In this post I want to concentrate on the desktop, which is the part of Windows 8 that gets the least exposure. I find that a little strange because that’s where I spend probably 95% of my time. If you have used Vista or Windows 7, you will find it very familiar. To get to the Desktop from the Start Screen you can either click on the double-width Desktop tile or press WIN+D on your keyboard.
As you can see from this screen shot, you can still have desktop shortcuts and pinned icons on the Taskbar, although in my day-to-day work I use Rainmeter for that kind of thing, and Control Panel is pretty much the same as it has been for a while. Without the Start Menu, you may be worried that it is going to be hard to find things like Control Panel but in Windows 8 it is actually easier than ever.
All you have to do is right-click in the lower left-hand corner of the screen, where the Start button used to be, and you get this menu. It gives you quick access to a lot of handy things, like the Programs and Features window, where you can install/uninstall software, and Device Manager.
When you move your mouse down into the lower left-hand corner, it pops up a tiny version of your Start Screen. If you left-click on that it will take you to the Start Screen.
The Charms Bar is a new feature that gives quick access to a number of other new features, all of which work the same way on the Desktop and in the new UI. When you move your cursor into the top or lower right-hand corner, the Charms pop out.
If you then move your mouse up from the bottom (or down from the top), the bar will solidify beneath them and the time and date will appear lower-left.
Clicking on the Settings charm will bring up this menu where you can do quite a few things. Most seem redundant on the Desktop – you can access a lot of those things from the System Tray – but in the new UI it is the standard way of accessing these features and it is probably smart to standardise it across both UIs. You will notice that as well as access to Control Panel, Settings has an item labelled Change PC settings.
This is where you can do a lot of Control Panel type things in both UIs (Control Panel is a Desktop-only feature). Some features here, e.g. Users, also exist in their Desktop form (Windows 7 style) in Control Panel. Changing settings in one will always update settings in the other. Other features that seem similar, e.g. Personalize/Personalization, are in fact specific to each UI.
The Devices Charm performs a different function from the Devices section in Settings. In this image you can see how it provides a clear graphical method of configuring my monitors. On my set-up that is the only thing I can do from this charm. I’ve not used the Share charm and the Search charm takes you to the search screen, just as pressing WIN+Q does.
This is how things look when you use the Split-screen feature. I have my new Music Player app (which I don’t like at all) on the right side of my screen with my Desktop taking up the rest.
When I want to select some new music, although it will be a while before I am sick of listening to the brand new Ultravox album, I just slide the border to the left. Once I’m done I can click on whichever Desktop application I was using and go back to it. Notice that the app has a distinctly different UI in this mode, as do many other apps.
Just for the hell of it, here is an image showing the three different on-screen keyboard layouts. Actually, that’s not terribly accurate, as the last one is handwriting recognition. Don’t be distracted by the wallpaper you can glimpse here, I did these screen-shots before I decided to switch to a solid colour background, to keep the image files smaller.