A major challenge for the Windows 8 user is navigating between the old world and the new.
The Charms bar — the pane on the right side, brought out by a swipe from the right edge or by hovering your mouse in the upper- or lower-right corners — that includes icons marked Search, Share, Start, Devices, and Settings.
The Search charm works just about everywhere. To search for an email message, for example, go into the Mail app and click or tap the Search charm. If you’re looking at the Metro Start screen or legacy desktop, and you go into Search, you see a complete list of all of the programs, or, apps on your computer.
The apps are grouped using an algorithm and within each group the apps are listed alphabetically — making it very hard to find an app unless you know its name. Typing in the search box doesn’t help much.
The Share charm would not allow you to copy items between apps. At this moment, People, Calendar, Messaging, Mail, SkyDrive, Camera, Music, Video, Finance, Weather, and any application on the legacy desktop all come up with a notice saying the app “can’t share.” Photos will “share” with email — which means you can click on a photo, select Share, and have an email automatically created with the photo attached. That’s the only Share combination that works.
The Start charm cycles between the Metro Start screen and the legacy desktop.
The Devices charm doesn’t do much just yet. The Settings charm leads to a severely restricted set of Windows settings: volume, brightness, power.
On the left side of the screen, you can see thumbnails of all running programs by clicking or touching in the upper-left corner, then dragging your finger or mouse down the side. If you have a Metro app or the Windows desktop running, you can click one of the thumbnails and drag it to the right. You’ll then arrive at a split screen, with one app occupying 20 percent of the screen and the other occupying 80 percent.
You can split screens between two Metro apps, or one Metro app and the legacy desktop — no other combinations allowed. (Split screen is officially called “Metro snap,”.) There is no interaction between the two split applications; you can’t drag anything from one side to the other. The only size adjustment is to put the small pane on the left or right.
The Windows Experience Index has changed; the maximum score has been raised to 9.9. To get there, right-click or tap and hold in the bottom-left corner, then choose Control Panel. Under System and Security, choose Review Your Computer’s Status and Review Performance Information.
For those of you who take screenshots all the time, Windows 8 has a one-step shoot-and-save capability. To shoot the entire screen and store the shot as an incrementally named PNG file in the default Pictures folder, hold down the Windows key and push PrtScr.
Microsoft is introducing a very straightforward file backup feature called File History, found in Control Panel. While you’re spelunking, don’t overlook the Windows 8 Refresh and Reset options (click/tap the Settings charm, then More PC Settings) and the Storage Spaces approach to virtualizing pools of hard drives (back to Control Panel again).
Windows 8 has a new Task Manager, and it runs rings around the one in Windows 7. To see it in action, right-click or tap and hold in the lower-left corner and choose Task Manager.
Finally, there’s Internet Explorer 10. In spite of the terminology, IE10 Metro and IE10 legacy desktop are two separate apps that work in completely different ways, though they use the same rendering engine. IE10 Metro’s claim is that the working parts disappear when you don’t use them; Web pages fill the entire screen. IE10 legacy’s interface is very similar to IE9.
Internet Explorer 10 doesn’t play well with other browsers in Windows 8. If you set a third-party browser to be the default on the legacy desktop, IE10 Metro disappears. The only way to bring the IE10 tile back is to make IE10 the default on the desktop.