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An Introduction to Charms in Windows 8: What They Are & How to Use Them

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Charms are an important new feature in Windows 8. Some of the charms are context-sensitive, while some aren’t. Some are important on the desktop, while some only work in Metro apps.

They’re named charms because they resemble items you’d find on a charm bracelet. To get to grips with Windows 8 – and shut down your computer – you’ll need to figure out the charms.

Accessing the Charms

You can pull up the charms with the keyboard, your mouse, or a touch screen.

Keyboard Shortcut: WinKey+C

Mouse: Move your mouse cursor to the top or bottom right corner of the screen, then move the cursor up or down towards the transparent charm icons that appear in the middle of your screen.

Touch: Swipe from the right edge of the screen towards the center of the screen.

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You’ll see five charms: Search, Share, Start, Devices, and Settings.

Search

The Search charm can be either context-sensitive or global. When you invoke it from the desktop or the Start screen, you’ll access the system-wide search functionality. From here, you can search your installed apps and files. Any Metro app you install can extend the search feature and add its own search results – for example, a music-playing application could add song, artist, and album results.

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The Search charm can also be context-sensitive in a Metro application. For example, when you invoke the Search charm from inside the Windows Store, you’ll access the Windows Store search functionality.

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Keyboard Shortcut: WinKey+Q

Share

The Share charm only functions within Metro apps. You can’t use it from the desktop or Start screen.

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Metro apps programmed to take advantage of “share contracts” can share content with each other using the Share charm. For example, you can open a web page in Internet Explorer and use the Share charm to send it to the Mail app, which can email the link to others.

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Keyboard Shortcut: WinKey+H

Start

The Start Charm performs the same function as the Windows key. Use it and you’ll go to the Start screen. If you’re already at the Start screen, you’ll be taken back to the desktop or your previous Metro app.

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Keyboard Shortcut: WinKey

Devices

The Devices charm offers a streamlined interface for interacting with the devices connected to your computer. For example, you can easily manage how Windows deals with additional monitors.

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While the screen feature works from the desktop, most of the options here only work within Metro apps. If you want to interact with a device from a Metro app – for example, by printing from a Metro app to a connected printer – you’ll find the device in the Devices charm.

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Keyboard Shortcut: WinKey+K

Settings

The Settings charm contains both context-sensitive and global settings. At the bottom of the Settings pane, you’ll find a grid of important, system-wide settings. The Shut Down option is here, as are options for controlling your sound volume, network, screen brightness, language, and notifications. These system-wide settings appear every time you invoke the Settings charm, even if you invoke it from within an app.

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The options at the top of the Settings pane are context-sensitive. Invoke it from the desktop and you’ll see desktop-wide settings, including a link to the Control Panel. The Control Panel link at the top of the pane takes you to the desktop Control Panel, while the More PC settings link at the bottom opens the Metro-style settings app.

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Invoke the Settings charm from within a Metro app to access the app’s settings. For example, select the Settings charm in Internet Explorer and you’ll see links to Internet Explorer’s different settings panes.

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Keyboard Shortcut: WinKey+I


For more information on learning Windows 8, check out our guides to using the mouse in Windows 8 and living without the Start button.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 05/19/12

Comments (5)

  1. eubillie

    Nice try, microsoft, but you are still utterly without charm.

  2. Cameochi

    I love Metro on my Windows phone but I cannot begin to deal with it on my desktop. It works on a cell phone or a tablet but on my destop it’s a lot of unnecessary clutter.

    I think I will take my time with this version of Windows. Windows 7 has been rock solid and it’s comfortable. Windows 8 looks messy and takes up a lot of real estate. I will not hurry to upgrade to Windows 8.

  3. Paulster

    I just want a version of Windows 8 without the Metro stuff (Start screen, charms, etc.), except for the lock screen, which is a nice improvement that can be applied even in the absence of the Metro features. When that is granted, I will certainly upgrade to Windows 8 right away.

  4. kenny

    This metro design is the worse mistake MS ever made… yes worse than windows ME and Vista… they outdone themselves this time……

    some evil witch “charmed” or rather cursed the GUI designers on this one and removed the brains from their craniums

  5. DaFoo

    Looks like it will be easier to access important settings with these charms menus. I like the direct control of different devices. I’ll definitely be upgrading to Windows 8!

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