Sunday, March 17, 2013

Windows 8: Metro Apps and Programs

Guest Post by "Techie Tim"

Windows 8 Metro Apps and Programs
The Windows 8 "Start" screen

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

The Windows 8 “Metro” interface

The new appearance of Windows 8 is a screen full of small rectangles – or “half-rectangles” which are square boxes – the “Start” screen.  The new look and feel is the “Metro” interface.  Many apps or programs execute as “Metro Apps” or simply, the new “full screen” appearance.  To end or close a “Metro App”,
simply place your finger on a touch screen – or your cursor on a mouse-driven screen – to the upper center edge of the screen.  A “hand” appears – which you will then drag to the lower center edge.  As you begin to drag the screen – it reduces in size.  If you drag it left or right, the screen will become “partitioned” with your app in the partition where you placed it.  Drag it to the bottom edge, and it will close that app.

Apps, Programs, Applications, etc.

Windows 8 is delivered, whether by upgrade to your existing system or by purchasing a new device, with a minimum of basic features and functions to be executed, and all are started by clicking on a tile on the Start screen.  Some tiles are very simple – such as “Desktop” which simply transfers to the same desktop environment experienced in earlier Windows versions minus the Start button.  Other tiles execute complex applications or programs, such as Microsoft Excel then, when you close the application, the desktop appears.

Windows 8 Apps or Programs

The first question many new Windows 8 users ask is frequently “How do I get to _____?”.  The blank may be “control panel”, “file manager” or a myriad of other programs provided in earlier versions of Windows.  Relax – they are here, and easy to find.

Go to the “Start” page, move your cursor to a spot where no tile or text appears (within the background anywhere), then right-click - a small banner appears at the bottom of your screen with a small icon an “All Apps” on the right-hand side.  Click that icon and a list of everything on your system that is executable appears – and as you will see, all the “old” programs are there plus many new ones!  Simply right-click on a program and you will see another banner appear at the bottom of your screen providing you the ability to “Pin it to Start” which will put a tile on your Start page, “Pin it to Taskbar” which puts the icon on the small bar at the bottom of your desktop page, etc.  You get to place the execute button where you prefer it to appear on your system!

The “Store” tile

One of the tiles initially installed on the Start screen is the “Store” tile.  When clicked, the Microsoft “store” appears.  There you will find a growing list of things to add to YOUR system, grouped by general function.  As I mentioned in the first post of this series, Windows 8 is extremely easily customized to fit YOU, and this is just one more opportunity to make it uniquely YOURS.

You will see in each group, a tile that indicates the “Top Free” apps in that group.  Select one that is interesting, and a page appears that provides a short description and a button to “Install”.  When you select “Install” the screen changes back to where you were before – in the “Store”.  If you decide not to add this “app” to your system, simply click the “back” arrow in the upper left corner.  There is a small chance that what you want to add to your system is not available – no problem – check back on a weekly or monthly interval and you will probably find it soon!

When Windows 8 initially delivered in October 2012 there were approximately 10,000 apps available – that number grew to more than 40,000 by January 2013!  Just as with any “store”, not everything is free.  You may find that the exact entity you want comes with a premium – but in many cases, there is something similar that is free.  If you are unhappy with the free version, you will likely find the price of the one you know you like more acceptable.

Windows 8 Flexibility

Now that you have added dozens of new apps, and found all the “old” apps you are accustomed to using, you are left with tiles everywhere on your Start screen, added to the end in the sequence you found them.  Not good – but “no worries” – you can drag & drop them into a location convenient and logical for you so they will be easy to find when you want them.

My choice and recommendation is to put the one you expect to execute most frequently in the upper left position in the first group, followed by the one you expect to execute next most frequently, etc.  Once arranged they remain as they are until you “re-arrange” them again, so as you grow more comfortable with your Windows 8 system, it migrates (with your help by moving tiles) to a totally customized system.  You have what you want, looking how you want it to look, where you want it to appear – the ultimate in flexibility!

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