Windows 8: 7 handy tips and 4 cool tools

From getting back your Start menu to tweaking the Metro UI, here's how to play better with Windows 8

Although it isn't even in beta, the Windows 8 Developer Preview edition is already getting tweaked and having its hidden features exposed by fanboys (and girls) and developers alike. Here are eight tips, tricks, and tools that are worth knowing about if you plan on playing with Windows 8 today.

Tip 1: Get back your Start menu

If you are like me, you installed the preview on a desktop (in my case, I installed it in a virtual environment) and not a tablet. On a touchless PC, the new Metro UI may not be the most comfortable method of working with Windows 8.

[ Want to run Windows 8 on your PC (or virtual machine on your Pc or Mac)? J. Peter Bruzese has a video that explains how to install Windows 8, and another video touring Windows 8's key features. | Stay abreast of key Microsoft technologies in our Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]

But you can install the traditional look in two steps:

  1. Launch Regedit and browse to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer.
  2. Double-click RPEnabled and change its value from 1 to 0 to remove Metro and get back to the desktop Windows you are used to.

Tip 2: Use Windows 8's keyboard shortcuts

To launch Regedit, you may need to use a shortcut key. Here are some of the keys that can help you in Windows 8:

  • Pressing the Windows key and R simultaneously brings up the Run box.
  • Pressing Windows+I brings up your settings from the side panel.
  • Pressing Windows+Q brings up an application search.
  • Pressing Windows+C brings up the simple Start menu and time and date.

Many of your "old" shortcuts still work, too. But keep in mind that some of these shortcuts won't function the same if you turn off the Metro UI through the registry as described in the first tip.

Tip 3: Setting SmartScreen filtering

If you've played around a bit with Internet Explorer, you know that IE utilizes a feature called SmartScreen to filter and protect your system from harmful elements. In fact, Windows 8 uses SmartScreen to filter the entire Windows system, not just IE. You can find these settings in the control panels and in the Action Center under the Change SmartScreen Settings heading.

There are three options: Require approval from an administrator before running unrecognized programs from the Internet (recommended); give a warning before running unrecognized programs from the Internet, but don't require administrator approval; or turn off Windows SmartScreen.

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