Microsoft unveiled the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on Wednesday, releasing the latest build of its upcoming operating system to the consumer market for what amounts to a giant open beta test. If you’re reading this article, there’s a chance that you’re one of those early adopters who have decided to take Windows 8 for a test drive.
By the way, we can also help you figure out how to close apps in Windows 8, too.
Keep in mind that this information is subject to change as the consumer preview continues. Microsoft has made several major adjustments to Windows 8 since the developer preview began in late 2011, and it’s only logical to assume that Microsoft is going to take the feedback it receives from these early adopters to create a final product that will be more acceptable to the average user. Well, we can certainly hope so.
One of the first things a new user will quickly discover is that the Start menu no longer exists. There is no little button in the lower-left corner to give you immediate access to search, your programs, and system tools as there once was. Yes, it’s a tragedy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t access these things just as easily as before.
Metro Apps Navigation
During the developer preview, users commented that the regular Start menu has been replaced with Metro. While this statement may seem confusing on the surface, the presence of the Metro UI is simply a full-screen programs menu that gives you access to your various apps and programs. At first, this screen is populated with apps that run within the Metro interface, though you can access your traditional programs by right-clicking and selecting All Apps in the options panel that appears on the bottom of the screen.
You can navigate through this often overwhelming amount of apps by moving your mouse to the right and left of the screen, using your scroll wheel, or swiping on a touchpad or touch-sensitive mouse. Depending on where your application is natively supported (Aero or Metro), it will open right up. You can actually pin apps from the larger pool of programs to the main Metro Start menu by right-clicking them in the All Apps area and selecting Pin in the options bar that appears on the bottom of the screen.
Switching Between Tasks
If you want to switch between programs you already have open, this can be done in a very interesting way no matter if you’re on your standard desktop or within Metro.
All you need to do is move your mouse to the lower-left or right corner and start moving it towards the center of the left side of the screen. Here, you will see a list of preview windows, each representing a program you have open. By clicking on the preview window, you’ll be brought to that program.
Charms are a very different word used to describe options available on the panel located at the far right of your screen, accessible by placing your mouse cursor at the lower left or right portion of the screen and moving it up towards the center of the right side. These charms include Search, Share, Start, Devices, and Settings.
The Settings charm will take you one of two places. In the Metro UI, it will give you the ability to configure whether or not system tools appear in the full-screen Start menu. While in the Aero desktop, this menu will give you immediate access to Control Panel, Personalization, and PC information (the former properties option from My Computer).
On the bottom of each of the Settings menus you’ll find your network, volume, brightness, notifications, power, and language settings with an option to access a much more detailed settings interface for anything else you might need.
This can appear overwhelming at first, though the idea may have been to save you clicks to get to the most important things, while hiding the least necessary features away.
The Search charm allows you to quickly search for apps, settings, and files that exist on your system. Everything said, this is possibly the fastest way to get anything done on Windows 8, at least as far as I can tell.
Windows 8 is very, very different from any version of Windows before it. Borrowing from the hot corners feature of OS X, the touch-friendly interface of Windows Phone 7, and the tried and true Windows Aero experience users have come to know, Windows 8 Consumer Preview promises to be nothing more than a mishmash of form and function as it attempts to determine exactly what it will be when it grows up.
One can only hope that it’s heading in the direction of greatness, and not destined to be laid to rest next to Windows Bob.