Windows 8: The 50¢ Tour

Windows 8: The 50¢ Tour

Windows 8:

The 50¢ Tour



In This Chapter

Getting Windows 8 up and at ‘em

Getting familiar with the Windows 8 Start screen

Checking out the Windows 8 desktop

Handy mouse, keyboard, and tablet techniques

Shutting Windows down

Thrill-seeking types enjoy diving into the deep end of any new pool they come across. The rest of us, however, prefer to check things out by dipping a toe or two into the water and then slipping ever so gently into the shallow end. The latter is the more sensible approach when it comes to Windows 8, which can be like cold and murky water to the uninitiated. You need to ease in by learning a few basics about the layout of the screen and a few useful mouse and keyboard techniques; that’s exactly what is covered in this chapter.

Note, however, that this chapter assumes your Windows 8 “pool” has been built and filled with water. That is, I assume either your computer came with Windows

8 already installed or you have—or a nearby computer guru has—upgraded your computer to Windows 8.

Starting Windows 8

After you poke your computer’s power switch, Windows 8 begins pulling itself up by its own bootstraps. This booting process takes a few minutes on most machines, so this is an excellent time to grab a cup of coffee or tea and review your copy of Feel the

Fear and Do It Anyway.


Part 1: Getting to Know Windows 8


The idea of Windows pulling itself up by its own bootstraps is actually a pretty good way to describe the process of Windows starting itself. In fact, it’s the source of the verb boot, which means to start a computer.

After your machine has churned through a few behind-the-scenes and (happily) ignorable chores, you end up staring at pretty picture that also tells you the current date and time. This is the “lock” screen, and it doesn’t do very much. To get past it, press the Enter key on your keyboard. Now you see the sign-on screen, which will be similar to the one shown in Figure 1.1.

Figure 1.1:

This sign-on screen appears soon after you start your computer.

What’s happening here is Windows 8 wants to know that you’re the legitimate users of the computer, so it’s asking you to type your account’s password. You get the full scoop on user accounts in Chapter 12, so don’t sweat it too much right now.

Here’s how you take care of business in the sign-on screen:

1. Type your Windows 8 password. Note that the characters you type appear as dots for security, just in case some snoop is peering over your shoulder.

2. Press your keyboard’s Enter key.

Windows 8 will now continue its seemingly endless start-up chores, so be prepared to do a bit more thumb twiddling before the main screen finally puts in an appearance.

Chapter 1: Windows 8: The 50¢ Tour

Getting to Know the Start Screen

The screen shown in Figure 1.2 is the Start screen, and it’s the face that Windows 8 presents to the world. If you’re new to Windows 8, you need to get comfortable with the lay of the Windows land. To that end, this section takes a look around the terrain you now see before you.


Figure 1.2:

The Windows 8 Start screen.

Before getting to that, however, let me digress for just a second and talk to those who have used a previous version of Windows, such as Windows 7, Windows Vista, or

Windows XP. When Windows 8 first loaded, you most likely had a what-the-heck moment. No, you do not need to get your eyes or head examined; Windows 8 is

very different from what you’re used to. The little Start orb that was tucked into the lower-left corner of the screen since time immemorial is gone, relegated to the dustbin of Windows history. In its place you now see the Start screen shown in Figure

1.2. Why the drastic renovation? Microsoft’s goal here is to make it easier to launch the programs you use most often, and to provide you with up-to-date information without opening a program to get it. Did they succeed? Time will tell. The transition may be a bit rocky, but I’m here to help you through it.


Part 1: Getting to Know Windows 8

Okay, we’re back. The Start screen consists of a bunch of colorful rectangles, each of which shows a small picture and a word or two of text. These rectangles are called

tiles and each one represents an app that you use to perform a particular task (the word app is short for application). For example, you use the Photos app to view and manage photos on your computer. Similarly, you use the Music app to manage your tunes, the Mail app for email, and the Weather app to get the latest forecast. I’ll be talking about many of these apps throughout this book. For the record (and for reasons far too geeky to go into here), Microsoft refers to these as Metro apps to differentiate them from Desktop apps—which I talk about in the next section.

The other major tidbit you need to know about the Start screen is that some of the tiles are clever enough to display information about what’s happening. For example, the Music-app tile can tell you the name of the currently playing song, the Mail-app tile can tell you if you have unread messages, and the Weather-app tile can display the current conditions. This is called live updating, and it means you can get the latest info without having to start the apps.

Familiar Territory: The Desktop

The Start screen represents the main floor of the Windows house, but there’s a second floor that lets you get your work (or play, or whatever) done. It’s called the

desktop, and you get there by clicking the Desktop tile in the Start screen. (If you haven’t the foggiest idea what “clicking” is, see Basic Mouse Maneuvers, later in this chapter.)

This gets you face-to-face with the Desktop app, shown in Figure 1.3, which I divide into two sections: the desktop itself and the taskbar.

Recycle Bin icon Desktop

Chapter 1: Windows 8: The 50¢ Tour


Mouse pointer

Date and time

Program icons Taskbar Notification area

Figure 1.3:

The Windows 8 Desktop app.

The Desktop

Ivory-tower computer types enjoy inventing metaphors for the way the rest of us use a computer. The idea is that more people will put up with a computer’s shenanigans if using a computer reflects the way we do things in real life.

For Windows, the metaphor of choice is the humble desktop. You’re supposed to think of the Windows screen as being comparable to the top of a real desk. Starting a program is like taking out a folder of papers and placing it on the desk. To do some work in the real world, of course, you need to pull papers out of the folder and place them on the desk. This is just like opening a file within a program (it could be a letter, a drawing, an email message, or whatever). To extend the metaphor a little, most programs also come with tools—such as a ruler, a calculator, and a calendar—that are the electronic equivalents of the tools you use at your desk.

Officially, the vast expanse that takes up the bulk of the screen in Figure 1.3 is the

Windows 8 desktop, and it’s where you’ll likely do at least some of your work. That’s because, although the apps shown in the Start screen are decent enough, the Desktop app gives you access not only to more apps, but to more powerful Windows 8 tools and features, as well.


Part 1: Getting to Know Windows 8

The Taskbar

The multicolored strip along the bottom of the Windows 8 screen is called the task-

bar. The taskbar sports three distinct features (pointed out in Figure 1.3):

Program icons. This area contains a few icons. An icon is a small picture that represents something on your system, such as a program or a command. You use these icons to start programs and to control running programs, as I natter on about in Chapter 2.

Notification area. Windows 8 uses this area to let you know when something important (or something Windows 8 thinks is important) is happening with your machine. These are called notifications, and they’ll pop up from time to time to keep you “in the know.” For example, Figure 1.4 shows the notification that barges onto the desktop if Windows 8 detects that your antivirus program is out of date.

Date and time. This area’s purpose is obvious enough: it tells you the current date and time.

Figure 1.4:

Windows 8 uses the aptly (if a bit boringly) named notification area to cough up notifications about stuff that’s happening with your PC.

WInDoWs WIsDom

We’re done with the Desktop app for now, so to return to the Start screen, press the Windows key (it’s the one shoehorned between the Ctrl key and the Alt key on the bottom-left corner of the keyboard).

A Few Mouse and Keyboard Fundamentals

Windows 8 is supposed to have all kinds of fancy-schmancy features. How do I get at ’em?

Ah, that’s where your mouse and keyboard come in. You use them as input devices to give Windows 8 its marching orders. If you’re new to all the personal computer malarkey, the next few sections show you the basic mouse and keyboard techniques you need.

Chapter 1: Windows 8: The 50¢ Tour


Basic Mouse Maneuvers

If you’re unfamiliar with Windows, there’s a good chance that you’re also unfamiliar with the mouse—the electromechanical (and, thankfully, toothless) mammal attached to your machine. If so, this section presents a quick look at a few mouse moves— which is important because much of what you do in Windows will involve the mouse in some way.

For starters, be sure the mouse is sitting on its pad or on your desk with the cord facing away from you. If you have a cordless mouse, move it so the buttons are facing away from you. Rest your hand lightly on the mouse with your index finger on—but not pressing down—the left button and your middle finger on the right button (or the rightmost button). Southpaws need to reverse the fingering.

Figure 1.3 shows you the mouse pointer. Find the pointer on your screen and then slowly move the mouse on its pad. As you do this, notice that the pointer moves in the same direction. Take a few minutes to practice moving the pointer to and fro using slow, easy movements.

To new users the mouse may seem an unnatural device that confounds common sense and often reduces the strongest among us to tears of frustration. The secret to mastering the mouse is twofold. First, use the same advice that given to the person who wanted to get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. Fortunately, with

Windows 8 being so mouse dependent, you’ll get plenty of chances to perfect your skills.

Second, understand all the basic mouse moves that are required of a modern-day mouse user. There are a half-dozen in all:

Point To move the mouse pointer so it’s positioned over some specified part of the screen. For example, “point at the Desktop tile” means that you move the mouse pointer over the Start screen’s Desktop tile.

Click To press and immediately release the left mouse button to initiate some kind of action. Need a “fer instance?” Okay, point at the Desktop tile and then click it. Instantly, the Windows 8 Desktop app appears, as shown in

Figure 1.3. We’re going to use the Desktop app for the next few techniques, so stay where you are for now.

Double-click To press and release the left mouse button twice, one press right after the other (there should be little or no delay between each press).

To give it a whirl, point at the desktop’s Recycle Bin icon and then doubleclick. If all goes well, Windows 8 will toss a box titled Recycle Bin onto your desktop. If nothing happens when you double-click, try again—clicking as


Part 1: Getting to Know Windows 8 quickly as you can—and try not to move the mouse while you’re clicking. To return the Recycle Bin box from whence it came, click the X button in the upper-right corner of the box.

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Okay, so clicking initiates some kind of action, but so does double-clicking; what’s the difference? The whole single-click versus double-click conundrum is one of the most confusing and criticized traits in Windows, and I’m afraid there’s no easy answer. Some things require just a click to get going, whereas others require a double-click. With experience, you’ll eventually know which clicking technique is needed.

Right-click To press and immediately release the right mouse button. In

Windows 8, right-click is used almost exclusively to display the Shortcut menu; to see one, right-click an empty part of the desktop. Windows 8 displays a menu with a few common commands related to the desktop. To remove the Shortcut menu, left-click an empty part of the desktop.

Click-and-drag To point at some object, press and hold down the left mouse button, move the mouse, and then release the button. You almost always use this technique to move an object from one place to another. For example, try dragging the Recycle Bin icon. (To restore apple-pie order to the desktop, right-click the desktop, click Sort By in the Shortcut menu, and then click


Scroll To turn the little wheel that’s nestled between the left and right mouse buttons. In programs that support scrolling, you use this technique to move up and down within a document. If your mouse doesn’t have a wheel— fear not—Windows provides other ways to navigate a document, as you’ll see in Chapter 3.

Common Keyboard Conveniences

I mentioned earlier that getting comfy with your mouse is crucial if you want to make your Windows 8 life as easy as possible. That’s not to say, however, that the keyboard never comes in handy as a time-saver. On the contrary, Windows 8 is chock-full of keyboard shortcuts that are sometimes quicker than the standard mouse techniques.

I’ll tell you about these shortcuts as we go along. For now, let’s run through some of the standard keyboard parts and see how they fit into the Windows way of doing things.

Chapter 1: Windows 8: The 50¢ Tour


WInDoWs WIsDom

Windows 8 has all kinds of keyboard combo shortcuts, so they pop up regularly throughout the book. Because I’m way too lazy to write out something like “Hold down the Ctrl key with one hand, use your other hand to tap the esc key, and then release Ctrl” each time, I use the following shorthand notation instead:

“Press Hold+Tap,” where Hold is the key you hold down and Tap is the key you tap. In other words, instead of the previous long-winded sentence, I say this:

“Press Ctrl+esc.” (On rare occasions, a third key joins the parade, so you might see something like “Press Ctrl+Alt+Delete.” In this case, you hold down the first two keys and then tap the third key.)

Ctrl and Alt keys. If you press Ctrl (control) or Alt (alt as in alternate), nothing much happens, but that’s okay because nothing much is supposed to happen. You don’t use these keys by themselves, but as part of a key combina-

tion. (The Shift key often gets into the act as well.) For example, on the Start screen, hold down the Ctrl key with one hand, use your other hand to tap the

Minus (-) key, and then release Ctrl. Like magic, the Start screen tiles shrink down to tiny versions of themselves. (To return the tiles to their normal size, hold down Ctrl, press Plus (+), and then release Ctrl.)


A key combination is a keyboard technique where you hold down one key and then press another key—or possibly two other keys.

Esc key. Your keyboard’s Esc key (for escape) is your all-purpose, get-me-theheck-out-of-here key. In many cases, if you do something in Windows 8 that you didn’t want to do, you can reverse your tracks with a quick tap (or maybe two or three) on Esc.

Windows key. This key has the Windows logo on it, and on most keyboards it appears in the bottom row on the left side, between the Ctrl and Alt keys.

(Some larger keyboards boast a second Windows key on the right side of the bottom row.) As I mentioned earlier, when you’re in the Desktop app you can return to the Start screen by pressing the Windows key. You also use it as part of key combinations. For example, when you’re in the Start screen, you can fire up the Desktop app by pressing Windows+D.

Numeric keypad. On a standard keyboard layout, the numeric keypad is the separate collection of numbered keys on the right. The numeric keypad usually serves two functions, and you toggle between these functions by pressing the Num Lock key. (Most keyboards have a Num Lock indicator light that


Part 1: Getting to Know Windows 8 tells you when Num Lock is on.) When Num Lock is on, you can use the numeric keypad to type numbers. When Num Lock is off, the other symbols on the keys become active. For example, the up-pointing arrow on the 8 key becomes active, which means you can use it to move up within a program.

Some keyboards (called extended keyboards) have a separate keypad for the insertion-point movement keys, and you can keep Num Lock on all the time on these.

A Touchy Subject: Using Windows 8 on a Tablet

I said earlier that Windows 8 was built with the mouse in mind, but what if you’re using a computer that doesn’t even have a mouse? I speak of the tablet, a device that is basically just a glass screen with no mouse or keyboard in sight. So with no input devices, how do you make your tablet do anything? The secret is that there are input devices: ten of them, in fact. I’m talking about your fingers, because tablets are built to respond to touch. That is, instead of using a mouse or keyboard to cajole Windows

8 into doing your bidding, you use your fingers to touch the screen in certain strategic ways. (Some tablets also come with a small penlike device called a stylus, and you can use the stylus instead of your finger for some actions.)

What are these strategic ways? There are tons of them, but here’s just a short list to get you started (I’ll talk about the rest as we go through the book):

Tap The touch equivalent of a mouse click; use your finger (or the stylus) to touch the screen and then immediately release it.

Double-tap The touch equivalent of a mouse double-click; tap and release the screen twice, one tap right after the other.

Tap and hold The touch equivalent of a mouse right-click; tap the screen and leave your finger (or the stylus) resting on the screen until the shortcut menu appears.

Slide The touch equivalent of a mouse click and drag; place your finger on the screen, move your finger, and then release. As with the mouse, you’ll usually use this technique to move an object from one place to another.

Swipe Quickly and briefly run your finger along the screen. This usually causes the screen to scroll in the direction of the swipe; it’s roughly equivalent to scrolling with the mouse wheel.

Chapter 1: Windows 8: The 50¢ Tour


Touch keyboard An onscreen keyboard like the one shown in Figure 1.5, used to type text in the touch world. To display the keyboard in a Metro app, tap and hold inside whatever box you’ll be using to type the text; in a Desktop app, tap the Keyboard icon that appears in the taskbar.

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If you don’t see the Keyboard icon in the taskbar, tap and hold the taskbar to unfurl the Shortcut menu, tap Toolbars, and then tap Touch Keyboard.

Figure 1.5:

To type on a tablet, use the touch keyboard.

Shutting Down Windows for the Night

When you’ve stood just about all you can stand of your computer for one day, it’s time to close up shop. Please tape the following to your cat’s forehead so that you never forget it: never, I repeat, never, turn off your computer’s power while Windows 8 is

running. Doing so can lead to data loss, a trashed configuration, and accelerated hair loss that those new pills won’t prevent.

Now that I’ve scared the daylights out of you, let’s see the proper procedure for shutting down your computer:


Part 1: Getting to Know Windows 8

1. In the Windows 8 Start screen, move the mouse pointer to the upper-right corner of the screen. If you’re using a tablet, place your finger on the right edge of the screen and swipe left. The Windows 8 Charms menu appears.

The Charms menu is a new Windows 8 feature that gives you quick access to a few common features, such as searching (via the Search button), the Start screen (via the Start button), and settings (via the Settings button).

2. Click Settings. Windows 8 displays the Settings pane.


You can go directly to the Settings pane by pressing Windows+I.

3. Click the Power icon. As you can see in Figure 1.6, Windows 8 displays a few options.

4. Click the Shut down command. Windows 8 tucks itself in and turns off your


Figure 1.6:

Click the Power icon in the Settings pane.

Windows 8 also has a few other shutdown tricks that you should know about. First, you just saw that clicking the Power icon produced a menu with three commands, including Shut Down. Here’s what the other two are …

Chapter 1: Windows 8: The 50¢ Tour


Sleep. Clicking this option tells Windows 8 to shut down your computer, but it also tells Windows 8 to remember which windows and programs you have running. When you restart Windows 8, it restores those programs and windows automatically. Thanks!

Restart. Choose this option if you want to start Windows 8 all over again.

For example, if you find that Windows is acting strangely, restarting can often put things right.

For the sake of completeness, you also get a few more options related to your

Windows 8 user account. In the Start screen (press Esc if you still have the Settings pane open), right-click your User Account tile located in the upper-right corner of the screen. You see a menu that includes the following options:

Lock. Choose this option to display a screen that asks you for your password.

You must enter the password to get back to the Windows 8 desktop. (If you don’t have a password, just press Enter. See Chapter 12 to learn how to protect your computer with a password.)

Sign out. Choose this option to log off and then log back on using a different user account (see Chapter 12 to learn about user accounts).

Other users. If your computer has multiple user accounts, click a user to remain logged on yourself, but to also log on with that user’s account (again, see Chapter 12 for the details).

The Least You Need to Know

The Windows 8 Start screen is divided into a series of rectangles called tiles that represent the Metro apps installed on your computer.

The Windows 8 Desktop app is carved into two main areas: the desktop—the large area that covers most of your monitor—and the taskbar—the thin strip along the bottom of the screen.

The taskbar consists of some program icons, the notification area, and the date and time.

The three most-used mouse movements are click (quickly pressing and releasing the left mouse button), double-click (two quick clicks), and drag (holding down the left button and moving the mouse).


Part 1: Getting to Know Windows 8

A key combination involves holding down one key, pressing a second key, and then releasing the first key. I signify such a combo with the notation

Hold+Press (where Hold is the key you hold down and Press is the key you press); for example, Ctrl+esc.

To shut down Windows, display the Charms menu, click settings, click Power, and then click shut down.

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