Windows 8: The Beginners Guide

Windows 8Windows 8 is a bold new interface designed for touch-enabled devices. But for keyboard and mouse users it can be extremely confusing and frustrating to use, with many controls now hidden for touch screen purposes. Using Windows 8 without loosing your mind can be a daunting task.

So, if you’ve just started using Windows 8 and wondering where to begin and where everything went, you are not alone. Many people have just went to their local Big Box Store and purchased a new PC with Windows 8 on it.

First, all of the controls and features of Windows 7 are still there, just not in the same place. If you’re upgrading from Windows XP, just try and relax. We will get you through this. Here are some basic fundamentals on how to navigate Windows 8.

Getting Started

The first step is to just get into Windows 8. The lock screen you see when your computer starts up doesn’t have any login options. There are three ways to get past the lock screen and log in. If you have a touch screen just swipe up from the bottom. If not, you can click on the bottom edge and drag up with your mouse or just click on any key on your keyboard.

Note: Power users can disable the lock screen permanently using the Local Group Policy Editor.

The New Start Screen

Time to use the new tile-based interface called Metro. The traditional start menu has been replaced by the tablet-optimized full screen view complete with sidebars that can be accessed by swiping with your finger or moving your mouse to one of the four the corners of your screen. You can navigate the horizontal menu by swiping to the right or left with your finger or clicking with a mouse.

New full-screen Windows 8 apps and desktop apps all have shortcuts here. To manage these tiles on the start screen: Right-click with your mouse or use your finger to swipe down from the top of the tile with the app selected to bring up options like uninstalling or unpinning the app from the start screen.

The Charms Panel

The keyboard shortcut you should remember is Win (the Windows Key)+C. This brings up the panel nicknamed Charms which has quick access to searching, sharing, and settings functions. Other ways to bring up the Charms panel include swiping from the right edge to the left on a touch screen, or pointing with your mouse to the top right or bottom right corner of the screen.

The Apps Panel

To see all of your open applications and cycle between them you can use Win+Tab or Alt+Tab. This brings up the Apps Panel on the left with thumbnails of all the open apps.

Alternatively, you can hover your mouse over the top left corner and drag down on the thumbnail to see the list of running apps. Then click the one you want to use.

If you have a touch screen, you can also switch apps by swiping from left to right.

The Apps Bar

The Apps Bar is a menu that opens on the bottom and sometimes top of the screen replacing the right-click function for touch screens. Simply swipe down from the top or up from the bottom of the screen. You can also right-click anywhere with your mouse.

The Desktop

The Windows 7 desktop is still available (well almost). The Metro Interface is the new path for Microsoft. All development is focused around this interface now and into the foreseeable future. While the old desktop is there, the only way without using the new Start Screen to open apps is to place shortcuts to them on the desktop.

To access the desktop, touch or click the Desktop tile on the start screen.

By default the Start Screen will always come up first after a reboot. Eventually, app developers will be forced to write Windows 8 apps and the desktop of Windows XP/ 7 will disappear completely.

The Apps

To remove or unpin a tile from the start screen, either right-click to select it or swipe down on the tile. This will bring up options for managing the tile.

By default Windows leaves full-screen apps open. To close the app use Alt+F4 or go the top of the screen then hold with your finger/ mouse, drag the thumbnail to the bottom and release.

Searching, Searching, Searching

To search for a file, folder, or app simply start typing on the Start Screen and the search panel will open. Just as in Windows 7, the more you type, the narrower the results become.


The Windows 8 version of multi-tasking is a one third/ two thirds split view. You can move full-screen apps to the left or right side while working in the desktop. This is only available on screens with at least a 1366×768 resolution. Simply swipe in from the left edge of the screen or move your cursor to the top left corner and swipe/ drag down to show the thumbnails of your open apps. Select an app and drag its thumbnail to the right until you see a grey bar on either the left or right side. Then release the thumbnail there to place the app there.

To add a second monitor or projectors, open the Charms panel, select Devices, then Second Screen. No more than two apps can be open at once on a single screen.


To print from a Metro app, open the Charms panel then select Devices and select your printer. For more print options, click More Settings. Printing from a Desktop app is still the same as in Windows 7.


To access the System Settings, open the Charms bar and select Settings. What’s on the Settings menu will change depending on the app you’re in or if you’re on the Start Screen. The PC settings is a simplified version of the control panel. It is under Change PC Settings.

Locking the Screen

Under the PC Settings screen, you can change the lock screen background image and also choose the apps that show information when the screen is locked such as the Weather and Email.

Shutting Down and Rebooting

Shutting down Windows 8 can be tricky if you don’t know where to look. To shutdown or reboot Windows 8, open the Charms Bar then click Settings, then the Power button, and select if you want to Sleep, Shutdown, or Restart.

To Summarize

Windows 8 can be difficult to adjust to. Hopefully this simple beginners guide will help those that just fired up their new PC not be so lost or confused. As we move forward, everyone that continues to use Microsoft Windows for their daily computing needs will have to learn how to navigate the Windows Metro Interface.

Click here for a list of Windows 8 shortcuts.


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