The diehard's guide to making the most of Windows 8

You may need to break many old habits to get the most out of Windows 8, but it doesn't have to be a cataclysmic event

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Navigating Windows 8 without touch
If your system lacks touch input, true for the majority of PCs, you will need to use your mouse to emulate Windows 8 touch commands. Problem is, the mouse isn't really a one-for-one substitute for touch: Flicking, for example, is impossible to execute with a mouse.

Mouse movements are also used to expose functionality like the application switcher or the charms bar, by flicking the cursor into a corner of the screen -- a task made all the more difficult by having multiple monitors (see below) because you can overshoot the edges too easily.

If you hate fishing around for features using the mouse, Windows 8 offers a slew of new keyboard shortcuts that give direct access to Windows 8 features and settings, such as charms, search, and app options:

  • Win-C: Open charms bar
  • Win-Q: Open Search charm
  • Win-H: Open Share charm
  • Win-K: Open Devices charm
  • Win-I: Open Settings charm
  • Win-W: Search Windows settings
  • Win-F: Search files
  • Win-Z: Open Metro app options
  • Win-Tab: Cycle to next open app
  • Win-.: Snap Metro app to left
  • Win-Shift-.: Snap Metro app to the right
  • Win-PgUp and Win-PgDn: Move Metro desktop between displays
  • Alt-F4: Close Metro app (exactly like a real desktop app)
  • Win-D: Open the Windows Desktop (if you're already at the desktop, this toggles between minimizing and restoring all windows on the desktop)
  • Win-B: Switch back to to the Windows Desktop
  • Win-X: Open fast-access menu with links to common system tools, such as the power options, Mobility Center, and Command Prompt (regular and admin-level)

Be warned that utility software with hooks into Win-key combinations will likely override these shortcuts or make them behave strangely.

Press Win-C (for

Press Win-C (for "charms") to open the charms bar
no matter what system context you're in. The resulting menu can be browsed by using the arrow keys and Enter. (Click for larger version.)

Knowing when to go Metro
Metro's interface isn't its only thing facet. The way apps work under Metro is also significant -- so much so that Microsoft engineered an app-development platform and design language around it, WinRT (not to be confused with the Windows RT version of Windows 8 for ARM tablets that prvides the Metro environment and just special versions of the Windows Desktop's Office 2013 and Internet Explorer 10).

The Metro model works best for apps geared toward information consumption -- what some have called "lean-back mode" -- or where interaction is reduced to a few simple gestures. A Metro video playback app is going to be more useful than, say, a Metro-based text editor. On the other hand, a Metro Twitter client might be a good compromise; you'd still need to type, but not as much.

Most of the apps designed for Metro are content consumption apps or apps designed for simple interactivity, such as games.

Most of the apps designed for Metro are content consumption apps or apps designed for simple interactivity, such as games. (Click for larger version.)

As a result, you're best off not trying to replace existing desktop apps with Metro apps, except for desktop apps primarily designed for consumption. Don't expect every single app, or every single kind of app, to turn up in a Metro incarnation -- at least not at first, and not until Windows users are comfortable enough with Metro to attempt working with more sophisticated apps.

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