Windows 8 may initially frustrate and confuse you but many familiar features are lurking beneath the glossy Metro/whatever-you-want-to-call-it surface. Fortunately, Microsoft has provided a number of keyboard shortcuts so you can avoid all that swiping nonsense on your desktop PC.
There’s no need to perform any complex gestures — just click the mouse or tap a key and the login password or image will float into view. Hit Win+L to lock the computer again.
Hit your keyboard Window key to reveal the Metro Start screen. If the application’s not there, use Win+Q to view and search through all applications.
If all else fails, navigate to the old Start menu folders using File Explorer (Win+E):
- C:ProgramDataMicrosoftWindowsStart Menu
- C:Users<your-name>AppDataRoamingMicrosoftWindowsStart Menu
Locate the shortcut, right-click and select either Pin to Start, Pin to Taskbar, or Send to > Desktop.
Alternatively, the old Run dialog can still be launched with Win+R. Alt+Tab switches between applications.
Finally, the Windows key plus a number from 1 to 0 launches the corresponding pinned application on the task bar. Use Win+Alt+a number key to open that application’s jumplist.
Need to close a desktop program or Metro app? Alt+F4 has been supported for as long as I can remember.
Application windows can maximized and minimized using the Windows key in conjunction with the up and down cursor keys. You can dock windows to the left or right-half of the screen using Win+left and Win+right respectively.
Peek at the desktop using Win+D and tap it again to re-view your active applications. Alternatively, Win+M minimizes all windows and Win+Shift+M restores them.
Finally, if you’re using a tablet device, Win+O locks the screen orientation.
Power User Hotkeys
- Win+C — display the Charms menu
- Win+I — the Settings charm
- Win+H — the Share charm
- Win+K — the Devices charm
- Win+W — settings search
- Win+P — the second screen bar
- Win+Z — displays the Metro App bar
- Win+PrtScn — saves a screenshot to the Pictures folder
- Win+Break/Pause — display the Control Panel System dialog
Navigating to the shut down option is slightly ludicrous — move the mouse to the lower or upper right-hand side of the screen (which is awkward on dual monitors), then click Settings followed by Power then Shut down. Ugh.
Who knew? You can change whether Windows shuts down, sleeps or hibernates in the Control Panel Power Options. Click “Choose what the power buttons do” link in the left-hand pane.
Have I missed your favorite Windows 8 hotkey or tip? Useful ones please … switching to another OS or downgrading to Windows 7/XP isn’t necessarily practical!
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.