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Five Big Changes in Windows 8

Part of the Windows 8 For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Windows 8 looks and behaves much differently from previous versions of Windows. Remember these five big changes, and you'll be well prepared for Windows 8.

  • Windows 8 behaves much like a large smartphone or tablet. If you've been using a tablet or smartphone — those fancy cellphones with Internet access — you might feel right at home. When you turn on your computer, Windows 8 looks much like a large-screen tablet smartphone. Instead of seeing icons, though, you see large tiles representing each program. That large, tile-filled screen has replaced the Start menu, and it's called the Start screen. You'll return to it constantly to launch programs.

  • Programs are now called apps. In keeping with the smartphone theme, Windows 8 now refers to all programs as apps – short for applications. You can easily install new apps by downloading them from Microsoft's Store app.

  • The desktop is now an app. Windows 8 refers to the traditional Windows desktop as an app. So, when you want to work the way you did in earlier versions of Windows, you click the Desktop tile on the Start screen. The familiar desktop appears, letting you run your familiar programs in their own windows. The Desktop app looks almost identical to the desktop in Windows 7. (Windows 8 uses the word app to describe desktop programs, too.)

  • Windows 8 works very well on touchscreens. When running Windows 8 on a touchscreen, substitute the word "tap" for click, and you'll get along just fine. To right-click when using a tablet, hold your finger down on the item. When a box appears, lift your finger. The right-click menu appears, ready for you to tap your desired option.

  • The Charms bar brings everything together. One of the most pervasive changes in Windows 8, the Charms bar lives throughout Windows 8, both on the desktop and on the new Start screen. You need to summon the Charms bar to search for things, share things with friends, send things to devices like printers, or change an item's settings.

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