Windows 8 -- Microsoft's new operating system for tablets and computers -- is beautiful, exciting and fun. Oh, and completely confusing, at least for first-time users.
(More information and examples of that confusing part here.)
The operating system becomes second nature after using it for a while, but some of the features need pointing out before you master them. Microsoft says it is addressing explaining the change through information on its website and some ads, but before you pick up a Windows 8 tablet, laptop, tablet-laptop hybrid, etc., you'll want to know exactly what you're in for by watching the video above and reading the 8 things below.
|Start Screen Is the New Home Base|
The start screen is the first thing you'll see when you boot up a Windows 8 computer. This horizontal grid of tiles is really the new desktop. It's home base. Yes, there is still the old desktop, but you get to that by clicking an icon on the new Start Screen.
The start screen houses all your apps and they appear as what Microsoft calls "live tiles." The tiles show you exactly what is going on in an app. For instance, the weather app will show the temperature in your location right on the tile. Tap on a tile or app and it will take you into the full-screen app.
|Charms: Swipe From the Right|
The start screen is only one of your best friends in Windows 8. You're also going to get very close with the "charms." Once you launch an app it will take up the entire screen; there isn't a task bar at the bottom anymore to get you back to another menu or program.
Instead you can swipe from the right edge of the screen to bring up the charms, a set of short cuts, including a Windows button to get back to the start screen. You can get to the charms from any possible screen. Just swipe from the right edge if you have a touch screen. If you are using a mouse, hover the cursor in the upper-right corner.
|Get Apps From the Microsoft Store|
At this point, you're realizing Windows 8 is all about the apps -- beautiful, full-screen apps. You're also probably wondering: Where do I get those apps?
Microsoft's store comes preloaded on all Windows 8 computers and appears on an app on the start screen. When you download an app, it is also added to the start screen. Microsoft says it will be adding key apps to the store over the next few days as the operating system launches.
|Organizing the Start Screen|
When apps are added to the start screen you can easily organize them. Hold an app, drag it and you can move it. You can even change the size of the tile by pulling down on it and hitting the resize button.
You can also pinch on the entire screen to see a birds-eye view of the start screen and then move apps and put them into different categories. You can rename categories or clusters of apps by pulling down; you'll get a field for inputting the name of the category.
|App Controls: Swipe From the Edges|
You will spend most of your time in the very attractive apps, and you don't always have to go back to the start screen to get to open apps. Swiping from the left edge in will bring in an already open app and you can cycle through the one you want to keep on the screen. When you are in an app, you swipe from the top and bottom to bring up menus, and you swipe from the left to switch the app you are in.
|Lock Apps Side-by-Side|
You don't have to choose one app to have open at all times. As you swipe the app in from the left, you can hold it and lock it next to another app so you have two apps side by side. You can adjust the size of the apps, too, so one takes up a quarter of the screen while the other takes up the rest. It's a pretty neat trick and great for keeping your e-mail on one side of the screen and a website or document on the other.
You're probably wondering how you close apps if they are full screen. Swipe from the top down in an app and drag the app all the way down the screen, and you can close the app. It takes a bit of getting used to and you have to hold down rather hard at the top of the screen so it doesn't think you are trying to access a menu. If you are on the desktop and running a desktop app, you can just hit the red X.
|In the Corners: Mouse and Keyboard|
This last tip might be the most important thing you should know about Windows 8: It is meant for computers and tablets with touch screens, but also computers that use a mouse and keyboard. While most of the previous tips focus on touch gestures on the edges of the screen, your mouse can bring up those shortcuts by hovering in the corners of the screen. The top and bottom corner bring up the charms on right and the bottom left brings up a shortcut to the start menu. You can swipe in apps from the left by holding your mouse on the left hand side of the screen.