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How to use Windows 8: 10 tips to get you started on Windows 8

Tricks to navigating the newest Windows OS

So you've got the latest version of Windows. Look a little different? What's that big screen with all those animated rectangles? Fear not and read on for our 10 tips to get started on Windows 8.

See more: Check out our Windows 8 review

1. Create your Microsoft account. This is essentially an email address used as an account to sign into your PC or device, download apps from the Windows store, store files on the cloud, sync email and generally personalise your account. If you're sharing the PC or tablet, each user should have his or her own account, synced with the respective email address, social networks, preferences and settings. If you don't already have an account, Microsoft recommends using the email address you use most often.

Learn how to use the Start screen in Windows 8

2. Learn your way around the Start screen. The Start screen may look foreign and intimidating (the things inside the tiles move!), but it's really just the big version of the start menu from the original Windows desktop version most are used to. Don't be scared! The Start screen is basically a collection of all the things you use, like showing updates on your social media accounts, pending appointments, new emails, weather and more in interactive tiles. Each tile represents a different app and clicking on the tile/app will bring you to the full-screen version of the app. This differs from the desktop version of each of these apps or web pages, where you'd see them in windows that can be re-sized. 

Fear not, the desktop interface on Windows still exists

3. Customise the Start screen. Select which tiles you want on your main start screen, what size they will be and how they're arranged. Right click on the tiles to choose a size or to delete it from the screen. Click and drag to re-arrange through the main start tiles or drag into a column and create a whole new column. There's loads of customisable things about this Windows and the Start screen tiles are just the beginning. 

4. Add tiles. Want to create a tile on your Start screen for your favourite website? Simply right click anywhere on the screen and a bar will appear at the bottom of the window. Click “pin to start” and a tile will be created that will bring you straight to the website from the start screen. Nifty, right? See also: Best Windows apps: Windows 8 app group test. 

5. Find the Start button. Just because you can't see the friendly familiar Start button like previous Windows versions doesn't mean that it's not there. Simply wave your mouse into the bottom left corner (where the button always been in previous Windows versions) and voila, there it is. If you keep your mouse in the bottom left corner and click, you're brought to the same desktop interface we all know and love. Keep your mouse in the corner and keep clicking to toggle back and forth between the start and desktop screens.

Learn how to find the start button and use hot corners on Windows 8

6. Hot corners. The name doesn't disappoint for this feature. Waving your mouse into the corners of your screen will do different things—as we just learned, the bottom left gives us the start button. The top left gives you the last app you just visited. If you hover over the bottom left corner and drag up, a list of the open apps will appear. From there, you can click on them to open or drag to one side or the other to snap into place—including full screen, two thirds, half or one third. 

7. Charms. Wave your mouse along the right corners/edge of the screen and you'll find what Microsoft calls the Charms—shortcuts to the settings, search, shutdown, logout/change user, etc. You don't need to go to the Start screen to access this, either. Wave to the right edge of the screen and get the Charms no matter what you're up to.

Learn how to use Windows 8's charms

8.Know how to force quit from apps. When accessed from the Start screen, all apps are full-screen, so you're a bit out of luck with looking for the “x” button to close out. Say your Internet browser freezes up or maybe you're just really eager to close out of Angry Birds—use your cursor to click and grab the top of the window and pull down to the bottom of the screen. This will force quit the application and allow you to move on with your day. If you're not trying to force quit from apps, the escape key will also get you back to the Start screen.

Learn how to close out of this full-sized app in Windows 8

9.Search quickly, search powerfully. Overwhelmed by the Start screen interface but still looking to change your background? Simply go to the Start screen and just start typing for what you're looking for—in this case, “change background”. Windows 8 will then search all available apps, programs and files and produce relevant results based off what you've typed. Users will find this similar to the Apple OS Spotlight function and oh so convenient. 

Learn how to search on Windows 8

  1. 10. Use apps side by side.  This is essentially the same as Windows 7, though depending on your device's screen resolution, you can use up to four apps on the screen at a time by snapping them into various windows.  Simply open the application you'd like to use, slide in from the top of the screen until an opening appears behind the app and drag the app to the left or right side. Do the same with the additional apps: you can have the app either occupy two thirds, one half or one third of the screen if you're working with two apps. You can also change the size of the windows by sliding the divider between the apps. The content within the apps then responds in turn to its new constraints—no zooming or resizing done on your part. Just snap and multitask. 

  2. Got the hang of Windows 8? Read our how-to download Windows 8.1.

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