How to Navigate around a Windows 8.1 Touchscreen

Navigating with your fingers on a touchscreen might be new to yiou. In the land of tiled Windows Store Metro programs, the one-finger swipe (dragging your finger across the touchscreen) is king.

Here’s a guided tour of your PC, using only your fingers:

1

Go to the Metro Start screen.

If you can’t see the Start screen, press the Windows button on your tablet (or press the Windows key on your keyboard, if you have an attached keyboard).

2

Tap or click the down-arrow in the lower-left corner.

You see an oddly organized, kind of grouped and alphabetized list of all the programs (or apps) on your computer.

3

If you have a touch-sensitive screen, pinch the screen and then unpinch the screen. If you only have a mouse, hover your mouse near the bottom of the screen, and then click the minus sign (–) in the far right.

If you’ve never done a pinch, this is a good place to practice. Stretch two fingers out, put them on the screen, and pull your fingers together. Think of pinching a baby’s butt. Gently.

You see the same weird alphabetized list and groups, but instead of seeing all the apps, you just get the first letters — A, B, C, and so on. This view of all apps is uninteresting but can be useful if you group apps appropriately.

To reverse the action and expand (variously called unpinch or spread) the screen, stick two fingers together, touch the screen, and move them out. With a mouse, just click the Start screen.

4

To get back to the Start screen, press the Windows button on your tablet (or press the Windows key on your attached keyboard).

Back on terra firma.

5

Tap the Internet Explorer tile.

IE appears, filling the screen.

6

Swipe from the bottom or from the top. If you have a mouse, right-click anywhere.

Either way, you get an App bar on the bottom.

The App bar on the bottom is called a navigation bar. The IE navigation bar has thumbnails of all of your open tabs, a place to type an address or search terms, and icons to reload and pin a location to the Start screen.

7

While you’re still in Internet Explorer, swipe from the right or hover your mouse in the upper-right corner.

The Charms bar appears. Charms bar is a strange name, and the execution is also, uh, strange. The basic idea is that the Charms bar gives you quick access to certain functions common in many applications and Windows.

Search lets you search inside the application, or in Windows as a whole. If you’re sitting in Internet Explorer, swipe from the right and tap the Search charm to bring up the Bing search engine.

If you’re in the tiled Metro Mail app, the Search charm lets you search through your e-mail — or at least, the e-mail that’s on your computer; Search in the tiled Metro Finance app asks you to type a stock symbol; and so on.

Share, in theory, lets you take items from one tiled Metro app and put them in another. In practice, the inter-connections that you would expect may or may not exist — for example, you can’t Share a contact from your People list in an e-mail message.

Start takes you to the Start screen, duplicating the function of the Windows button on your tablet.

Devices is a system-wide charm that lets you control your system’s devices — printers, scanners, and so on — directly. For example, if you’re looking at your Calendar, bringing up the Devices charm should let you print the current Calendar. (As of this writing, it doesn’t, but that’s pretty typical for the tiled Metro apps.)

Settings brings up settings that are apropos for the app in particular, and for your system in general.

When you’re working with your thumbs in the tiled side of the fence, swipe from the bottom or the top or the right to get more options that are tailored for the program you’re using.

8

Press the Windows button on your tablet (or press the Windows key on your attached keyboard) to go back to the Metro Start screen.

Take a breather.

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