Friday, January 18, 2013

How To Get Started With Windows 8: The Start Screen

Guest post by "Techie Tim"

This is the first post in a series that could have been called "Windows 8 101," or "Introduction to Windows 8." The overall objective is to provide an overview of and introduction to the new Windows 8 operating system.  Before he's finished, new guest poster "Techie Tim" plans to cover all of the basics.

Windows 8 is different, but you will be rewarded with new features/functions and a common “feel” for all of your Microsoft supported devices. If you’ve watched TV recently you will have noticed the “Start” screen for Windows 8.  This new design is the "Metro" format, and the first "page" that you will see when you log onto your Windows platform.

Introduction to Windows 8: how to get started with the Start screen
The Windows 8 "Start Screen"

A Consistent "Look & Feel" For All Devices

This screen with the multi-colored squares and rectangles (referred to as “tiles” within Windows 8), replaces the “Start Button” that was at the lower left corner of earlier versions of Windows. Microsoft’s objective for this redesign was
to create a consistent “look & feel” for all devices - from their smallest smart phones to the most powerful desktop. To accomplish that objective, they were required to keep the same user interface for a touch-screen device and a mouse-driven system.

Keeping the same interface required scrolling from left-to-right as opposed to up-to-down as desktop users were accustomed to doing. Additionally, all of the “apps” (or programs to desktop users) required an “execute” interface (similar in function to an icon) to be displayed as opposed to the outline format used on earlier Windows releases. The end result, as you’ve seen in advertisements, is a screen of multi-colored boxes or boxes with pictures, and scrolling that moves from left to right.

Finally, and not so apparent initially, Microsoft had to make the kernel – the operating system – smaller and faster because processors in smart phones and tablets are not as robust as those in current PCs. You benefit because now you have a much more responsive system!

How To Power Up Your System and Sign On

When you “boot” or “power up” your system, on whatever device you are using, you will encounter a user selection screen if multiple users are defined. Once a user is selected, a sign-on screen appears requesting that user’s password. To maintain consistency across devices, a common user-id/password combination was required, so the Microsoft “Live” ID combination was chosen.

When you sign onto Windows 8, your password is validated online (if you are connected to the internet) and maintained within the Windows 8 system. When you change it online, you’ll enter the newly created password to your Windows 8 system with an internet connection, and the Start screen will appear. If you don’t currently have a Windows “Live” ID, no problem – the “Sign On” process will cycle you through creating it. It is free, and it is the ONE user-id/password combination you’ll use for all your devices.

The Start Screen: Resizing, Rearranging and Removing Tiles Explained

Now that you are signed onto Windows 8, you will see a screen of tiles. These tiles can be removed – and/or the rectangular tiles can be made smaller – by “right clicking” when pointing to the tile to be changed.  This action causes a banner at the bottom of your screen to appear, with options to (make) “smaller”, “uninstall”, “unpin from Start”, “turn live tile off”, etc.

My advice would be to avoid “uninstall” for a few weeks – it is much easier to ignore a tile for a time than to re-install that program later! “Live tile” is simply the scrolling, or picture changing on the tile – if it bothers you, turn it off – no problem, you can turn it back on later if you choose. "Unpin from Start" is similar to uninstall, except you are simply removing the tile, which is much easier to replace later (it's similar to deleting a shortcut or icon in earlier versions of Windows). To make a large tile small, simply choose the “smaller” option referred to above. To “re-arrange” the tiles, simply click and hold the tile – then drag it to the desired location.

How To Execute a Windows 8 App (Run a Program)

You will notice a tile labeled “Desktop” … do not forget it is here – you will want to use it soon! When you click it, you are taken to your desktop – just like the one you saw in older versions of Windows without the Start button.

To execute or run an “app”, simply click on the corresponding tile. Many applications will return to the Desktop when you exit the program. To return to the Start page, simply move your cursor to either right-hand corner of your screen and click on the Start logo. That logo and the other four graphics are referred to as “charms”.  A subsequent post will elaborate on the Metro interface in greater detail.

The Charms

The “Charms” can be accessed at any time – in the window where the program you are currently executing is active, from the desktop – from anywhere! If you are not using a touch-screen, simply move the cursor to the upper or lower right corner of your screen, then up or down within the charms banner to select the desired charm. From a touch-screen device, you will place a finger on the right-hand side of the screen - then drag your finger toward the center of that screen.  I’ll write more about the charms and their use later in this series.

Summary & Next Steps

Hopefully this post has clarified:
  • Why Microsoft changed the user interface to Windows 8.
  • The Microsoft “Live” ID requirement and why it is now required.
  • New terminology: tiles, charms
  • The Start screen and how to use it to accomplish your desired objective.
  • How to tweak or customize the Start screen.

The next post will discuss the “charms”, the taskbar and how to access familiar technical interfaces such as the control panel, how to search your entire system, and the sign-off process.

Other Observations Technology Posts

Introduction to Windows 8 Charms: Search, Share, Start, ...
Windows 8: Metro Apps and Programs
Syncing Android Calendars With Your PC (MS Outlook)
Syncing Android Contacts/ Addresses With Your PC (MS Outlook)
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Copyright © 2013                 Last modified: 3/17/2013

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