Windows 8 gets a bad rap.
Admittedly, Microsoft could have done more to ease the transition. They made some significant changes to the user interface – changes that are both jarring visually (i.e. the tiled Start screen), and confusing to use (the “removal” of the Start menu). Throw in a couple of design decisions that can at best be considered questionable and I can certainly understand people’s confusion.
Recently, I was helping a friend who works at a library and is faced with trying to answer Windows 8-related questions without actually having any Windows 8 computers at the library.
I asked myself, “What are the top three things that I would tell people to make using Windows 8 a little easier?”
Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!
Just start typing
“How do I find my programs?” is a very common question. People see the Windows-tiled Start screen and aren’t able to find the Start menu on the desktop, so they feel lost. If there’s no tile for it, it can be extremely difficult to locate and run the program that you know is on your machine.
The solution is amazingly simple.
Just start typing.
With the tiled Start screen visible, just start typing the name of whatever program you’re looking to launch.
In the example above, all that I’ve done is type two letters: “c” followed by “o”. (I’m looking for Control Panel.) On the left, Windows 8 lists apps1 that either start with, contain, or somehow relate to what’s been typed so far. The second item down is Control Panel – exactly the program I wanted.
You can see the search box that automatically appeared as I started typing on the right and beneath that, a count of the number of apps that match (the seven currently displayed on the left), the number of settings that match (162), and the number of files (713). If I were to continue typing, the results would narrow. (If I finish typing the word “control”, for example, the results narrow down to three, 12 and 31 respectively.)
Finding that program is easy. Just start typing.
Swipe to close
When looking at one of the newer tiled apps, it’s not at all clear how to close it or get rid of it. There’s no title bar, no little “x” at the top to click or tap. In fact, there’s no visual indication of how to close the app at all.
In true Windows fashion, there are several ways to close an app: a couple that are old and one that is new.
On a touch screen, if you swipe your finger from just above the screen all the way to the bottom, the tiled app is closed.
Don’t have a touch screen? If you move your mouse pointer to the top of the screen, you’ll see it change to a hand:
Left-click and hold, and then drag the mouse pointer to the bottom of the screen. Just like the finger swipe, the app has now closed.
Are you a keyboard person? Don’t like swiping and mouse manipulations? No problem. ALT+F4 – which has been a standard way to close windows for years. It still works, even with tiled apps.
And while we’re at it, ALT+TAB still works as well to cycle through the running apps and applications, whether they’re full screen or not:
Use the other Internet Explorer
This is that questionable decision that I alluded to earlier.
What many people don’t realize is that there are effectively two different versions2 of Internet Explorer in Windows 8: full screen/tiled and traditional.
The tiled IE is easy to identify. It has the address bar at the bottom.
I’m sure this is a fine version of Internet Explorer, but it seems like a “cut rate” version lacking many of the features and options that we’ve become accustomed to in a browser.
Fortunately, we can get the “real” Internet Explorer back.
Click or tap the Desktop tile. On the task bar at the bottom, you’ll find an icon for the real Internet Explorer.
Click that to get a much more familiar – and full featured – browser.
Fortunately, we can also make that the default. In the desktop version of IE, click the gear icon to the right and click Internet options:
On the Programs tab of the Internet Options dialog, check the option to Open Internet Explorer tiles on the desktop:
And click OK.
Now, even when using the tiled Start screen, clicking or tapping an Internet Explorer tab or link will first take you to the desktop and then fire up the full version of the browser.