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Getting Started with Windows 8 may be Easier Than You Think

First of all, choosing Windows 8 for a new PC of any kind or upgrading to Windows 8 means you're going to have to learn a little bit of new jargon in order to understand things. You're also going to have to re-learn the locations of all your installed programs, re-learn where simple utilities are located, and re-learn where all of the configuration and customization controls have gone. Control Panel no longer exists. Quick Launch bar no longer exists. The Start button no longer exists. Windows 8 is designed to be used on conventional desktop and laptop computers as well as the new touch screen PCs and on touch screen tablets, so you'll regularly hear references to tapping and swiping along with right-clicking and left-clicking. It's actually not as bad as it sounds though, and it won't take long. Frankly, and even though they're quite a departure from previous versions of Windows, you've only got to learn five new things:

  1. Start Screen - It's the Windows 8 desktop, it's full of things called Tiles (see #4 below), and it's what you'll see after you've started your Windows 8 computer, laptop or tablet. Hidden on the right side of the screen, you'll find the Charms Bar (see #2 below). Hidden on the left side of the screen, you'll find the Switch List (see #3 below). Remember this keyboard shortcut: Win+C. That's the Windows key plus the letter C, which will make the Charms Bar appear when you get lost trying to figure out how to get back to the Start Screen. Press Win+C to make the Charms Bar appear, then click or tap the Start icon. I know - two steps when there used to be only one, and it still won't get you to an actual Start menu (which has permanently gone bye-bye).

  2. Charms Bar - Very important. It contains five icons: Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings. There are three ways to access it no matter where you are in Windows 8. Move your mouse to the top right corner of the Windows 8 screen and wait a second, or use the keyboard shortcut Win+C, or swipe-in from the right side if you're using a touch screen, and the Charms Bar will appear. Click or tap the Start icon to get back to the Start screen (the Start menu no longer exists).

  3. Switch List - It's a list of running programs and apps and recently run programs and apps. Remember the Alt+Tab keyboard shortcut to switch between thumbnails of running programs? Gone. Remember Win+Tab in Windows 7 to switch between full window views of running programs? Gone. Instead, Win+Tab pops a vertical list of thumbnails of running programs. Use Win+Shift+Tab to cycle through them from the bottom up. You can call the Switch List in two other ways. Move your mouse to the lower left corner of the screen and the Switch List will pop out, or on a touch screen swipe-in from the left side.

  4. Tiles and . . . Where Are My Programs!? - Tiles the square or rectangular shaped things on the Windows 8 Start screen. That's where your programs are hiding, by the way - in the Apps tile (in case you're wondering how the heck to find all your programs and apps) - all the programs and apps that aren't in a tile of their own already or that you haven't already assigned a tile. Those tiles can occupy more than just the main start screen too - use the arrow keys on your keyboard (or swipe-left on a touch screen) to get to the next screen full of tiles. You can turn any program, app, utility, web page, MP3, video and a lot more into a tile simply by dragging & dropping the item onto the Start screen.

  5. Right-Click or Tap & Hold - Right-click anything on the Start screen (a tile, the background, anything at all) then look down to find the new context menu. We've always known that since Windows 98, right-clicking on things brought up a lot of options, configurations and actions. Windows 8 actually offers even more. If you're somehow stuck on the Start screen trying to figure something out about a particular tile or if you've already clicked or tapped the App tile, right-click on something to bring up more options. Right-click or tap & hold to add a new tile, resize tiles, uninstall something, or remove something from the Start screen.

Learn these five things, and Windows 8 will suddenly become a lot more inviting, a lot more interesting, quite powerful, quite fresh, and may just help open up some new ideas about how to productively get things done, work new options into your daily routine, and help you and your staff work more closely together. First and foremost though, set aside time up-front to ensure everyone (including you) is fully trained in the five new things.

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