Getting your hands dirty with Windows 8

Inspiration to come up with this post is on the concerns found online on usability of Windows 8.

This post will help those

  • Who are looking forward to upgrade to Windows 8?
  • Anybody who has an impression as of now that a steep learning curve is involved.
Note : This article is prepared with users of non-touch Desktops/Laptops in mind. But applies to touch devices also leaving the Gestures.
  1. Let’s dissect the Windows 8 UI at high level
  2. Gestures and short cuts available on the Start Screen
  3. Gestures and short cuts available on a Modern App
  4. Customizing Windows 8(coming soon)
  5. Built-in Apps(coming soon)

Let’s dissect the Windows 8 UI at high level

The following two lines summarizes at high level how the Windows 8 UI is structured.

The Start Screen is nothing but your flattened Start Button.

See Windows 8 Desktop App as another Windows 8 app which acts as a workspace to run apps not designed in Modern UI.

Start Screen

It’s your point of contact for interacting with your Applications, also, acts as a dashboard giving you a snapshot of your interfaces with external world. That means it gives a quick snapshot of your mails, messages, news, weather, social media updates etc.

Windows 8 Desktop

As of now, not all available apps are ready for the new Modern UI. We may see some migrating to the new UI, but some may not. So your Windows needs an environment to run apps not designed for Modern UI. That is provided by the “Desktop”, which is nothing but your Win 95/98/Vista/7 Desktop, minus the Start Button.

Start Screen – In Detail

Let’s start with our new Start Screen. Once you boot up or login to  Windows 8 this is where you will land. It houses the new depiction of our old icons – called “Tiles”. On a newly installed Windows 8 this screen will be already populated by default tiles.


Each tile corresponds to an app, it could be either your legacy app or Windows 8 app. Tile can be static in nature or dynamic depending on the nature of app it relates to.
  • Live Tile – the tile is dynamic, it can show alerts or snapshot for the app.

For e.g., tile for your Windows 8 Calendar app can show the approaching appointments or events. If more than one alert is available, the alerts scrolls with in the tile. If you want you can turn off the dynamic behaviour of the tile.
  • Static Tile – behaves like our traditional icon. Tiles for your legacy app will end as a Static one on the Start Screen.

Whenever you install a new app, a tile for it is added to the Start screen. If the app is a legacy app, then your Windows 8 Desktop will also have a short cut for the same. In some instances installing a legacy app may add multiple tiles on the Start Screen. These are equivalent to Shortcuts added under the application group on prior versions of Windows Start Menu.

Currently there is no implementation of folders to put your related Tiles on the Start Screen.

When the Titles extends the available real estate of your monitor, a horizontal scroll bar appears to move around. Also you can Zoom Out the Start screen to have consolidated snapshot.

Gestures and short cuts available on the Start Screen

The power of Windows 8 navigation is better experienced on touch screen. But that doesn’t mean our traditional screen are useless.

You can quickly launch an app by simply typing the app name when you are on the Start Screen. Based on the characters typed, Windows 8 will display matching App Tiles.

Clicking on the Desktop Tile on the Start Screen launches or switches to Windows 8 Desktop App

The Start Screen has active or hot spots, when your mouse pointer is placed on those, depending on the location a context sensitive menu appears. The hot spots are on the four edges of your screen.

Top left hand corner

When mouse pointer is placed on this location, Windows 8 shows a thumbnail of the app which you have navigated away last. Move the mouse pointer down the left edge, you will thumbnails of other active apps if any. You can click on the thumbnail to switch to app.

Right hand corner

Displays the Charms bar. The action of shortcuts selected in this menu bar are context based. This menu bar appears irrespective of whether you are on Start Screen or with in an App
Search – provides search functionality. Depending on the context, the search output varies. If you are on Start Screen, basically you are searching an App by its name. If you are on Music app, you are searching a song based on title, artist etc. When you are on the People app, you are searching somebody with in your Contacts
Share – includes short cuts of app which can be used for Sharing. Mail app, Twitter etc. If you are viewing a Video on Video App, you can use this short cut to share the video with your Social Contacts.
Start – To Switch to the Start Screen
Devices – list the Devices applicable on where you are now. If you are on your Photo app, the Device list may include installed Devices which are of interest to Photo app. For example, it may list your Printer if a printer is installed. If you are on Music or Video app, you may find your Devices which supports Play-To feature.
Settings – Customization of your Windows 8 machine. Includes shortcut which was visible on earlier windows versions. Volume Control, Network, Shutdown shortcuts, a short cut to go to a detailed Settings page.

Your Shutdown shortcut appears under the “Settings” shortcut on the Charms Bar

Right hand bottom corner

Clicking on this will give you a bird’s-eye view of your Start Screen. Use this mode to rearrange your Tiles or Tiles Group

Gestures and short cuts available on Modern App

The beauty of Modern UI is minimum clutter and maximum screen real estate for your active map. A designed on Modern UI, when running will not display your App’s menu and icons. Then how will you interact with your App? Menu Items available to an app are available on the Features Bar.

Right Clicking with-in a Modern App displays the Features Bar at the bottom of the Screen.

Below screen shot appears on the Music App

Move the mouse pointer to the top edge of the UI, the pointer changes to a Palm icon, Drag Down the mouse to close the current App.

Moving the mouse pointer to the right hand edge of the UI displays the Charms Bar. The Shortcuts available works in context to the current App.

In some apps, like Internet Explorer Modern App, a Menu bar appear of the Top also when you right-click with in the app. Depending on the app active, the Menu Items , Shortcuts available varies.

Will be continued

3 Comments on “Getting your hands dirty with Windows 8”

  1. […] Getting your hands dirty with Windows 8 ( Share this:TwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  2. […] Also : A Guide on Navigation and UI elements  in Windows 8 UI !!! – This is the major culprit as per them. I’m bored with the existing UI I […]

  3. […] this Post on how Windows 8 provides better alternatives than “Start […]

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