Windows 8 Navigation: the Start Screen
Remember the Start menu you know and love? For Windows 8, it’s now the home screen. Like any mobile OS, Windows 8 has a ‘home screen’, which is the default when you start up, and which the Windows key on your keyboard or Windows button on your tablet drops you straight back to.
Mind you, those are far from the only ways to get there. You can also move your cursor to the bottom-left corner and click the resulting popup, or call up a sort of universal task bar called the (retch) Charm Bar by swiping out from the side with touch or moving your cursor to the top or bottom right corners when using a mouse, where it’s the middle ‘button’. And that’s not even talking keyboard shortcuts.
From the Start screen, you’ll see your most commonly used tiles, panning to the right. Similar to Android, you can (two-finger) swipe to move between sections of this panoramic home screen. Or, if you don’t have touch, just move the mouse to the screen’s side to pan, use the scroll bar at the bottom, or use your mouse’s scroll wheel.
If you instead wish to see all your tiles on a single screen, you can simply pinch out using touch, or click in the lower right corner with the mouse. This leads to a minimised view of all Groups/tiles on the Start screen, which Microsoft calls Semantic Zoom.
Windows 8 Navigation: Tiles
Just like on competing mobile operating systems, you can re-arrange Win8 tiles to your liking. Simply click/touch and hold to then drag the tile where you like. Drag it down to the top or bottom of the screen and you’ll get the same minimised view just described, handy for moving a tile to a far-flung Group. One nice little touch is that you can leave ‘gaps’ where there is no tile, or even isolate a single tile from its peers.
Tiles can of course be added and removed from the Windows 8 Start screen. To do this, open All Apps by right-clicking (to ‘right-click using touch, simply press until the circle appears) anywhere on the Start screen or two-finger swiping up from the bottom. This brings you to a list of all available apps, shortcuts, and accessories. Here you’ll find many Windows 7 stalwarts like NotePad, Calculator, and Paint. Now right-click on any of these to pin/unpin the from the Start screen.
Tiles on the Start screen are arranged in blocks called Groups. Groups can be a single tile or up to four small tiles/three large rectangular tiles wide. You start off with two Groups by default but can add more by simply dragging a tile to a blank area to the side of an existing Group.
You can name groups, making them a bit like wide-open, humongous folders. To do this, simply right-click while in the zoomed-out view.
Windows 8 Navigation: Apps
Again much like Android or iOS, you don’t actually need to close Windows 8 apps the way you would regular X86 programs. When you exit a running app or open a new one, they suspend in the background, ready to pick up from where you left off at a moment’s notice.
To switch between ‘active’ apps, you can either click/touch the Start screen’s top left-hand corner, which will switch between apps sequentially - or simply move down from this corner with the mouse (swipe out and back in without breaking contact using a finger) to call up a switching panel that’s very reminiscent of the one found in Android Ice Cream Sandwich and up. From here you can 'pull apps out' to maximise them.
Classic Windows 7 keyboard shortcuts, such as Alt plus Tab or F4, will also still work to switch between or permanently close apps. Remember when wanting to get more options from an app: just like in Windows 7, right-click/touch is your friend.
Searching for a program or app is as easy as ever in Windows 8. Simply call up the Charm Bar (by swiping out from the side with touch or moving your cursor to the top or bottom right corners when using a mouse) and press the familiar magnifying glass to get started.
Windows 8 Navigation: Controls
Most of the controls for Windows 8, such as volume, screen brightness, keyboard launguage and the like, can be accessed from the Charm Bar. Merely go to its Settings icon to alter almost anything.