Shortcuts with the Windows 8 Navigation Pane
Look at most "real" desktops, and you'll see the most-used items sitting within arm's reach: the coffee cup, the stapler, and perhaps a few crumbs from the coffee room snacks. Similarly, Windows 8 gathers your PC's most frequently used items and places them in the Navigation Pane.
Found along the left edge of every folder, the Navigation Pane contains five main sections: Favorites, Libraries, Homegroup, Computer, and Network. Click any of those sections — Favorites, for example — and the window's right side shows you the contents of what you've clicked.
Here's a more detailed description of each part of the Navigation Pane:
Favorites: Not to be confused with your favorite websites in Internet Explorer, the Favorites in the Navigation Pane are words serving as clickable shortcuts to your most frequently accessed locations in Windows:
Desktop: Your Windows desktop, believe it or not, is actually a folder that's always spread open across your screen. Clicking Desktop under Favorites quickly shows you the contents of your desktop.
Downloads: Click this shortcut to find the files you've downloaded with Internet Explorer while browsing the Internet. Ah, that's where they ended up!
Recent Places: You guessed it: Clicking this shortcut lists every folder or setting you've recently visited.
Recorded TV: If you've ponied up the extra cash to buy the Windows 8 Media Pack for recording TV shows, you can find your shows waiting in here.
Libraries: Unlike normal folders, libraries show you the contents of several folders, all collected in one place for easy viewing. Windows' libraries begin by showing the contents of two folders: your own folder and its public equivalent, which is available to anyone with an account on your PC.
Documents: This opens the Documents library, which immediately displays your My Documents and Public Documents folders.
Music: Yep, this shortcut jumps straight to your Music library, where a double-click on a song starts it playing through your PC's speakers.
Pictures: This shortcut opens your Pictures library, the living quarters for all your digital photos.
Videos: Similarly, this shortcut jumps straight to your Videos library, where a double-click on a video opens it for immediate viewing.
Homegroup: A convenient way of sharing information between several household computers, Homegroups are two or more PCs that share information through a simple network. Click Homegroup in the Navigation Pane to see folders shared by other networked PCs in your Homegroup.
Computer: Opened mainly by PC techies, this button lets you browse through your PC's folders and disks. Other than a quick click to see what lives on a recently inserted flash drive or portable hard drive, you probably won't visit here much.
Network: Although Homegroups simplify file sharing, old-school networks still work in Windows 8, and any networked PCs — including your Homegroup buddies — appear here.
Here are a few tips for making the most of your Navigation Pane:
To avoid treks back to the Start screen, add your own favorite places to the Navigation Pane's Favorites area: Drag and drop folders onto the word Favorites, and they turn into clickable shortcuts.
Messed up your Favorites or Libraries area? Tell Windows 8 to repair the damage by right-clicking the problem child and choosing Restore Favorite Links or Restore Default Libraries.
For more information about Windows 8 and its features, explore Windows 8 For Dummies, available online.