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A deep dive into Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Preston Gralla | March 6, 2012
Windows 8 Consumer Preview offers a new look at Microsoft's upcoming interface for both computers and tablets. Is one device being shortchanged in favor of the other?

On the plus side, the Desktop seems to run Desktop-based Windows applications with no problems. I ran SugarSync, Microsoft Office and Libre Office with no trouble.

Navigation and mousing around

Although the large tiles practically cry out to be touched rather than clicked upon, Metro is still navigable using a mouse. If you're like me, at first you'll find it takes some getting used to. But after a full day, I found myself comfortable with it, so much so that when I went back to my Windows Vista and Windows 7 machines, I occasionally found myself using the Windows 8 mouse movements (to no avail, of course).

Apps themselves are launched with single clicks rather than double-clicks. Although the navigation inside Metro apps varies on an app-by-app basis, generally you'll find yourself using scroll bars. (On a tablet, you'd be swiping to your heart's content.)

Windows 8 employs global navigation, usable when you're in Metro, the Desktop, a Metro app or a Desktop app -- in other words, no matter where you are.

To switch between where you currently are (such as inside a Metro app) and where you were, either press the Windows key on your keyboard, or else move your mouse toward the lower left-hand corner of the screen and click. Hover your mouse there and you'll see a thumbnail of the last place you were, so that you know ahead of time where you'll be switching. If you move instead to the upper left corner of the screen, you'll also see a thumbnail of your last app -- and if you then move your cursor down, you'll display the thumbnails of your other open apps.

There are keyboard shortcuts as well. You can press the Windows key and Tab key simultaneously to open thumbnails of your open apps, and then move to any you want to run. And the old Alt-Tab standby still works.

If you then move your cursor down from the top left corner, you'll display the thumbnails of your other open apps.Click to view larger image

At first, there doesn't seem to be a way to actually close a Metro app. I finally discovered that it's possible by moving the cursor to the top of the screen and dragging it down towards the bottom of the screen. The app first shrinks from full-screen size to a window, and when you drag it off the bottom of the screen, the app closes.

By the way, for those who are fans of the keyboard, you'll find that Windows 8 has some very useful keyboard shortcuts. In combination with the Windows key, you can press the "I" key to open the Settings pane, the "F" key to search through your files and the "W" key to get to a settings pane.


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