Tips, Tricks and Shortcuts - for Windows 8 Desktop User (updated 08/16/2012)

by Jagadish Pulakhandam on 8/16/2012 8:26:22 AM
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Brief: Lists out various tips/tricks/shortcuts to work with Windows 8 as a desktop user with keyboard and mouse (and not using touch interface)
Posted to: Basics of Windows 8 Operating System
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I took a chance to install Windows 8 on a virtual machine (remoted in to it) and started playing with it for a couple of hours.  My personal opinions from “developer” perspective as a heavy desktop user.

Initially, I thought, it would be very difficult for a developer (not speaking about non-techies here) to work on a Windows 8 desktop without a touch interface.  But, it is not the case once we work with shortcut keys (along with a couple of mouse key combinations).  After mastering the following keyboard/mouse shortcuts, in my opinion, it does not degrade our interactions with OS or application development productivity (in any fashion) when we upgrade to Win 8.  Removal of “start” button in Windows 8 was a huge deal all over the web.  But, we can get there much easier with just “Win + Q” (and then type app name in incremental search box or scroll through all categorized apps using mouse).  Once we switch to desktop mode (with just “Win + D”), there is (almost) no difference whether you use Win 7 or Win 8.  Any of the Windows applications (and not tile based apps) including VS open in desktop mode.  If you upgrade to Win 8, you will be spending over 90% of your development time in just desktop mode.

It appears like it is bit slow at this moment (may be because I am using virtual machine with 3GB dedicated for it).  No hurdles/crashes till now.  Installation of VS 2012 on Win 8 is more easier than installing Notepad++.  Setting up IIS on Win 8 is not much different than we do on Win 7.  More comprehensive task manager is included (completely different from 10+ year old task manager we are using even today).  Did not get a chance to explore on IE (and its support to HTML5/CSS3) yet.  Win 8 has two types of IE i.e., App based and Desktop based.

Overall, from the desktop user and developer perspective, I am not disappointed with Win 8.  It is just another Win OS to me with a modified interface for searching/opening apps.  I don’t have any opinion on touch based/metro interface yet.  If you use Win 8 with touch interface, it is a different story and is beyond the scope of what I am discussing here.

Following are various tips/tricks and shortcuts to learn operating Windows 8 as a desktop user with just only keyboard and mouse (use of touch interface is not assumed here).

  • You can also use "Window Key + D" from Start Screen to switch to Desktop mode
    • Pressing "Window Key + D" in desktop mode would yield to minimizing all opened windows and shows only blank desktop (similar to Win 7).
    • Pressing "Windows Key + M" in app mode, would switch to Desktop mode and minimizes all windows (similar to Win 7)
    • Pressing "Window Key + R" in app mode, would switch to Desktop mode and run a program (as in Win 7)

    • Pressing "Window Key + T" in app mode, would switch to Desktop mode and gives you the option to switch through window thumbnails from taskbar (as in Win 7)

  • You can always bring out windows "charm" bar menu using "Windows Key + C" (whether or not you are not you are available in Start screen)
    • Works as a toggle too
    • You can use up/down arrows (on your keyboard) to move through charm icons

  • You can always switch from one app to another (full screen apps, which are opened by you) by using "Window Key + Tab" (similar to Win 7)
    • "Alt + Tab" would switch from one window to another in desktop mode (as in Win 7)
    • Also try moving your mouse to Left-Top corner to show thumbnails of all opened apps
  • You can always switch from Start screen to previously opened app by just using windows key on your keyboard
    • The key works as a toggle to switch from/to Start Screen and previously opened app
  • Use "Window Key + E" to open windows explorer (as in Win 7)
    • Works even from Start screen

  • Always use "Window Key + Q" to bring up Search screen/bar and list of installed apps (works from any screen)
    • use tab key + up/down arrow key combinations to switch/move through various sections/elements in Search screen (mouse would be better here)

  • use "Window Key + F" to search for files
  • use "Window Key + W" to search for settings
  • use "Window Key + U" to open "Ease of Access Center" window
  • use "Window Key + X" to bring out a menu of frequently used commands (power user shortcut menu)
    • same as moving your mouse to left-bottom and right click

  • Right click (Ctrl + click) on a tile to select it and provide more options (with respect to the features of tile/context) by pulling up  App bar (a new bar from bottom). Works as toggle to select/deselect.

  • Open an App and Right click on its surface to open App bar with its own context
  • You can always share information (of a tile/app) with others using "Window Key + H"

  • Right click on background of Start screen (or on any app) to bring App bar with "All Apps" button at the bottom right
    • or use "Window Key + Z" to bring "All Apps" button using keyboard

  • Use mouse scroll to slide/scroll through all apps available on Start Screen
    • You can also achieve the same using Up/Down/PageUp/PageDown/Home/End keys on keyboard
  •  If you already opened an app, you can snap/dock the app to left or right using "Window Key + ." or "Window Key + Shift + ."
If you know of any tips/tricks/shortcuts not available in the above list, please leave a comment and I will update the list

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