Running Applications in Windows 8.1 - dummies

Running Applications in Windows 8.1

By Faithe Wempen

Computers exist for one basic reason: to run applications. An application is a program that performs some useful function. For example, there are applications that create spreadsheets, play games, edit photos, and access email, to name only a few. The applications installed on your PC determine the down-to-business tasks you can perform with it, as well as the entertainment options you have available (games, movies, music, and so on).

There are two kinds of applications in Windows 8.1. Desktop applications are traditional-style applications designed to run on the Windows desktop in windows that are typically resizable. Windows 8 apps are applications that only run on Windows 8 and 8.1. They typically run full-screen. Their interfaces are different, as you will learn later in this chapter.

Starting an application in Windows 8.1

If the application you want to start appears on the Start screen, you just click or tap its shortcut. If it doesn’t appear there, click the down-pointing arrow at the bottom of the Start screen to display the Apps list. This is a list of all installed applications.


To pin an application to the Start screen, right-click it on the Apps list and choose Pin to Start.

You can also start applications from their pinned shortcuts on the taskbar or the desktop. Click a pinned taskbar shortcut icon, or double-click a pinned desktop shortcut icon, to start the application.

After you start an application, one of two types of interfaces opens, depending on the type of application it is. Traditional desktop applications run in a window, with the desktop as a background. You can move and resize the window, and you can have lots of windows open at once, arranged so you can see all of them.


Desktop applications typically have a menu system or some toolbars or a ribbon at the top of the window for issuing commands.

A Windows 8 app, on the other hand, typically fills the entire screen, and may not have any visible controls. Right-click to display a command bar at the top or bottom of the screen with commands you can execute. The following figure has a command bar at both the top and the bottom.


Windows 8 apps are designed to work well with touch screens; their controls and commands are larger and simpler than those in desktop applications.

Switching among Windows 8.1 applications

When there are multiple applications open at once, you can switch among them freely. There are many ways to do this, depending on the types of applications and whether you prefer to work with the keyboard, mouse, or touchscreen.

For desktop applications, you can switch to an application’s window by clicking any visible part of the window, or by clicking the application’s icon on the taskbar. You can point the mouse pointer at an icon to see a thumbnail preview of the application. Windows 8 apps also have an icon in the taskbar (if you have Windows 8.1 or higher), so you can switch to them that way too.


For Windows 8 apps, you can swipe the touchscreen from the left to switch to a different app. (The desktop is considered an app itself, so you can toggle between your Windows 8 apps and the desktop this way, but not between specific open desktop apps.)

With the mouse, you can manage open Windows 8 apps by moving the pointer to the upper-left corner. When you see a thumbnail image appear there, move the mouse pointer down the left edge of the screen until a bar appears with thumbnails of running apps. From there, you can click the app you want to switch to.

For all types of apps, you can hold down the Alt key and tap the Tab key. A bar appears in the center of the screen with thumbnail images of the open apps. Each time you tap Tab, a different one is selected. When the desired app is selected, release the Alt key.

Closing an application in Windows 8.1

For traditional desktop apps, you can easily close the application window by clicking the Close (X) button in the upper-right corner of the window. You can also right-click the app’s icon on the taskbar and choose Close window. If the application has a menu system, there is probably also an Exit or Close command on the leftmost menu.

For Windows 8 apps, you can move the mouse pointer to the top of the screen to make a title bar appear, and then click the Close (X) button in the title bar. (That works in Windows 8.1 and higher only.)

If you have a touchscreen, you can drag from the top of the window all the way down to the bottom of the screen to close a Windows 8 app.

You can do the same thing with a mouse by dragging (with the left mouse button held down) from the top of the app window to the bottom of it. You can also move the mouse to the top of the screen, so that a title bar appears for the app, and then click the Close button (X) on it.

Working in a desktop application in Windows 8.1

Desktop applications, as a general rule, have a menu bar or a ribbon. On a menu bar, click a menu name to open a menu, and then click a command on the menu. Some menu-based applications also have one or more toolbars, which are rows of graphical icons that represent common commands.

The figure shows an application with both a menu and a toolbar. In some applications, the menu bar is hidden by default; you can make it appear by pressing the Alt key.


In applications that use a ribbon instead of a menu bar, click a tab to display the desired set of buttons, and then click the button that represents the command you want to execute.


Working in a Windows 8 application

Windows 8 applications have their own unique control methods. At first, new users may be taken aback by Windows 8 app because it lacks any of the familiar components of a Windows desktop application. For example, it’s not in a resizable window, there are no window controls in the upper-right corner, and there is no ribbon or menu system. It’s not obvious how to proceed.

Here’s a giant clue when it comes to Windows 8 apps: When in doubt, right-click. Right-clicking usually brings up a command bar with buttons for issuing commands such as starting a new data file, saving your work, or setting options.