Taming the Windows 8 DESKTOP GUI

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TerryNet

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INTRO

Some people feel lost when first encountering Windows 8 (I did), especially if they feel they "know" Windows. What's the purpose of that mess (Start Screen, or Modern UI) that you first see? How the heck do you get out of an App? How do you just shut the thing down? And, after discovering the desktop GUI, what happened to the Start button or Orb?

If you'd like to take control and use Windows 8 pretty much the same way you used previous versions of Windows (in particular XP, Vista and 7) you may find this thread a useful beginning. There are many tutorials available and I'm not trying to compete with them; just trying to put some beginning stuff into one place.

I'm assuming the use of a keyboard and a mouse, touchpad or trackball to control a mouse pointer. Most should also be applicable to a touch screen, but I haven't learned any special swipes and swopes and sweeps or whatever they call the fancy movements.

ESCAPE FROM AN APP OR FROM THE START SCREEN

Click on any of those enormous tiles (not called "icons") on the Start screen and you'll find your entire screen gobbled up by the Photo or Mail or whatever App--and no apparent way to get out of it! Solution: hit the < Windows logo> key or "grab" the top of the screen (with your mouse pointer, not your hand) and pull it to the bottom. Back to the lovely Start screen.

Now click on the "desktop" tile and you'll find yourself in mostly familiar territory--the Desktop GUI. A lot of differences from XP, but could be Windows 7 except

a. no Start Orb;
b. no gadgets;
c. borders of windows are not transparent;
d. the "show desktop" rectangle is still at the right end of the task bar, but is nearly invisible.

START MENU ALTERNATIVES

Of the above four exceptions only the lack of a Start Orb--and the Start menu that it would summon--is worthy of discussion. Some people install a third party Start menu; I think that Classic Shell is a popular one. Some of those Start menus even cause the boot to be directly to the desktop GUI, bypassing the Start screen. (The Start screen is also called the Modern UI, but I'm going to avoid that term, 'cause it's gonna be silly talking about it being the "Modern" UI ten or twenty years from now.) For a whole bunch of Start Menus see A List Of Start Menu Replacements for Windows 8.

I dabbled with a couple of the Start menus with the Customer Preview version, but wasn't thrilled. And, it won't help me learn Windows 8 itself. So, this is my way of taming the desktop w.r.t. the missing Start Menu and All Programs Menu.

I never made full use of the different parts for the Start Menu in XP, Vista or 7. Mostly just went to All Programs or a few options such as Control Panel or Run. For the latter usage I find the Windows 8 Quick aXcess menu (also called Power Menu) to be more than satisfactory. It includes Command Prompt, Elevated Command Prompt, Run, Control Panel and others.To get to it use < Windows logo> + x (now you understand that "aXcess" was not a typo) or hover the mouse pointer in the bottom left until the Start icon pops up and then right click.

ALL PROGRAMS ALTERNATIVES

That still leaves a big gap--All Programs. I have two "solutions." First I simply put a shortcut to the All Programs folder (C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs) on the desktop. Double clicking that gives me a list of programs different from but very similar to XP's (but no cascading) or 7's.

But I don't use that much, because with some preparation the Start screen is a fine All Programs list. Get to it with < Windows logo> or hover the mouse pointer in the lower left and then click on the Start icon when it pops up.

Preparing, actually customizing, the Start screen is annoying to do, but only has to be done once (and then tweaked over time). Each of us will differ in the details, but that's desirable.

Right click on a tile and you will see several options. I chose "smaller" for most tiles and also turned off the "live" action on most. A few that I was positive I would not use I removed. Now for the fun and useful part--rearrange the tiles. You can drag the tiles wherever you want and add "section titles" as davehc explains here. You can start reading that post at the heading "Metro users" and please remember that "Metro" (at that time) has been replaced by "Modern UI."

Select categories, or sections, that make sense for you. Arrange them from most used on the left to least likely to be used on the right. That will greatly cut down on scrolling. Pressing the < Enter> key is the same as clicking on the first tile, so I put the desktop tile first. After booting I needn't look at the Start screen; just press < Enter>. Don't worry about removing too many tiles, as you can display all possible tiles (all possible programs) by right click and then click on "All Apps" in the bottom right of the screen. You can see my current Start screen in the first attachment.

CHARMS BAR: Settings, Devices, Start, Share, Search

Familiarize yourself with the Charms Bar (Settings and Search seem to be the only useful ones to me). Get it by < Windows logo> + c or by hovering your mouse pointer in the upper right or lower right corner. Note that the Settings charm is for the operating system when you are not in an App, and is for that particular (Micro Store) App when you are in one.

SHUT DOWN, HIBERNATE, RESTART

Shutting down (or Restart or Hibernate) is another sore point. Bring up the Charms bar - Settings - Power - make selection. That sequence gets old pretty quickly--right before doing it for the first time! I created shortcuts on the desktop, with the Shutdown one shown in the second attachment. The targets are:

Shutdown C:\Windows\System32\shutdown.exe /s /t 1
Restart C:\Windows\System32\shutdown.exe /r /t 1
Hibernate C:\Windows\System32\shutdown.exe /h

OTHER "HIDDEN" FUNCTIONS

If you can't find something else (e.g., Device Manager, Windows Update, Disk Management) it's probably in the Control Panel or Quick aXcess menu. And, of course, you can use the Search. If you are on the Start screen you can just start typing and it begins searching for programs--both "real" programs and Microsoft Store Apps. Note that anytime while typing in the search box you can switch among Apps, Settings and Files.

KEYBOARD SHORT-CUTS

< Windows logo> Go directly to the Start screen
< Windows logo> + c Charms Bar
< Windows logo> + d Go directly to the desktop
< Windows logo> + q Query (Search)
< Windows logo> + x Quick aXcess menu
< Windows logo> + < prtscrn> Puts image of screen (.png) into the Screenshots folder in the default pictures folder

And a whole bunch more in Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts

SUMMARY

Anybody who knew Windows last century had to learn new ways to do the same stuff in XP. And Vista. And Windows 7. And now in Windows 8. It can be done!
 

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Great information! I would like to add though, that to get out of an app, grabbing the top of the screen and dragging the app "down" will close out of the app, but hitting the Windows Logo key will keep the app open (running in the background).

Also, moving the mouse to the TOP LEFT corner will allow you to switch between the "Desktop" and any "Modern UI" apps you have open (Win8's version of Win+Tab), and moving the mouse to the BOTTOM LEFT corner essentially replaces the "Start" button/orb.

And regarding "Shutdown", I just discovered this myself today, that "shutdown /f" will only log you off, it won't actually force apps closed and shut down.
 

Macboatmaster

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TerryNet

Good guide - If I may say so

Just one query
as t with a value greater than 0 imples f - what will be the consequence of force shutdown without warning on a t of 1 if updates are being installed etc

Pls note - I really do not know for certain the answer.

Alt + F4 on desktop brings up power menu and sign out I think
 

TerryNet

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what will be the consequence of force shutdown without warning on a t of 1 if updates are being installed
I do not know. I've never shutdown an OS when updates were installing.

Alt + F4 on desktop brings up power menu and sign out I think
That's good! Wish I had known that before. :) But, maybe you really have to be on the desktop. The first time I tried was while reading your post and it caused Firefox to exit.
 

Macboatmaster

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I do not know. I've never shutdown an OS when updates were installing.
Sorry I did not explain sufficiently what I meant
I was asking, as I really do not know if the f - force shutdown WOULD cause a shutdown - EVEN if updates were being installed and the user did not notice that before executing the cmd
 

TerryNet

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I used the Alt + F4 to shutdown last night, and this morning had approximately the same difficulties (initial freeze requiring power off; disk checks before getting to dual boot menu) booting as I did before turning off Fast Boot. Will have to investigate, but not too eager to try that again. Puzzling.

EDIT: Somehow Fast Boot had been turned on. Probably an evil Windows Update. Alt + F4 seems to be working OK now.

By the way, for people following this, Fast Boot is fine if you have only Windows 8 and it is not causing any problem. But it does not play nice with dual boot computers.
 
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