Since the release of Windows 8, we’ve had to get ourselves acquainted with Microsoft’s latest OS. Windows 8 is a huge leap for Microsoft and vastly different from Windows 7, XP and Vista. We’ve come up with 10 tips and tricks to make the transition a bit less jarring for you.
1. Explore the Edges of a New Universe: The Touchscreen
It sounds odd, but the edges of the touchscreen are very important to Windows 8. There are a lot of important and useful functions in Windows 8 that aren’t obvious at first glance. A swipe from the left edge, for instance, will show you your most recently used applications, making it much easier to switch between multiple apps.
A swipe from the right edge opens the Charms bar, which I’ll explain in the next section, while a swipe from top to bottom closes an application. A swipe in the middle of the screen allows you to dock an application on either the left or right of the display.
2. Charms Bar = Start Menu
For decades we had a comforting start up screen staring us in the face every time we turned on our Windows computers. Now a bunch of colorful tiles pop up. Where are my applications? Where is the search function? Where is my network status? Don’t panic, it’s all hiding in the Charms bar.
When you swipe from the right side of the screen, out comes the Charms bar. It’s here that you’ll find options like Start, Search, Share, Devices and Settings. And now at the bottom left of the screen, the date and time are displayed and (gasp) they’re legible!
Everything that used to be accessible via the start menu is now conveniently located in the Charms bar. It takes some getting used to, but in the end, the method of operation feels streamlined and simplified.
For example, you can search for a specific picture or file and easily email it using the Share button. The different buttons in the Charms bar work together and are intended to make the user experience easier. The sooner you make friends with the Charms bar, the better.
Windows 8 is obviously optimized for touchscreens, but should you prefer your mouse and keyboard, there are many shortcuts that allow you to make the most of Windows 8 without having to get your hands dirty. With the Windows key you can switch between the program and the tiles on the start screen. The following is a list of the shortcuts:
D Show Desktop
E Open Explorer
F File Search
H Charm tiles
I Charm “Settings” window
J switch focus from display two apps side by side
K Charm “devices” Open
L Lock your computer
M Minimize all windows / apps
O Screen orientation lock
P Projector options
Q App GO
T Browse pinned to taskbar programs
U Open Ease of Access Center
V scroll through notifications (with reverse + Shift)
W Wireless Settings in the Start Search
These are only the shortcuts that can be used in conjunction with the Windows button. You can find more here.
4. Direct to Desktop Mode
So you have worked through the first three points but still think that it would be much nicer to start immediately in the desktop mode? Well, you can if you disable the auto login. You are allowed to do so only when Windows starts. After entering the password, do not press the arrow next to your name, hit the Enter key instead (you have to hold it down for more than one second). This will automatically open the app, which is hidden behind the top-left tile of the start screen. The desktop application will open before the actual start screen appears. If the auto login is active, there are still ways to boot directly to the desktop. You can find information about it at DrWindows, to whom I also owe this first desktop-Tip.
5. Get the Classic Start Menu Back
Microsoft understands your nostalgia. You can get the classic start menu back if you and the tiles don’t get along. Classic Shell is one tool, which you can download here. It looks like this:
6. Arranging & Adding Tiles
There doesn’t have to be an app behind every tile. A tile may also be a contact, a link to a page or a folder. To add a tile to the start screen, you have to open the App Bar in the application (just swipe from the left) and then press or click on “pin to start”. You can also get rid of an app from the start screen this way. In this case, the application will not be deleted, it just disappears from the first start screen. You can also enlarge or shrink the tiles and you can group or arrange the tiles on the start screen via the App Bar.
7. Create Your Own Tile
To truly customize Windows 8, some of you will want to customize your tiles. This is not possible with available materials, but at Caschy and Casi found a way to create a few tiles. To do this you need a freeware called OblyTile, which can be found on the XDA-Developers forum. You can then use your own pictures (must be 120×120 and PNG), icons or ObyTile’s templates to make the start screen more your style.
8. Two Apps Parallel to One Another
Windows users are all used to having multiple windows open at the same time, but Windows 8 is a different creature. You can, however, use two apps at once side by side. You open the first app and then use the app bar and and pull out a second app and pale it beside the other ( a separation bar must appear). Using this bar you can adjust the size of each application in relation to the other.
That way your inbox can always be open and a larger window can sit beside it while you surf the web. Your screen resolution has to be set at 1366×768 for this parallel view to function properly.
9. Media Center/DVD PlayBack
If you are desperately looking for the Media Center, stop looking – it is not installed by default. Basically, you need it to play your DVDs and Blu-Rays on Windows. Next year you will have to pay extra for the Media Center, but until the end of January 2013, Microsoft has made the Windows 8 Media Center pack downloadable for free. After January it will cost you $10 or so. Alternatively you can, of course, look for other software with DVD playback – my recommendation would be here the VLC player.
10. Windows 8 Shut Down
Finally, a tip that at least for the tablet users, is not part of the normal procedure – the shutdown of the operating system. On Windows, we are used to clicking “shut down”. Here, you have to open your Charms Bar and click the on/off button under “settings”.
These are our top 10 tricks and tips! Windows 8 isn’t rocket science, it just might take some getting used to.