microsoft introduced a new menu bar called the “Charm Bar” with Windows 8. You can see this pictured below. To get the “Charm Bar”, you position your mouse in the upper right corner of the screen and the bar will appear. There are several options on the “Charm Bar”. To answer a really big question I know you’re gonna have, if you want to see all your programs, click the “Search” charm on the “Charm Bar”. From the “Search” charm you will see a list of all your “apps” (programs are so 90′s). The “Share” charm can only be used in the “Start” screen mode. For instance, if you’re viewing a web page from the start screen, you can share it using the “Share” charm. The “Start” charm will take you to the “Start Screen” when you click it. The “Devices” charm is also not to be used in “Desktop” mode. It is supposed to be an easy way to send files to a printer or other device. The “Settings” charm is basically the control panel for the computer.

Charm Bar

If you position your mouse in the bottom left corner of the screen, you will get the “Start Screen” button, pictured below. This lets you toggle back and forth between the desktop and the “Start Screen”.

Start Button

Remember the old key combination of Alt + Tab? Well, that works for Windows 8 too, see picture below. It is actually a pretty easy way to go between things you have open.

Alt + Tab

Trying not to overload you here, I will let this be my last explanation for this tutorial. If you position your mouse in the upper left corner of the screen, you will see a small window representing an app window that you have open. If you leave your mouse hugging the left side of the screen and begin to move down, you will see a black bar with all the active apps listed. You can click the active app to go to it. You can right-click the active app and you can close it from there. A picture of what I describe can be seen below.

active app

This is just one of many tutorials to come. I hope you have enjoyed it and please feel free to ask any questions you have. As you can see, Windows 8 is radically different. I feel for all the IT organizations who are facing any kind of large scale deployment of Windows 8 because it is so different. Keep checking back with us as we continue to inform you of all the latest tips and tricks.

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Author: Darrin Jenkins Google Profile for Darrin Jenkins
Darrin is an IT manager for a large electrical contractor in Louisville KY. He is married and has 3 kids. He loves helping people with their technology needs. He runs a blog called Say Geek!

Darrin Jenkins has written and can be contacted at darrin@techie-buzz.com.

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