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From shortcuts to Charm bar: 50 top tips and tweaks for Windows 8

Windows 8
by Lance Whitney, 02 Nov 2012
From shortcuts to Charm bar: 50 top tips and tweaks for Windows 8

Windows 8 was unleashed at the end of last week, and, more so than any version in recent times, it really is the Windows world reinvented. That much is clear from your very first click (see our full review of the OS here, incidentally).

Maybe you’ve just started running Windows 8 on a brand-spanking-new PC and have been poking around inside it. Or maybe you’ve just updated your existing laptop or desktop. If so, you've probably worked your way through Windows' few basic tutorials, and you know the rudiments of Windows 8's “new normal,” such as how to mouse/swipe around the all-new Start screen or expose the essential Charm bar. But there’s more – far, far more! – to the new OS beneath the surface that's unlike any Windows you've used before.

There's a big learning curve, too. To be sure, whatever you think of it, Windows 8 is undeniably… different. It poses challenges for those of us used to the relative comforts of Windows 7 and XP. The familiar Windows desktop is still around, and it works much the same as it always did (minus, as has been mourned for months, the old-style Start menu).

But the new Start screen and tiled interface present wholly new ways of organising and launching your applications and files – as well as a whole new way to think about Windows. Our take? Windows 8 should really be called "Windows 4+4," because it bridges – and forces you to contend with – two very different worlds: The familiar Windows desktop world, and a new (Metro) Windows apps world.

Managing and customising Windows is a different ballgame in version 8, as well. Many of the new commands and features in Windows 8 are hidden or difficult to find, so it’s easy to get lost trying to figure out where and how to perform specific tasks. The actual input devices you use with Windows 8 matter, too, much more so than with any previous Windows switchover. Tablet users can swipe their way around the Start screen and Windows 8 apps with their touch-sensitive displays, but PC users face unprecedented challenges with this upgrade. Unless you’ve bought a new Windows 8 PC equipped with a touchscreen, you’ll have to rely on a trusty mouse and keyboard. And that’s not always easy in Windows 8, given that Microsoft specifically designed it to take advantage of touchscreen tablets, laptops, all-in-one PCs, and hybrid devices.

Don’t worry, though. We’ve compiled 50 key power-user tips guaranteed to help ease your way around Windows 8 on your desktop or laptop. The tips are organised into seven sections, accessible from the drop-down table of contents above. We’ve assumed you’ve mastered the most basic Windows 8 actions, such as swiping in from the right side of your screen (or mousing to the top right corner) to access the Charm bar (the vertical strip of icons that's a gateway to loads of crucial functions), or swiping in from the left side of the screen to switch between open applications.

Because Windows 8 is such a significant interface change, it serves up more than its share of quirks and mysteries to new and experienced Windows users alike. But with a little bit of time and patience – and the tips on the following pages – you'll start to feel far more at home in Microsoft’s latest operating system. You just need to get experimenting, swiping, and clicking – let us be your guide. So, enough chit chat – let’s move on to the first seven tips, which focus on how to manage the Start screen.

Tip 1: How to organise your Start screen tiles

Every app and program you install in Windows 8 creates one or more Start screen tiles, so after a while, the screen becomes cluttered, challenging you to find that one specific app you’re looking for. Of course, you can simply start typing the name of the app to bring it up, but maybe you’d like some better visual organisation on your Start screen?

Alas, you can’t organise your Start screen apps into folders, but you can place them into named groups. To organise your Start screen tiles into groups, drag a tile to the right or left of its current group until you see a transparent vertical bar. Drop the tile, and you’ll see a visible space between it and its former group. Drag other tiles that you want to add to your new group next to the first tile.

Once you're done with a group, click the Semantic Zoom icon (in the lower right corner of your screen) to zoom out of the Start screen to see a holistic view of it. Then, right click your new group of tiles, and click the Name Group button on the bottom app bar. Type a name for that tile group in the field that pops up, click the Name button, and, finally, click any empty area of the Start screen to zoom back in. The new name appears above the tile group.


Tip 2: How to customise your Start screen

Alas, you can’t add your own personal background image to Windows 8's Start screen, but you can liven it up with different colours and styles.

To customise your Start screen, open the Charm bar, click on the Settings charm, and then click on the link for Change PC Settings. In the resulting PC Settings screen, click on the Personalise tab. In the right pane of the Personalise section, click on the link for Start screen. Choose a style from one of the two rows of icons under the Start screen's preview window, and choose a colour from the palette below.

If you want to see a preview before committing, press the Windows key on your keyboard to peek at your new Start screen. Press the Windows key again to return to the Personalise tab if you want to change the colour or style.


Tip 3: How to resize your Start screen tiles

You’ll notice that some of your Start screen tiles begin their digital lives as large rectangles, while others spawn as small squares. You can’t adjust the size of a Start screen tile in the same granular way that you can a regular window, but you can switch certain tiles between large and small.

To do this, right click on a Start screen tile. If the tile can be resized, you’ll see an option on the app bar that says Larger or Smaller. Obviously enough, if you want to bump up the size of a small tile, click on the Larger option. Likewise, to shrink a larger tile, click on the Smaller option. Typically, Live Tiles can be resized in this way.


Tip 4: How to turn Live Tiles on and off

Live Tiles, the tiles on your Start screen that update in real time, come in handy since they display new notifications and information at a glance. The tile for Mail, for example, can alert you to new messages without the need for you to launch your e-mail program. The tile for the Calendar app can display your latest appointments, and the tile for the News app can reveal the latest headlines.

Sometimes, though, all those updating tiles result in an information overload. However, you can turn off a specific tile to keep it quiet. To do this, right click on the tile and click on the Turn live tile off button from the app bar. If you change your mind, just right click on the tile and change it back to a Live Tile (Turn live tile on).


Tip 5: How to add Live Tiles to the Start screen

Live Tiles can display information tailored to your own interests. For example, you can set up Live Tiles that show the latest scores in the Premier League, current quotes for a stock in your portfolio, or the weather for any spot in the world.

Here’s how the process works for a stock price. Open the Finance app from its Start screen tile. Hold down the Windows key and press Q to trigger the Search charm. In the search field, type the name of a stock you want to track, such as Apple. Click the result, and a page for Apple appears in the app’s main window. Right click on the screen to trigger the app bar, and click on the Pin to Start button. Enter a name for the new tile, such as Apple, and then click the Pin to Start option. Press the Windows key to return to the Start screen. Scroll to the end, and you’ll see a new tile displaying the latest stock price for Apple.


Tip 6: How to pin websites to the Start screen

The Windows 8 version of Internet Explorer (that is, the Metro or "app-ified" one you access from the Windows 8 tile menu) doesn’t let you store your favourite websites in folders in the way the desktop version does. But you can pin your favourite websites to the Start screen so they’re more easily accessible.

To pin a website, open the Windows 8 version of IE from the Start screen. Browse to a website that you want to pin, such as Google. Click on the Pin site button on the bottom app bar (it looks like a drawing pin), and select the popup option to Pin to Start. Confirm or change the name of the tile, then press the Pin to Start button. Press the Windows key to return to the Start screen. Move to the end, and you’ll see a tile for the website.


Tip 7: How to pin folders to the Start screen

Every app you install creates its own Start screen tile, but you can pin folders to the Start screen, as well, and have them appear as tiles. Here’s how.

Open File Explorer (which was formerly known as Windows Explorer in earlier versions of Windows) in the Desktop. Navigate to a folder that you want to pin to the Start screen, such as Documents. Right click on that folder, and click on the option to Pin to Start from the popup menu. (You can do the same for your Music folder, Pictures folder, and any other folders in File Explorer). Return to the Start screen, and scroll to the end. You’ll see tiles for the various folders that you pinned.

Tip 8: How to find an app, a setting, or a file

From the Start Screen, you can simply start typing the name of an application, setting, or file in order to access it. For example, type the word "Windows," and you’ll see tiles among the search results on the left for Windows Defender, Windows Media Player, Windows Firewall, and other apps.

You can further filter the results you get from there. Click on the Settings options in the right pane, and you’ll see specific settings related to Windows. Click on the Files option in the right pane, and you may see files with the word "Windows" in their name or description. Once you see what you're looking for, from the search results, click on the entry for the program, setting, or file that you wish to open.


Tip 9: How to Shut Down or Restart Windows

With no more traditional Windows Start menu, the Shut Down and Restart commands are no longer out in the open. How do you find them?

You have several paths to these commands, but all take some getting used to. The most "obvious" way: Open the Charm bar, click on the Settings charm, and then click on the Power button. You’ll see at least two options there: One for Shut Down, and one for Restart.

These options also exist in some less likely places. You can click on your account picture in the upper right corner of the Start screen and select the Lock or Sign Out option. Then, click on (or sweep upward) the Start screen to access the login screen. Click on the circle icon in the lower right corner, and you’ll see options for Shut Down and Restart. Another way: If you’re in the desktop, press good old Alt+F4, and up pops a Shut Down Windows screen with a drop-down menu that lets you switch to a different user account, sign out, Shut Down, or Restart.


Tip 10: How to access Device Manager (and other admin tools)

No more classic Windows Start menu also means no more handy folder for Administrative Tools. So how do you access Device Manager, Event Viewer, Disk Management, Command Prompt, and other crucial utilities that you’re likely used to tweaking every day?

You’ve got two ways to go about it. First, you can add the tiles for Administrative Tools to your Start screen. To do this, open the Charm bar and click on the Settings charm. From the Settings sidebar, click on the Tiles link. There, you can change the Show Administrative Tools option from No to Yes. Click anywhere on the Start screen and scroll to the end, and you’ll see all the tiles for Administrative Tools. You can then selectively unpin any ones you don't want there by right clicking and hitting the "Unpin from Start" button at lower left.

Alternatively, you can access several administrative features from the Power User Tasks menu. Move your mouse to the lower left thumbnail and right click. Up pops a menu with access to such tools as Power Options, Device Manager, Command Prompt, and Control Panel. Nifty!


Tip 11: How to access the volume control

The volume control for the Windows 8 desktop is still in its familiar spot in the System Tray, but the volume control in the Start screen and Windows 8 environment is not in plain view, so it’s hard to find the first time around.

In those environments, getting to the volume control now requires an extra click. To access it from the Start screen, open the Charm bar and click on the Settings charm. You’ll see a volume control icon that you can click on to adjust the volume.


Tip 12: How to update Windows 8

Turn on Automatic Updates when you first set up Windows 8, and the OS will automatically download and install new Windows updates as they become available. You’ll know this is working if you periodically see a notice in Windows telling you that updates have been installed. But you can also manually install an important update instead of waiting for Windows to install it.

To do this, open the Charm bar, click on the Settings charm, and then click on the link for Change PC Settings. In the resulting PC Settings screen, click on the Windows Updates tab. In the Updates section, you’ll see any updates that have already been scheduled. Otherwise, click on the button to Check for updates now. Any available updates appear. You can then install each update selectively, or install them all in one shot.


Tip 13: How to exit the Apps screen

You can open the Apps screen by right clicking anywhere on the Start screen, and clicking on All Apps from the app bar that pops up at the bottom of the screen. Once you get into the Apps screen, though, how do you get out?

Well, you can’t actually close the Apps screen, but you can return to the Start screen or switch to an open app. Simply press the Windows key or click on the thumbnail in the lower left corner to bounce back to the Start screen. Or, if other apps are open, move your mouse to the upper left corner to display the Switch List and click on the thumbnail of the app you wish to display.


Tip 14: How to connect to a Wi-Fi network

Connecting to a wireless network is actually much easier in Windows 8 than in previous versions, but you first need to know where to find the option.

To connect to a network, open the Charm bar and click on the Settings charm. An icon for networks appears. If you haven’t yet connected to a Wi-Fi network and one or more are accessible, the icon displays the word "Available." Click on that icon. Windows 8 presents a list of nearby wireless networks. Click on the network you wish to use and select the option to remember the connection, if you plan to access it again in the future.

After that, you'll be prompted to enter the network security key, if necessary. Tell Windows if you want to turn on sharing between your PC and other devices on the network. Windows then connects you. Right clicking on a specific network name provides additional options to help you manage that network.


Tip 15: How to take a screenshot in Windows 8

You can still use the old, reliable Print Screen button to take a shot of your current screen in Windows 8 to send to the clipboard. You can also capture just the active window by holding down the Alt key and pressing Print Screen. But the new OS has another trick up its sleeve so you don’t even have to paste your screenshot to save it.

You can automatically store the screenshots you nab in the Pictures folder. To do this, hold down the Windows key and press Print Screen. After that, open the Pictures folder in File Explorer, and you’ll see a subfolder called Screenshots with your image saved as a file named "Screenshot (1).png."

Tip 16: How to bring back the Start menu

Now here's the question most of the folks we know who have tried Windows 8 have been asking: Can I get the old-school Start menu back, and how fast?

Not officially, but there are workarounds. Microsoft killed the Start menu in Windows 8, replacing it with the tile-centric Start screen. But those of you who still want the Start menu around are in luck: Several third-party developers provide Start menu utilities that can fill in for the traditional menu.

Lee-Soft offers a product called ViStart. A group of developers provide a program known as Classic Shell. Another enterprising developer has created a utility named StartMenu7. And SweetLabs recently unveiled a tool called Pokki for Windows 8. All four programs are free – or at least available in a free version. So you can take them all for a spin and see which one you like best.


Tip 17: How to personalise the Windows Lock screen

The Lock screen displays the date and time, as well as notifications of new email, calendar appointments, and other information. You can also add your own background picture to the Lock screen to give it a personal touch.

To personalise the Lock screen, open the Charm bar, click on the Settings charm, and then click on the link for Change PC Settings. In the Change PC Settings screen, click on the Personalise tab. In the right pane, click on the link for Lock screen. You can choose one of the generic images provided by Microsoft, or you can pick your own image, assuming you’ve downloaded photos or other images onto your PC. Click on the Browse button to view your local Pictures folder. Pick an image you like, and the Lock screen preview window changes to display your chosen image.


Tip 18: How to add icons to your desktop

Your Windows 8 desktop comes as a clean slate, with only the Recycle Bin icon to greet you. That was fine when the Start menu was around with access to all of your applications and folders. But now, without the Start menu, setting up crucial icons on your desktop is a necessity.

You can get started by populating the desktop with icons for Computer, your personal files, Control Panel, and other popular utilities and destinations. Here’s how: Right click on the desktop and select Personalise from the popup menu. In the Personalisation window, click on the link to Change desktop icons. In the Desktop Icons Settings window that pops up, click on the check mark next to all the icons that you want to appear on the desktop, and then click OK.


Tip 19: How to create tiles to Restart or Shut Down Windows

Instead of restarting or shutting down Windows via the Power button under the Settings charm, you can create your own Start screen tiles to restart or shut down your PC.

To create a tile to restart Windows, right click on the desktop, select New from the popup menu, and then select Shortcut. In the field to “type the location of the item,” type the following:

shutdown /r /t 0

Now click Next, name the shortcut "Restart," and click Finish. Right click the shortcut and select Pin to Start from the popup menu.

To create a tile to shut down Windows, follow the same steps, but type the following in the location field:

shutdown /p

Then name the shortcut “Shut Down.” Then pin it to the Start screen as you did with Restart. Return to the Start screen, and you’ll see your two new tiles at the end.


Tip 20: How to sync settings over multiple Windows 8 PCs

By logging in with a Microsoft account, you can synchronise a variety of settings across multiple Windows 8 computers, such as your account picture, Lock screen background, browser favourites, and passwords. Note that if you enable this option, you can pick and choose which settings you wish to sync.

To do this, open the Charm bar, select the Settings charm, and then click on the link to Change PC Settings. From the PC Settings screen, click on the tab for Sync your settings. At the top of the right pane, you can then toggle the sync option on or off. If it’s turned on, you can then choose the different categories of settings that you wish to include in the synchronisation.


Tip 21: How to "trust" a Windows 8 PC

In the Sync your settings pane in PC Settings, you may see a message under the Password section telling you that your passwords won’t sync until you "trust" this PC. Trusting a PC adds it to your Microsoft account and allows your network and web passwords to synchronise with other trusted Windows 8 PCs.

How do you trust a PC? First, click on the link to Trust this PC. Internet Explorer opens, asking you to log in to your Microsoft account page. You should receive a security code via email and/or text message. That code is sent to your mobile phone number, which you would have added when you first set up Windows 8. If you don’t receive the code, click on the link for "I didn’t get the code," and then click Next. Assuming the code comes through this time, enter it from your phone into the code field on your Microsoft account page and then click Submit. Your current PC is added to the trusted list.


Tip 22: How to control Windows notifications

In Windows 8, you can receive notifications of new email, calendar appointments, instant messages, and more, both at the Lock screen and on your Start screen tiles. These notifications are turned on by default, but you can turn them off or control which apps can deliver notifications. Here’s how.

Open the Charm bar, click on the Settings charm, and then click on the link for Change PC Settings. In the PC Settings screen, click on the Notifications tab. In the right pane, the first option lets you turn off all notifications, while the second option lets you turn them off just on the Lock screen. If you want to disable only certain notifications, you can turn them off, app by app, from the list at the bottom of the pane.


Tip 23: How to switch to a different language

In Windows 8, you can display tiles, menus, and other pieces of text in a different language than English, and even switch among more than one language. Here’s how.

Type the word "language" at the Start screen, filter the results by Settings in the right pane, and select the tile for Language from among the search results on the left. In the Language window, click on the link to Add a language. You can then pick one from a variety of languages. Double click on the language of your choice to add it to the menu.

You can also click on the particular language and select the Move up option to make it the primary language. Log out, and then log back in to Windows. You’ll now see certain Start screen tiles and apps display in the new language.

Tip 24: How to confirm your password

How often do you blind-type what you think is your correct password, only to have Windows tell you it’s wrong? In Windows 8, you can check to see whether you’ve entered the right characters for your password at the login screen.

After you type your password, click on and hold down the eye icon next to your password, and all the characters shall be revealed. You’ll also find this eye icon on other Windows 8 screens where you need to enter a password.


Tip 25: How to use a PIN instead of a password

Windows 8 provides three different methods for logging in: A conventional password, a PIN, and a picture password.

A PIN may be the easiest of the three options, since you only need to remember a four-digit number. To set up a PIN, open the Charm bar, click on the Settings charm, and then click on the link for Change PC Settings. In the PC Settings screen, click on the Users tab, and on the right pane, click on the option to Create a PIN. Type your current password, then type and confirm your four-digit PIN. After the PIN is created, you can log into Windows using either your password or your PIN. (You'll need to have a password set up before Windows 8 will let you set a login PIN).


Tip 26: How to set up a picture password

Also new to Windows 8 is the picture password. This login method prompts you to initially draw three gestures on a picture, and then replicate those gestures each time you log in.

To set this up, open the Charm bar, click on the Settings charm, and then click on the link for Change PC Settings.

In the PC Settings screen, click on the Users tab. On the right pane, click on the option to Create a picture password, and type your current password. After that, choose an image from your local Pictures folder or another folder on your computer, and confirm that you wish to use that picture. Create your three gestures and confirm them. You can then use your picture password to log in.

A picture password works nicely with touchscreen input or a mouse, but not with a touchpad. However, you can still use your regular password to log in on a laptop without an external mouse.

(Note that as with setting up a PIN in Tip 25, you'll need to have a conventional password set up before Windows 8 will let you set a picture password).


Tip 27: How to automatically sign in to Windows 8

Windows 8 throws up both a Lock screen and a login screen before you can access the Start screen, but if you don’t need to shield your Windows account from prying eyes, you can bypass the login screen entirely.

Here’s how: Type "netplwiz" at the Start screen. From the search results on the left, click on the tile for netplwiz. In the User Accounts Control Panel, deselect the checkbox that says “Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer,” and click OK. Type your password once and then again to confirm it. Click OK again to close the User Accounts tool, restart Windows, and you’ll now breeze past the Lock screen and login screen, straight to the Start screen.


Tip 28: How to create a User Account

Creating a new account for yourself or someone else in Windows 8 isn’t difficult, but like many Windows 8 features, it’s tucked away in a new spot that’s not easy to find at first.

To create a new account, open the Charm bar, click on the Settings charm, and then select the link to Change PC Settings. From the PC Settings screen, click on the section for Users. Scroll to the bottom of the right pane and click on the option to Add a user. From there, you can add an existing Microsoft account, create a new Microsoft account, or create a local account.


Tip 29: How to manage your User Accounts

In Windows 8, you can create a user account from the Users tab in PC Settings, but you can’t delete it or make other changes to it. To fully manage an account, you’ll need to access the User Accounts feature in Control Panel.

Here’s how: Type "user accounts" at the Start screen, filter the search results by clicking on Settings in the right pane, and click on the tile for User Accounts from the results. In the User Accounts screen, select the account you wish to manage. If it’s a local account, you can change the name or the password, turn on Family Safety, change the account type between standard and administrator, and delete the account. If it’s a Microsoft account, the options are slightly different: You can turn on Family Safety, change the account type, or delete the account.


Tip 30: How to switch to a different account

You can jump from one Windows account to another using two different methods – either by logging out of your current account and logging in with another, or by keeping your current account running and just switching to a different one.

To try the first option, click on your account picture in the upper right corner of the Start screen, and tap Sign out. Windows logs out of your current account and displays the Lock screen. Click your mouse or press any key to get past the Lock screen, and at the login screen, choose the account you wish to use to log in, and enter the account’s password.

To try the second option, click on the account picture in the upper right corner of the screen. A list of all accounts appears. Click on the name of the account you wish to use to log in. Windows prompts you to enter the password of the account you selected. Enter the password, click on the account picture again, and you’ll see that the first account is still signed in. You can now easily return to the first account by clicking on it and entering the password. The important distinction here: You’ll then find that any apps and files you left in use by the first account are still open and available.


Tip 31: How to change your account picture

Your Windows account picture starts off as a faceless, generic icon, which, shall we say, lacks a certain personality. You can easily change your account picture to your own photo or another image.

To do this, click on your account image in the upper right corner of the screen and select the option to Change account picture. The Personalise section appears in the PC Settings screen. Click on the Browse button to look for an image in your local Pictures folder or elsewhere on your PC. Choose the picture you wish to use.

Assuming your PC has a Webcam, you can also click on the Camera icon to snap a photo of yourself and use that as your new picture.

Tip 32: How to print from a Windows 8 app

The tile menu Windows 8 apps offer a new and more consistent way to print a file, web page, or other content. After you know how to print from one app, you can easily print from another. But how do you print in the first place?

Like so much else in Windows 8, through the handy Charm bar, of course! To print from any Windows app that supports printing, such as Mail, open the Charm bar and click on the Devices charm. A list of your printers and other devices appears. Click on the printer you wish to use. Select your settings, such as number of copies, portrait versus landscape, and colour mode. The More Settings link provides even finer controls. After you set all your options, click the Print button.

Alternatively, you can hold down the Ctrl key and press P to bypass the Charm bar and open the Print sidebar directly.


Tip 33: How to share content from a Windows 8 app

You can share content from certain Windows 8 apps, either by email or by posting a message on Facebook or Twitter. Like printing, sharing taps into a Charm-bar function, so the process is the same for every Windows 8 app that supports sharing.

To share an item, such as a web page in Internet Explorer, open the Windows 8 version of the browser (that is, launch it from the Start tile menu, not the desktop). Open the Charm bar and click on the Share charm. Click on Mail if you wish to email the page, and People if you wish to post a message linking to the page. Your Mail or People app opens for you to send your message.


Tip 34: How to "Snap" a Windows 8 app

Windows 7’s desktop Snap feature was a boon for multi-taskers, who could drag a window to the left or right side of the screen to make it fill exactly half of their display. (It made side-by-side split-screening easy). That still works in the Windows 8 desktop. It's different, though, in app mode. In Windows 8’s app environment, you can view two Windows 8 apps on the screen side-by-side, similarly known as “snapping an app,” in this way.

Open one Windows 8 app, such as Calendar, and press the Windows key to return to the Start screen. Open another Windows 8 app, such as Mail. Move your cursor to the upper left corner of the screen until you see a thumbnail for the first app in the Switch List. Right click on that thumbnail, and the popup menu offers three choices: Close, Snap left, and Snap right. Choose either Snap left or Snap right. Both apps appear on the screen. You can move or double click the separation bar to increase the size of one app window at the expense of the other. To close one of the apps, simply move the separation bar all the way to the left or right of the screen.


Tip 35: How to close your current Windows 8 app

Windows 8 apps don’t offer an “X”-style close button like desktop programs do. You simply switch from one app to another by returning to the Start screen and opening the new app. Each background app goes into a suspended mode so it doesn’t chew up memory or resources.

Still, you can manually close your current Windows 8 app if you wish. To do this, move your mouse cursor to the top of the app window until it turns into an open hand. Click and hold down the left mouse button and then drag your cursor to the bottom of the screen. As you do that, the app window shrinks in size until it vanishes entirely.


Tip 36: How to create a Favourite in Windows 8 Internet Explorer

In Windows 8, the desktop version of Internet Explorer 10 is similar enough to prior versions of the browser. But the Windows 8 Metro version of IE is quite different, offering a minimalist design without menus, toolbars, or other visual aids. As such, it lacks many features found in the desktop version. One crucial feature that’s still around is the ability to set up websites as Favourites, but this works very differently than before. Adding a website as a Favourite means that its tile appears as soon as you click on the address field.

To add a site as a Favourite, open the Windows 8 version of IE10 and surf to a website such as Bing. Click on the Pin site button on the app bar and select the option to Add to Favourites. Confirm or change the name, and then click on the Pin to Start button. The next time you click on the address field, IE displays a clickable tile for Bing and other favourite sites just above the field. Right click on the tile, and you can also open the page in a new tab or remove it from your Favourites list.


Tip 37: How to set the default version of Internet Explorer 10

As we mentioned in the previous tip, Windows 8 offers two versions of Internet Explorer: One accessible as an “app” from the Start tile menu, and the more conventional one you get to from the desktop. But when you click on a website link or tile, how does the OS know which version of IE10 to use?

By default, clicking on a tile or link in the Windows 8 environment opens the Windows 8, Metro version of IE, while clicking on a link in the desktop triggers the desktop version. But you can change that default behaviour – and here’s how.

Open the desktop version of IE10 by clicking on its Taskbar icon in the desktop. Click on the Tools icon (the gear) in the upper right corner and select Internet Options > Programs tab. To set the Windows 8 version of IE as the default, change the drop-down menu setting to Always in Internet Explorer. To choose the desktop version, change the setting to Always in Internet Explorer on the desktop.

You can also click on the checkbox to Open Internet Explorer tiles on the desktop. To let the browser choose, change the setting back to Let Internet Explorer decide.

Tip 38: How to manage your startup programs

Many programs like to force their way into your startup routine so they’re always available. But the more applications that start up automatically, the more your memory gets eaten up. In Windows 8, you can easily remove such programs from your startup sequence through the new Task Manager.

To do this, type "Task Manager" at the Start screen and click on the tile for Task Manager among the search results. In Task Manager, click on the More details link and then the Startup tab. You can now select a specific program and click on the Disable button to prevent it from starting automatically when you boot up.

Note: If you’re not sure what to do with a specific program, be cautious. Right click on its name and select Search online from the popup menu to research what the program does, before disabling it.


Tip 39: How to force an app to shut down

We’ve all run into situations where a Windows program freezes, and no matter what you do or how long you wait, it refuses to unfreeze. In those cases, your only choice is to manually force the application to shut down. To assist you in that goal, Windows 8 provides the familiar Task Manager. The Task Manager in Windows 8 is a bit simpler and cleaner than its predecessors.

The direct key combination to trigger Task Manager is the same as in Windows 7, though. To shut down a frozen program, press the Ctrl, Shift, and Esc keys together. The Task Manager opens with just a list of running apps. Select the app you want to close, and click on the End Task button.


Tip 40: How to run an automatic repair in Windows 8

Having trouble in Windows 8? Sometimes an automatic repair can help by restoring corrupted or missing files. Here are the steps required to run an automatic repair.

Open the Charm bar, click on the Settings charm, and then click on the link for Change PC Settings. In the PC Settings screen, click on the General tab. Scroll to the bottom of the right pane and click the Restart now button under Advanced startup. Your PC loads the Advanced Options Boot Menu with different troubleshooting options. Click the Troubleshoot button, then the Advanced Options button, and finally the Automatic Repair button. Windows reboots and prepares the automatic repair. You’re asked to confirm the account in use and then enter your password. Windows diagnoses your PC and then completes the repair (or tells you that your PC could not be repaired).

If the automatic repair doesn’t help, then refreshing or resetting your PC may be your next step… so check out our next tip.


Tip 41: How to refresh your PC

If Windows 8 is crashing, freezing, or otherwise misbehaving, one option is to “refresh” your PC. Refreshing your PC brings it back to a cleaner state, but without losing all of your work and data files. A refresh preserves your personal files, customised settings, and Windows 8 apps, though not your desktop applications or PC settings. Still, refreshing your PC is worth a shot if you can’t resolve system problems any other way, and you don’t want to perform a complete system wipe.

To refresh your PC, open the Charm bar, click on the Settings charm, and then click on the link for Change PC Settings. In the PC Settings screen, click on the General tab. Scroll down until you see the link to refresh your PC. Click the Get Started button, and Windows holds your hand through the rest of the process.


Tip 42: How to reset your PC

If refreshing your PC doesn’t resolve your Windows problems, it may be time to perform a system reset. Don’t confuse the terms "refresh" and "reset"! Resetting your PC removes all of your personal files, settings, and apps, bringing Windows 8 back to the totally clean state it was in when you first installed it.

To reset your PC, open the Charm bar, click on the Settings charm, and then click on the link for Change PC Settings. In the PC Settings screen, click on the General tab, and scroll down until you see the link to reset your PC. Click the Get Started button, and Windows takes you through the process. Make sure, of course, that you’ve backed up any crucial files before you start the reset process.


Tip 43: How to boot into Safe Mode

Windows 8 still offers a Safe Mode so you can boot up without loading certain drivers, in order to troubleshoot problems. You can still boot into Safe Mode through the System Configuration (msconfig) tool, but Windows 8 offers another way to access Safe Mode.

Here’s how: Open the Charm bar, click on the Settings charm, and then click on the link for Change PC Settings. In the PC Settings screen, click on the General tab. Scroll to the bottom of the right pane and click the Restart now button under Advanced startup. Your PC will load the Advanced Options Boot Menu, with all its troubleshooting options. Click the Troubleshoot button, then the Advanced Options button, and finally the Startup Settings button. Click Restart, and Windows gives you several options, including some for Safe Mode. Press the number of the option you wish to use, and your PC reboots using that Safe Mode option.


Tip 44: How to create a tile for the Advanced Boot Options menu

That Advanced Boot Options menu we mentioned in the previous tip, as you can see, is a bit of a labour to access, as it requires you to go through the Charm bar, to the PC Settings screen, to the General tab before you can reach it. A far quicker way to access this important Options menu is to create a Start screen tile for it.

To do this, right click anywhere on the desktop, select New from the popup menu, and then select Shortcut. In the field to “type the location of the item,” type the following:

shutdown /r /o /t 0

Click Next. Name the shortcut “Options Menu.” Click Finish. Right click the shortcut and select Pin to Start from the popup menu. Return to the Start screen, scroll to the end, and your new tile appears. Clicking on it then brings you straight to the menu.


Tip 45: How to check for compatibility issues in Windows 8

According to Microsoft, any program or device that runs under Windows 7 should work in Windows 8, though you may need to update or reinstall certain software after you upgrade. But you can make sure that certain software or hardware is compatible by checking Microsoft’s Windows 8 Compatibility Centre.

Here, you can browse different programs and devices, or search for a specific item. The page provides the full skinny on any compatibility issues (or it should do).

Tip 46: How to navigate the Start screen using key shortcuts

You can use your mouse to travel around the Start screen, obviously. However, some of the following keyboard shortcuts can come in very handy, we're sure you'll agree:

Key(s)

Shortcut

Right arrow key

Move right one tile at a time

Left arrow key

Move left one tile at a time

Down arrow key

Move down one tile at a time

Up arrow key

Move up one tile at a time

Home key

Move to the first tile on the screen

End key

Move to the last tile on the screen

Ctrl + "-"

Zoom out of the Start screen

Ctrl + "="

Zoom back in to the Start screen


Tip 47: How to access your charms using key shortcuts

You can launch the Charm bar and the various charms via the following keyboard shortcuts:

Key(s)

Shortcut

Windows key + C

Open the Charm bar

Windows key + I

Open the Settings charm

Windows key + K

Open the Devices charm

Windows key + H

Open the Share charm

Windows key + Q

Open the Search charm


Tip 48: How to work with Windows 8 apps using key shortcuts

You can view open apps, switch from one to another, and display two side-by-side with some help from these shortcuts:

Key(s)

Shortcut

Windows key + Z

Display the App bar in the tile Start screen or the current Windows 8 app

Windows key + Tab

Cycle through all open apps on the Switch List

Alt + Tab

Cycle forward through all open apps in the centre window

Alt + Shift + Tab

Cycle backward through all open apps in the centre window

Ctrl + Esc

Switch between the Start screen and the last app you've used

Windows key + "."

Snap the current app to the right, then cycle to left and full screen

Windows key + Shift + "."

Snap the current app to the left, then cycle to right and full screen

Alt + F4

Close the current app


Tip 49: How to work with the desktop using key shortcuts

The Windows 8 desktop retains the same look and feel as in prior versions of Windows, so you can still work with it using various keyboard shortcuts:

Key(s)

Shortcut

Windows key + M

Minimise all open windows on the desktop

Windows + Shift + M

Restore all minimised windows on desktop

Alt + Esc

Cycle through all open windows

Windows key + T

Preview open windows in taskbar

Ctrl + N

Open a new window in File Explorer

Ctrl + W

Close the current window in File Explorer

Ctrl + Shift + N

Create new folder in Windows File Explorer

Alt + F4

Launch the Shut Down Windows dialog box


Tip 50: How to access specific tools using key shortcuts

Instead of trying to remember how and where to find certain tools and features, just use the following keyboard shortcuts to launch them:

Key(s)

Shortcut

Ctrl + Shift + Esc

Open Windows Task Manager

Windows key + X

Open the Power User Tasks menu

Windows key + E

Open File Explorer

Windows key + R

Open the Run command

Windows key + U

Open the Ease of Access Centre

And that’s the lot for our tips – for the time being! If you’re still hungry for more Windows 8 tips, then check out our article on how to better cope with the so-called “Desktop/Metro minefield.”

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