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Windows 8 tips: Getting started

Windows 8┬áis coming; it’s very different compared to any previous Windows versions.

There is no Start menu, in comes the new touch-oriented Metro Start screen, new applications, new interfaces.

We’ve been looking into every part of Windows 8; and coming up with a list of important tips and tricks.

1. How to find Applications

The Win+X menu is useful, but no substitute for the old Start menu as it doesn’t provide access to your applications. To find this, hold down the Windows key and press Q (or right-click an empty part of the Start screen and select All Apps) to reveal a scrolling list of all your installed applications. Browse the various tiles to find what you need and click the relevant app to launch it.

2. Organizing Applications

The Start screen apps are initially displayed in a fairly random order, but if you’d prefer a more organized life then it’s easy to sort them into custom groups.

You might drag People, Mail, Messaging and Calendar over to the left-hand side, for instance, to form a separate “People” group. Click the magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the screen to carry out a “semantic zoom”, and you’ll now find you can drag and drop the new group (or any of the others) around as a block.

Right-click within the block (while still in the semantic zoom view) and you’ll also be able to give the group a name, which – if you go on to add another 20 or 30 apps to your Start screen – will make it much easier to find the tools you need.

3. Navigation

Windows 8 launches with its new Metro interface, all colorful tiles and touch-friendly apps. And if you’re using a tablet then it’ll all be very straightforward: just swipe left or right to scroll the screen, and tap any tile of interest.

On a regular desktop, though, you might alternatively spin the mouse wheel to scroll backwards and forwards.

And you can also use the keyboard. Press the Home or End keys to jump from one end of your Start screen to the other, for instance, and then use the cursor keys to select a particular tile, tapping Enter to select it. Press the Windows key to return to the Metro screen; right-click (or swipe down on) apps you don’t need and select Unpin to remove them; and drag and drop the other tiles around to organize them as you like.

4. Start Menu

Windows 8 had a very basic Start menu which you could access by swiping from the right side of a touch screen, or moving the mouse cursor to the bottom left corner of the screen. This has changed a little; now you need to right-click in the bottom left corner (or hold down the Windows key and press X) for a text-based menu which provides easy access to lots of useful applets and features: Device Manager, Control Panel, Explorer, the Search dialog and more.

5. Windows 8 Lock Screen

Windows 8 opens on its lock screen, which looks nice but unfortunately displays no clues about what to do next.

It’s all very straightforward, though. Just tap the space bar, spin the mouse wheel or swipe upwards on a touch screen to reveal a regular login screen with the user name you created during installation. Enter your password to begin.

6. Shutdown, Restart

Move the mouse cursor to the bottom right corner of the screen, click the Settings icon – or just hold down the Windows key and press I – and you’ll see a power button. Click this and choose “Shut down” or “Restart”.

Some of the tricks available in previous versions of Windows still apply. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del, for instance, click the power button in the bottom right-hand corner and you’ll be presented with the same “Shut down” and “Restart” options.

And if you’re on the desktop, press Alt+F4 and you’ll be able to choose Shut Down, Restart, Sign Out or Switch User options.

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