What Do I Need to Know About Windows 8's New UI?

Question: What Do I Need to Know About Windows 8's UI?

Perhaps the biggest change that Microsoft made with its Windows 8 operating system is the integration of a completely new user-interface. Users of previous Windows operating systems may find themselves a bit confused with the lack of a Start menu and new apps that don't have the red "X" button. We've compiled a list of frequently asked questions to help users out with their first foray into Microsoft's latest offering.


It's no longer called Metro.

When Windows 8 was first introduced to the public in 2011, Microsoft branded its new touch-friendly interface "Metro." Due to potential trademark issues with a German partner company, Microsoft has since dropped that name in favor of simply calling the new Windows UI or the Windows 8 UI.

There's no longer a Start menu.

Rather than using a menu interface to access applications, Windows 8 has switched to a graphical tile display. You can access this new Start screen display by clicking the lower-left corner of your desktop where you'd expect the Start button to be. Windows 8 creates rectangle links to your apps known as tiles. If you have a program installed but don't see a tile for it, you can right-click the background on the Start screen and click "All Apps" to see everything installed on your computer. This all-encompassing view will likely be more comfortable for you if you're jonesing for a menu.

Your regular applications still work.

While Microsoft is really pushing the exciting new Windows 8 apps, the full version of the operating system will support most programs you could use with Windows 7. You'll want to be wary though as a Windows 8 version known as Windows RT, which runs exclusively on mobile devices, limits its users to Windows 8 apps only.

The Windows Store has all the modern apps you can handle.

If you want to try out new Windows 8 apps, you can download them from the Windows store. Look for a green tile on your Start screen labeled Store. You can search through the available applications and download them to your device.

Windows 8 apps don't have the standard menus you might expect.

To open a Windows 8 app, you just click or tap its tile on the Start screen. These apps are always full-screen and they don't have the menu buttons you'd use to close a desktop application. To close a Windows 8 app you can switch away from it (see below), you can click the top of the window and drag it to the bottom of the screen, or you can right-click or long-press it in the switcher menu and click close. Of course, you can also kill it from the Task Manager.

You'll need to use the four corners of Windows 8.

If you've never heard of the four-corners of Windows 8, you'll see it mentioned when you first setup your Windows 8 OS. This simply refers to the fact that in Windows 8, placing your cursor in one of the four corners of your screen will open something.

  • Bottom or Top-right - Placing your cursor in one of the right corners opens the Charms menu. This menu provides links to tools and utilities you'll use on a regular basis such as app settings, PC settings, and the search charm.
  • Bottom-left - The bottom-left corner opens a link to the Start screen.
  • Top-left - The top left corner opens a link to the last app you had in focus. This allows for rapid switching between apps. Swipe down from the top-left corner to open a Switcher menu that displays all open apps. You can then select an app from the list to bring it into focus.

Though it's optimized for touch, the Windows 8 UI works great with a keyboard and mouse.

While the Windows 8 UI is at its best in a touch-enabled environment, it still works great on a desktop or laptop with a mouse or trackpad.

The lock screen may confuse desktop users.

If you find yourself confused when trying to log in to your account because you don't see a place to enter your password or select your user account, don't worry. Windows 8 uses a lock screen that displays a unique background and configurable notifications when your account is locked. Simply press any key on your keyboard and the lock screen will slide up revealing your account password field.