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Handy Tips for Using Windows 8

Now that we’ve upgraded our office computers to Windows 8, I can finally share some tips on how to use Microsoft’s new operating system.

Starting and Shutting Down Windows 8

  • When you start a Windows 8 machine, you’re greeted with a screen that shows the time and a pretty picture. To get past it with a touch screen device, swipe upwards with your finger from the bottom edge of the screen. If you have a keyboard, hit any key.
  • Shutting down a Windows 8 machine with a mouse or touch screen isn’t obvious. If you are using a mouse, move the cursor into the top right corner of the screen. If you’re on a touch screen, swipe your thumb in from the right edge of the screen. A menu will pop out. Click or tap the “Settings” button that appears, then click “Power,” then “Shut down.”

Windows 8 “Metro”

  • On the Windows 8 Start Screen you’ll see a mosaic of Live Tiles, each representing an application. Programs specifically written for Windows 8 will run in this new environment, unofficially nicknamed Metro. These new applications fill the screen when you run them.
  • If you are using a keyboard, you can quickly access any application just by typing part of its name. Windows 8 will automatically put what you’re typing into its search box.

Windows 8 Desktop

  • Applications written for older versions of Windows open up in Windows 8 Desktop (which looks very similar to the old Windows 7 Desktop). You can switch back and forth between Metro and the new Desktop, though Microsoft want people to eventually only use Metro.
  • One of the biggest changes to Windows 8 is that the Desktop screen doesn’t have a Start button. Microsoft’s idea is that users should learn to use the Metro Screen to start programs or access settings, even if many of those programs open up in the Desktop Screen.

Using Windows 8

  • To get back to the tiled Start screen with a mouse or touch pad, move the mouse cursor to the bottom left corner of the screen and click the popup that appears. If you have a touch screen, reveal the Start icon by swiping in from the right edge of the screen.
  • In Windows 8 Desktop, you can glance at the Taskbar to see which Desktop programs are running.
  • In Windows 8 Metro, if you’re using a mouse or touch pad and want to see what’s running, move the cursor into the top left corner of the screen, then drag it down along the left edge. If you have a touch screen, swipe your thumb in from the left edge, then quickly swipe back in.

Switching and Closing Applications

  • Neither environment will show you programs running in the other. If you have a touch screen, swiping in from the left side of the screen lets you jump between open applications just like “Alt-Tab”. The “Alt-Tab” keyboard combination still works in case you aren’t using a touch screen.
  • To close an application in Windows 8 Desktop just click the X in the top right. To close an application in Windows 8 Metro, swipe your finger down from the top edge of the screen to the bottom of the screen. Don’t stray to the right or left edges of the screen, or the app will end up “docked” in a column along that edge. You can perform the same action with the mouse cursor by clicking and dragging from the top edge of the screen. The trusty “Alt-F4” keyboard combination still works too.

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