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Microsoft tunes up Windows 8 multi-screen

When Microsoft launches Windows 8 Release Preview next month the operating system will have improved navigation features for users who like more than one monitor to display all their applications.

The upgrade - the last major tune-up expected before the final version launches sometime this fall - addresses task bars, desktop backgrounds and that no man's land, the common edge shared by adjacent screens, according to the Building Windows 8 blog.

The current problem with that common edge is that when users mouse over to them - for example to hit the minimize button - they sometimes overshoot and wind up on the next screen instead of the screen they started off on. They either have to slow down or adjust the window size so there's a buffer between the edge of the window and the edge of the screen.

TEST YOURSELF: The Windows 8 Quiz

MORE WINDOWS 8: Why aren't Apple and Amazon dumping on Windows RT?

With Windows 8 Release Preview, Microsoft has created interface corners that are larger than 6 pixels tall so users can pull up a little short of the edge but still hit the active interface. The active area extends a little beyond the corner itself to present a larger target.

These corners have new uses with Windows 8 that they didn't have with Windows 7. Corners contain access to applications, charm bars and the Start screen.

The active corners have also been revised so they only work for the monitor the cursor is active on. So when the cursor moves from one screen to another, the corners won't initially work on the second screen until the user establishes that that is the screen being worked on. So if users do overshoot the active screen, they won't accidentally click on an active corner on the other screen.

To improve the ability to organize the location of active applications, the Release Preview will add a new keyboard shortcut just for moving Metro applications from screen to screen - Windows key+page up/page down. The shortcut for moving traditional desktop apps remains Windows key+shift+arrow. All apps can be moved from screen to screen via drag and drop as well.

In the upcoming version Microsoft gives more options for the functionality of taskbars on each screen, giving users new options.

The default setting is to make the taskbar fully functional on all screens. Rather than having to manipulate the cursor back to the primary screen and perhaps turn their heads, users can access all taskbar icons from every screen.

Alternatively, they can have the taskbar show icons only for those windows that appear on each screen. The downside is that users have to remember which windows are open on which screens in order to find their icons.

Or users can set up a main monitor with a taskbar that always displays all icons, and other monitors' taskbars show only icons for the windows open on them. So when users are looking for a particular window but aren't sure on which screen it is open, they know they can find it on the master monitor.

The Start button, charms bar and calling up recently used application will be accessible from all monitors. In the Consumer Preview they were available only on one screen.

Microsoft has spent a lot of effort on desktop backgrounds in the release preview, making it possible to put a different one on each screen or to spread a single image so it is displayed just once over all the screens. When different pictures are used, they can be displayed on horizontally oriented monitors in landscape mode or rotated 90 degrees with in portrait mode.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.


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