Sunday, December 2, 2012

Windows 8: Find How Long Your System Has Been Running

Here’s how to find the up time of your Windows 8 system – things have changed a bit.
If you’re on the Desktop hover the mouse pointer in the lower left corner to get a Start tile and right click on it to get the Power User menu. From the Menu select Task Manager.

Alternately, if you’re already on the Metro Start screen, hove the mouse pointer in the lower left corner, right click and select Task Manager.

The new Windows 8 Task Manager utility comes up. Select the Performance tab, CPU and at the bottom, the amount of Up Time for Windows 8 displayed.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Windows 8 - Keeping a History on Files

One of the best feature in Windows 8 is File History. It’s an automatic update service that  can back up information to a second drive and also lets you selectively restore data. First, however, you have to open and access it.
To do this, search for File history in the  settings search. Open it, and then click the Turn On button.
File History handles the rest.

If the drive you want to back up to is not selected you can change drives by clicking the “Select a drive” link on the left. You also can restore files by clicking the “Restore personal files” link.

Access system functions with an old-fashioned hotkey

Though Windows 8 tosses out the old Start button, it does add another menu that can be of use. The menu doesn’t have a particular name, but it’s accessed using the Win + X hotkey and it appears where Start used to be (the lower left hand side).

From this menu it’s possible to access a number of utilities like Control Panel, Task Manager, and the Device Manager. It’s an old-fashioned menu that uses a gray background with black text but it will appear in either the desktop environment or the new Windows 8 UI.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Windows 8: 4 Smart Security Improvements

1. Antivirus Now Active by Default In clean installs of Windows 8, the free Microsoft antivirus and anti-malware product Windows Defender will be active by default. The "clean installs" caveat, however, refers to PC manufacturers and distributors being allowed to instead install trial versions of their own antivirus and anti-malware software.
"Windows Defender provides a good level of protection, but is mainly targeted at those who are unwilling--or unable--to purchase a commercial anti-malware solution," said Goretsky. While he categorized the software as being effective (though a "minimum bar for levels of protection") he also lauded it for not being nagware. That means it does not "attempt to upsell the user to a paid-for product and toolbars or banner advertisements, nor does it modify existing search settings." That makes it less likely that users might seek to disable the software.

2. Windows Rewrites Target Bootkit Malware
Windows 8 will include new tools for blocking not only rootkits, but also bootkits, which are able to replace boot loaders, thus making the malware active almost once a PC starts up, and very difficult to detect or eradicate. However, Microsoft code won't enjoy the better rootkit protection. "Some of these changes made to operating systems to combat rootkits ... are only available in the 64-bit editions of Microsoft Windows due to support issues: there remains a large base of 32-bit programs which rely, for compatibility reasons, on some insecure functions inherited from earlier Windows versions,".  

3. BIOS Firmware Gets UEFI Replacement The BIOS firmware code that becomes active as soon as a PC powers on has also been replaced in Windows 8 by the  Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). The move has drawn fire from Linux advocates, who fear that Windows 8-compatible machines might be blocked from starting up to Linux, since one feature of UEFI is Secure Boot, which requires that an operating system be digitally signed before the PC will allow it to load.   "What Microsoft has done is place a requirement in the Windows 8 logo tests that computers shipping with a 64-bit version of Windows 8 (which will be most desktop and notebook computers) ship with Secure Boot enabled in their UEFI firmware by the manufacturer,".  The same requirements state that the user must be able to disable this feature; while that will add an extra step for anyone who wants to replace Windows 8, on Windows 8-certified hardware, with another operating system, it means that the Secure Boot will be active by default for everyone else.   As a result, the feature should "greatly [reduce] the attack surface currently exploited by bootkit forms of rootkit malware on systems using BIOS-based firmware."

4. Anti-Malware Launches Early Another security improvement in Windows 8 is the Early Launch Anti Malware (ELAM) feature, which allows security software--not just from Microsoft--to be first in line once a PC starts up and begins loading applications. "ELAM is important because, like UEFI's Secure Boot, it vastly improves the security of the computer at an early stage." "While the effectiveness of ELAM is as yet unproven, the concept behind it is fundamentally sound, and it should prove to be a major deterrence to boot-time malware."  

Windows 8 Secrets: The Built-in Security Features

If you wish to get a complete overview of the security system of your Windows 8 computer, it’s enough to simply load the Start Screen and type “security.” Click the “Check security status” option and you’re done.

Review image

The new Security Center provides a quick overview of the security status of your computer. You can change both Internet and UAC settings from this screen.

Windows 8 should launch a screen showing critical information about your computer security, including network firewall status, Windows Update, virus protection, spyware and unwanted software protection, Internet security settings, User Account Control, Windows SmartScreen and Network Access Protection.

While most of these features have also been available in previous Windows versions, let’s focus on only two different tools: Windows SmartScreen and the new Windows Defender.

Windows SmartScreen
is a tool specifically developed by Microsoft to protect your computer from running unrecognized apps and files downloaded from the Internet. This means that whenever you wish to launch a downloaded file, the SmartScreen shows up and prompts you to give your approval and continue the loading process.

Only minimum user knowledge is required to successfully configure this option, but it’s worth mentioning that by default, the app is set to request administrator approval before running an unrecognized app from the Internet.

The Windows SmartScreen tool comes with only three options, so beginners should be able to configure it without too much effort.

You can however switch to get a warning before running an unrecognized app without a request for administrator approval or to completely turn of the feature.

While this is indeed a great feature, you should keep in mind that some info is sent to Microsoft about the files and the apps you run on this PC. The information is then used by the Redmond-based company to improve the SmartScreen feature and help protect the other Windows 8 computers out there.

The new Windows Defender
is much more than the anti-spyware solution we used to know. It’s more like a full-featured security product capable of protecting your computer from many more types of threats.

Basically, the new Windows Defender is a rebranded Microsoft Security Essentials, so the built-in app has turned into an antivirus product that also comprises anti-spyware protection. It’s packed with features designed to protect your files from malicious attempts, so it also detects viruses and other types of malware.

The interface is also new and the app comes with many more configuration options which, for the average Joe, might be a bit confusing. It’s not however rocket science to set up the app, but the standard settings should get the job done in any circumstances.

Windows Defender is installed by default on all Windows 8 computers and, once the OS is activated, it receives definition updates just like any other antivirus product on the market. It runs in the background and detects a malicious file as soon as it lands on your computer, but you can also initiate a scan all by yourself.
The very interesting fact is that Windows Defender is automatically disabled once you install a third-party security app on your Windows 8 machine. Still, it’s very important to note that Windows Defender cannot be removed from your computer, so as soon as you remove the third-party security app you previously installed, Microsoft’s tool comes back in action.

Microsoft  states that "Windows Defender cannot be removed, so the only thing computer manufacturers can do is to disable the software in order to deploy another security product."

Monday, October 15, 2012

Windows 8 - Incremental Backup with File History

Backing up data is not an option anymore and every single computer user must do it in one way or another. Although most consumers rely on third-party software solutions designed to take care of the backup process, operating systems have evolved a lot lately and come with some very interesting options in this regard.

Many people don’t know that Windows 7 already integrates a pretty advanced backup solution called “Previous Versions.” As a result, only a few actually used it, despite the fact that it’s able to provide some very helpful utilities.

Third-party backup tools have been around for a while, but with the release of Windows 8, more computer users are expected to simply stick to the built-in goodies. “Why should we do that?” you may ask. The answer is as simply as it could be.

Microsoft has spent a lot of time trying to develop these features, so some of the built-in Windows 8 utilities come with options that were until now available in third-party apps exclusively.

File History is one of the most helpful Windows 8 updates and is a much more advanced version of the aforementioned “Previous Versions.” It’s an integrated backup solution that’s very likely to attract more users than its predecessor, not only because it’s heavily advertised by Microsoft, but also thanks to the fact that it’s a lot better.

It’s the new generation “Previous Versions”

File History relies on an evolved idea first launched by “Previous Versions.” As you may find out just by simply reading its name, File History is supposed to keep track of your… uhm… file history, so whenever some of the locally-stored items are modified, the change is logged.

 File History creates backups of libraries, desktop, contacts and favorites, but before turning it on, make sure it's correctly configured.

The application, however, not only that logs all modifications, but also gives users the chance to go back to an older version of the updated file. A time machine, if you wish, that works in a similar fashion as the “Time Machine” already available on Mac OS X workstations.

Basically, File History tracks the files in your libraries, including documents, music, pictures and videos. The only condition is obviously to place your documents in “Documents,” music in “Music,” pictures in “Pictures” and so on. This is how Microsoft tries to take advantage of the libraries in a pretty innovative way.

There’s a catch however and this may actually be bad news for some users. Keeping old versions of multiple large files could use most of your storage space, so backing up video files for example may not be the best idea.

All features however are highly configurable, so you’re strongly recommended to have a look in the settings screen as well.

Configuration takes less than a minute

Launching File History is as easy as opening the “Start Screen” and typing “File History.” The “Start Screen” gets you to a Control Panel section that allows you to set up all File History parameters, including destination drives and exclusions.

By default, File History is turned off because it could use unnecessary space without the user knowing about it, but before turning it on make sure it’s properly configured.

 The "Advanced Settings" screen requires a bit more attention because it comes with a wider range of options concerning the way the feature works.

First, you need to pick the backup destination. You can save the backups to a network drive or to a USB external device, it’s your choice. File History works continuously and whenever a modification is made to a tracked file, another backup is automatically created. This means that storage space is a priority.

Since File History can create backups of libraries, desktop, contacts and favorites, you’re also recommended to create a list with excluded folders. A dedicated screen is available in this regard and it doesn’t require anything else than basic computer knowledge. Simply input the path to the target folders and you’re done.

The “Advanced Settings” screen is the one that needs a bit more attention. This one lets you adjust the time interval for saving copies of files, but also the size of offline cache. You’re also allowed to choose the maximum number of days to keep the saved versions, but also to recommend the backup drive to other members of the homegroup.

Restoring files is piece of cake

There are two very simple ways to get back to an older version of a specific file.

First of all, you can restore files from the same configuration screen we told you about a bit earlier.

There’s a “Restore personal files” link in the left panel of the screen that enables you to browse the available backups and restore the one you want. Previews are also available, so everything is easy as pie.

 Older file versions can be restored straight from File Explorer using the "History" button placed in the Ribbon.

It’s also very important to know that File History is fully integrated into File Explorer, which is the new version of the old-fashioned but utterly cool Windows Explorer.

Whenever you wish to restore a file to an older version, simply browse to its location, select it and hit the “History” option in the Ribbon. Windows 8 should open the same file restore screen that allows you to see all saved versions and choose the one you need.

Windows 8 - Keyboard and Mouse Secrets

  • Windows button + D: opens the desktop.
  • Windows + E: opens Explorer.
  • Windows + F: opens File Search.
  • Windows + I: launches Settings.
  • Windows + Q: opens App Search.
  • Windows + Tab: Cycle through open apps.
Microsoft has improved the old screenshot shortcut. Pressing Windows + PrtScr doesn't add the screen shot to Clipboard anymore. Instead, the shortcut saves the screenshot directly to the My Pictures file under the name Screenshot.png.

Multiple Monitor Mechinations

Users increasingly work with two monitors, and Windows 8 acknowledges this. Pressing Windows + PgUp moves your currently selected app to the left–hand monitor, while Windows + PgDn shoots the app over to the right–hand monitor.

Organizing App Groups

Organizing Metro apps into groups turns out to be easy and intuitive. Choose one of the apps you want to include in the new group and drag the tile to an empty area of the Start screen. A new app group automatically starts. Move apps into the new group by continuing to drag them there.
To name the new group, click the small icon in the bottom right of the screen. The Metro tiles will shrink to thumbnails. Right click the new group and a Name Group icon pops up. Click this icon and type in the new group's name.

You Get What You Type

Here's a quick timesaver if you want to access a program in Windows 8 without hunting through all the Start screen app tiles. Just type in the name of the program you want. You don't need to click on the screen or open a search box, just start typing with the mouse pointer anywhere on the screen and Windows 8 finds the program for you. It's a nice little timesaver when you need to open little–used programs.

Scheduling Computer Maintenance

Windows 8 helpfully automates system maintenance tasks, such as software updates, viral scans and similar diagnostics. Unfortunately, the default time for these important housecleaning tasks is set to 3:00 a.m. That's fine if your hardware allows the system to wake up the computer, but pretty much useless if your system lacks that ability.
Fortunately, you can quickly change these settings by launching the Control Panel, selecting System and Security and clicking on Action Center. Once the Action Center opens, click on Maintenance. Now you can choose a more convenient time for maintenance under the Start Maintenance option.

Sneaky Syncing

Windows 8 can synchronize settings on multiple devices, so your tablet, Windows Phone and PC can share the same Windows Live account. The operating system will share Contacts, calendar events and other information among your devices.
Handy though this is, some information may be too sensitive for synchronizing. You can customize the syncing operation by pressing Windows + I and clicking More PC Settings. Click on Sync Your Settings and you get a list of twelve possible items that you can omit from synchronization. Some of these items are highly sensitive, such as website passwords. Others, such as background screens, are unlikely to attract the attention of identity thieves, but handy if you like to customize devices individually.
If you don't want to synchronize your devices, choose Local Account instead of Microsoft Account when you set up your account. You can switch between Local Account and Microsoft Account at any time by opening the PC Settings and selecting Users.

Finding Your Recycle Bin

Windows 8 lists open applications in its left–hand navigation pane (just move the mouse pointer to the left side of the screen to open the pane). The navigation pane is designed with simplicity in mind: You won't see any links to your Control Panel or Recycle Bin here. If you like quick access to your folders, click View on the pane and then click Options. Now you can select Show all Folders.

Refresh and Wipe

While Windows 8 runs quite well, circumstance may force you to restore the system. The new Recovery option in the Control Panel gives you three different options for restoring your system. System Restore works pretty much the same way it always has, restoring your settings to the last System Restore point.
The Refresh Your PC option completely reinstalls Windows 8 while keeping your existing files intact. And when the time comes to replace your PC, the Reset Your PC button completely wipes your files before reinstalling Windows. (Pro Tip: Confuse these two buttons at your peril).

Pruning Your Startup Menu

"Startup Creep" afflicts many a Windows user. Many programs insist on "helpfully" adding themselves to your Startup menu during installation, so they open automatically when you boot up the computer. Auto–start programs are like leeches, sucking up your system's resources. Depending on the software, you may not even realize a programs opening every time you boot up.
Windows 8 has added a Startup tab to a redesigned Task Manager. The Startup link lists all programs that open during Startup. You can check off any programs you don't want running and then click the Disable button.

Prepare for Your Migration to Windows 7 (and then Windows 8!)

Best practices for migrating to Windows 7:
  • Optimize your current systems management or software distribution platform or solution—If the underlying systems management platform isn’t working, you won't be successful with your Windows 7 project. Ensure that the desktops and PCs to which you're deploying Windows 7 are in good health.
  • Rationalize applications before remediating or upgrading them—Why spend money on upgrading applications to Windows 7 if you aren't even sure users use them? Don’t think of application rationalization as a separate step or an additional process. Integrate and automate application rationalization with the operating system deployment (OSD) tasks.
  • Rationalize/eliminate dedicated hardware and caching systems for software/OS distribution—Today, you don't need expensive, static, and inflexible hardware-based caching solutions. Build and optimize your infrastructure not just for Windows 7 but for Windows 8 and beyond.
  • Empower the end user—IT doesn't have to own the entire Windows 7 migration process. Let your users decide when to migrate to Windows 7. Give them a guided experience with applications such as Shopping. Get IT to automate as much as they can and then get out of the way by empowering the end user.
  • Engage vendors and resources who have worked on Windows 7 projects before.

Windows 7 to Windows 8 Upgrade
  • Windows 8 won’t just be rolled out to PCs and laptops, but a myriad of handheld and mobile devices—The addition of mobile devices makes the IT environment even more complex. The number of variables in terms of hardware models and configurations that will need to be supported will put unprecedented demand on IT and the systems management infrastructure. You need to review your systems management strategy and ensure that you invest in platforms that can support PCs, laptops, and mobile devices.
  • Most organizations will embrace the cloud even more in the years to come, and Windows 8 will make that transition easier—When moving to the cloud, organizations will want to reduce the number of applications they own and support in-house and move as much as possible to the cloud.(when moving to Windows 8). When they do so, they should focus on application rationalization first and then application remediation. The foundational elements won't change much between Windows 7 and Windows 8, resulting in reduced cost and associated headaches for organizations concerned about application compatibility.
  • Security and user profile management will be key when moving to Windows 8—The lines between corporate and personal devices are blurring. With more and more organizations encouraging their employees to work from home, the end user expects his or her experience to be seamless when moving from one device to another. To provide that seamless experience, IT will need to ensure that end users can pick up a device of their choice and gain access to their corporate resources in a secure manner.
  • Facebook, Twitter, and Google are dictating the look and feel of enterprise applications and the way end users will consume information—With the explosion in the volume of data, the typical “matrix style” reports can no longer present data to end users that can be easily understood and consumed. The advent of ‘info-graphics” will make it easier for the end user to consume complex information in a format they can relate to easily. Users want to "touch and feel" their data! The mouse as an interface will make way for touchscreens even more aggressively as organizations move to Windows 8. Windows 8 is a great opportunity to face-lift enterprise applications.

Windows 8 vs Windows 7: security, cloud, task manager

There are a couple of other relatively minor, but significant changes in Windows 8 that may make it worth an upgrade for Windows 7 users. Windows 8 has a cloud focus to it which might be a tempting feature. Microsoft stores all your settings and customisations in the cloud so whenever you log on to a Windows 8 machine you will have it looking and working your way.

Other elements of the cloud system include pulling your email from Gmail, for example, and viewing all your photos from Facebook. And each Windows 8 device comes with a ready-enabled SkyDrive account.
In terms of security, as well as the additional peace of mind that downloading apps from a curated Windows Store brings, Windows 8 features a lock screen which allows you use a picture password. This means you can affix a photo to the lock screen, and replace your password with a gesture traced out over the photo. Because of the additional complexity this adds in over a traditional alphanumerical password, it ought to be more secure.

Staying with the theme of security, Windows 8 is the first flavour of Windows that comes with antivirus baked in, in the form of Microsoft Security Essentials, which sits alongside the software firewall in Security Center. You could justifiably save yourself a few quid by not bothering to buy security software (although standalone security vendors will have a thing or two to say about this). There's also an all new Task Manager, offering two different ways to view information: one simple, one more complex.

Windows 8 vs Windows 7: Windows Store and Apps

The Metro interface looks and feels like a smartphone or tablet OS, and following that theme is the inclusion of the Windows Store in Windows 8. This online shopfront is stuffed full of Windows apps - each designed to run on x86 Windows PCs, laptops and tablets, as well as ARM tablets and smartphones. Windows 8 apps follow the same design principle as Metro - being constructed of cascading live tiles of information, in primary colours. They all have social networking capabilities baked in as standard, and follow the same principles of interface, so that there is no real learning curve when starting to use a new app.

Native apps included with Windows 8 include the Mail email app, a calendar app and much improved contacts app called People. There's Photos, Music, IE, Weather, Finance, Sports and so on. Which is all very nice, but if you are an existing Windows 7 user wondering whether to upgrade, you almost certainly have legacy X86 software programs that you wish to continue to use. This is taken care of in all flavours of Windows 8 apart from Windows RT and Windows Phone 8.

To use older software in windows 8, you have to use Desktop. This is an app in its own right, and opens up into an environment that looks and acts in virtually the same way as Windows 7. Think of it as virtualised Windows 7, in Windows 8 (it's like a much more simple version of Classic Mode from when Mac OS X first came out). This is imperfect, of course, as it means that much of your computing experience in the 'new' OS is taking place in a window that looks suspiciously like your old one. Still, it's difficult to see how else such a great leap forward in Windows' interfact could be handled. And it does mean you can have the best of all worlds.

The Desktop mode in Windows 8 is different from Windows 7 in one subtle but critical way, however: there's no Start menu. In fact, wherever you are in Windows 8, either touching the middle right of your screen or mousing over there brings up the Charms menu, which comprises Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings icons. The change takes a bit of getting used to, but is actually a lot more straightforward than the old way of doing things.

According to Microsoft Windows 8 is designed to be used by touch, keyboard and mouse - whatever is most appropriate to the task in hand. The corners of the screen are easy for mouse use, for instance, which is why the Start 'button' has disappeared, and in order to get to the Start menu you simply mouse to the bottom left. Similarly, for mouse users 'back' is top left, and to get to 'Charms' you have to go to the right and swipe. Keyboard navigation has been similarly adjusted. To get the 'Weather' app, for instance, you simply type 'weath...' and as you type the options will reduce until the Weather app appears. Meanwhile, page up, page down and so on, work as they do in Windows 7.

You can access search from anywhere, and the results are listed via the icons of the apps in which they appear. Simply click an app to choose results from that application. A search from anywhere combs the entire machine.

There are, of course, some down sides in these changes and to the fact that older software works only in the Desktop mode, but compatibility with other Windows 8 devices isn't one of them. For the price of getting used to some new interface tricks, you get to run all of your new apps across all kinds of Windows 8 devices, including PCs and laptops, but also ARM tablets and smartphones - in an interface that looks the same and has all your settings regardless of which device you are using.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Windows 8 - Customize Search Applications

Metro apps can appear as options when you use the search feature.

You can control the apps that appear here and trim down the list. First, click the Settings charm from anywhere on your system and click the “More PC settings” link.

From the PC settings screen, click the Search category and use the sliders to hide apps from the search screen.

Windows 8 - Control Automatic Maintenance

Windows 8 has a new scheduled maintenance feature that automatically updates software, runs security scans, and performs system diagnostics at a scheduled time. By default, the maintenance tasks run at 3am if you aren’t using your computer. If you’re using your computer at the scheduled time, Windows will wait until the computer is idle.

To customize this time, open the Action Center from the flag icon in the system tray.

You’ll find Automatic Maintenance under the Maintenance category. Click the “Change maintenance settings” link to customize its settings.

From this screen, you can set the time you want to run automatic maintenance tasks. You can also have Windows wake up your computer to run maintenance tasks, if it’s asleep.

Windows 8 - Display Administrative Tools

By default, Windows hides the Event Viewer, Computer Management and other Administrative Tools from the Start screen. If you use these applications frequently, you can easily unhide them.

From the Start screen, mouse over to the bottom or top right corner of the screen and click the Settings charm. You can also press WinKey-C to view the charms.

Click the “Settings” link under Start and set the “Show administrative tools” slider to “Yes.”

The Administrative Tools will appear on the Start screen and in the All Apps list.

Windows 8 - Take & Save Screenshots Instantly

Windows 8 has a new hotkey combination that lets you take and save screenshots instantly. To take a screenshot, hold the Windows key down and press the Print Screen key. Your screen will flash and Windows will save a screenshot to your Pictures folder as a PNG image file.

You might assume that WinKey+Alt+Print Screen would take and save a screenshot of the current window, but it doesn’t. Maybe this will be implemented in the final version of Windows 8.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Windows 8 - Disable the Lock Screen

Windows 8 shows a lock screen when you restart your computer, log out, or lock it. It’s very pretty, but it just adds one more keystroke to the login process. You can actually disable the lock screen entirely, although Microsoft hides his option very well.

This option is located in the Group Policy Editor. To launch it, type “gpedit.msc” at the Start screen and press Enter.

In the Group Policy Editor, navigate to Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Control Panel\Personalization.

Double-click the “Do not display the lock screen” option, set it to Enabled, and click OK.

The next time you restart your system, log out, or lock the screen, you’ll see the login screen instead of the lock screen.

Windows 8 - Keyboard & Mouse Users

  1. To unlock the lock screen, double tap on your mouse or hit any key on the keyboard instead of dragging to the top
  2. To bring up the “charms bar” (share, settings, shutdown, etc), hit the lower-left corner of the screen with the mouse – no clicking required or use winkey+c
  3. In any app, right click to bring up the “app bar” to see everything you can do
  4. To go back to the Start screen, simply use the Windows Key on your keyboard
  5. Bump your mouse against the left side of the screen to see a thumbnail of your most recently used app. Use the scroll wheel to see all open modern apps
  6. Modern apps don’t generally need to be closed — they are suspended when they’re not in view. If you really need to close them, use the task manager (via the tile or ctrl+shift+esc) to force quit
  7. To search for anything on your system like applications, setting, or files, simply start typing from the Start screen, and the search box will automatically pop up or use winkey+f
  8. Glance at your desktop by using Winkey+y
  9. Activate application settings charm by using winkey+i
  10. Project onto an external TV/monitor using winkey+p
  11. Use the page up and page down keys to move between tile groups on the Start Screen
  12. Bump your mouse to the left and grab an app, if you pull it towards the right and then bump it to the left it will cycle to the next app (Thanks Tom Servo)
  13. Pin/unpin tiles or remove apps by right clicking on tiles on the Start Screen
  14. Activate Semantic Zoom in Metro apps by using Ctrl+ mouse scroll
  15. Switch the input language and keyboard layout with Winkey+Spacebar
  16. Show the desktop using Winkey+d
  17. Open the share charm with winkey+h
  18. Open the connect charm with winkey+k
  19. Lock your Windows 8 PC with winkey+l
  20. Lock screen rotation using winkey+o
  21. Cycle through apps using winkey+tab
  22. Switch between apps using alt+tab

Windows 8 - See Data Usage of Programs and Apps

Data usage tracking features have also been included on the updated Task Manager, which you can still open via the Ctrl + Shift + Esc keyboard shortcut. There you can view current network usage among the running processes and view a history of usage as well.

Sorting running processes by network usage.
Sorting app history by network usage.

These are useful if you’d like to track down network hungry apps that are using too much of your data plan, or maybe even to help reduce your network load.

Windows 8 - Use Data Usage Tracking and Metering

Windows 8 includes data usage tracking features, useful if you connect to networks that have data caps, like 3G or 4G connections. You can see the estimated data usage info for any network you’ve connected to by right-clicking (or touching and holding) the desired network and selecting Show estimated data usage.

Viewing the estimated data usage of a network.

You can also set networks as a metered connection, which will then disable Windows Update from downloading updates (except for critical security patches) and possibly disable or reduce data usage from other Microsoft and non-Microsoft Applications as well. To set a network as metered, right-click (or touch and hold) the desired network and select Set as metered connection.

Windows 8 - Useful Desktop & Metro Keyboard Shortcuts

Here some useful in both the desktop and metro interfaces:

Go to the Start screen: Win
Go to the Desktop: Win + D
Bring up the Charms Bar: Win + C (shows time/date and offers shortcuts to Search, Share, Start, Devices, and Settings)

Show Setting Shortcuts: Win + I (shortcuts for settings of current app and system:  wireless networks, volume, brightness, notifications, and power options)

Show the new admin menu: Win + X
Save screen shot:Win + PrtSc

And here are some you’ll find useful when using the metro interface:
Show all apps on Start screen: Ctrl + Tab
Bring up the App Bar: Win + Z (commands and options for current app)
Snap current app to side: Win + .
Cycle through open apps: Win + Tab
Close current app: Win + F4

Windows 8 - Run Traditional and Metro Apps Side-by-Side

Though you can’t truly run metro-style apps in the desktop interface, you can snap them to the right or left side of the screen and then have the remaining portion of the screen for the desktop interface or another metro-style app.

Example of a metro-style app snapped to the right side.

When using a metro-style app you can hit Win + . to toggle snapping to the right and left side. Or with touch, swipe in slowly from the left.

Windows 8 - Close Metro Apps

When using the new Start screen and metro-style apps you might notice there isn’t a close or exit button like you’re used to with traditional applications. Part of the reasoning behind this is that when not used they’re supposed to consume very little system resources and even automatically close after a while.But if you have too many opened at once it may be confusing when switching between them.

If you’re a shortcut fan, you simply can hit Alt + F4 to close an app. If not, Microsoft did include a way to close them: simply click on the top of the screen (or tap with your finder), hold, and drag it down to the bottom of the screen and then let go to close it. It’s sort of like grabbing the screen and throwing it away in an invisible trash can on the bottom.

Windows 8 - Open Media Files in Desktop Applications

By default, images, music, and video files you open in Windows 8 will be shown or played in the metro-style apps, which may be a nuisance when you're working in the desktop interface. However, you can always launch them to a traditional program within the desktop interface by right-clicking (or touching and holding) on the media file, selecting Open with, and choosing the desired application.

If you don't want the metro-style apps to be the default when opening media files you can change that as well. An easy way to change the defaults for many the media types at once is by using the Set Default Programs utility:

1.       Open the Start screen.
2.       Type “default” and it will start searching.
3.       Open the Default Programs shortcut in the results.

Searching for and opening the Default Programs utility.

4.       Select Set your default programs.
5.       Select the program with the desired associated file types, like Windows Media Player for audio and videos or Windows Photo Viewer for images.
6.       Select Set this program as default.

Selecting a program to set it as the default for all the file types it can open.

Windows 8 - Find Programs, Files, and Items

When on the main page of the Start screen you can start searching by typing like you could with the Start menu in previous editions. But instead of an itemized list of results showing automatically, it first shows results for Apps only.

Searching via the new Start screen.

And then you can select Settings or Files to show results on those categories. One good improvement, however, is that you can also select a metro-style app from the list to search that specific app for the word or phrase you typed.

Windows 8 - Access New Admin Menu

When Microsoft removed the Start menu, they added a new menu with power-users and administrators in mind. Right-click in the bottom-left corner of the screen or press Win + X on the keyboard. Then you'll find a menu of administrative shortcuts, including those for the Control Panel, Run, and the Command Prompt.

A new sort of Start menu designed for power-users and admins.

Windows 8 - Access the Power Options

With previous Microsoft Windows, you probably accessed the power options via the Start menu. But with that gone in Windows 8 there are new ways to lock, switch users, log off, restart and shut down:

·         To lock your account: Hit Win + L on the keyboard, just like in previous Windows editions.
·         To log off or switch users: Open the Start screen, select your account name in the upper right, and choose Sign Out or select another user account to switch users while keeping logged in.

Logging off or switching users via the new metro-style Start screen.

·         To restart or shut down: With a mouse, put the cursor on the top or bottom right corner (or hit Win + I). Or with touch, swipe in from the left. Then select the Settings button from the charms bar, hit the Power button, and select Restart or Shut Down.

Restarting or shutting down via the settings Charm Bar.

Windows 8 - Boot to Desktop Instead of Metro Interface

In Windows 8 you're taken to the new metro-style Start screen after you logon.

The new Start screen has live titles, like on Windows Phones, serving as a shortcut to the app and showing updates and other app info.

But if you prefer, you can bypass this new interface and have the good ol' desktp show when you get on. Though Microsoft doesn't give you a quick setting or option for this, you can utilize the Task Scheduler feature of Windows to start Explorer (the desktop interface) at logon. Here's how:

1.       Go to the Start screen.
2.       Type “schedule” and it will start searching and then select the Settings option on the right, under the search field.
3.       Open the Schedule Task shortcut in the results.

Searching for and opening the Task Scheduler.

4.       Select Task Scheduler Library on the left, open the Action menu from the toolbar, and select Create Task.
5.       For the Name, type something like “Show Desktop at Logon”
6.       Choose the Tiggers tab, select New, on the top select “At log on”, and hit OK.
7.       Choose the Actions tab, select New, for the Program/Script value enter “explorer”, and hit OK.Setting Windows Explorer (the desktop) to show at startup.

8.       If you're on a laptop, choose the Conditions tab and under the Power options, uncheck “Start the task only if the computer is on AC power”
9.       Hit OK to save the new task.

To test it, open the Start screen, select your account name in the upper right, and select Sign out. When you logon again you should be taken to the familiar desktop where you'll also find a Windows Explorer window opened to your Libraries.

Windows 8 - Pin Any Program, Folder or Item to Start Screen

Microsoft replaced the Start Menu with the Start Screen in Windows 8; the Start Screen displays everything, such as apps, web URLs, pinned folders and files in the form of tiles. Every now and then, a new application hits the internet, usually focused on making the Start Screen more user friendly. One such tool is Start Screen Pinner, which allows you to pin Windows special folders, user profile locations, Library folders and numerous other frequently used functions such as Auto Play, Connect to etc., to the Start Screen. Although Windows 8 lets you pin custom app shortcuts to the Start Screen (all you need is to select Pin to Start from an application’s right-click context menu), it doesn’t allow you to pin every type of program, file, folder and Windows special folders to the Start Screen. To do so, you need to tweak the registry to specify the target locations of the items that you wish to pin to the Start Screen. Start Screen
Pinner makes this task much simpler.

The interface of the application is laid out keeping Windows 8 Modern UI design in mind. The navigation buttons also look quite similar to the Start Screen tiles. The GUI comprises of Pin a File, Pin a Folder, Pin a Library and Pin Special Item buttons. The Pin a File function enables you to pin different items, like music, video, image or text file etc., while the Pin a Folder comes useful in instances where you perform most of your work from Start Screen and need to pin a frequently used directory. The third feature is Pin a Library, which allows you to adds Documents, Music, Video, Picture or any other custom library folders to the Start Screen.

Clicking Pin Special Item allows you to pin system tools to the Start Screen. This includes Action Center, Administrative Tools, All Control Panel Items, All Tasks, Auto Play, Bluetooth Devices, Computer, Folder Options, Games, HomeGroup, Network, Network Connections and so forth. It’s worth mentioning here that you can pin all these items in one go; just select the items that you want to pin to Start Screen, and hit Pin Items button at the bottom.

All the pinned items appear in squarish layout, which you may easily move around.

Start Screen Pinner is designed to work only on Windows 8 and installer is available at:

Windows 8 - Metro Commander File Manager with SkyDrive Sync

Windows 8’s desktop and tablet hybrid optimization is certainly something to look forward to. As it seems a lot of users will be using Windows 8 on the go, it’s quite handy to have a file manager app at hand, as the native File Explorer might not be as easy to use with a touch screen. Metro Commander is a Windows Store app that offers all basic file management options including copy, paste, move etc., so you don’t have to open the desktop for performing basic file management operations. Apart from providing you with a sleek, dual-pane Modern UI workspace to manage local files, the app lets you connect to your SkyDrive account to easily manage, upload and sync files and folders.

To download Metro Commander, you need to look for it on Windows Store. To do this, use Win+Q hotkey combination to open Windows Store search pane and then type in the app’s name. After opening its in-store page, click or tap Install to begin the download process.

Metro Commander allows you to configure a few options. For instance, you may setup and sign in to your SkyDrive account to grant app permission for accessing your SkyDrive’s data. In addition, it enables you to select the parent directory of your files, albeit you may access and alter these settings later on.

The interface of the app looks quite simple with blue and cyan background. It can open two different directories side by side, which makes file browsing and transferring operations quite easy. Using Metro Commander on desktop makes it a tad easier to perform file operations, such as you may use the function keys to rename, copy, move or delete files, whilst the shortcut pertaining to each file action appear next to its on-screen navigation control.
Metro Commander_Main Screen
The settings bars at the top and bottom provide access to various options. The basic file handling buttons that we mentioned earlier in the post all appear at the bottom left of the screen. The top bar houses navigation controls for Computer, SkyDrive, Backward, Forward, Root and Parent. Since it’s a dual pane file explorer, the same set of navigation controls appear separately on each side. At the bottom right corner, there are buttons for New Folder, New File, Sort and Pin to Start. It’s worth mentioning here that the app’s background switches to the selected image, which provides a closer look of the selected picture.

Metro Commander works on both 32-bit and 64-bit editions of Windows 8.

App Location -