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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.

Now, move your mouse cursor to the upper left corner, let it hover there for a moment, and then move the cursor down slightly, and the app-switching bar will pop up on the left side of the screen. This bar displays a thumbnail list of all currently running apps. You can then drag an app thumbnail to the right to make it take over your screen. If it's a Windows 8 app (and not a desktop program), you can run it in split-screen mode by dragging it down, and letting it dock to the left or right side.

Now here's an important trick for longtime Windows users: If you right-click in the lower left corner, you'll see the Simple Start menu. Simple Start is lets you quickly launch common system-management functions, like the control panel, disk management, the run dialog box, and so on. Simple Start pops up whether you're in desktop mode or in the Start screen.

On the desktop, the mouse behaves a little differently. Moving to the lower left always brings up a peek view of the Start screen. Click, and you return to the Start screen--just like clicking on the start button in Windows 7 or earlier will bring up the Start menu.

Using Touch

I'll touch briefly (pun intended) on using the touch interface, in case you're lucky enough to have a  multitouch-enabled device. Again, I'm just going to cover the basics.

Swiping your finger from the outside right of the screen inward brings up the Charms bar. Swiping inward from the left side brings up the most recent Windows 8 app. Doing this will not bring up a desktop app (more on the differences between Windows 8 apps and desktop apps shortly.) But if the desktop app was the application you used most recently prior to returning to the Start screen, swiping in from the left will bring up the desktop.

If you swipe in from the left, then abruptly change direction and swipe off the left side, you'll see the app-switching bar listing all currently running Windows 8 apps. You can select any of them by touching the peek icon. Note that desktop apps are simply shown as a single representation of the Windows desktop, even if you have multiple desktop apps running.

The modern context menu (akin to the right-click menu on the desktop) is now a bar at the bottom. You bring up the Windows 8 context menu by swiping up. The context settings available will vary depending on the application.

Pinch-to-zoom will give you a miniature view of all the items on the Start screen, scaled to fit on a single display. Poking any app tile will return you to a normal scale view.

 

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