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Maximize your first 30 minutes with Windows 8

Loyd Case | Oct. 30, 2012
You've successfully installed Windows 8. You're staring at the Start screen, in all its flat-tiled glory, and it all seems completely alien based on your previous experience with Windows.

You've successfully installed Windows 8. You're staring at the Start screen, in all its flat-tiled glory, and it all seems completely alien based on your previous experience with Windows.

As with any new version of an operating system, your first half-hour is critical. You'll want to learn the basics of navigation, how some important built-in applications work, and how to set up basic functions, including networking, backup, and user accounts. For this article, I'm going to assume that you now have Windows 8 running, and that you can see the Start screen and associated tiles. I'll also assume that all the current drivers, including networking drivers, are properly installed.

First, let's go over some basic navigation tips.

Keyboard, mouse, or touch?

It's likely most early Windows 8 adopters will be using displays that lack Windows 8's ten-point multi-touch capability, though a few may spring for some of the shiny new systems that bring the touch interface to mainstream laptops and all-in-one PCs. So, we'll focus on basic keyboard and mouse navigation.

Now, you did watch the one tip that Microsoft built into the setup process, right? What's that you're saying--you just clicked through the initial startup screens without reading them? Okay, most of us don't always read the text during the tedious setup. It's also likely that you skipped logging in to, or creating, a Microsoft account, opting instead for just a local account. That's okay too--though in a bit I'll touch on why a Microsoft account might be useful. But first, back to basic navigation.

The key tip Microsoft showed you, in case you missed it, is simple: Move your mouse to the corners of the screen. As with all things Microsoft, though, it's not as simple as you might think. In different contexts, moving your mouse to a corner means different things.

When you're in the Start screen, moving your mouse cursor to the upper right or lower right brings up the Charms bar.

The Charms bar is simply a set of five icons on the right side that represent key system functions, and the bar is available wherever you are in Windows--even when you're in the traditional desktop. At first, you'll primarily care about two of the icons you see: the center, windowlike one, which returns you to the Start screen; and the Settings icon, which is the bottom one. The Settings icon is key, because that's where the shutdown/restart button now lives.

Now, move your mouse to the lower left corner, and you get...nothing. Nothing, that is, until you run something else--your first Windows 8 app. Indeed, if you have active apps running, moving your cursor to the lower left will show you a small thumbnail view of the most recent app running (including the Windows desktop.) However, mousing to the lower left is not how you primarily return to the desktop. It's just how you get back to your most recently used app.

 

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