It’s probably safe to assume that you’ve already learned something about Windows 8—maybe you’ve heard about the high energy, the colors, the touch interface, and the new styling. You may be feeling excited to try something completely different in terms of the way computer operating systems typically behave. Or you might be a bit anxious—what if it’s so much of a change that Windows 8 makes your life more complicated than it already is? Nobody needs that!
Relax. That’s what this book is here to help you do—learn the basics of Windows 8 in a way that helps you keep your stress level low and your productivity level high. I personally think Windows 8 is smart and fun. I love the color, the movement, the touch capability, and the flexibility. I hope as you go through the chapters in this book, you’ll feel a bit of that “fun vibe” rubbing off as you expand your experience and increase your mastery of Windows 8.
Perhaps you are just now getting a chance to try Windows 8, either as the sleek operating system on your brand-new Windows 8 PC or Microsoft Surface, or as an upgrade you’ve added to your Windows 7 computer. This chapter opens the door on your Windows 8 experience and gives you a chance to navigate the operating system using touch, mouse, and keyboard. You’ll also find out how to put your computer to sleep (no, don’t worry—no singing required) and power down the system completely, when you’re ready to do that.
Exploring Windows 8
If you’ve just upgraded to Windows 8, the utility will restart your computer after installation is complete. When your computer restarts, Windows 8 quickly appears on your screen, and, after asking you a series of Express Setup questions (which help Windows 8 get you connected to the Internet, set your sharing preferences, and turn on the Do Not Track setting in Internet Explorer), you are ready to start exploring.
If you’re powering up your brand-spanking-new Windows 8 computer for the first time, Windows 8 launches (and very quickly, too!) and asks you those same Express Setup questions. Just respond as prompted and soon you’ll be looking at the beautiful new Windows 8 Start screen. That’s where we’ll begin our exploration.
A First Look!
Your computer needs the operating system in order to do what it does, which means that powering up your computer and launching Windows 8 are really the same thing. Here are the simple steps required for starting your computer and getting to the Windows 8 Start screen:
- Press your computer’s Power button. Your computer starts and your Windows 8 Lock screen appears.
- Swipe up on the screen (if you have a touch-capable computer) or press any key to display your login information.
- Enter your password and press Enter or click the arrow.
- Now you’re ready to review the various elements on the Windows 8 Start screen.
Touring the Start Screen
You’ve probably seen pictures online that show how colorful the Windows 8 Start screen is, but it’s likely when you see it with your own eyes for the first time, you’re going to be wowed. Or confused. Or both. The beautiful color and easy, smooth movement of the screen are really something to see. But once you get over that first glimpse, you’re going to wonder how you actually use this beautiful tool. Here are some of the big features in Windows 8, which you’ll find described in more detail throughout this book:
- Use the Windows 8 Start screen. This is where all the fun begins. You can get an enormous amount of information from this one screen in Windows 8. You can see at a glance the number of email messages you have, what your day’s appointments look like, what the news headlines are, and much more. Plus you can start your favorite apps, play media, change system settings, and even customize the look of Windows 8, all from this one screen. You’ll learn more about the Start screen in Chapter 3 and find out how to personalize your Start screen in Chapter 5.
- Go to your Windows 8 Desktop. The Windows 8 Desktop will look familiar to you if you’ve used previous versions of Windows. Here you’ll work with programs designed for Windows versions prior to Windows 8 (known as legacy programs). You find out how to use and personalize the Windows 8 desktop in Chapter 4.
- Launch and work with apps. The colorful tiles on the Windows 8 Start screen represent apps, or programs, you can launch with a simple click or tap. Some apps display “live” information and update on the Start screen, and others don’t. You learn how to work with, organize, and get new apps in Chapter 7. Also be sure to check out the Apps Gallery in this book’s appendix to find out more about the apps included with Windows 8 as well as popular apps in the Windows Store.
- Browse the web with Internet Explorer 10. The IE10 is the newest web browser from Microsoft, and in Windows 8 it comes in a newly designed version and a Desktop version. Both allow you to surf the web, find the information you want, and connect with others—they just look different depending on whether you launched the browser from the Windows 8 Start screen or the Windows 8 desktop. You find out more about using Internet Explorer 10 in Chapter 9.
- View, organize, and share photos. The Photos app in Windows 8 enables you to easily view, organize, and share all the photos you take, whether you’ve stored them on your computer, in photo-sharing sites, or in your favorite social media accounts. You’ll be learning more about managing your photos in Chapter 11.
- Stay up to date with friends and family. The People app pulls together your favorite social media contacts and displays updates in live feeds that you can use to stay in sync with what your favorite folks are posting. You’ll learn more about using the People app in Chapter 10.
- Find new favorites in the Windows Store. The Windows Store is a new addition in Windows 8, and it’s where you can find apps of all sorts, free and otherwise. The Windows Store offers apps in the following categories: games, social media, entertainment, photos, music and video, sports, books, news, health, food, lifestyle, shopping, travel, finance, productivity, tools, security, business, education, and government. You’re sure to find something you like! You’ll find out more about browsing and shopping in the Windows Store in Chapter 7 as well. You’ll also get additional information about the Windows Store in the appendix to this book.
- Display the Charms bar. A simple swipe in from the right side of the screen (or moving the mouse to the lower-right corner of the screen) displays the Charms bar, where you’ll find the tools you need for searching for files, apps, and settings; sharing content and apps; returning to the Start screen; connecting devices; and changing system settings.
These items don’t represent all there is to do in Windows 8, certainly, but they give you a quick bird’s-eye-view of some of the major places we’ll be stopping along the way.