There will be a fair few people who got shiny new computers/tablets/phones for Christmas and, as a result, they may have come across Windows 8   Those of you who follow me on twitter will know that, fairly recently, my PC died and I had to rebuild.  I was, in truth, in Nerd heaven down at MSY whilst I bought all the bits to make my HD a SSD, went from a core processor to an i5… I also took the opportunity to install Windows 8

Being someone who goes about trying to encourage others to be brave, to dive in, to go beyond their comfort zone… I had to really didn’t I!  It’s taken some getting used to but I am starting to like it.  At times it feels like a half step between Windows 7 and something new (and that can be frustrating). However, what I am starting to realise is that it’s me that’s made the half step… I don’t have to use Windows 8 like I used Windows 7 but it certainly helps that there are some familiar things to cling to.

I first wrote about Windows 8 a while ago. When it was in beta. I downloaded a preview version and had a play and didn’t really like it.  At the time none of the metro apps actually worked with the internet… not helpful when you realise that they are supposed to be about connecting and sharing!

How is it different?

We have new lock screens, no start button, the ‘metro’ style swipe screens and more.  Navigation is different and can be completed using swipes and shakes.  It makes me want a PC Kinect so that I wouldn’t be so tied to my keyboard and mouse but it is still perfectly use able with the ‘old style’ equipment.  In truth, my experience using a MAC has probably helped me to navigate it’s new look and feel.  Hot corners bring up different options and I find myself using a giant magnifying glass to search applications – just as I would on my MAC OS. There’s some great, step by step overviews of what you’ll find here on the GCF site.

Swiping to the top right brings up a “Charm Bar” from which I can access settings, search, a list of devices and the option to ‘share’.   This is probably my most frequent action, swiping, clicking on that magnifying glass and looking for software to open. It’s replaced the start bar for me.

I have apps installed in metro and they, of course, work separately from the desktop.  This has made things like Skype quite interesting to use.  If I want to access my ‘desktop’ applications (surf the net, check what the time is on the clock etc) I have to leave Skype and move to another area of my computer. I can still hear the person I am talking to but there doesn’t  seem to be any integration between the two areas other than that.  I can’t see them in a small, floating window anymore.  It’s like I’m on my iPad and I’ve placed them on hold.  I don’t like that.  I’m used to sharing screens, surfing whilst I talk etc and this new method means I can’t do that… of course, Skype have also changed their terms and conditions so you can’t actually share a screen without paying either (stupid Skype.. have they taken a look at Google+ recently?)

What I’ve learnt to love!

Here come those 5 (and a bit) tips!

Integration with Social Networks

I'm sure Tina won't mind ;)

Sending an email … I’m sure Tina won’t mind 😉

I LOVE the integration that the whole system now has with my social networks.  When I send an email Outlook now connects with the social networks I run with and shows me the latest information from that person at the bottom of the email.  Of course, that’s partly down to the new and snazzy Outlook 2013 with Windows 8.

The integration between your software, your social networks, your physical hard drive and your SkyDrive is ace though!  It makes file sharing and connecting much easier.  Without Outlook, you still have the “People” app available to you which will enable you to aggregate your social networks into one place.

When I first came to Windows 8, i was thinking Windows 7. I went looking for desktop clients for Facebook, Twitter etc… I had Metro Twit etc…  I didn’t realize that I needed to change the way I saw my address book and how I interact with my contacts. The People app enables me to do so much more! Take a look at the video below.


The People App



Swipe Down Windows 8

Between open apps/programs

Yes. I have learnt to LOVE it!  It used to drive me mad… but that was because I was thinking Windows 7.   I am still learning little tricks about navigation in Windows 8.  It’s certainly not always obvious how to get around quickly but here are some of my favourite discoveries.

If you go to the top left corner of your screen and hover there you’ll see a thumbnail of another active app/screen appear.  If you keep left clicking in this corner you’ll swap between apps and the desktop.  Much easier than having to go to the bottom left corner (where the start button used to be) and going to the start screen to re-enter an app that’s already open.

Of course, of you hover in the top left corner and then pull/swipe down you’ll be shown a list of  everything that’s open and you can just choose from the menu.





To open new applications

This is where I use the charm bar, in exactly the same way I use the search on my Mac book.  I tend to hover my mouse to the right so that the  “Charm Bar” appears and then click the spy glass. From here, I can type in the name of the app I want.

This is like, I guess, pressing the old start bar button and then typing in part of the name of the program I was after.  I wish I knew how to get it to stop showing me software in alphabetical order though.  I’d rather it show me my most used apps. It would speed things up heaps if it did.  Does anyone know how to do that? I’d love to know if it’s possible!

Getting to the settings and Control Panel

Charm Bar - SettingsSettingsThis is really easy! From the Desktop, Just swipe to the top right of your screen, the Charm Bar will appear. Click the ‘Settings’ cog. From there you’ll find a short cut to all sorts of things, including the Control Panel.

Once launched, you’ll notice that the Control Panel hasn’t really changed. It’s very much as it was. Its from here that you can also find a quick way to access shutdown, restart and sleep.

Of course, another alternative way to get to the ‘goodbye’ buttons is to press and hold alt and F4.  That will bring up a very familiar looking menu system for shutting down. I was getting really frustrated with having to swipe to the bottom left corner, click my name and log out and then click power to shut down… How many clicks?!  I was very relieved to discover the Alt F4 trick!








Improvements to the Task Manager

Task Manager - WIN8

The new Task Manager

These are just great! I have so many programs that want to begin on start up on my PC. I have four different IWB software packages (and their drivers) to start with! In the past, I’ve had to download an application from windows to run and edit the items in the start-up list.  Not any more 🙂  Hooray!  CTRL+ALT+Delete will get you access to the task manager (as usual) From here you’ll see the “startup” tab. Not only does it show you what your machine is trying to load at start up, it also tells you how much of a drain on resources that app is taking.  That makes it nice and easy to make decision about what you’d like to choose to manually start!  It also makes it really easy to disable a driver or piece of software when you boot up.  Just right click on the name of the application and choose disable. You won’t be deleting anything from your machine, you’re just telling it that you’ll start it when you need it.  Windows doesn’t need to automatically open it for you just because you’ve booted up.


As I say, I’m still learning and playing and it wasn’t easy to start with.  I had to feel my way around a fair bit. I’ve been frustrated and grumpy at times!  What I have learnt though, is that I have to stop looking at Windows like I used to, stop comparing it to Windows 7 and MAC os and start thinking a little differently.  I can’t wait for more programs to become apps so I can stack them side by side and not need my desktop any more. I’ve actually really come to like this Windows 8 business!

I’ve found a few articles around that have helped me to get to grips with it.  This one by TechRadar is definitely worth sharing.   The virtual Microsoft Academy is also worth checking out.  Particularly if you’re a technician in a school and will have start dealing with questions, requests and implementations!  They run some free courses to get you up to speed 🙂 Also, I’ve just realised that one of my favourite FREE tutorials sites has a course on Windows 8 too!  I’m really enjoying learning about this new operating system.   I hope that the things I’ve mentioned above might help you too.  If you know of any cool tips that you’d like to share then please do. I’m really keen to get into this Windows 8 learning and would appreciate your knowledge 🙂

What’s your tip for using Windows 8?


  1. Tina Photakis 8 years ago

    You WERE busy while you were supposed to be taking a nap 🙂

    Selena, your blog post has helped me to seriously consider Windows 8 (not giving up my Mac though, lol). You have provided practical tips that will help people and I love the way that you always personalise your posts. You write, “What I have learnt though, is that I have to stop looking at Windows like I used to, stop comparing it to Windows 7 and Mac OS and start thinking a little differently.”

    ‘Thinking a little differently’ is what I aim to focus on with my students this year and you have highlighted that we, as learners, also need to do this.

    Thanks for sharing, Selena!

    • Author
      Selena Woodward 8 years ago

      I’m glad I got you to consider it more 🙂 As an ICT in Ed superstar I’m sure you’d love it! 🙂

  2. Martin Ephgrave 8 years ago

    when you use Skype pull it down and dock it to the right then click desktop Skype is there docked to the right

    • Author
      Selena Woodward 8 years ago

      Thanks Martin 🙂 It turns out that my monitor isn’t a high enough resolution for it to let Windows 8 do it 🙁 I’ve tried the reg-edit thing but to no avail. I’ll just have to wait until I get a better monitor I think 🙂

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