Windows 8: Learning to Use the Start Screen

Most Windows users wonder why Microsoft did some major changes on the looks and functions of the latest version Windows 8 and many were utterly discouraged to try the new operating system because of these changes. However, a deeper look on what Windows 8 offers will reveal something that is actually the opposite of what many people think.

One new feature found on Microsoft’s Windows 8 is the Start Screen which is the supposed replacement of the Start Menu in previous Windows versions. In this tutorial, you will be able to learn some steps in using this feature and get your way through becoming an expert on this aspect of Windows 8. So let us start by identifying some differences between the Start Menu and the Start Screen and later on, we will delve deeper into the details on how to use it and how you can take advantage of this new feature.

Start Menu vs Start Screen: What’s the Difference

To most of us who have been accustomed to the Start Menu, big changes on it or even removing it from the Windows operating system surely would cause confusion. Windows 7 and older Windows versions (Windows XP and Vista) were used for many years and the Start Button as well as the Start Menu has been on these Windows versions then suddenly, it is removed from Windows 8. Why did Microsoft remove something that is very useful from the Windows operating system? Well, the answer is the Start Menu had some limitations that the Start Screen is able to handle. In a very simple experiment which we’ve tried. It appears that Windows 8 and the Start Screen feature appears to allow lesser number of tiles and shortcuts for installed programs compared to Windows 7’s Start Menu. We’re not really sure if this is a bug or something but this was something very noticeable to us.  Below is a comparison of the number of shortcuts created in the Start Menu in Windows 7 and the Start Screen in Windows 8.


Now what does that mean? This means that decluttering Windows 8 is easier compared to Windows versions having the Start Menu. Another good thing about the Start Screen is that it displays everything and all you need to do is use the scroll wheel on your mouse to move through the tiles and shortcuts of all the installed programs compared to the clicks, scrolls and double-clicks that you had to do back in the Start Menu. It also allows users to organize shortcuts and name them accordingly. More of these will be further illustrated below.

Meet the New Start Screen

If you are afraid to try Windows 8 and use the Start Screen because of the many negative comments and reactions given to it then you’re not going to see how user-friendly it is. Windows 8’s Start Screen provides new interface design which is less intimidating than it sounds. It sits on top of the desktop screen and did not replace it in any way. Interacting with Windows through the Start Screen is also a brand new experience. If you are using a computer with a touch-enabled screen, you can simply swipe your index finger to the left or right to scroll through all the shortcuts pinned on it and just click or tap on a tile/shortcut to launch it.


If you are using a mouse, you can just use the scroll wheel to move back and forth through the tiles and shortcuts. Shortcut keys like the [Home] and [End] keys will also help you move to the first or the last tile on the Start Screen. The arrow keys will also help you move through and select the tile that you wish to launch and pressing the “Enter” button will finally launch it.

Pinning Shortcuts to the Start Screen

Everything that you install in Windows 8 will be pinned to the Start Screen for as long as they are compatible to the operating system though we also noticed that some programs compatible to Windows 7 also pins shortcut to the Start Screen automatically. If the software you installed didn’t pin its shortcut to the Start Screen and just on the desktop, you can pin it to the Start Screen by simply right-clicking on the desktop shortcut then clicking on the “Pin to Start” option from the contextual menu that appears.


You can also move apps and organize them by holding , dragging and dropping them to where you want them to be on the Start Screen. Searching for an app or program that you want to  use is also simple, just type the app/program’s name and you’ll see it on the search results right away. For instance, If you want to pin the Control Panel, all you need to do is type “control panel” while you are on the Start Screen, right-click or press and hold on the “Control Panel” item on the results then click “Pin to Start” at the bottom of the screen.


Grouping Your Apps and Shortcuts

The Start Screen can be cluttered if you won’t organize all related apps and tiles together but you will also notice that in the list of all your apps which you can view by pressing the “Windows + Q”  keyboard shortcut, everything is grouped and organized together. Another way of viewing all programs and apps installed on your computer is by going to the Start Screen, right-clicking on an empty space then clicking on the “All apps” button at the bottom-right portion of the screen.


To organize your apps and shortcuts, all you need to do is drag the shortcuts and tiles to the right until you see a vertical bar that seems to separate the dragged tile/shortcut from the rest of the tiles and shortcuts on the Start Screen and once this bar appears, simply drop the tile/shortcut and you’ll see that it is now separated from the rest.


Simple do this same process for all the other apps, tiles and shortcuts that you want to group together and once you are done, you can name the group by first making everything look small or zoom out. To do this, simply press and hold the  “CTRL” key and spin the scroll wheel backwards. Another way is by clicking on the “-“ sign at the bottom-right portion of the screen and if you are using a touch-enabled screen, just pinch the Start Screen and everything will zoom out.


The zoomed out screen looks like the screenshot below. Once everything looks small, you can now right-click or press and hold on the group that you want to name and click on the “Name group” option at the bottom-left portion of the screen. The selected group will now have a check mark.


After clicking the “Name group” option, an input box will appear. All you need to do is input the name that you want to assign for the group of apps then click the “Name” button.


More Productivity

As you can see, the Start Screen is a big improvement than what many people say. It allows easier access to apps, programs or even sections of your system that would otherwise take time for your to access back in the days of the Start Menu. It just takes a bit of exploring and getting yourself familiar with what this new feature can do and you’ll surely love Windows 8 more than its predecessors.