If you're new to Windows 8 getting started can be confusing. This free lesson offers tips on how to get started with this operating system.
Getting started with Windows 8
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Windows 8 can be confusing at first, since the interface has changed so much. You'll need to know how to navigate the Start screen, as well as the Desktop. Although the Desktop looks very similar to previous versions of Windows, it has one major change: The Start menu has been removed.
In this lesson, we'll show you how to navigate Windows 8, use the Charms bar, and work with apps. We'll also show you where to find features that were previously found in the Start menu.
Watch the video to learn how to navigate Windows 8 and use the Charms bar.
To sign in to Windows 8:
When you're setting up Windows 8, it will require you to create an account name and password that you will use to sign in. You can also create additional accounts, and you'll have the option of associating each one with a Microsoft account.
To learn more about creating accounts, check out our Managing User Accounts and Parental Controls lesson.
- Click anywhere on the lock screen to unlock the computer.
Clicking the lock screen
- Your user account name and picture will appear. Type your password, and then press Enter to sign in. Alternatively, you can press the back arrow to select a different user.
The sign-in screen
- The Start screen will appear.
The Start screen
Navigating Windows 8
There are several ways to navigate through Windows 8, including hot corners, keyboard shortcuts, and gestures if you're using a tablet.
Using hot corners
Whether you're in the Start screen or the Desktop, you can navigate through Windows 8 by using hot corners. To use a hot corner, just hover the mouse in the corner of the screen, and it will open a toolbar or tile that you can click. Each corner performs a different task:
- Lower-left: When you're using an app, you can click in the lower-left corner to switch back to the Start screen.
Clicking in the lower-left corner
- Upper-left: If you click in the upper-left corner, it will switch to the previous app you were using.
Clicking in the upper-left corner
- Upper-right or lower-right: You can hover the mouse in the upper-right or lower-right corner to open the Charms bar, which you'll use to adjust your computer's settings and manage printers. We'll talk more about the Charms bar and its other features later in this lesson.
Hovering in the lower-right corner
If you have several apps open, you can switch between them by hovering the mouse in the upper-left corner and then moving the mouse down. This displays a list of all of your open apps, and you can click the desired app to switch to it.
Switching to a different app
Navigating on a tablet
If you have a Windows 8 tablet, you can navigate by using swipe gestures instead of hot corners:
- Swipe in from left edge lets you switch to a different open app.
- Swipe in from right edge opens the Charms bar.
Using keyboard shortcuts to navigate
Windows 8 has several keyboard shortcuts that you can use to navigate more easily:
- Alt+Tab: You can hold down the Alt key and then press Tab one or more times to switch between your open apps. This feature is called Flip, and it works in both Desktop view and the Start screen.
- Windows: When you have an app open, you can press the Windows key to switch to the Start screen. This shortcut also lets you switch back to the Start screen when you are in Desktop view.
- Windows+D: You can hold down the Windows key and press D to switch to Desktop view.
The Charms bar
The Charms bar is a toolbar that lets you access your computer's settings, along with other options. You can access the Charms bar by hovering the mouse in the top-right or bottom-right corner.
The Charms bar
The Charms bar contains several icons, which are called charms, and each one contains different options:
- Search: The Search charm lets you find apps, files, or settings on your computer. However, a simpler way to search is to go to the Start screen and type the name of the file or app that you're looking for.
Searching for an app
- Share: The Share charm is basically a copy and paste feature that is designed to be as convenient as possible. It allows you to "copy" information (such as a photo or web address) and "paste" it into another app. For example, if you're reading an article online, you can share the address with the Mail app, which lets you email the article to a friend.
Using the Share charm to share a link with the Mail app
- Start: This switches to the Start screen. If you're already on the Start screen, it will open the most recent app.
The Start screen
- Devices: This shows any hardware devices that are connected to your computer, such as printers or monitors.
- Settings: This lets you access general settings for your computer, as well as settings for the app you're currently viewing. For example, if you're in Internet Explorer, you can go to the Settings charm to access your Internet Options.
Viewing settings in Internet Explorer
Working with Start screen apps
Start screen apps are different from the "classic" Windows apps you may be used to. Apps fill the entire screen instead of opening in a window. However, you can still multi-task by opening two apps side by side.
To open an app:
- On the Start screen, locate and click the app you want to open.
Opening the Travel app
- The app will open and fill the entire screen.
The Travel app
To close an app:
- Hover the mouse at the top of the app. The cursor will change to a hand icon.
The hand icon
- Click, hold, and drag the top of the app all the way down to the bottom of the screen and then release. The app will close, and you'll return to the Start screen.
Closing an app
When dragging the app down, it may look like it's "stuck." However, just keep moving the mouse down until the cursor gets to the bottom of the screen, and the app will then close.
Viewing apps side by side
Although apps usually fill up the entire screen, Windows 8 lets you snap an app to the left or right side and then open other apps next to it. For example, you might want to keep your calendar visible while you're using another app.
To view apps side by side:
- From the Start screen, click on the first app to open it.
Opening the Calendar app
- Click, hold, and drag the top of the app all the way to the right or left side of the screen.
Snapping to the right side of the screen
- Release the mouse, and the app will snap to the side of the screen.
The snapped app
- Click anywhere in the empty part of the screen to return to the Start screen.
Clicking in the empty part of the screen
- Click an app to open it.
Opening the People app
- The apps will now appear side by side. Drag the bar to change the size of the apps.
Two apps side by side
Snapping is designed to work with widescreen monitors. You will need a screen resolution of at least 1366x768 pixels to use this feature. If you have a larger monitor, you'll be able to snap more apps at once.
Coping without the Start menu
One of the biggest complaints about Windows 8 is that it doesn't have a Start menu. The Start menu was a very important feature in previous versions of Windows, as it was used to launch apps, search for files, open the Control Panel, and shut down the computer. You can still do all of these things in Windows 8, but they're now found in different places.
To launch an app:
There are several ways to open an app in Windows 8:
- Click the app icon on the taskbar.
Opening an app from the taskbar
- Double-click the app shortcut on the Desktop.
Opening an app from a shortcut
- Click the app tile in the Start screen.
Opening an app from the Start screen
To view all of your apps, click the arrow in the bottom-left corner of the Start screen.
Navigating to all apps
To search for a file or app:
- Press the Windows key to switch to the Start screen, and then type what you're looking for. Your search results will instantly appear below the search bar. A list of suggested web searches will also appear below the results.
Searching for a file
For more information about searching, check out our Using the Search Feature lesson.
To open the Control Panel:
- From the Desktop view, hover the mouse in the lower-right corner to access the Charms bar, then select Settings.
The Settings charm
- Locate and select Control Panel from the Settings Pane.
Clicking Control Panel
- The Control Panel will appear. You can then select the desired setting to change it.
The Control Panel
To shut down your computer:
- Hover the mouse in the lower-right corner to access the Charms bar, then select Settings.
The Settings charm
- Click Power, and select Shut down.
Shutting down the computer
Start screen options
Windows 8 introduces a lot of new features, but users who work mostly on the Desktop are often annoyed and frustrated by the Start screen. If you're not interested in using the Start screen very often, there are a few options that can make your computer function more like older versions of Windows. This includes the option to boot your computer directly to the Desktop instead of the Start screen.
To modify your Start screen options:
- Go to the Desktop.
- Right-click the taskbar and select Properties.
- A dialog box will appear. In the interactive below, we'll review a few options that you may want to customize.
Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn about different Start screen options:
Boot to Desktop
Check this option if you want the Desktop to appear when you sign in, rather than the Start screen.
Show All Apps
Check this option if you'd prefer to see a list of all your apps when you click the Start button or press the Windows key, rather than the Start screen.
This option will make the Start screen function more like the Start Menu in older versions of Windows.
Show Desktop Apps First
Check this option to show all Desktop apps before Start screen apps in the Apps view.