Thursday, February 14, 2013

Introduction to Windows 8 Charms: Search, Share, Start...

Guest Post by "Techie Tim"

This is the second in a series, the first post is Windows 8: The Start Screen.

Windows 8: The Charms Banner

Two challenges have persisted through many iterations of the Windows operating system.  Windows needs to communicate important things for you to do quickly, easily and in language that is easily understood by non-computer professionals.  Also, a quick and easy method for these same computer users to tell Windows what they want it to do.  Additionally, with Windows 8, these challenges need to be addressed both for a touch-screen environment and a mouse-driven interface in a consistent manner.

The end result was a “Charms banner”.  To access this banner on a touch screen device, you simply put a finger in the upper or lower right-hand corner of the screen – then slide it toward the center of the screen.  In a non-touch environment, you’ll move your cursor to the upper or lower right-hand corner of the screen.  In either environment, when the black banner appears you will move to select the desired charm without moving from the banner.

How To Search in Windows 8

“Search” is the first charm listed – and the most comprehensive.  You can search your entire PC just as always by entering the Search charm from the Start screen.  That will find all apps, files and settings that match your search criteria.  You can also accomplish this by simply starting to type on the Start screen.  

If you are in the People, Photos, Mail or Video app, the Search charm will search within that app only, which results in a much quicker search. Within the Store or Music app, search will find items for you to purchase – as well as finding all the music you have on your PC that matches the search criteria.  In the full-screen version of Internet Explorer (IE), you will search the internet while the desktop version of IE simply searches your desktop.  When you are executing apps on the desktop, search functions as it did on the Start screen.

In summary, Search has expanded and grown in both capability and complexity to become a powerful tool – one you will grow to love and appreciate.

How To Share in Windows 8

“Share” is a new concept and capability, but one you’ll use often.  It is very similar in function to, but more comprehensive than, the “copy & paste” or “clipboard” you may be familiar with in previous releases.  As an example, you might select a picture in the Photos app, select the “Share” charm – then choose another app, such as Microsoft Word and attach the photo.

Windows 8 also has a “SkyDrive” app that utilizes the Share charm frequently to store information into the cloud.  (SkyDrive is the app that is used with the online storage available to you from Microsoft. This storage is similar to that available from Dropbox and Google Drive.)  Imagine if all your backup files were stored “in the cloud” – they would always be available even if your PC were stolen or totally destroyed!  Your family photos, important documents, etc. would be available anytime, anywhere and under any conditions as long as you have access to the internet! 

The Start, Devices & Settings Charms

The “Start” charm is the least complex of all charms – it brings up your Start screen.  You can also find the Start screen with one click by scrolling to the lower left corner of your screen. 

The “Devices” charm enables you to select various hardware devices for a specific task, such as choosing which printer on your network you want the document you just composed to print to.  You will find entries for every piece of hardware or device networked or connected or available to your computer.

“Settings” is another charm that has a different focus depending on which screen you are viewing when you execute the charm.  If you are on the Start screen and execute the Settings charm you will have the 3-4 choices at the top of the banner, plus the 6 at the bottom.

One item to note – the “Power” icon on the Settings charm is what you select to shut down or restart your PC.  While there are other methods to achieve this objective, none is as simple or direct as from the Settings charm.  If you are on the desktop and bring up the Settings charm, you will find Control Panel and the settings for all apps – such as the browsing history or tools for IE.

Windows 8 Notifications

“Notifications” are messages that the Windows 8 operating system feels are important for you to be aware of – or to act upon.  They may appear on the upper right-hand portion of your screen or on the window of the app you are executing that the message concerns.  They have been nicknamed “toaster” messages because they frequently just pop-up – just like toast in a toaster!

You have the ability to disable notifications – either all or specific notifications from within the Settings charm.  BEWARE – the notifications may become a nuisance or aggravation, but they have potential to be very serious.  When you disable them, you will potentially have a situation you need to correct but are unaware of because the message was turned off.

In summary, the Charms provide new capabilities and a minimal interface to most “technical” areas of your PC.

This is the second post of a series.

Other Observations Technology Posts:

Getting Started With Windows 8: The Start Screen
Windows 8: Metro Apps and Programs
Syncing Android Calendars With Your PC (MS Outlook)
Syncing Android Contacts/ Addresses With Your PC (MS Outlook)
For lists of other popular posts see the sidebar to the left or the blog header at the top of the page.
Copyright © 2013                                     Last modified: 3/17/2013

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