Jumping Onboard with Windows 8
It came up in conversation the other day that another vendor had identified Windows 8, as the worst operating system Microsoft has ever released. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I was a little surprised. My memories of Windows Millennium are still pretty vivid. Even the initial release of Windows Vista wasn’t too great.
There are two categories of Windows 8 critics, the ones who actually use it, and the ones who just don’t like change and have never really tried it out. I decided a few months ago, that I had to stop being the backseat driver and get behind the wheel with Windows 8.
I had heard so much complaining, that I was prepared for the worst! After a quick backup of my existing Windows 7 environment to USB drive, I started from scratch.
After going through all the normal setup issues, reloading software, setting up email, putting data back in place, I was ready to go. And, much to my surprise, I actually like Windows 8. Sure, most things are in a different place. Sure, there is no Start button. Yes, it looks different. In spite of all that stuff, everything works. Once you figure out how to do things and get your desktop setup correctly it works pretty well. It has a clean look and feel. It is fast! There is nothing that I could do on my old setup, that I can’t do just as efficiently on Windows 8.
Don’t get me wrong Windows 8 is a BIG change. There is a learning curve, but if you like to learn, the curve is not that high. A couple of hours learning the basics will have you on the path to being Windows 8 savvy.
Here are My Tips for Jumping Onboard with Windows 8:
1. Recognize that Windows 8 is different. Don’t fight it. Embrace it and plan to learn and adapt.
2. Keep in mind that Microsoft is moving to toward a unified platform on phones, tablets, and PCs. Windows 8 offers the best of both worlds. It has very good touchscreen capabilities for phones and tablets, plus it works well in the older mouse and keyboard environment. Some predict that touchscreen is the future even for the desktop, but that remains to be seen.
3. Realize, you will need to switch back and forth between the tiled touch oriented screen and the desktop, which looks much like Windows XP, Vista, or 7. The easiest way to go back to the Windows 8 tiled screen is by touching your Windows key on the keyboard. The most effective way to switch to the desktop is to make it the first tile on your screen and use the key to get there. This is the hardest thing to get used to, so once you have this down, you are mostly there.
4. Alt-Tab still works for switching between programs. I use this heavily, and recommend it in Windows 8. It avoids some of the switching frustration you might have by trying to use your mouse for this.
5. Can’t live without that Start button? It really is still there. Just move your mouse to the top right corner of the screen and click on the magnifying glass in the start bar. It will bring up a list of your applications and allow you to choose one to start. It is context sensitive, so has other functionality too, depending on the screen you are on when you click it. However, if you are on your desktop, it will act much like the start button.
6. Pin the stuff you use frequently to a tile or better yet to the task bar or to a desktop icon. This saves lots of time, and if things are at your fingertips, you quit looking for the Start button.
7. Need to shutdown? The fastest way to get there is with Ctrl-Alt-Delete, and then click the power button in the lower right corner.
8. Wireless connectivity is in the same place from the desktop, or you can get to it on the Charms bar, by moving the mouse to the top right of the screen and then clicking on the Settings Gear. TheCharms bar is key. If you can’t find what you want go there.
9. Be sure to personalize your computer. Click Windows-1 or go to Charms, click the Settings Gear, and choose “Change PC Settings” at the bottom of the bar. You can change things here like your lock screen, so you are using a photo you like rather than the stock Windows stuff.
10. Check out the Windows Store. Yes, there are fewer apps than Andriod or Apple, but most of your favorites are there. Dropbox, Evernote, Trello and others all have Windows 8 apps.
11. Check out Windows 8 Hot-Key sequences, as they save lots of time too.
I’ve been using Windows 8 for about 3 months now and am liking how it works. However, Microsoft has been getting some heat in the marketplace for the big changes to the interface. They are reportedly making some adjustments to make the change friendlier, and there is even some talk of putting the Start button back. We will see what they come up with in the next release. In the meantime, I give Windows 8 a thumbs up! Any Windows 8 users out there? I welcome your comments and questions.
Scott Hirschfeld is the President of CTaccess, an Elm Grove IT support company that has been helping small businesses stop focusing on IT and getting back to doing business since 1990. Under his leadership CTaccess provides the business minded approach of larger IT companies with the personalized touch of the smaller ones. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn.