Microsoft Windows 8 Review - Navigation, Tiles, Apps and Charm Bar Review


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.



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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.



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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.



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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.

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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.



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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.



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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.

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