Windows 8 cheat sheet

Here's how to find your way around Microsoft's new OS and make the most of its features

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When you launch the Windows 8 version of IE, at first all you see is a Web page, with no address bar or other controls. Right-click or press the Windows key + Z (or swipe down from the top or up from the bottom of a touch screen) to display the App bar, and two sets of controls appear.

The Windows 8 IE app with controls. Click to view image.

On the top are thumbnails for the most recent sites you've visited or tabs you've opened; click any to go there, or click the X at the top of any to close it.

To go to a new site, click the + button to the far right of the thumbnails and a page appears with a blank address bar at the bottom, a list of sites you've visited frequently, and any sites you've pinned to the Start screen. Click a frequently visited site or pinned site to go there, or type an address into the Address bar.

Opening a new blank tab in the Windows 8 version of Internet Explorer: nothing on top, thumbnails and an address bar at the bottom. Click to view  image.

Also at the top when you display the App bar is a button with three dots on it. Click it and you get two choices: Close all of your tabs or launch a new InPrivate Browsing tab that prevents IE from storing cookies, site history and other data about your browsing session.

Down at the bottom of the screen when you display the App bar in IE is an Address bar; forward, back and refresh buttons; a pin button that lets you pin the current site to the Start screen or add it to Favorites (which you will be able to use only in the Desktop version of IE); and a wrench button that, when clicked, lets you search for text on the current Web page, view the page in the Desktop version of Internet Explorer, or download a Windows 8 app associated with the site you're visiting, if it has one.

The Address bar does double duty as a way to go to websites and to perform searches: Just type a Web address or a search term into the bar. When you type in a search term, you'll see several kinds of results -- those from sites you've visited often, those from sites you've pinned, those from your Favorites, and those from the Web, via Bing.

Note that you don't have to make all the controls appear to use the back and forward buttons. When you're on a Web page, move your mouse cursor to the left edge of the screen and a back arrow appears; move it to the right edge and a forward arrow appears.

The bottom set of controls -- the Address Bar and various buttons -- also pops up from time to time without you having to display the App bar. For example, they appear when you click a link or when you use the back and forward arrows as described in the previous paragraph.

To make the controls go away, right-click, press the Windows key + Z or swipe down from the top on a touch screen.

Using the Desktop version of IE10

The changes to the Desktop version of IE are generally under the hood: notably, improved performance and an overhauled rendering engine. So just use the Desktop version of IE in the same way you've always used it.

Other new features

There have been plenty of other changes in Windows 8, too numerous to list in this article. Here are some of the more important ones.

File Explorer. The file management app once called Windows Explorer has been renamed File Explorer. The change is not just in name only. It has also been redesigned and now has a Ribbon interface. (New to the Ribbon interface? Check out our Word 2010 cheat sheet to get acquainted.)

Note that the first time you use File Explorer the Ribbon might be hidden. To expand the Ribbon (or collapse it if it's already expanded), either press Ctrl-F1 or click the small down arrow in the top right corner of the window. You can also leave the Ribbon collapsed and simply click on any tab to see its available commands.

File Explorer, with the Ribbon turned on. Click to view image.

The Ribbon's Home tab contains a grab bag of file-management commands, such as copy, paste, copy a path, move, rename and open. You can also create a new folder, select multiple files or folders, and more. The Share tab lets you share files and folders via email, by burning to disc, by printing and so on. The View tab lets you customize the overall File Explorer interface (by, for example, turning the left-side navigation pane on or off) or the display of files and folders (by showing hidden items or not, changing the icon size and configuration, and so on).

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