Maximizing Windows 8 on your Workstation

Posted on December 30, 2012 by Nikhil P Naik

While companies are becoming more democratic, most of the time dealing with new software for your workstation is like dealing with the other end of the stick, usually the pointy one. For those of you who feel like this regarding your company’s decision to use Windows 8, there is still hope at the end of the tunnel as Microsoft is slowly but surely making their new operating system more workable (and growing the number of apps available in the Windows Store). Till then, these are a couple of tips on making your new Windows 8 Workstation do some actual work for you.

 windows 8

Navigating without the Start Menu

The very first thing you’ll notice is that there is no Start button (unless your admin allows you to install third-party applications and this is very unlikely). Instead, the entire screen is the Start menu with a new touch screen friendly tiled look. Each individual tile represents an application. Like touch screen widgets, some have data or images running through them, some are just titles in big tiles. You’ll also notice that there hardly seems like there is enough space for all of the applications you usually use. Don’t worry, we will handle this problem below. For now, rest assured that you can still access the Desktop by clicking the lower left tile in the Start screen.

The desktop won’t have the Start button menu either but you can still put up shortcuts to your documents, files and folders here. The main active apps will also be shown in the taskbar on the bottom. Two main methods of accessing important functions (such as the Programs and the Control Panel) include:

  1. The Desktop power tools menu: Provides access to Programs and features, the Control panel and other frequently used administrative applications. To access this menu, right-click the area/taskbar on the lower left of either the Desktop or the Start Screen (not the tile, the area on the lower-left).
  1. The Charms bar: This provides access to Windows 8 Start Screen applications or Charms such as Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings. The Charms bar comes up when you swipe (using a touch screen) to the left from the right edge of the screen or if you press the Windows key and C key together on your keyboard.
Using Charms effectively

According to Microsoft, the five Charms applications in the Charms bar are the most likely to be used by anyone using Windows 8. Personally, I’d beg to differ as different people use computers differently but for the most part the Charms applications do provide quick and simple access to other files, applications and options. Below are some ways to do so:

Find everything with the Search Charm:

  • Click the Search Charm in the Charms Bar and a Search field will appear.
  • Type in what you’re looking for (no need to actually click search).
  • Click on Apps or Files or Settings below the panel.
  • Search the available finds that appear in the main Start screen area.
  • Click on it to access it.

Sharing everything with the Share Charm:

  • If your app supports it you can click the Share Charm in the Charms Bar.
  • Click on the icons below (for now, you can only share using Mail or SkyDrive. Support for more likely sharing methods such as Facebook, Twitter and other social media will appear as apps for these are completed on the Windows Store).

Do what you can with the Devices Charm:

  • The Devices Charm brings up options for other devices supported by the app and this comes up when you click the Devices Charm in the Charms Bar.
  • If the app supports printing or scanning the options for these will appear in the Devices Charm.
  • Click on the respective device icon to carry out the appropriate action.

Settings is your current App control panel:

  • Click the Settings Charm in the Charms bar to show the settings available for the application or task you are doing at the moment.
  • This is very much like the Settings/Menu button that you can find on most smartphones or tablets and will provide access to both the app settings as well as the global settings such as Networking or Sounds.
  • The Start Charm brings you back to the main Start Screen
Multi-tasking and Switching between apps

Windows 8 has been designed to focus more on a single application at a time for better performance. However, you can still multi-task using a new and old feature as listed below:

Switch from the Upper Left corner:

  • Move the mouse cursor to the upper left corner in the Start Screen.
  • This will show a drop-down thumbnail slider of all the active applications.
  • Click on the thumbnail of the application you want to switch to.

Snap: Kind of like creating a dual window mode Snap lets two applications run at the same time.

  • Activate and run both apps.
  • Access the Upper Left corner (as above)
  • Click and hold the second app then drag it next to the first (active) app thumbnail.
  • Release or drop this second app to run both apps side by side. The second app will be on the left sidebar. You can resize these windows accordingly.*

Switch with Alt-Tab: Hurrah, Alt-Tab is still here on the Desktop!

  • To show all active applications press the Alt and Tab keys together to bring them up in a Thumbnail slider.
  • Hold Alt and press Tab to switch between the active applications.
  • Release Alt when you have found the applications you want to switch to.

* Snap doesn’t work for all apps and your display must be at least 1366 x 768 pixels for it to work. If the app does not work it will just show the title like it does in the main tile on the Start screen.

Know more about Windows 8, please visit us for more info.

About Nikhil P Naik

Nikhil Naik has a Master's Degree in Information Systems, and is currently working as a Software Engineer at Microsoft. He also loves playing cricket, listening to music, and traveling. Twitter Handle - @buzz_nikhil.

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