Top 8 Tricks to Using Windows 8 Like a Pro

One of the biggest releases to take place in 2012 was Microsoft’s introduction of Windows 8. This new system took a gigantic leap in a new direction for Microsoft, focusing much more on the visual impact of the operating system than in previous versions of Windows. It also showed that Microsoft was not only embracing the mobile era of technology, but is determined to be one of the front-runners for the industry. Windows 8 is designed to be used on both a tablet and a computer, but the visual aspects are much more tablet-based.

Click here to see the video “Windows 8-First Impressions”, our initial walk-through video of the new Windows.

Although this new version of Windows is a huge leap forward for Microsoft, there is a definite learning curve associated with it. There are certain features that Windows users have become used to that are very different. It takes time to get familiar with this new layout. But, we understand how precious your time is. So, we have put together this list of tricks to using Windows 8 which will cut down on that learning curve and have you using this new system like a Pro in no time.

1. Terminology

With this new version of Windows comes a few new features with new names. In order to help you navigate or even understand any articles you read to learn more about Windows 8, there is some new terminology you need to be familiar with. Because if you want to use Windows 8 like a pro, you need to be able to talk about it like a pro.

Metro: This term refers to the new look of the Windows 8 screen. The large colorful boxes and widgets, the new navigation and apps, etc. So when someone says that a page that is accessed is “metro”, you know that they mean it will have that new Windows 8 look.

Basically, “metro” is how the new Windows 8 interface looks, as opposed to the regular Desktop interface look.

Charms: This term refers to the menu that pops up on the side of the screen when you either swipe from the right side (when using a touch screen) or move your cursor to the bottom left corner (when using a mouse). This menu contains five “Charms”, which is really just a new name for the menu icons. These are: Settings, Devices, Share, Search, and Start.

Tiles: This term refers to the widgets/icons/boxes that appear when you are looking at a metro-style page. You can customize these tiles to contain shortcuts to applications you frequently use, along with color and size. You can also have live tiles, which are just tiles that contain information updating in real-time. For example, you can have live tiles that contain weather information for your area, or notify you when a new email comes in.

Interested in learning more Windows 8 terminology? Check out this glossary from

2. Create a Picture Password

Definitely, in my opinion, one of the really fun new features available with Windows 8. I won’t deny that after seeing the commercial showing the picture password I really considered getting a copy of Windows 8 just to try it. And fortunately, setting it up is pretty simple.

To get there, press the Windows Key + I, which will bring up the settings charm. On the bottom right, click on “Change PC settings”, and go to the Users tab. Under “Sign-in options” click on the “Create a picture password” button. Now you will have the option to choose any picture, and then define three gestures anywhere on the image. You have the options of a circle, swipe, or click for any of the options, or any combination of the three.

A word of caution though: Direction matters! Make sure you remember exactly how you made the gestures, because you will have to duplicate it the same way every time. For example, if you did a clockwise circle with a swipe through it from left to right, if you do a counter-clockwise circle, or a swipe from right to left, you will not be able to log in.

3. The Simple Refresh

If you have ever been in a situation where you needed to have Windows re-installed on your computer, you know how annoying and time-consuming it can be. But now, Windows 8 has made it much easier.

Under the “Settings” charm, click on “Change PC Settings”, and then, under the “General” tab, you will see two options: “Refresh Your PC” or “Remove Everything”. It is really important to know what each option does so you don’t accidentally click on the wrong one.

“Refresh Your PC” will restore Windows to the factory settings, but will keep all of you personal documents, files, and customizations intact. This means you don’t need to worry that some items may be lost during the refresh. If your computer is running incredibly slow, or there is a problem with your hardware or software setup, or a problem with the settings of Windows itself, this is the option you want to go with.

If however, there is a more serious problem, such as a dangerous virus or a huge amount of spyware, you want to use the “Remove Everything” option. A word of caution though, this option will in fact wipe out everything, so your computer will almost be brand-new again. This means before using this option you need to make sure you have everything backed up and have any and all license keys and security settings written down so you can restore your computer. Unless of course, you are wiping the computer because you plan to sell it on eBay.

4. Customize Your Tiles

In theory, the idea of tiles is pretty great. At a glance you can see the weather, latest news, incoming emails or instant messages, etc. But the best part is also being able to customize them. If there are certain applications you use on a consistent basis, you can create tiles for them so that they show up on your start screen- very similar to a desktop shortcut. Think of the start screen with all the tiles as your home base. You can personalize it so that if needed, you always have a place to come back to.

To add an application as a tile on your start screen, head over to your Charms and click on Search. A drop-down list will appear under the search bar, and one of the choices will be “Apps”. Clicking on this will bring up a list of all the apps- or programs- that you have on your computer. To add one as a tile, simply right-click on it, and choose to add it as a tile.

Removing an application tile from the start screen is just as simple. Right-click, and choose to remove the tile. The application will still be on your computer and will still show up in the list of programs, but now it will not be cluttering up your tiles on your start screen.

If you want to change the order and placement of the tiles, simply drag and drop your tiles until you have the setup you want.

5. The Start Menu

Maybe not the biggest change seen with Windows 8, but definitely one of the most talked about: The removal of the start menu button. For many years PC users were trained to click on the little button on the bottom left-hand portion of the screen that would bring up a menu linking them to everything on their computer.

With Windows 8, there is now a “hot spot”, and the physical button is gone. But don’t worry, because that doesn’t mean the menu has disappeared entirely. In fact, if you hover over this “hot spot” on the lower left-hand corner of the screen and right-click, it will bring up a menu of quick links that will take you to key areas on your computer, such as the control panel or the task manager.

6. Switching Between Apps

Another little “hot spot” trick enables you to switch back and forth between different apps. If you hover your mouse over the top left-hand corner of the screen, it should bring up a list of the most recently used apps. Then, just click on the one you want to go back to.

7. Personalization

Although most of us are used to personalizing and customizing our computers through the Control Panel (and if you’re not, we have this great e-book that will teach you how) to customize your computer in Windows 8, you have another option. You can use the standard Control Panel, or instead, you bring up your list of charms, and click on Settings. There will be an option for “Change PC Settings”. When you click on this, it will bring up a whole list of different personalizations that can be made, such as your screen savers, user profiles, and ease of access options.

8. SkyDrive

Don’t feel bad if you’re unfamiliar with this particular feature. Although SkyDrive has been around for a little while, Microsoft is really pushing SkyDrive with the introduction of Windows 8, and has worked to make it much easier to use.

SkyDrive is Micrsoft’s cloud file storage program, comparable to Apple’s iCloud. You can use SkyDrive to save and store your data including photos, music, and files in the cloud. All you need to do is sign up for an account. If you are just starting with Windows 8, you will have the option right at the beginning to create a SkyDrive account, but you don’t have to. If you decide later on that you want one though, it is very easy to create one.

Windows 8 might seem confusing and frustrating for new users, but it really has shown us what we can expect from Microsoft in the future- a greater concentration on mobile optimization and visual features.

And the good news is that while there may be a learning curve for this new operating system, there are already a huge number of resources available to help you become a savvy Windows 8 user and impress all of your friends and co-workers.

What do you like most about Windows 8? What do you hate? What do you want to learn how to do? Let us know in the comments!

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