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Windows 8: the complete guide

Our in-depth guide to Microsoft's new OS

The Metro UI explained

The Metro interface is the most radical shake-up since Windows 95 replaced Windows 3.1. Here's how it works. Rather than desktop icons, the Metro interface has 'tiles'. Tiles act more like Android widgets than traditional Windows shortcuts; you can use them to launch a program, but they can also display live information.

The Charms bar (shown to the right of the Start screen, below) appears when you swipe your finger in from the right-hand edge of the screen. Alternatively, if you're using a mouse, point the cursor to the top- or bottom-right corner of the screen. In order, the Charms are:

Search: Tap this to open the search box. This essentially replaces Vista and Windows 7's Start menu search box, but it's cleverer. You can tap on a particular app to filter the search, so you could search for an app in the Store, a TV show in Video or a place in Maps.

Share: As the name suggests, this icon allows you to share things with people, but the options will change depending on which app is running. Extra sharing options will appear when you install apps that can share content, such as Twitter clients.

Start: Takes you back to the Start screen if you're in another app, or switches to the most recent app if you're on the Start screen.

Devices: Tap this icon to show relevant connected devices. Printers, speakers, screens and network devices can be displayed here. You could select a media streamer, such as a connected Xbox for example, to play a particular video on your TV.

Settings: Shows six commonly used settings including network status, screen brightness and power options. Also provides a link to the new streamlined Control Panel.

 Metro UI with Charms and Options bars

The Options bar (shown above below the Start screen) appears when you select one or more tiles from the Start screen and provides contextual options. Certain tiles on the Start screen can be resized, but others can't.

You can select tiles by tapping (or clicking) and dragging them downwards (or upwards). De-select tiles by dragging them upwards (or downwards).
Tap the user icon (top-right of Start screen) to change your account picture, lock your computer or sign out.

Top tips for getting around the Metro interface

  • Drag in from the left to switch to the most recently used app. Drag and hold to display that app to the left or right of the current app.
  • Drag down from the top to close the current app.
  • Tap and hold your finger on the screen to access menus in some apps (this is the equivalent of right-clicking).
  • Rearrange the position of tiles on the Start screen simply by tapping (or clicking) and dragging them to their new position.
  • Pinch two fingers together on the Start screen (and in other apps) to zoom out and see more apps at once. Without a touchscreen, hold Ctrl and use your mouse's scroll wheel.
  • Display all apps by dragging upwards from the bottom of the Start screen to show the All Apps button.
  • Add new apps to the Start screen either from the new Store or by selecting them from the All Apps list and tapping the 'Pin to Start' button. If you see a 'Pin to taskbar' icon, the program can be pinned to the taskbar on the traditional Windows desktop.
  • If you don't have a touchscreen, point your mouse at the right-hand corners of the screen to show the Charms bar. The bottom-left corner is a shortcut to the Start screen; drag down from the top-left corner to show thumbnails of all running apps.
  • To see the list of running apps on a touchscreen, drag right, then left at the left-hand edge of the screen.

NEXT PAGE: Lock screen and password options

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