You can navigate around Windows 8 in two ways, and they work well enough so that you can use them simultaneously if you’re into that kind of work.
Windows 8 is all about the edges of the screen. You swipe in from the right edge to reveal the Windows 8 “charms.” These include the instantly recognizable Search, Share, Start, Devices, and Settings. The Start button returns you to the Start screen, which is what you see after you log in and where Microsoft expects most of your activity to take place. Once you’ve launched at least one app, you can swipe in from the left edge to return to the last-open app.
You can also perform a U-turn from the left edge. Swipe in a little bit, then swipe back to the edge, and instead of pulling forward the last app you used, you’ll get a sidebar of thumbnails of your last six apps. At the bottom-left corner of the thumbnail bar is a thumbnail of the Start screen, providing another way to return “home.” The familiar Start “button” is hidden and it’s not hard to get to. It takes about the same effort to get to the Start screen from either edge.
One of Windows 7′s better interface features was a split-screen view that you could initiate just by dragging one program’s Title Bar to the left or right side of the screen. This has been updated for Windows 8. When you drag an app from the left edge, if you drag it slowly and hold it near either the left or right edge, a vertical separation bar will appear. Once the bar shows up, release the app and it will “snap” to the edge. The screen will be split, with one-third for the app you just dragged over, and two-thirds for the previous app.
Tiles, Microsoft’s term for its app icons, are arranged in groups. A long press on a tile will select it, and you can change its position or group from there. You can also pinch to zoom out and get a global view of your groups, or create custom groups by dragging a tile to the right edge and releasing it.
Where the left and right edges are global, the top and bottom edges are for the apps themselves. In Internet Explorer, for example, this means that your location bar is at the bottom, and your tabs are up top. On the Start screen, you can get a list view of all your apps. In Mail, you can set up accounts — including non-Microsoft ones like Gmail, create folders, sync, and more.
The Desktop tile will jump you directly into a Windows 7-style desktop, complete with Recycle Bin, traditional Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer, and taskbar. The side edges still work here, though, and it’s much more responsive to touch than Windows 7.
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