Microsoft has launched the ‘Consumer Preview’ of Windows 8. In normal tech terms, that means the beta launch – a free download that lets you preview a restricted version of the OS for a limited time.
The full launch of Windows 8 will come later this year, giving you ample time to get used to its many idiosyncrasies. Here’s the five things you need to do as soon as it loads up.
Before we start, head over to Microsoft’s site to download the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. If you don’t do that, not a lot of this is going to make any sense. Got it installed? Then let’s carry on…
1. Sign in with Windows Live
Microsoft lets you sign into Windows 8 in a variety of ways, but we really recommend you do so with a Windows Live account. You may have mixed feelings about the Hotmail heritage, but a Windows Live account lets you do some really clever things; your details, preferences, apps, social networks, wallpapers and contacts will all sync back at Microsoft HQ.
That means that when you log into a new Windows 8 device all your settings will beam down, making you feel at home. It’s a similar concept to Google’s Chrome OS, only without such a heavy reliance on the web.
2. Set your personalised unlock gesture
The unlock screen on Windows 8 is really pretty. Forget the stock wallpapers, though: find a nice hi-res image of your pet, loved ones or anything that takes your fancy. Done that? Good. Now set an unlock gesture.
Passwords are a bit last decade, you see. Microsoft wants you to squiggle on your screen to gain access these days: draw a bespoke pattern and you’ll be able to use that to keep onlookers out.
3. Try out Microsoft’s Spotlight killer
Spotlight on Mac OS X is an essential tool. The ability to search for anything on your computer easily is, thankfully, something incorporated into Windows 8, but it actually top trumps Apple’s offering.
Whereas Spotlight requires you to press Command + Space to open the search bar, Windows 8 is ready when you are. As long as you’re on the Start page, you can simply start typing; Windows will being scouring your apps and files on the fly.
4. Navigate the edges
Windows 8 is all about what you can’t see. Instead of loading up each screen with options, the various toggles, tabs, input and tool bars are all hidden just off-screen. Swipe in from the top of Internet Explorer 10, for instance, to see your tabs. Swipe up from the bottom for the URL bar.
Likewise, options and other running apps are accessible from the right and left of the screen respectively. The corners show you the Start Screen and your last-visited program. It’ll take a short while to get used to, but some clever UI design means Microsoft’s quirks should quickly become second nature.
5. Scroll the wrong way
Windows 8 runs like a dream on tablets, but it’s also just as clever when stuffed into a laptop or desktop PC. As such, it works well with a keyboard and mouse – perhaps better than you’d think at first glance.
Microsoft’s added a bunch of new keyboard shortcuts to Windows 8 (like the ability to take a screen grab with Win+Print Screen), but the real thing you’ll have to get used to is scrolling with a mouse, because Windows 8 is built around horizontally scrolling menus. Scrolling horizontally can be achieved by scrolling down with your mouse scroller. It feels alien at first, but you’ll soon get used to it.
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