One of the biggest changes in Windows 8 is to the navigation; it's totally different to all that went before and will take some getting used to. This isn't to say it's harder to use but just that it's simply the biggest revolution in 20 years of desktop operating system navigation.

In this article we'll take you through the basics of Windows 8 but if you are upgrading or buying a new computer we offer a service called Set Up & Showhow which includes a complete 30 minute one-to-one tutorial. You can book this service at any Currys/PC World which has a Knowhow bar.

The Knowhow

The Start Screen

The first thing you see once you login is the Start Screen. This is where all of the applications, both desktop and modern live tiles are and what makes Windows 8 so different to anything else.

Windows 8 Start Screen Knowhow

Where's my desktop?

It's still there, behind a tile called Desktop like the one shown below:

Windows 8 Desktop Tile Knowhow

In Windows 8 you need to think of the desktop as an app which runs Windows 7 software such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop, as well as desktop-style apps (otherwise known as legacy applications). These apps are completely separate from the modern Windows 8 applications, so in most cases, if you change a setting in the desktop it won't affect the Start Screen version of the application. An example of this is Internet Explorer 10, which doesn't share favourites or passwords between the legacy version and the 'Start Screen' modern version.

The desktop has the same look and feel as previous versions, with the exception of the Start button. To navigate, you can use the same touch gestures as you use do on the Start Screen, in addition to being able to use the keyboard and mouse if you find it easier. Using the keyboard and mouse alongside touch gestures is a great way to move around Windows 8 at speed.

Touch and Gestures

Windows 8 is a touch-first operating system. This means, in principle, that when touch is available, it is the quickest and easiest method of achieving anything you want to do. The main touch options are shown below:

Windows 8 tap for primary action

1. A tap is for when you want to load or activate something.

Example: To open an application on the Start Screen.



Windows 8 press and hold to learn

2. When you press and hold, a drop-down can appear with additional options.

Example: If you touch and hold on a link in Internet Explorer, you have the option to open the link in a new tab.

Windows 8 internet explorer 10 Knowhow website

Windows 8 slide to drag

3. Slide your finger to move tiles or change the page being viewed.

Example: If you want to move a tile on the Start Screen, drag down from the tile and then you can move it somewhere else on the screen.


4. Using the swipe motion can do several things depending on where you swipe to and from.


Windows 8 swipe to select

Example 1: Whilst an app is open swipe from the top of the screen to the bottom to minimise an app, or swipe from the bottom of the screen to the top to reveal the App bar.



Windows 8 swipe from edge for app and system UI

Example 2: If you do a left sideswipe (from the left side of the screen, do a small swipe to the right and then left) the Switch List appears showing all the apps that are open. A right sideswipe opens the Charm Bar.

Windows 8 switch list charm bar Knowhow

Windows 8 pinch to zoom

5. Pinch inwards to zoom out and pinch outwards to zoom in.

Example: If you are looking at a map or a document in Word you pinch outwards to zoom in to see a closer view.


There are other ways in which you can use the touch interface, such as rotating the screen or dragging the page down from the top and pinning to the sides.

Tip: Touch and gestures are the same whether touching the actual screen or if using a full multi-touch gesture compatible touchpad.

Keyboard and Mouse

Windows® 8 was designed as a touch first system, so using a traditional keyboard and mouse is a more challenging way to get around. However there are a few useful keyboard shortcuts that can make things simpler.

Windows Key Goes to the Start Screen
Windows Key + C Opens the Charm Bar
Windows Key + I Opens Settings from the Charm Bar
Windows Key + Q Opens Search (for applications)
Windows Key + W Opens Search (for settings)
Windows Key + F Opens Search (for files)
Windows Key + Z Opens the App bar

When using the mouse, the best way to get around is by knowing the hotspots and learning when to right-click, as shown and explained below:

Windows 8 mouse and keyboard hotspots

Remember to right-click!

Everything in the Windows 8 Start Screen interface runs in full screen, so there are no dropdown menus and there are often few buttons to press by default. Right-clicking will reveal all of the options available for the application you are in. Likewise, in the Start Screen right-clicking on a tile opens the App bar.

Legacy apps and searching

When you open Windows 8 for the first time, you might have the feeling that something is missing. In particular, you might be wondering where the multitude of applications are that usually come with all Windows operating systems, such as Notepad or the Calculator. These apps are known as legacy apps and to find these:

  • Start typing from anywhere in the Start Screen
  • Open the Charm bar and click on Search
  • Press the Windows Key + Q to open the Search page

It's important to note that these applications are considered legacy apps and will open into the desktop. To return to the Start Screen from desktop, simply press the Windows Key or tap Start from the Charm bar.


In Windows 8, multi-tasking is a little different because every app runs in full screen. Swiping from the left (or mouse top left) will show the current active applications which you can switch between. You can right-click the thumbnail and select Close to actually shut those applications, or if using touch just drag the application to the bottom of the screen.

In addition, if you drag the current application from the top you can snap it to the side and have two applications running side-by-side as shown below with Internet Explorer 10 alongside Tweetro (a free Twitter client available in the Store).

Windows 8 Knowhow website in internet explorer 10

Note: To use the split screen/snap multi-tasking as above, the display is required to be a minimum size of 1366x768. Anything less than this and the feature will be unavailable.

Continue to the next article to find out more about the Charm bar, App bar and Switch list.

Knowhow Windows 8 link to support page

Updated On:

May 22, 2014

How useful was this article?




Show all services

© DSG Retail Limited 2017. DSG Retail Limited, 1 Portal Way, London, W3 6RS. Registered in England No. 504877, VAT number: 226 6599 33