So you have the brand new Windows 8 running on your machine. No matter how awesome or awful you find the interface is, it is important to figure out how Windows 8 works to improve your user experience.
I’ve assembled a list of essential tips and tweaks that most starters probably don’t know as these features are relatively new to you. There’s no hardcore coding or advanced customizations in this post, as this guide is aimed at normal computer users who want to master Windows 8 effortlessly.
Recommended reading: Top 100 Free Windows 8 Apps
Getting Started With Metro UI
1. Lock Screen
When I first installed Windows 8 on my machine, I have no idea how the lock screen works. I’ve waited for 5 minutes at the lock screen as I thought the windows is still booting. It is indeed very useful for tablet users but not for computer users. To enter the log in screen, simply press any key on your keyboard, click on any mouse button or slide upwards for tablet users.
2. Switch Between Metro Start Screen & Desktop
There are 2 quick ways to switch between the interfaces, either by pressing the Windows key or clicking at the bottom left corner.
3. Find Anything On Your Computer
Searching for apps or files? Simply navigate to the Metro Start Screen and type the keyword! Windows 8 will automatically search for matching apps, settings or files.
4. Application List
Since the start menu is replaced by the Modern UI in Windows 8, you can no longer browse through your software list from the start button. To find an app, press Windows key + Q and the application list will appear together with the search bar. Also, you can right click on the start screen and select “All apps” at the bottom of your screen. For touch screen users, swipe your finger up from the bottom of the screen and tap on the “All apps” button.
5. Close A Metro App
Also known as Modern app or Windows Store app, it works differently from the traditional desktop app, as there’s no close button at the top right corner of these apps. You have to left click and drag the app to the bottom of the screen to close it.
6. Customize An App
You can easily customize an app by right clicking on the tile. You can turn live tile on or off, unpin Modern apps from start screen, uninstall the app, pin app to taskbar, etc. You can also arrange the tiles by dragging them to the places that you prefer.
7. Categorize Your Apps
You might want to group your apps by different categories so that your start screen looks more organised. First, hold the Ctrl button & scroll with your mouse wheel or click on the “minus” icon at the bottom right corner of the start screen to zoom out. Then, right click within the block of applications to name them.
8. Use Metro App & Desktop Simultaneously
If you wish to use both Modern app & legacy desktop at the same time, you can drag the Modern app to the left or right side of the screen and use your traditional desktop. Whenever you want to use your Windows 8 app, simply drag the divider towards the majority side of the screen and your desktop will be minimized at the side.
Get To Know The Hot Corners
9. Switch List
Moving your cursor to the top left corner shows you the most recently running app, whereas clicking the bottom left corner will toggle you between the start screen and desktop. To bring up the switch list, you can either move your cursor to the top or bottom left corner, then move your cursor downwards or upwards.
10. Charms Bar
Simply move your cursor to the top/bottom right corner of the screen or press Windows key + C to access the Charm bar. You will see a notification panel at the other side of the screen, which displays the current date & time, internet connection, and power status. I will explain briefly about the five buttons at the right sidebar here:
- Search: Find any files, apps, and settings on your computer.
- Share: Share what’s currently on your screen.
- Start: Toggles between the start screen and desktop.
- Devices: Change settings or access to the devices connected to your PC.
- Settings: Access to your all of your PC settings.
Some New Features
11. Take Screenshots Easily
Now you no longer have to press “PrtScr” and manually paste the screenshot in Paint to save it. Simply hold Windows key + PrtScr and the screenshot will be automatically saved in the Pictures library under a folder named “Screenshots”.
12. Task Manager
This is one of my favorite new features in Windows 8. The design of its new interface is much more user-friendly compare to the old ones. As you can see, the resource usage of your apps & processes is shown clearly by the heat map. You can easily find out the culprit that consumes a lot of CPU resources and end it on spot.
Besides, there’s a new startup manager in the task manager, which is also very useful to disable programs from starting up automatically.
13. Refresh Or Reset Your PC
These 2 features are extremely useful for users who:
- just got his/her new Windows 8 PC, with pre-installed bloatwares which slows down the machine.
- experiences lag issues due to unnecessary software installations, registry issues, virus infections, etc.
- are planning to sell or recycle his/her PC.
The major difference between refreshing and resetting is you won’t lose your personal files and Windows 8 apps by refreshing, whereas resetting your PC is basically the combination of formatting and re-installing Windows 8 on your computer.
To refresh or reset your PC, click “Settings” on the Charm bar, choose “Change PC settings” at the bottom and click “General”.
Some Useful Tweaks & Customizations
14. Change The Default Lock Screen & Start Screen
Go to the Charm bar, choose “Settings”, click “Change PC settings” and you can easily choose any images that you like for your lock screen. For start screen, there are quite a number of colors and themes that you can choose from too.
15. Switch To A Microsoft Account
There are few advantages of switching your local account to a Microsoft account. Firstly, you don’t have to login every time when you want to use some Metro apps such as Music, Video, etc. Besides, you will be able to get updated content and settings when you sign in your Windows 8 account from other devices. Simply go to the “User” tab under “Change PC settings” to switch.
16. Shut Down Your PC With Just One Click
It takes 3 clicks to shut down a Windows 8 PC, which seems too “time consuming” for lazy users like me. The best solution is to create a shortcut button at the desktop.
First, right click on your desktop, go to “New” and choose “Shortcut”, copy and paste “shutdown /s /t 0” into it and press next. You can then enter any names that you want (preferably “Shutdown“) and click finish. Now you have the shortcut button without an icon, so it is recommended to change it by right clicking on the icon and choose “Properties”, click “Change icon…” and choose the power button.
17. Change Default Program In Windows 8
By default, Windows 8 will open music, video, and image files with Windows Store app, which most users hate. If you want to open a particular file type with different program, you can right click on the file, go to “Open With…” and click “Choose default program…” to change which program Windows uses by default.
Some Other Useful Guides
- Full List of Windows 8 Shortcuts & Hotkeys
- How To Disable Lock Screen in Windows 8
- 6 Start Menu Replacements for Windows 8
Did I miss out any important tips or features? Feel free to share it here!