Windows 8: A Quick Guide for Absolute Beginners (Part 2)

We’ve already gone through the first part and discussed the basic things that you need to know in order to access the major features of Windows 8. On this second part, I will be showing more details in how some features work so you can take advantage of the brand new stuff that Microsoft’s newest operating system has.

How to Access the Desktop

After Windows 8 starts, you will be taken right away to the “Start Screen” but this is not the place where you want to be especially if you want to use a desktop application that does not have a shortcut pinned to the Start Screen. Accessing the desktop screen is easily done by clicking the “Desktop” tile which is located at the bottom-left portion of the Start Screen unless you transferred it to a different location on the Start Screen.


To return to the Start Screen, simply press the Windows key or point the mouse to the bottom-left corner of the screen then click on the Start tile.

Get to Know Some Apps

Windows 8 is divided into two sections. Once you make the choice of upgrading to this new operating system developed by Microsoft, you’ll be able to access two environments which works hand in hand to improve productivity and enhance user experience. These two environments are the Desktop and the Start Screen environment. Windows veterans (or those who have grown very familiar with the older Windows versions) will be very familiar with the desktop environment which is essentially where most of the file management and document processing occurs while the Start Screen environment is where all apps are found. In plain words, the Desktop environment represents the world of PCs while the Start Screen environment stands for the Tablet world. The desktop environment is quite a familiar place even to beginners so we’ll look at four built-in Start Screen apps for now and learn how each one works.

The Calendar App

Getting everything organized and planned out is easy with the Calendar app. Simply click on it from the Start Screen and choose the day that you want to add reminder for by double clicking on it. Right-clicking anywhere within the Calendar app screen will also reveal a bottom bar where you can choose between day, week and month views. Once a reminder is added, you will be alerted every now and then according to its settings.


The Windows Store

Since Windows 8 is a world of desktop programs and mobile apps combined, you would need a place where you can get some apps from just like Android’s “Google Play” and Apple’s “App Store”. Microsoft’s version of an app marketplace is called the “Windows Store”. If you want to look for a certain app, all you need to do is click on the Windows Store tile and once the Store’s home screen opens, simply type the name of the app and click on it once it appears on the “Recommendations” section of the search results.


The Mail App

The Mail app allows all the popular types of email accounts to be linked to it. This means that you can link a “Microsoft”, a “Google” or a “Yahoo” email account to it. If you signed in to your Windows 8 machine using a Microsoft account then the account itself will automatically be the Mail app’s default email account. Once this happens, you can’t anymore remove it except for the other ones you just added. More details of this is covered on our previous tutorial “Windows 8: Working With the Mail App”.


The Search App

Microsoft’s default search engine is called “Bing” and this too has a built-in app in Windows 8. When you open this app, you’ll see Bing’s colorful background which coincides with what is currently trending in the Internet space. To search for anything, simply type the keyword on the search box provided and hit the “Enter” key. Once the search results appear, simply click on the one that corresponds to your search and the link will automatically be opened in Internet Explorer or any other web browser (Google Chrome, Safari or Mozilla Firefox) which you’ve set as the default browser.


The Charms

Another brand new feature that Windows 8 has are the Charms which can be accessed at the right edge of the screen. When you point the mouse at the upper-right corner of the screen, you’ll see five icons appear and when you move the mouse pointer down from this point, a black bar will appear containing all the five icons each representing the Search, Share, Start, Devices and the Settings Charm. We will now look at what each of these charms do and we’ll be starting at the first one found at the bottom.

The Settings Charm

This is the charm which opens the “PC settings” section and as well other useful links.


The links and settings shown by the settings screen will also depend on your location. If you click on the “Settings”charm while you are on the desktop, you’ll notice that the links would also include some useful locations which will help you manage the desktop environment like the “Control Panel”, “PC info”, “Help” etc.


If you access the“Settings” charm while you’re on the Start Screen, the options will also fit to it.


The system settings section found at the bottom will not change no matter where you are in Windows 8.

The Devices Charm

Once this Charm is clicked, you’ll be able to see all available devices which your machine can communicate with like printers, screens and other devices which are used in the office, at home or in any other location which has a lot of devices to communicate with.


The Start Charm

As the name itself suggests, the Start Charm is used to access the Start Screen. If you are already on the Start Screen, clicking on the Start Charm will bring you back to the last app or desktop location you were in.


The Share Charm

Sharing some stuff that you stumble upon in any app is easier in Windows 8 because of the Share Charm. It is however important to remember that this charm only works from within an app. If you try using this for anything in the desktop, you’ll only see it return the screen that you see below.


On the other hand, if you click on the Share Charm while you are in an app for instance the “Mail” app, you’ll see that it will appear like the screenshot below.


This means that you can already share the content of an email and send it as an email to your friends. In other cases, the available options will include “People” and “Contacts”. If you installed Facebook, you’ll also see it as an option for sharing in some cases.

The Search Charm

This Charm also works according to your location. For instance, if you opened the mail app, clicking on the Search Charm will let you search for an email from the list. Simply type the name of the sender then hit “Enter” on your keyboard to reveal the search results.


If you click on this charm while you are on the desktop, you will be taken to the “All apps” screen where you can search for the application or desktop program that you want to open and click on it so it opens. You can also type the name of the program that you are looking for on the search box to make the process become easier.


The keyboard shortcut to the “All apps” section is “Windows + Q”.

Ready to Embark on a Windows 8 Journey

Now that you learned some basic things that an absolute beginner must be acquainted with, it is time to start exploring your Windows 8 machine and get to know everything discussed on this tutorial. Take time to get around each feature to learn more an in time, you’ll also become as good as all your other friends. If you have questions or topic suggestions for or next tutorial, please feel free to post them as comments below.