The Windows 8 desktop looks just like Windows 7, with one exception — no Start button. Losing the Start button isn’t the end of the world — Windows 8 exposes all the familiar options in different ways.

The Metro-style Start screen is your new Start menu. The Start screen has absorbed many of the features of the old Start menu, so it’s useful even if you never want to use a Metro-style app.

Entering the Start Screen

Windows 8 uses “hot corners.” Move your mouse cursor to the bottom-left corner of the screen and you’ll see a preview of your Metro-style Start screen.

Click at the bottom-left corner to access the Start screen. You may be tempting to move your cursor away from the corner and click on the preview image — don’t do that; you have to click on the very corner. Move your cursor away and it may vanish.

One catch is that the hot corner doesn’t move with your taskbar. You’ll always use the bottom-left corner to access the Start screen, even if the taskbar is at the top of your screen.

You can also access the Start screen with a keyboard shortcut — just press the Windows key. We also have a list of new Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts.

The Power User Menu

Right-click the hot corner and you’ll see a menu with various administrative options. You can quickly access the Control Panel, Windows Explorer, Task Manager, Device Manager, Run dialog, and other administrative screens.

Searching for Apps

One of the most efficient ways to launch apps in Windows 7 is by pressing the Windows key, typing the start of the app’s name and pressing Enter. It’s not obvious that you can still do this in Windows 8, but you can. Press the Windows key to enter the Start screen and start typing. When you type at the Start screen, Windows 8 will search your installed apps, just like Windows 7’s Start menu does.

Displaying All Apps

From the Start screen, you can see a full list of your installed apps — just like the “All Programs” option in the traditional Start menu. Right-click on the Start screen to bring up the menu, then click “All Apps” at the bottom of the screen.

You’ll see a full list of applications — both Metro applications and normal Windows applications that would appear in your Start menu. Scroll from the left to right using the scroll wheel on your mouse or the scroll bar at the bottom of the screen to view all available apps.

Pinning Apps to the Start Screen

Right-click an app here and you can select “Pin to Start.” This is equivalent to pinning an app to the classic Start menu.

Apps that you’ve pinned will appear on your Start screen as tiles, even if they’re not Metro-style apps.

Drag and drop tiles to move them around. If you want to remove an app, you can right-click it and select “Unpin from Start.” If you liked, you could remove all Metro-style apps from the Start screen and leave only shortcuts to Windows desktop applictions.

Pinning Apps to the Taskbar

You can still pin apps to the taskbar, just like in Windows 7. From the Start screen, right-click an app and select “Pin to Taskbar.”

Pin the apps you frequently use to your taskbar and you’ll rarely have to leave the desktop to launch the applications you use. Many Windows 7 users rarely had to use the Start menu, once they pinned enough apps to their taskbar.

You can still pin an app to the taskbar from the desktop by right-clicking its icon when it’s running and selecting the old pin option.

We’ve also covered how to shut down on Windows 8.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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