This article will take us step-by-step through the Windows 8 interface with an emphasis on helping IT professionals get the most out of the Modern User Interface.

If your reaction to Windows 8 was anything like mine, it probably went something like this. You powered up the machine and noticed that new logon screen. After hitting the space bar (or actually any key), you are taken to the logon screen. Once logged in, my first thought was “What the heck happened to my start menu?” After a good bit of playing around, research, and customization, I can confidently say that I am more efficient than I ever was on Windows 7.

How to remove a live tile ^

At the Start Screen, I was overwhelmed with the amount of icons. To make matters worse, icons (through the use of live tiles) kept changing what they were showing. To remove a live tile, simply right click on that tile and select “Turn Live Tile Off”. To get rid of all of those filler tiles (such as Music, Xbox LIVE,etc.), simply right click on each one. No need to hold down CTRL or SHIFT!

Modern User Interface – Remove a live tile

Modern User Interface – Remove a live tile

Then select Unpin from Start.

Modern User Interface – Cleaned up

Modern User Interface – Cleaned up

Organize live tiles into groups ^

Now that our Start Screen contains only what we use, let’s organize it into groups. First, select an application. In the screenshot below, I selected Microsoft Excel 2010. Then drag it into the blank column/space between any current group, release and you now have a new group for your applications.

Modern User Interface - Organize live tiles into groups

Notice the new group bar that appears behind the Excel Icon.

Drag any related programs into your new group and create any additional groups you desire.

Name a live tile group ^

Now that our start screen is cleaned up and our programs are organized, let’s create some labels! In the screenshot below, you’ll see four rough groups. A group for general applications, Office, RSAT, and a final group contain remote support tools.

Windows 8 Modern User Interface - Groups

Windows 8 Modern User Interface - Groups

To give these groups names, hover in the very bottom right corner over the minus button. After clicking it, your start screen will zoom out.

Windows 8 start screen zoom

Windows 8 start screen zoom

Right click on a group and select Name group.

Name a group in the Modern User Interface

Name a group in the Modern User Interface

After naming all of the groups, simply left click anywhere on the Start Screen. In the screenshot below, notice the labels above each group

Windows 8 Modern User Interface - Done


The administrative menu

While Microsoft took away the Start Menu, they gave Windows Administrators a nice hidden menu! At any screen (Start or Desktop), press Windows Key + X to bring up an administrative menu.

Windows 8 - Open administrative menu

The menu can also be opened by right clicking in the bottom right corner of the screen.

This menu contains links to applications used in nearly every troubleshooting case. Event Viewer, Computer Management, System, Task Manger – it is all there and in one single place!

Windows 8 Administrative Menu

Windows 8 Administrative Menu

In the picture above, notice how every program has an underlined character. Using these letters, you can quickly jump to any of these programs. For example, pressing Windows Key + X + A will immediately open an Administrative Command Prompt!

Wrapping It up ^

So now that you are back from creating your own hotkeys, what do you think? Are you starting to find yourself faster with Windows 8? More organized? If not, what would Microsoft need to do to win you over?

Finally, if you have your own trick/tip for getting the most out of the Windows 8 interface, let us know in the comments below!

Also have a look at Michael's post: Your first 8 minutes with Windows 8 - Please don't start whining


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