We’ve taken a first look at Windows 8, but this week, we’ll be going in depth on some of the big, new changes coming in Microsoft’s next version of Windows. Today, we’re looking at the new, spiffy Metro UI.Instead of loading the traditional Windows desktop at startup, you’ll see the new, Windows Phone-like Metro UI. This is by far the biggest change in Windows 8, and can be the most confusing to use at first — especially for desktop users. Here’s how to get around the Metro UI like a pro.
The Lock Screen
By default, it’ll use your regular old Windows password, though you can change this to use a PIN number or a gesture-based password from the Control Panel, which we’ll talk about later. Note that when you first install Windows 8, you can opt to use your Windows Live ID and password to log in instead of a regular local username — this allows you to sync your preferences between Windows 8 machines, which is really nice.
The Home Screen
Your user tile in the upper right-hand corner will let you lock and log off your machine, as well as customise your user profile (which we’ll talk about in a minute).
Using Metro Apps
To launch an app, just tap or click on it. When you want to leave an app, just hit the Windows button — think of it as the “Home” button on an iPhone or Android device. Once you’ve left an app, it’ll be suspended, meaning it won’t be sucking up any CPU cycles or making your machine slower. Think of the Metro UI as you’d think of an iPhone, Android or Windows Phone device and less like you would a desktop machine.
The Search Menu
From the search screen, you can once again right-click on an app to pin it to the start menu, or open up an advanced menu that will let you run it as an administrator, among other things.
The Share Menu
The Control Panel
Last but not least is the Control Panel, where you can tweak all sorts of settings related to the Metro Interface. Hit the Control Panel button on the home screen. Most of the stuff in here is self-explanatory, but here are the general categories you have to choose from and what’s inside:
- Personalize: From here you can change the picture on your lock screen, add small notification tiles to your lock screen, and change your user picture.
- Users: If you want to add a new account, or change your password (including adding a PIN or gesture-based “picture password”), this is where you’ll do it.
- Wireless: If your device has wireless capabilities, you can turn them on and off here, as well as enable aeroplane Mode with the flip of a switch.
- Notifications: If you want to turn notifications on or off for different apps (or turn notifications off entirely), you can head to this pane. It lists all your notification-compatible apps with an on/off switch for each. You can also mute notification sounds from here.
- Privacy: Here is where you tell Windows whether you want apps to be able to access your location, name and account picture, or other information about what you’re using. You can also edit the number of apps in your “App History”, which are those thumbnails on the left side of the screen we talked about earlier.
- General: On the General pane, you can change your time zone, touch keyboard preferences, and refresh or reset your PC, which either give it a one-click clean install of Windows (without losing your files) or wiping your PC entirely and starting from scratch.
- Search: You can clear your search history and remove apps from the search menu here.
- Share: This pane helps you make the Share bar easier to use, by adding and removing apps, as well as tweaking your “share history” which give you quick access to oft-used Share-enabled apps.
- Send: This is where you can adjust the apps you use to send stuff to other devices, like attached TVs.
- Ease of Access: This lets you edit settings for those that are hard of hearing, have poor vision, etc.
- Devices: This is where you manage your other devices, like printers, webcams, mice, and other hardware.
- Sync PC Settings: This is one of the cooler features of Windows 8, that lets you sync your settings to other Windows 8 devices through a Windows Live ID. Here, you can choose what to sync, like background and lock screen, themes, app settings, browser bookmarks and history, passwords, and more.
- Homegroup: If you’re running your machine on a homegroup for sharing files, you can enter your password and connect it here.
- Windows Update: This is where you’ll see if you have any pending updates for Windows, and when your last update was.
- More Settings: This takes you to the desktop Control Panel we all know and love, for any settings not covered in the above categories.
This should help you get an easier hang of the vastly different Metro UI. There are likely some other hidden or new features on the way, as we’re still a year away from launch, but the basics are definitely in there, and it’s sure to make Windows 8 tablets pretty sweet. Got any likes, dislikes or features we didn’t cover? Let us know in the comments.