Design & UX
By Craig Buckler

How to Boost Your Windows 8 Productivity

By Craig Buckler

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.

Starting Up

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.

Launch Applications

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.


Window Hotkeys

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

Windows 8 Win+X menuIf you only remember one hotkey, make it Win+X. It displays a menu of useful options such as regularly-used Control Panel settings, Disk Management, Computer Management and the Command Prompt.

Other 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

Shutting Down

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.

Windows 8 shutdown optionsHere’s an easier option: shut the laptop lid or press your PC’s power button.

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!

  • Jason

    I really wanted to like Windows 8 out of the box, and even though I’m a fan of keyboard shortcuts, I found it frustrating. $4.99 for Start8 to bring the Windows 7 start menu back was well spent.

    Although I applaud Microsoft’s effort to bring desktop and tablet together, they missed the mark in my opinion.

    • I have to agree. Many of these shortcuts are available in earlier versions of Windows, but you didn’t need to know them. Unfortunately, Windows 8 forces them on you because — sometimes — there’s no easier way.

      Incidentally, Classic Shell is another start menu option. It’s free too.

  • Francesco Spreafico

    I think that the fastest way to shut down is to use Alt+F4 (when your focus is not in an application, of course, or *that* will be shut down, as you said).

    It opens up a nice old-fashioned shut-down window, with all the options, like in the old times!

    • Old fashioned shut-down get my thumbs up!

  • Paul

    Is there a way to configure Win8 to work with web access without having to log into an email program first? I may have missed something in the install, but if I don’t log into a hotmail account, I can’t use the PC. Many info searches suggest 2 accounts need to be set up, but one is ‘local’ only without web access. Surely this can’t be right.

  • Dennis

    It’s far simpler to wait for Windows 9 which, once Microsoft recognize the popularity of Start8 and Classic Shell, will inevitably be a version of Windows 8 that looks and acts like Windows 7.
    Keyboard shortcuts are great if you know them, but the majority of people who use pc’s in the workplace and are used to all previous versions of Windows, are mouse & keyboard oriented and so far I have found most who have Windows 8, don’t have the time or inclination to change the way they work, they want the pc to work for them, not vice-versa.

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