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Back to December 2012 Newsletter

New Computer This Christmas? Here's How to get around in Windows 8

by Ryan Coyle

If you’re looking to make the move from that old clunker Windows XP box that’s been sitting in your den for something newer and shinier, I have good news. The PC is going through a transformation and right now there are some fantastic deals to be had on some really new and innovative hardware. But you say… there’s a problem. I don’t know how I feel about this Windows 8 thing. You can’t put your finger on it, but you’re not sure if you like it.

Well let’s see if we can’t help you sort out the differences between a charm, a tile, a Store app and everything in between in about 1000 words or less.

Getting Started

One of the first things you’ll be asked when setting the device up will be what email address you’ll want to use when creating the account. If you have a Microsoft account (Hotmail or Windows Live) you can use it, or create a new one. Using an online account like this provides a number of benefits, such as synchronization of email, calendar, contacts, social networks and SkyDrive (Microsoft’s Cloud Storage) similar to iCloud on a Mac. Your settings will follow you around from device to device and because they’re synced to your Microsoft account, they’ll be accessible from any Windows 8 PC that you log into.

Dude where’s my Start button?!?

Hold your horses and grab on to something sturdy, preferably with both hands. Microsoft killed the Start button and its friend the Start Menu. In its place is the Start Screen. The best way that I’ve heard it described is that instead of having a small static menu of application shortcuts, you now have been blessed with a full screen live action dashboard that you can use to launch apps.

The flipping squares are what’s called Live Tiles. Once a particular application is configured with the necessary information, it will display content updated in real time. For example once you’ve given the Weather app your location, it will flip around and display the weather forecast for where you are. Configure the Mail app or Calendar app and they’ll display snippets of recent emails or your next upcoming appointments.

The Start Screen is configurable as well. You can drag apps around, change the size of their Tiles, turn off the live portion of the Tile and pin Tiles to the screen.

Once you have the Start Screen configured the way you like it, you can use Windows+D to get back to the familiar desktop.

“Charmed, I’m sure”

Another new item in Windows 8 is the Charms menu. Charms are just shortcuts to common actions that you can use which are available for any application. To access the Charms menu, press Windows+C or swipe from the right side.

There are five charms:

  1. Search – Use this to search within the app for anything (i.e. finding a calendar appointment or mail message), or you can search your PC for a specific app, setting or file
  2. Share – This charm allows you to send files or info with people you know without leaving the app. Update your Facebook status, email a picture to your Mom (call her already, would it kill you to pick up the phone once in awhile?) or send a link to your note-taking app
  3. Start – This will take you to the Start Screen, if you use this while you’re on the Start Screen it will take you back the last app that you were in
  4. Devices – This allows you to use the devices that are connected to your PC, either wireless or wired. Print directly from the app your in, sync an item with your phone or stream a song to your stereo or video to your TV
  5. Settings – This is where you can change the settings for an app or your PC.

Microsoft also introduces hot corners with Windows 8 as well. You can access the Charms menu by mousing to the upper right corner. Mousing to the upper left corner will show you what apps you have running and allow you to switch between them. Windows+Tab will do the same thing. The bottom right corner will minimize everything on your screen and show you the Charms menu and the bottom left will take you to the Start Screen.

How do I find…

Now that you have a little experience moving around 8, you’ll want to know where all your stuff is. Like Windows 7 before it, Windows 8 greatly enhances the desktop search experience. Just open the Start Screen start typing what you’re looking for. It will immediately display options related to that search. By default it searches for apps first. If you’re looking for settings, or files, click on the appropriate tab on the right to get at what you’re looking for. You can also search using any of the apps listed below
settings on the right side. For example, if you the sudden urge to go to Hawaii, you can hit the Windows key, to bring up the start screen, type Hawaii and then click on the Travel app. This will use the Travel app to search for Hawaii, showing you info about the 50th state as well as flight and vacation options.

OK, now how do I turn it off?

I struggled with this one myself for a while. One of the things that you’ll notice is missing are the familiar Shutdown, Sleep, Hibernate, etc options anywhere on the Start Screen. While I initially thought it may be have been some conspiracy with the Electric Company, you can turn the device off by opening the Charms menu, going to Settings and selecting Power. All the usual options are there. The easier way to get there is use the Windows+I keyboard shortcut to get you directly to the settings charm.

But are there any keyboard shortcuts?

If you know me, you know I love keyboard shortcuts. These shortcuts should get you around Windows 8 a little easier:

Windows + H = Opens the Share charm

Windows + I = Opens the Settings charm

Windows + K = Opens the Devices charm

Windows + Q = Search for apps

Windows + F = Search for files

Windows + W = Search for Windows settings

Windows + X = Access common admin tools (you can right-click on the lower-left hand hot
corner, too)

Windows + E = Launches File Explorer in the desktop environment

Windows + O = lock screen orientation

Windows + R = Opens a Run dialog

Windows + L = Lock the computer

Windows + Print Screen = Saves a screenshot to your Pictures > Screenshots folder

Windows + any of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0 = Launches the corresponding program pinned to
the taskbar

Ctrl + Shift + Esc = Open Task Manager

I really use the Windows+I, and Windows+1,2,3,etc to launch applications. It’s very handy when you can arrange the icons in your taskbar to ones you use more frequently and launch them with the shortcut. In case you really like keyboard shortcuts, you can find more here.

Hopefully this guide will help you get around on your new Windows 8 device a little easier!