Windows 8 Charms: What are They and How To Use Them

We’ve all been used to the Start Button and the Start Menu in getting to different places within the Windows operating system and for many years, most of us have never thought that it would then be taken out by Microsoft on their latest operating system version called Windows 8. The absence of other features that users consider very important has gathered enough criticisms but taking a deeper look at the new features included on Windows 8 would surely change everyone’s mind.

One brand new feature on Windows 8 are called “Charms”. Since this new operating system version allows both desktop programs and apps to be installed, Microsoft also made a way for users to access settings, share some stuff or print articles from Apps without going to the Control Panel or any other location and this is what the “Charms” are used for. In this tutorial, you will learn how to access the “Charms” and know what they are used for.

Getting to the Charms

Windows has always made sure that accessing some features and settings can be done in many different ways and the same is true for the “Charms” feature on Windows 8. Charms are actually shortcuts that primarily work for Windows 8 apps but a couple also works for desktop programs too. You can access the charms by using the keyboard, the mouse of even your finger if in case your computer has a touch enabled screen. Just follow the steps below to learn how to use these three methods:

1. Accessing Charms Using the Keyboard

The easiest way of summoning the charms to appear at the right edge of the screen is by using the keyboard shortcut “Windows Key + C”. After pressing on these keys, you should see the “Charms” appear.

2. Accessing Them with the Mouse

Another way of making them appear is by using the mouse. Simply put the mouse pointer at the top or the bottom-right corner of the screen and you should see the “Charms” appear.

3. Make Them Appear Using Your Finger

Most Windows 8 computers have touch-enabled screens and if you happened to be using one then you can use your finger to summon the “Charms” by simply touching the right edge of the screen then swiping towards the center.

After doing any of the methods I mentioned above, you should see the “Charms” and it looks like the screenshot below.

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NOTE:

The “Charms” are accessible anywhere. This means that you can make them appear using any of the methods above regardless of your location within Windows 8. For instance, you can access the “Charms” when you are on the Start Screen of on the Desktop Screen. Charms can also be used even when an App or a program is currently running. The only time that you can’t access them is when you are running a full screen application like games, videos and other stuff that utilizes the whole screen.

What Appears on That Black Strip

The “Charms” appear on a black strip that comes out of the right edge of the screen. If you use he mouse to access them, they would first appear as white, unlabeled icons but as you drag the ¬†pointer upward (if you pointed at the bottom-right corner) or downward (if you pointed on top), a black background will appear and the “Charms” will then have labels which are as follows:

  • Search
  • Share
  • Start
  • Devices
  • Settings

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You’ll also notice a black panel at the lower-left portion of the screen containing some information such as Time and Date, Network/Internet Connection, Battery Level which is called “Notification Panel”. This panel is not clickable and its sole purpose is just showing information.

How Each Charm Works

After learning how to access the “Charms”, it’s about time to find out how each one works so you can finally decide whether you would upgrade to Windows 8 or not. We will start from the one found on top of the “Charms” Panel.

Search

The “Search Charm”, as its name suggests is used for searching some stuff and the results would depend on the app that is currently active on the screen. For instance, if you have the Music App active on the screen and you use the “Search Charm”, the results would be music. You can again type the name of the group or the title of the song to further filter the results. On the screenshot below, I searched for “Maroon 5” and the results displayed different songs and albums by the group itself.

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This charm can also be used for all the other apps that are installed on your computer. The shortcuts available fir using the “Search Charm” are as follows:

  • Windows Key + F if you are searching for files.
  • Windows Key + W if you’re looking for settings.
  • Windows Key + Q if you are looking for apps.

Share

Sharing files and other stuff on Windows 8 is made easy by the “Share Charm”. Items like pictures, videos, music and other multimedia files stored on your Skydrive can easily be shared with this charm. If you found a very interesting article using the Search App, the Internet Explorer App or any other application installed on your machine then you can easily share the link via email or the People app on your computer by simply using the “Share Charm”. The screenshot below shows the options available for sharing an article on “windowstechies.loc” which is opened using the App version of Internet Explorer.

NOTE:

This Charm only works with Windows 8 apps. If you try to use it with a desktop program then you won’t get anything other than a message that says “Nothing can be shared from the desktop”. The keyboard shortcut for accessing the “Share Charm” is “Windows Key + H.

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Start

The “Start Charm” is used to access the Start Screen and if you are already on the Start Screen, clicking or tapping the “Start Charm” will take you back to the most recent app you used. If you used a desktop application before going the Start Screen then the “Start Charm” would still take you to the last app you used before you opened the desktop application. One rule to remember when using charms is that most of it only works for apps.

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The keyboard shortcut for the “Start Charm” is the “Windows Key” itself.

Devices

The “Devices Charm” lets you have access to the devices that are connected to your computer such as printers and and just like the other Charms, this one works perfectly for Windows 8 apps but it also works for desktop programs. On the screenshot below, I am trying to print a webpage opened using Internet Explorer’s app version. I just clicked on the “Devices Charm” then selected one of the printers which is listed.

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On the page that follows, simply select the settings that you want for the printed document then click or tap on the “Print” button located at the lower-right portion of the screen.

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To access the “Devices Charm” using a keyboard shortcut, simply press the “Windows Key + K” keyboard shortcut combination.

Settings

The last one listed on the charms panel is the “Settings Charm”. After clicking or tapping this charm, you’ll see two groups of settings. The one on top are called “Contextual Settings” while the other set found at the bottom are called “System-wide settings”. At the bottom-most portion, a link can also be found which says “Change PC settings”.

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The “Settings Charm” is the only place where you can find the settings for all apps installed on your machine and as well as for the Start Screen. The screenshot below for instance shows the contextual settings available for the Start Screen. The contextual settings and options available on the “Settings Charm” panel would always be the same if it is used on all desktop programs but if it is used for apps then the contextual options and settings would be different for each app.

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The shortcut key combination for the “Settings Charm” is “Windows Key + I”.

As you can see, the charms feature on Windows 8 are very useful ones that helps you manage apps and other content effectively. It all takes a bit of exploring and experimentation to learn more of Windows 8 and finally love it in the long run. It is actually better than its predecessors but you’ll never realize unless you give it a try.