Cheat Sheet

Windows 8 For Dummies

From Windows 8 For Dummies by Andy Rathbone

If you're new to Microsoft Windows, you'll probably enjoy Windows 8, the newest version of Windows, which simplifies many of the most common computing tasks. If you've used Windows before, prepare for a shock: Windows 8 doesn't look anything like previous versions of Windows. Discover the biggest changes in Windows 8, how to find its hidden hotspots, and how to use a touchscreen device (instead of the old familiar mouse and keyboard).

Five Big Changes in Windows 8

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.

Finding Hidden Hotspots in Windows 8

Every app you load in Windows 8 fills the entire screen. That lets you concentrate on the information in front of you. But that also means that you won't see any menus. When you need those menus — to switch between apps, close them, or change their settings — you need to find the hotspots in Windows 8. Each hotspot triggers a different reaction.

The following three tables explain three methods of finding hidden hotspots in Windows 8: using a mouse, using a keyboard, or using your fingers on a touchscreen tablet or monitor.

Finding Hidden Hotspots with the Mouse
To Perform This Action . . . . . . Point the Mouse Here
Return to the Start screen. Lower-left corner and then click the miniature Start screen that appears.
Choose from currently running apps. Upper-left corner and then lower the mouse pointer. Click an app's thumbnail to return to it.
Open the Charms bar. Lower- or upper-right corners.
See options for current app. Right-click a blank part of the app's screen.
Finding Hidden Hotspots with the Keyboard
To Perform This Action . . . . . . Press These Keys
Open the Start screen. Windows key.
Choose from currently running apps. Hold down Alt and press Tab repeatedly until you've highlighted the desired app. Then release both keys.
Open the Charms bar. Windows key and C.
See the currently viewed app's menus. Windows key and Z.
Finding Hidden Hotspots on a Touchscreen
To Perform This Action . . . . . . Do This
Open the Charms bar. Swipe from the right.
Open the Start screen. Open the Charms bar and then tap the Windows icon.
Cycle through last used apps. Swipe from left and then tap the desired app.
See options for current program. Swipe from bottom.

For many people, the new Windows 8 Start screen is a distraction to be avoided. The sooner they move onto the desktop, the better. For moving quickly to the desktop, reposition the Desktop tile to the Start screen's top-left corner so it's the first app listed. Then, whenever you see the Start screen, just press Enter to head straight for the desktop.

Windows 8 Touch and Mouse Commands

Windows 8 brings users into a new era of touchscreens, whether they're built into tablets, laptops, or even desktop monitors. When faced with a touchscreen device, these commands will help you maneuver through Windows 8. (The term swipe simply means to slide your finger along the screen.)

  • Swipe from the right edge to see system commands: Swiping from the right side of the screen reveals the Charms bar. The Charms bar contains five icons that let you choose how to deal with you're seeing onscreen. You can Search its material, Share it with others, return to the Start screen, send it to a Device (a second monitor or a printer), or see Settings for that particular item.

    Mouse equivalent: Place the mouse pointer in the upper- or lower-right corner of the screen to summon the Charms bar and then click the desired icon: Search, Share, Start, Device, or Settings.

  • Swipe from the left edge: Swiping from the left brings up your last used app. Also, swipe in from the left and then slide your finger back slightly to the edge; your previously used apps cling to the left edge as a strip, letting you tap the one you wish to revisit.

    Mouse equivalent: Place mouse pointer in upper-left corner to see last used program or app; slide the mouse down the left edge to see other recently used programs. Click the app or program to bring it to the forefront.

  • Press and hold: You can see detailed information without having to commit to an action. In some cases, pressing and holding opens a menu with more options.

    Mouse equivalent: Hover over an item to see more options; if that doesn't work, click the mouse's right button.

  • Tap to perform an action: Tapping something causes an action, such as launching an app, following a link, or performing a command.

    Mouse equivalent: Click an item to perform an action.

  • Slide to drag: This is mostly used to pan or scroll through lists and pages, but you can use it for other interactions, too, such as moving an object or for drawing and writing.

    Mouse equivalent: Click, hold, and drag the item. A scroll bar often appears at a screen's edge, letting you shift your view by dragging the box embedded in the scroll bar.

  • Pinch or stretch: Place two fingers on the screen and then move them as if you were pinching or stretching a sheet of paper. The onscreen image expands or shrinks accordingly.

    Mouse and keyboard equivalent: Hold down the control key on the keyboard while using the mouse wheel to grow or shrink an item on the screen.

  • Rotate to turn: Hold down two fingers onscreen and rotate them, just as if you were moving a sheet of paper on your desktop. As your fingers move, so does the onscreen object.

    Mouse equivalent: None.

  • Swipe from the bottom or top edge for app commands: App commands are revealed by swiping inward about an inch from the bottom or top edge. Swiping from the very top to the very bottom of the screen lets you close the current app.

    Mouse equivalent: Right-click a blank portion of the app to see the apps commands.

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