Windows 8.1 is Microsoft's newest version of Windows, and in some ways it looks pretty different from Windows 7, the version many are used to. But don't worry, these are mostly aesthetic changes that are easy to adjust to, and actually present a number of benefits!
If you're a staff or faculty member at Emerson College buying a new computer with departmental funds, it's going to come with Windows 8.1 pre-installed. Here is a brief introduction to some of the basics of using Windows 8.1.
The Start Screen
Welcome to the Windows 8.1 Start Screen. This is probably the most obvious change from Windows 7, and it replaces the Start Menu. Everything that you're used to is still here, it's just spread out a bit more. On the initial Start Screen page you will see the most common applications used here at Emerson.
This isn't all of your installed programs, of course, so how do you get to the rest of them? Remember the "All Programs" link in the Windows 7 Start Menu? There's a hidden down arrow at the bottom of the Start Screen that will expand the list of applications. Mouse over the area at the bottom of the Start Screen to reveal the arrow.
Click on any of the icons to launch the corresponding app. Right click any of the installed applications to Pin it to the Start Screen or Task Bar. If you pin the app to the Start Screen, next time you won't need to head into the All Applications screen.
Getting to the Start Screen is easy, and not much different from what you're used to.
The easiest way to get to the Start Screen is to click the Start Button in the bottom left of the desktop as you always have.
You can also click the Windows Key on your keyboard, or the Command key if you’re using a Mac keyboard.
To get back to the desktop, just click the Desktop icon! Or, click the Windows or Command key again. These keys will toggle you in and out of the Start Screen. You can also find the Start Button by hovering your mouse way in the bottom left corner.
Locking and Restarting the Computer
In the upper right corner of the Start Screen you will find your name, as well as a power icon and a magnifying glass.
Click your account name to lock the screen or sign out. Click the Power Icon to shut down or restart the computer. Click the Magnifying glass to search, or simply start typing at any time while in the Start Screen. This works with files, settings (like “Control Panel”) or even web searches.
Windows 8 introduced Modern Apps, which take up the full screen when launched, similar to an app on a tablet. Because Windows 8.1 is designed as a "hybrid" operating system, meaning it's designed to work both as a desktop operating system and a tablet operating system, some of the these apps duplicate functionality of other desktop apps. It's up to you which to use, but as you'll likely be working in the Desktop environment, you'll probably want to stick to the Desktop apps.
The design of the app icons is similar, so keep an eye out. For example, the Mail icon is for the Modern App, while Outlook 2013 is a desktop app. You can recognize Modern Apps because their icons are usually much flatter visually. Most Modern Apps have been removed, but you'll still see some, like PC settings. You'll almost immediately be able to tell if you've unintentionally ventured into a Modern App by the way it takes over your screen.
Now, it's easy to get a little flustered here, because there's no obvious way to exit this Modern App. Remember the hidden down arrow from the Start Screen? There's a hidden toolbar at the top!
Just move your mouse to the very top edge of the screen to reveal the familiar "X" to close the window. You can also always click the Windows (or Command) key to get back to the Start Screen, and then click on the Desktop icon to get back to the desktop.
If you'd like more information about how to use Windows 8.1, Lynda.com (which members of the Emerson College community have free access to!) has a great lesson on Windows 8.1. Much of it is aimed at home use, and won't be applicable to your work computer, but it will help you feel more comfotable with the interface. Or, submit a request, and we'll be glad to come give you a hand!