Welcome to Part 2 of the two-part series on the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Check out part 1 to learn how to install it, and then read on for more on navigating around Windows 8.
Start Me Up
The first thing you’ll notice is the new Start screen, accessible by pressing Start from anywhere. Instead of bringing up a Start menu, it brings you to this screen, with all these multicolored window panes. This is called the Metro User Interface, or Metro UI. Clicking any of these panes will open up the corresponding apps, almost as if you were on a tablet or phone. That’s no coincidence… Windows 8’s interface is designed to be more or less identical, regardless of whether you’re using it on a PC or a tablet.
You’ll notice that this start page is pretty minimalist. No System Tray or Quick-Launch Toolbar or Taskbar or clock or anything like that. It’s designed to get you to your apps with as few clicks as possible.
The Four Corners
Move the mouse over to the upper right or lower right, then swipe up (or down) and two things appear: the clock along the bottom, including the date, current battery life, and some options along the right, including integrated search, sharing, a list of devices, and settings.
Mouse over the upper left or lower left, and you’ll see the last app you were just viewing, and you can click on it to go there. Swipe downward (or upward) from there, and you’ll see all of your running apps. Just like in earlier versions, you can also use Alt-Tab to page through apps.
Clicking the little magnifying glass will zoom way out and show you just how much you can fit on the start screen, if you so choose.
Scroll to the Right
Moving the mouse to the right brings up a bunch of little applets, or mini-apps, covering things that you’d usually find in the Control Panel of old.
Clicking the Desktop pane will bring you to a more familiar experience: the Windows Desktop. Except there’s no My Computer or much of anything else here, except the Recycle Bin. And you’ll notice no shortcuts for any current apps, either. This desktop’s most useful to do things that are in the taskbar that are holdovers from Windows 7, or to navigate to a specific folder.
You’ll notice that the Windows 8 version of Internet Explorer is wildly different from what you’re used to. The address bar appears and disappears as you do things, so Internet Explorer is usually running in full screen. Clicking the Pin icon will turn the current site into a Web App of sorts, which means that it’ll be clickable from the Start screen.
Other than the different interface, this is the same Web you’ve always used.
Click the Store pane and you’ll get instant access to Microsoft’s storefront of apps. Similar to Apple’s App Store, this is a great place to grab free and paid apps for Windows 8, and it’s a seamless storefront experience.
Now that you’ve had a chance to navigate around Windows 8, keep checking back for new apps and updates as Microsoft shows you more and more of a preview of what to expect. When Windows 8 is released, who knows? Maybe you’ll want to buy it!
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