So you’ve just finished installing Windows 8, and you’re staring at the spanking new Start screen.
After staring at this for a few seconds you might already have a few questions on your mind. Let me try and answer them for you.
Where’s the Start Button?
The Start button is in the same place where it was in previous versions of Windows, just that it’s hidden to not take up an extra icon of space. Space saving is not exactly a good argument but in any case, to access the Start button, just move your mouse pointer into the LOWER LEFT CORNER of the screen and the Start button will appear.
The basic idea is to hide your mouse pointer in the lower left corner of the screen to get it. You’ll probably fumble around once or twice but it’s easy enough to get used to it, since it is pretty much in the same place where it was in previous Windows.
Note: Don’t try this when you’re actually IN the Start Screen (The screen you see when you first launch windows, ie. The one on top) When you’re in the Start Screen, the lower left corner brings you to the last app that was opened before your arrived at the Start Screen.
Keyboard Tip : Typing when you're in the Start Screen works just like typing in the Start Menu of Windows 7, it'll immediately start searching for whatever you typed.
What’s this Charms Bar thingy I keep hearing about?
When you hide the mouse pointer in the upper right or lower right corner of the screen, a column of icons will appear.
Then when you reach for them, the icons will gain a proper background and look like a toolbar.
This is what is known as the Charms Bar, it provides quick access to Windows and App features. Start is self explanatory and is basically the Start Button. Devices brings up a list of devices which you can interact with, you can control your projector output settings from this.
Search, Share and Settings have a very interesting and not so obvious behavior that new users wouldn’t understand at first. They are app-specific. For example, if you’re using a calendar application and you’re looking for a button in the app that will open up a setting’s page for you to set reminder options, you don’t have to go digging around just hit the Settings button on the charms bar and you’ll be able to access the application’s settings page. If you’re using a mail application and you want to search for something, hitting the Search button on the charms bar will bring you to the app’s search interface.
One caveat though, as always all these integrated buttons will work like they’re supposed to if the app developer was paying attention and doing their jobs properly.
KEYBOARD TIP: The keyboard shortcut for the Charms Bar is Windows + C
How Do I Turn Off My System?
A very good question considering that the option is now quite hidden compared to previous versions of Windows. Bring up the Charms Bar and click on Settings. Look at the bottom part of the panel.
Apart from the Power Button which we're looking for (FYI clicking on it brings up the options to Sleep, Restart, Shutdown and doesn't immediately turn your system off) There're a few other useful controls that are easily accessible.
Keyboard Tip : Press the physical power button on your PC to turn it off. Ok... I suppose some machines are configured to sleep when the power button is pressed.
Where Did The Internet Explorer Address Bar Go?
When you first open Internet Explorer from the Start screen you'll see the address bar at the lower part of the screen.
But after you start surfing for a while the address bar disappears, and you can't seem to get the address bar back by moving the mouse to the bottom of the screen.
To reveal the address bar in Internet Explorer, or the application bar for any other Windows 8 UI app. Right Click on any BLANK space in the application.
Keyboard Tip : You can press Windows + Z to bring up the application bar in Internet Explorer as well as any other Windows 8 UI app. You can also use the familiar Alt-D shortcut as well.
How Come I Can't Run A Program I Just Downloaded!
So you've just downloaded a program and you double click to run it just like you'd do in any other Windows, but a dialog box appears with the message "Windows SmartScreen prevented an unrecognized app from starting. Running this app might put your PC at risk."
Unlike the previous dialog boxes that block direct execution of downloaded programs, there's no "Yes just run the darn thing already" button that's clearly visible in the dialog. But rest assured, this is not Microsoft preventing you from running anything you want. It's just another well meaning but probably futile effort at stopping people from simply running things which they don't intend to.
In any case, clicking on the More info link in the dialog will present you with the Run Anyway button to run your program.
And that's it for now, future updates as and when I think there's something to add to this.
November 18th 2012 : If you're using Windows 8 on a touch enabled PC you might want to follow up with this post.