Top Windows 8 tips and tricks for beginners

Microsoft’s Windows 8 is now out and available on a whole host of different devices, ranging from your average desktop to super-slim touchscreen laptops and even tablets. In some respects it’s very similar to Windows 7, but in others it’s a completely new and bewildering OS.

If you’ve used Windows 7 or even Vista before, you’ll find aspects of Windows 8 familiar, but there will be some simple features that seem to be missing or hard to find. If you’re struggling with Windows 8 or you just want to pick up a few helpful hints and tips, here are our top tips.

Where’s the Start button?

Microsoft has completely transformed the traditional pop-up start menu into a full page, scrolling list of programs and ‘apps’. This page is very colourful, and displays your programs and features as interactive tiles. But how do you get to it from the regular looking Windows desktop?

On a non-touchscreen device: Move the mouse into the bottom left corner of the screen and then click the pop-out Start box.

On a touchscreen device: Slide your finger from the very right edge of the screen across to the left. Tap Start.

How to switch between the Start and Classic desktops

Windows 8 can be a little confusing to begin with as you’ve got the Start menu with a host of apps as well as the standard Windows desktop, also with app shortcuts and taskbar shortcuts. Thankfully you can easily flick between the two:

On any device: Use the Windows key (four white squares, bottom left of the keyboard) to toggle between the two desktops. Alternatively press the Windows key + D together for a second to go straight to the classic Windows desktop from anywhere.

How do I find the Control Panel?

The Control Panel itself is very similar to the one you’ll probably have seen on Windows 7, but it’s hard to find, especially when you don’t know where you’re looking.

On a non-touchscreen device: Move the mouse into the bottom right corner of the screen; 5 options will pop out in a bar. Click Settings, then click Control Panel.

On a touchscreen device: Swipe your finger from the right edge of the screen across to the centre to bring out the options bar. Touch Settings, then touch Control Panel.

How do I view all programs on my PC?

Windows 8 consists of two ‘desktops’: the classic Windows desktop, akin to Windows Vista and 7, and the ‘Start’ desktop. Neither of these contain every program that’s loaded on your PC, as they’re designed to be customised by you. Here’s how to view every app and program on your PC:

On a non-touchscreen device: Enter the Start menu using methods in the first tip. Right click anywhere on the background top bring up the right click menu along the bottom, now left click on ‘All apps’.

On a touchscreen device: Enter the Start menu using the methods in the first tip then swipe your finger upwards from the bottom of the screen. Touch on All apps, which is again in the bottom right corner.

How to pin an app to the Start or taskbar

Now that you’ve found where all the programs are on your PC, you can pick and choose which of them are shown in both the Start menu and the classic Windows desktop.

On a non-touchscreen device: Follow the steps above to locate all apps then right click on an app. You can now select either ‘Pin to Start’ or ‘Pin to taskbar’ at the bottom of your screen.

On a touchscreen device: Follow the steps above to locate all apps then touch and hold your finger on an app and drag down slightly. The app icon will move down as your finger drags downwards, revealing the ‘Pin to Start’ and ‘Pin to taskbar’ options at the bottom of your screen.

How to remove an app from the Start menu

Most Windows 8 devices will come with a selection of apps pre-pinned in the Start menu to get you going. Manufacturers tend to add in their own extra apps which can be a pain, so here’s how to get rid of any you don’t need.

On a non-touchscreen device: Open the Start menu and right click on an app and then click ‘Unpin from Start’ in the bottom left corner.

On a touchscreen device: Open the Start menu then touch and hold on an app and drag it downwards slightly. You’ll now be able to tap ‘Unpin from Start’ in the bottom left corner.

How do I close an app?

Another classic Windows feature that’s missing in some apps is the good old cross in the top right corner. This only applies to programs you open through the new-style Start menu, but how do you close an app without the cross?

On a non-touchscreen device: Move the cursor to the very top of the screen, right in the middle. You’ll see the cursor change to a hand, and now you’ll need to left click and hold, then drag the window right down to the bottom of the screen and release the left click to close it. A little tricky, but with some practice you’ll nail it.

On a touchscreen device: A little simpler: Simply drag your finger all the way from the top of the screen to the bottom in a straight line.

How to download apps

Microsoft would like you to think of programs as ‘apps’ now and as such you’ll be able to download these through the Microsoft Store.

On any device: Open the ‘Store’ icon from the Start menu and browse through the apps. Touch an app and then touch ‘Install’ to download it to your PC. Some apps will be free and some will have a price tag, so for the latter you’ll be required to enter payment details before downloading.

How to switch between programs

Programs aren’t viewable as ‘Windows’ on the classic Windows toolbar anymore, which makes it difficult to know how to switch between your open apps.

On a non-touchscreen device: Move the mouse into the top left corner of the screen and then down slightly. This should reveal open programs as thumbnails, and you can simply click one to open it. Alternatively, hold Alt on the keyboard and press Tab to switch between apps.

On a touchscreen device: Swiping your finger from the left edge of the screen across to the middle will drag across previously opened programs, one by one. Keep swiping to get the app you want!

We’ll be bringing you plenty more helpful tips and tricks for Windows 8 in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. If you’re stuck on something or can’t find what you’re looking for, why not drop us a comment below or tweet us your query and we’ll do our best to respond.

Let us know your thoughts on our comments below or via our @Gadget_Helpline Twitter page or Official Facebook group.