With the release of Windows 8 Microsoft made some pretty major changes to the traditional interface, while still retaining much of the same functionality under the surface. In this article I shall cover the key aspects of Windows 8.

At the time of writing the current version of Windows 8 is the 8.1 Update, and the screenshots will reflect this and so may not look exactly the same as any earlier or later version.

Start Screen

The most significant new feature is the Windows 8 Start Screen. This can be accessed a number of ways, from pressing the Windows key on your keyboard, using the Start Button on the taskbar or through the Charms menu, which I’ll go into detail on later.

Replacing the older Start Menu, the Start Screen grants easy access to your installed programs and other key functions.

The bulk of the Start Screen is the Apps display, with the top right hand corner having your account information, power button and search function. From here you can edit your account or switch to another one; shut down, restart or put the computer to sleep and access the search Charm.

When first you visit the Start Screen it will have a limited number of icons on the left hand side, with the standard Windows 8 Apps. These include the Mail App, Skype, OneDrive and the Windows Store. Adding new Windows 8 Apps is easy, and these can be downloaded from the Windows Store which we cover in detail on page 4.

Windows 8 Apps on the Start Screen can be customised to display as you would like them. You can choose from 4 different sizes and certain Apps also have a live feature which automatically updates the tile to show new news, releases and weather updates which can be turned on or off. Live updates are automatically disabled if you choose the small tile size, as there just isn’t enough space for the information.

Any new App installed on the computer will automatically be displayed in the Apps view, with any desktop programs also appearing here if they have created Start Menu shortcuts when installed. The Apps view is accessed by clicking the small arrow that appears in the bottom left corner of the Start Screen. Once in the Apps view, you can right click on any App or program and select to pin to Start, which will add it to the main Start Screen. Windows 8 Apps will be on the left hand side with any desktop programs on the right – those familiar with the Start Menu from Windows 7 or before may recognise the folder structure with Accessories and folders for individual programs.

Desktop programs pinned to the Start Screen will automatically have the medium size tile, with the program icon and a matching coloured background. These can be resized to the small size, but cannot be made larger.

The Apps and icons on the Start Screen can be split into groups to allow easier browsing. Simply hold down Ctrl on the keyboard and click on the apps you want to move and drag and drop these to the right and a new group will be created for you. Groups can be named by right clicking on any blank space on the Start Screen and selecting ‘Name groups.’

While in the Start Screen or any Windows 8 App you can access the taskbar by moving your mouse cursor to the bottom of the screen. You can return to the traditional Windows desktop by either clicking the Desktop App or pressing the Windows key or Start Button on the taskbar.

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