Windows 8 has a few new features (like the charms menu, the Start screen, and gesture commands) which may seem pointless or needlessly confusing at first blush. Experienced Windows users running a non-RT version of Windows 8 may be tempted to ignore these new features entirely in favor of working exclusively through the Desktop app.
That's a reasonable sentiment, and it's totally feasible because Windows 8 works equally well whether you stick exclusively to the new Windows 8 interface or the traditional Windows desktop. But Windows 8 really shines when you learn to use the charms and gestures to quickly swap back and forth between the Start screen and the desktop, multitasking and sharing data between new Windows 8 apps and your trusty desktop software.
Before you can do that, you need to get comfortable taking your hands off the keyboard. After a few weeks working and playing with Windows I'm starting to learn how the new control scheme, designed to work equally well on desktops, laptops and tablets, can help you work faster and more efficiently if you take a little time to learn and integrate it into your workflow. With that in mind I've put together a brief guide to helping you get more done in less time on your desktop or tablet by mastering Windows 8 touch controls and their keyboard/mouse equivalents.
Conjure Windows 8 charms to easily search and share
Swipe in from the right edge to bring up the Windows 8 charms menu, which lets you search, share, and change the settings of Windows 8 apps. Theres also a Start button to take you right back to the Start screen.
Keyboard: Hit the Windows + C keys together to bring up the charms bar.
Mouse: Move your mouse to the top or bottom right corners of your screen and leave it there for a moment to bring up the Charms menu.
Switch tasks quickly with the app sidebar
Switch through open apps in Windows 8 by swiping your finger in from the left edge of the screen to bring up the last app you were using. If you want to pick and choose from a list of all apps currently open, simply swipe in from the left a bit and then back again to the edge.
Keyboard: Press the Windows + Tab keys together to switch through open apps.
Mouse: Move your mouse to the middle of the left edge, then click and drag to bring in the next app. To bring up a list of all running apps, just move your mouse to the top or bottom left corners of your screen and move it along the edge towards the center until your apps list appears.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.