Windows 8 Desktop

Microsoft Windows 8 DesktopWindows 8 Desktop

Those with a mouse may prefer an alternative to Windows 8’s New UI, namely a Windows 7-like Desktop with a taskbar and Start menu.

Windows 8 Desktop


How to Switch to The Windows 8 DesktopWindows 8 Desktop

Once you sign-in to Windows 8 you are greeted by the new ‘Metro’ Start screen with its tiles.  While this radically new display is designed for tablets, it’s easy to switch to the familiar Windows desktop layout.  Either simply press the Windows key, or else seek out the ‘Desktop’ tile.

How to Boot into the Windows 8 Desktop

Update: Windows 8.1 has the built-in ability to Boot to Desktop.

In the Consumer Preview edition the registry hack RPEnabled, which booted Windows 8 into the legacy desktop, no longer works.  The work-around is to create a shortcut to the desktop in your startup folder.

  1. C: \Users\YourName\AppData\Roaming\ Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup
    Note 1: In Explorer’s View menu, click Hidden items, otherwise you won’t see AppData.
  2. Create a new shortcut to Explorer.
  3. Sign Out –> Sign In. 
  4. Count to 15!  The Metro UI changes to the Windows 8 Desktop.
    Note 2: Boot to the desktop works better if you combine with AutoAdminLogon.

Plan B – Modify the Shell Using Regedit

It is possible to modify the Shell setting in the registry. 

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon
Shell: explorer.exe Explorer /e, /root, Libraries

While this does side-step the Metro UI, the resulting explorer was not ideal.  I am yet to get it to display the desktop and Taskbar.

Windows 8 – The Lost Start Orb

The hot debate in Windows 8 is the disappearance of the Start Orb.  People’s reactions are polarised, those with a tablet form-factor accept the whole Metro UI as one big start menu.  While many of those with a mouse prefer to work from the desktop as they did in Windows 7 and XP.

Do remember that the Metro UI is new technology, and knowing Microsoft, it will evolve rapidly.  The battlefield is how to reconcile touch screens functionality with those wanting a desktop workhorse.

Windows 8 Desktop ‘Start’ Menu

Windows 8 Start Settings ListIf you navigate to the desktop – pressing WinKey is a good way – then it’s possible to access a special ‘Start’ button. 

Amazingly, if you carefully right-click this icon then you get a whole menu of Windows 8 settings, which is reminiscent of the Windows 7 Start menu.  See screenshot lower left.

There is a knack to accessing this menu.  You have to hover the mouse over the lower left corner, it’s on the very lower edge of the screen.

One more surprise, it’s possible to customise the list.  Navigate to: C:\ Users
Select: YourAccount\AppData\ Local\Microsoft\Windows\WinX

You should now see three sub-folders called Group 1, 2 and 3.  This is where you can inspect the listed items, and with care, customize the menu by pruning the shortcuts.  I am still trying to figure out a way of creating new shortcuts for other executables.  When you have finished tweaking the items remember to Sign out – Sign in before your changes take effect.

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Top Right App Thumbnails

Windows 8 Top RightTo see this effect, and learn how to cycle through all the Apps that you have opened, try this:

  1. Open two or three Apps
  2. Push the mouse at the top right corner.  Key point.  It’s really difficult the first time.  Try different speeds, and try right in the corner, try 20 pixels in from the corner.
  3. Look for a thumbnail of one of the open Apps
  4. Click in the thumbnail, you should be able to cycle through all your open Apps.

The screenshot (above right) shows regedit open, and a thumbnail of a weather App; OK, confession, I enlarged the thumbnail so that you could see it more easily. 

Windows 8 Charms Sidebar

Windows 8 Charms SidebarThere are two ways to access the 5 icons that comprise the Windows 8 ‘Charms’, either press WinKey +c, alternatively, swipe downwards over the bottom right corner of your screen.  See arrow to the right.  Actually the Charms remind me of Vista’s Gadget Sidebar, but less intrusive.

The good news is that this overlay containing Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings is available from both the Metro and the Desktop view. It seems that position of the Charms has now settled on the right edge, whereas it was at bottom left in the Developer Preview.

One job for the Charms is to access the Control Panel, while another purpose is to use this sidebar to configure the settings of individual Apps.  Incidentally, I realized the Charms was important when I saw a program to change its icons.

Show Desktop Button

The Show Desktop button is hidden in Windows 8. However, hovering over where this button was visible in Windows 7 will minimise all open windows, and thus display the desktop and any shortcuts.

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Windows 8 Jump Lists

The key to viewing jump lists is to right-click a program pinned to the taskbar.  Alternatively, on a tablet computer drag the icon upward with your finger.

In addition to recently opened files, you can pin files to the Jump List.  Social media websites also program the jump lists to provide links to commonly used parts of their site.

See More About the Windows Metro-style UI

Summary of Windows 8 Desktop

For those with a mouse, Windows 8 has an alternative to the Metro UI, namely a Windows 7-like Desktop.  Furthermore, it’s possible to access many of the system management settings via its ‘Start’ button.

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Microsoft Windows 8 Metro-style User Interface

Windows 8 Metro UI  • Windows 8 Metro-style Tile  • Windows New UI  • Windows 8 Desktop

Windows 8 Configuration  • Windows 8 Charms  • Name a Metro Group  • Windows 8 Jump List

Windows 8 Metro -v- Desktop   • Windows 8 -v- Apple iPad3  • Windows 8 Touch Interface