How to Use Windows 8

With the end of support for Windows XP, more and more people are having to switch to a new OS.  In addition, when you buy a new desktop or laptop, chances are, you will get Windows 8.  Windows 8 is a hybrid OS.  An attempt by Microsoft to marry the versatility of a tablet with the depth of utility of a PC.  Many long-time Windows users are frustrated by Windows 8 when they first encounter it, so I thought I’d offer a few tips to make the transition easier.


Basic navigation tips

On your Start screen (where the square shortcuts for different applications can be seen) there are some hidden menus.  If you move your cursor to the top right corner, a menu will pop up with the options of Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings.  Start returns you right back to the Start screen.  Printing options are under the Devices choice. Settings allows you access to personalization of the Start screen and the Control Panel.  If you move your cursor to the top left corner of the Start screen, small windows will appear with the last applications you had open.  Say you needed to check a report you’d just had open, you would cursor over to the top right corner, and click on the window showing a thumbnail of the report to get back to it quickly.  At the bottom of the Start screen on the left side is an arrow. Click this arrow, and you get a complete app tray that you can scroll through horizontally, similar to the app tray on your smartphone.

To close an open application, put your cursor at the top of the screen.  A hand symbol will appear.  You can now drag (click and pull) toward the bottom of the screen, closing the app.  You can also grab the application window and move it to the left or the right.  A black line will appear, giving you a split window.  The app you moved will show up on the side you dragged it to and you can open another app, or go to the desktop on the other side of the screen. Now, you have two applications running side by side.

How do I find Word?

In order to access your Microsoft Office applications you must go to the app tray.  On your Start screen, there is an arrow at the bottom, left-hand side of the screen.  Click this arrow, and scroll over until you see Microsoft Office and you’ll see a list of small icons for your Office programs (or applications).

Some people prefer to use the desktop, which operates much like the Windows you are familiar with.  There is a desktop icon on your Start screen.  Click it to get a more traditional Windows look.

Now, to get your Office applications to show up on the desktop, so that you don’t have to always go back to the app tray to open them, follow these steps:

  1. From the Start screen, click the down arrow and scroll across to find File Explorer. When you click on it, you’ll get the traditional window displaying computer folders and file names.
  2. Go to this folder: C:Program FilesMicrosoft Office 15rootoffice15
  3. Find the Excel or Word or PowerPoint icons (whatever you want on your desktop).
  4. Right click on the icon and choose “Send to – Desktop”

You will now have an icon for a shortcut on the desktop to the application. I got this great tip from the Community Forums at Microsoft,, and it works well.  Instructions on pinning applications to the taskbar and shortcuts to the desktop are available also from Microsoft as a pdf.

Where’s my Start Menu?

After getting us used to the Start Menu, Microsoft tried to do away with the traditional set-up in favor of the Start screen that appears when you first log into Windows 8.  What happened to the lovely list of applications that used to pop-up?  Well, again, they are on your app tray.  Click the arrow on the bottom left-hand side of the Start screen and you will be able to scroll horizontally through your applications.  Miss the old Start Menu?  So do a lot of people.  You can actually download a program to simulate the old Start Menu.  One such program that I have used is free. It’s called Classic Start 8.  With it installed, the Windows icon on my keyboard will now pull up the Start Menu.  Then, I click “All Programs” to see my files.

Why does it keep asking me to save to One Drive?

The default save location appears to be OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive). Microsoft is encouraging users to save files in the cloud.  Microsoft supplies 7 GB of storage for free.  If you save your files on OneDrive, they are accessible from your other devices, such as tablets, smartphones, or you can easily share files with other computers.  This provides a backup for you in case your computer or your hard drive is damaged.  Your files are already saved.  Whether you trust the cloud as a safe place to store your files is a decision you’ll have to think through for yourself.  Other applications, such as Dropbox, have been providing a similar service for a few years now.  I have a Dropbox account and use it to access my work files out in the field as well as at home.  It has proven valuable to me.

Go straight to desktop and bypass the Start Screen

You just want to eliminate the Start Screen altogether and go directly to the desktop when you start your computer. You can customize Windows 8 to fit your needs by changing the Taskbar and Navigation properties.

  1. Click on Desktop on the Start screen.
  2. Right-click any open area in the taskbar, then click “Properties”.
  3. Click the “Navigation” tab, then check the box next to “Go to the desktop instead of Start when I sign in.” (Windows 8.1) It may also read, “When I sign in, or close all apps on a screen, go to the Desktop instead of Start.”
  4. Click “OK”, then reboot.

These tips should prove useful in making Windows 8 work for you.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

1 × 3 =