My Top-14: The new Windows UI

Overview

One of the design goals for Windows® 8 is that all of the new experiences being created for Windows are designed to be "Touch First." You will see this theme throughout the new features introduced with this version of Windows. Being "Touch First" means that the first and best method of interacting with these new interfaces in Windows is using touch-based gestures on a multi-touch display. Using the mouse and keyboard will still work in the majority of scenarios, but in most cases, these inputs are considered to be secondary.

It is with this concept of "Touch First" in mind that Microsoft created the new Windows Experience for Windows 8. The new Windows UI represents the largest change to the interface of Windows since Windows 3.11 and affects the majority of the Windows user experience. New versions of many of the apps and features using the new Windows UI have been introduced, including the Start screen, PC Settings, and Internet Explorer®, just to name a few.

The theme behind the look and feel of the new user experience in Windows 8 is our design language, which we refer to as the Microsoft design style. The Microsoft design style is very clean and relies heavily on motion, images, and typography using the Segoe font family. You may have seen other examples of other products using the Microsoft design style, such as Zune®, Windows Phone, and Xbox 360®.

Note: During the development of Windows 8, you likely heard the new Windows UI referred to as the Windows Metro style UI, or apps using the new model referred to as Windows Metro style apps. The term Metro is no longer being used by Microsoft, and care should be taken not to use this term when speaking with customers or posting information publicly. The Windows Metro style UI is now referred to as the new Windows UI or the new Windows Experience, and Windows Metro style apps are now referred to as Windows Store apps.

Start Screen

The first thing that you will see after signing into a Windows 8 PC is the Start screen.

Figure 1: Windows 8 Start screen

The Start screen completely replaces the Start menu that existed in previous versions of Windows. Almost all of the functionality from the old Start menu has been replaced and moved to the new Start screen. Instead of each app being exposed to the user as an individual icon, those apps will be represented as tiles instead, which we will go into more detail about in the section below.

Removal of the Start Button

Another major change in Windows 8 is in the way that the Start screen is accessed. Since Windows 95, every version of Windows has had a Start button on the taskbar in one form or another, but that is no longer the case for this release. The screenshot below shows the left side of the desktop taskbar, and as you can see, the first icon is a pinned app icon instead of the Start button.

Figure 2: No Start button

There are still two possible ways to get back to the Start screen using only the mouse:

  • Place your mouse cursor in the upper-right or lower-right corner of the screen to show the charms, and select Start.
  • Place your mouse cursor in the lower-left corner of the screen, and click on the Start screen preview overlay that appears.

Figure 3: Start screen overlay

Tiles

In the traditional desktop interface, apps are launched using icons that are not much more than a small picture and a link to an executable. In the new Start screen, the concept of icons has evolved into a new concept for representing apps called Tiles. Tiles do far more than act as just a pointer to the EXE for an app. Tiles are an improvement over icons in several ways.

  • Live Tiles -A tile can display additional information from the app right on the Start screen, which means that in many cases you won't even need to open an app to get the information that you need. An app can dynamically display information on the Start screen, and does not even need to be open to receive updates. For example, a tile for a weather app would be able to display the current weather in your area, or a 5-day forecast, all on the tile without having to open the app.

Figure 4: Live tiles

  • You can turn off live tile updates by right-clicking on the tile and selecting Turn live tile off.
  • Pin multiple tiles per app - You can pin multiple tiles from a single app, with each displaying different information. The first tile will typically be the app tile, and you will be able to pin additional content tiles to display different content. The Mail app is an example of an app that can ping additional content tiles. With the Mail app, you can pin a tile for each of the mail accounts that you have configured, or for different folders in those mail accounts. This way you can see a badge on the Live Tile on the Start screen that will show you when you how many unread messages you have in that specific folder. Clicking the content tile will take you to the specific area of the app that the tile represents.

This ability to display additional information in a tile on the Start screen is only available to Windows Store apps, which is the new type of app introduced with Windows 8. We will go into more detail about Windows Store apps in the Windows Store apps module, but for now you should know that Windows Store apps are written explicitly for the new Windows UI in Windows 8.

Desktop Apps

The other type of apps that are supported in Windows 8 are desktop apps. Desktop apps are basically every Windows apps that existed before Windows 8, including apps like Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Outlook 2010. Desktop apps can still have tiles on the Start screen, but they will be static, and consist of only the app's icon and title. The tiles for the Office apps in the screenshot below are examples of desktop app tiles.

Figure 5: Desktop app tiles

When a new Windows Store or desktop app is installed, it will get its own tile on the Start screen. These tiles can be unpinned however, and unpinning the tile does not uninstall the app. Similar to the older Start menu, tiles for desktop apps represent shortcuts to the app, and removing the shortcut does not remove the app.

Unpinning Tiles

If you want to unpin a tile from the Start screen, you can do this with either touch or a mouse and keyboard, and detailed in the table below.

Table 1: Accessing app commands for a tile

Hardware 

Method 

Touch 

Place one finger on the tile and slide it down about half an inch (or one centimeter), and then raise your finger This is a flick gesture.

Mouse and Keyboard

Right-click on the tile.

Both actions reveal a pane at the bottom of the screen with actions that can be performed against the tile. To remove the tile, select the Unpin from Start option. Doing this removes the tile from the Start screen, but does not uninstall the app it points to.

Figure 6: Unpin from Start

You can also select multiple tiles simultaneously, which allows you to quickly unpin several tiles from the Start screen at once. You can do this with the mouse and keyboard two different ways.

  • Hold down the CTRL key while using the mouse to select all the tiles you want to unpin.
  • Right-click each tile you wish to unpin, one after the other.

Figure 7: Select multiple tiles

Unpinning multiple tiles at once can be useful if you are personalizing your Start screen, or immediately after installing a desktop app, since many of them add numerous shortcuts to the Start Menu. This makes it easy to select all of the new tiles that aren't the main tile for that app that you installed, and then unpin them all at once.

Arranging Tiles

Rearranging the tiles on your Start screen is a very simple process. Just use the mouse or your finger to drag the tile to the new location.

The tiles on the Start screen are arranged into columns and groups.

  • A column is two tile squares wide in order to accommodate both large and small tiles. When a column is larger than the vertical space provided for it, it overflows to a new column next to the first one.
  • A group is a collection of columns and provides a great to visually sort tiles that are related to each other. Groups can contain several columns, and are separated from each other by a large space.

The Start screen gives you several choices for customizing your tile layout:

  • Make app tiles single squares or rectangles (two squares) using the Smaller or Larger commands you see when you swipe up from the bottom or right-click.

Figure 8: Change tile size

Note: Only Windows Store apps for which the developer has provided both small and large tiles can change tile sizes. Desktop apps cannot have large tiles.

  • Rearrange the order of the tiles in a group
  • Move the tile to another existing group.
  • Move the tile to a new empty group.

Note: if you are trying to move a tile to the far end of your screen, you can do this quickly by dragging a tile to the top of the screen, at which point the Start screen will zoom out. From there, wherever you drag the tile to will zoom back in to that area of the Start screen.

In addition to rearranging tiles, the Start screen also provides for the ability to rearrange whole groups at once.

  • With touch, zoom out from the Start screen using the pinch-to-zoom gesture.
  • With your mouse and keyboard, hold down the CTRL button while using the scroll wheel on the mouse.
  • With your keyboard, use CTRL and + or – (plus or minus).
  • With your mouse, select the – (minus) button on the lower-right corner of the Start screen.

Figure 9: Zoom button

After zooming out from the Start screen, you can then rearrange groups the same way that you would tiles. From this view, you can also give groups a name using the app command for Name group.

Figure 10: Name group

The name you enter will be displayed above the group.

Figure 11: Group name

Tile Details

  • When you install a new Windows Store app, it is automatically pinned to the Start screen.
  • When you install a new desktop app, all of the shortcuts that are normally pinned to the Start Menu will be pinned to the Start screen.
  • The all apps view mirrors the structure that was used for the All Programs menu in the legacy Start Menu. This is a combined view of the following directories:
    • C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs (For apps installed for all users)
    • %AppData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs (For apps installed for a single user)
  • Live tile updates happen through notifications. Apps are able to use notifications either locally from another process or over the Internet using the Windows Notification Service. The Windows Notification Service is hosted by Microsoft and provides app developers the ability to update their live tiles without ever re-opening the app.
    • Live tiles should begin updating immediately after the first launch of an app, and should continue to update from that point onwards. They could continue to display tile updates even across reboots and loss of network connectivity.
    • You can look at the following event log to find information that will assist with troubleshooting.

      Microsoft-Windows-PushNotification-Platform/Operational

Demo: Arranging Tiles

  • Show the process for rearranging tiles within a group.
  • Show the process for moving tiles from group to group.
  • Demonstrate changing the size of Windows Store app tiles.
  • Demonstrate arranging and naming groups.

App Commands

When you swipe up from the bottom edge or right-click in an app or on the Start screen, you will see a bar appear with the actions that are relevant for the current selection. These actions are referred to as app commands. The app commands that appear will change related to the view you are in or the tile or item that is selected. The concept is similar to the context menu that you see when you right-click in a desktop app.

Tip: You can access the app commands in an app or on Start with <Windows Key>+Z

For example, on Start, right-clicking on a tile will display app commands related to manipulating the tile or launching the app. Selecting multiple tiles changes the app commands displayed to only those related to manipulating multiple tiles. The sections below walk through the various commands that are available for tiles on Start.

Options for Desktop App Tiles

Figure 12: App commands for a desktop app

Table 2: Description of app commands for desktop apps

Command 

Description 

Pin/Unpin from Start

Removes the app tile from the Start screen, but does not uninstall it.

Pin/Unpin to taskbar

Pins the app icon to the taskbar on the Windows desktop.

Uninstall 

Opens the Programs and Features Control Panel.

Open new window

Opens a new instance of the app.

Run as administrator

Opens the app with administrator privileges.

Open file location

Opens Windows Explorer to the location where the app shortcut is stored.

Options for Windows Store app Tiles

Figure 13: App commands for a Windows Store app

Table 3: Description of app commands for Windows Store apps

Command 

Description 

Unpin from Start

Removes the tile for the app from the Start screen, but does not uninstall it.

Uninstall 

Removes the app from the PC.

Note: Windows Store apps are uninstalled through their tiles, and do not appear in the Programs Control Panel.

Smaller (or Larger)

Displays either a small or large icon for the app. Most Windows Store app tiles have this ability. The app developer must provide both tile sizes to be able to toggle between large and small tiles.

Turn live tile on (or off)

Enables or disables live tiles, causing the tile to switch between displaying dynamic content based on the app and a static tile with a graphic and text. Not all tiles are capable of being Live Tiles.

Note: Some tiles, especially the inbox tiles, may have different options than those described above.

The app commands you see will be completely different than those shown above when you are in a Windows Store app. These options will be specific to the app in question.

Also, with Windows Store apps, you may see app commands appear on both the top and the bottom edge of the screen.

All Apps

The Start screen is the place where you can pin tiles for your most commonly used apps, but how do you access the apps that are not pinned to Start? That is what the All apps page provides. You can think of the All apps page as the replacement for the All Programs section of the old Start Menu. You can access All apps through the app command that appears when you right-click on the background of the Start screen, where you will see an option for All apps. When you toggle this command, the All apps page is shown.

Figure 14: All Apps menu

In addition, the All Apps menu supports a Windows 8 feature called semantic zoom, which changes the view as you zoom out to show high-level groupings of your data. In this case, the data is your Start screen tiles in the apps view. You can use this zoomed-out view to quickly navigate to another location in on the Apps page.

Figure 15: Semantic view on Start screen

Charms

Charms provide a consistent way to access the key Windows features, enabling you to either perform actions against the app that is currently running or get back to the Start Screen. There are 5 charms:

  • Search
  • Share
  • Start
  • Devices
  • Settings

You can access charms in a few different ways:

  • Touch – If you have a touch display, you can use your finger to swipe in from the right side of the screen. To do this, start with your finger on the right-hand bezel and slowly slide it left onto the screen. The charms will display along the right edge of the screen.

Note: A bezel is the thin strip of plastic surrounding a LCD screen on things like tablets, monitors, and laptop displays.

  • Mouse – Place your mouse pointer in the top or lower-right corner of your display. The charms will appear, but without the black background. Moving the mouse towards the center reveals the black background, at which point you can select one of the charms.
  • Keyboard - <Windows Key>+C

Figure 16: Accessing charms with your mouse

Accessing the charms displays a large clock floating on the left side of the screen. In addition to the time, the clock will display the date, network status, and battery status.

Figure 17: Clock displays with the charms

Start Charm

The Start charm is used to open the Start page from wherever you are in Windows. Pressing the Start charm a second time will take you back to the app that you were previously using. Pressing Start repeatedly will cycle back and forth between Start and the last app you were using.

Tip: The keyboard shortcut for the Start charm is just <Windows Key>.

Search Charm

The Search charm provides a quick way to search from anywhere. Search from this charm utilizes the Windows Search service, and the results returned when searching using the Search charm will depend on the scope that you have selected: Apps, Settings, or Files.

  • Apps – This will search all of the installed Windows Store and desktop apps on your PC by name, providing a quick way to launch any app.

Figure 18: Search Apps

  • Settings – This will search across all of the settings in both the PC settings and the desktop Control Panel.

Figure 19: Search Settings

  • Files – This will search across all of the files in your search index, which are typically the files that are located in your user profile and libraries. You can use the indexing options in the desktop Control Panel to add additional folders for this search scope. Because Search is using the Windows Search service, you search across both file names and the contents of those files if they are a supported file type.
  • Individual apps – If an app has registered with the Search charm, it can be searched directly without having to have the app open first. For example, if you opened the Search charm from Start and selected the Netflix app, after entering your search string and pressing enter, the Netflix app would open to a search results page showing the movies that match your search terms.

Figure 20: Search app using Share charm

Searching from the Start Screen

The Start menu in Windows provided the ability to click Start and immediately begin typing, which made it very easy to find and launch new apps. This same feature is available in Windows 8. When you open the Start screen and begin typing, whatever you are typing is immediately sent to the text field in the Search charm, and then filtered to Searching Apps. If you know the name of the app, in most cases, you can just type in the name and press Enter and the app will launch.

Keyboard Shortcuts for Search

  • <Windows Key>+F will open the Search charm and search page in full screen with the Files search scope selected.
  • <Windows Key>+W will open the Search charm and search page in full screen with the Settings search scope selected.
  • <Windows Key>+Q will open Search on top of the app you are currently using.

Share Charm

The Share charm is intended to provide an easy way to share content. In order to share content, a Windows Store app must tell Windows that it supports the Sharing contract, meaning that other apps can share content using that app. For example, a Facebook app may register with the Share charm so that when you are in any other app, like watching a TV show in a Hulu app, you can share what you are watching on Facebook directly by using the Share charm without having to open the Facebook app. Other scenarios that the Share charm could be used for include the following:

  • Share the page you are reading using the Mail app.
  • Share a video you are watching using Twitter by using the People app.

Table 4: Sharing with the Share Charm

Select the Share charm.

Click the app you would like to use to share from the list.

A portion of the app may open allowing you to do things like enter a description. This interface is provided by the app used to share.

Figure 21: Select Share

Figure 22: Select app for sharing

Figure 23: Sharing interface of app displayed

Settings Charm

The Settings charm will open a settings bar on the right that shows settings for the specific app that is currently in focus. For example, opening the Settings charm while in Internet Explorer will reveal settings that allow you to configure Internet Explorer‒specific settings.

The fact that the Settings charm applies to the app that is currently in focus is an important one. Within the new Windows UI, Microsoft is recommending that all Windows Store apps use the Settings charm as the main entry point for settings within the app. This should prevent situations where each app has its own implementation of a settings or options page, creating confusion for the user. Now the settings for any app that uses the new model should always be accessible through the Settings charm.

Figure 24: Settings pane for Internet Explorer

The Settings charm will also display additional information and options specifically related to Windows. This view will persist no matter where you open the Setting charm from. The Settings charm displays the following information:

  • Network – Name and state of the network that you are currently connected to.
  • Volume – Controls system volume.
  • Screen – Change the screen brightness or control the screen rotation lock.
  • Notifications – Hide notifications for 1, 3, or 8 hours.
  • Power – Restart, shut down, or put the PC to sleep.
  • Keyboard – Switch between the different languages that you have installed, and bring up the Touch Keyboard.
  • Change PC settings – Opens PC settings.

Tip: Pressing <Windows Key>+I will open the Settings charm bar.

Device Charm

The Device charm enables to you send the content you are viewing to certain attached devices. If you are in an app that supports printing, you can print the content you are viewing from the Device charm.

The Device charm will show devices that can perform tasks relevant to the app that you are currently using. For example, Internet Explorer can use the Devices charm to print a webpage, display it on another screen, or share it with another PC using Near Field Communication (NFC).

Figure 25: Devices pane for Internet Explorer

The Device charm can also be used to change your multiple monitor configuration by selecting the Device Charm > Second screen from the desktop. The options that are shown are the same as those shown in the <Window Key>+P interface in Windows 7.

  • PC Screen only
  • Duplicate
  • Extend
  • Second screen only

This also provides an easy way to connect your mobile PC to a projector in a meeting or presentation scenario.

Charms Are Context-Specific

It is important to understand that charms are context-specific. What this means is that the options that are displayed when you select a given charm will be different, depending on which app you are in. Opening the Settings charm will show the settings that are available for the app you have open at the time (or for the Start screen if you do not have an app open). Opening the Device charm in Internet Explorer will only show you devices that are relevant to tasks that can be performed by Internet Explorer. This includes things like printing to a printer or sharing via NFC.

Charms Create a Consistent Experience for Apps

Charms will make the experience of using Windows Store apps more consistent from app to app. Microsoft is recommending to app developers that they use these charms instead of creating separate functionality for tasks that are possible with charms:

  • Apps should not implement their own Search box or separate search functionality; instead, they should use the Search charm. This has the additional benefit of allowing the user to search for something in an app without having to open the app first. The app will be listed in the list of available apps in the Search charm, unless you disable the app on that pane or uninstall the app.
  • Apps should not need to implement their own sharing functionality, but should use the built-in support for Sharing contracts, which allow apps to easily register as an available sharing target for other apps.
  • Apps that can print or share with NFC should use the Devices charm instead of implementing the functionality directly with the app. Printing for a Windows Store app should happen using the Devices charm.
  • Apps should implement any settings as a pane under the Settings charm.

While these are the recommendations that we are giving to app developers, these are not requirements, so you may see some apps implement this functionality on their own. All of the Microsoft apps strive to follow the guidance for using charms properly, so they should be the best examples of charms in action.

Running Windows Store apps

Windows Store apps are launched from and run in the new Windows UI. Selecting the tile for a Windows Store app causes it to immediately open full screen. Full screen is the default view. Switching back to Start and launching another Windows Store app moves the first app into the background. To bring the first app back, the user can do one of the following:

  • Swipe from the left side of the screen to switch back to the previous app.
  • Press <Windows Key>+Tab to cycle through the open apps on the system until the desired app is shown.
  • Select the tile for the app you wish to switch back to from Start.

Switching Apps

There are several new methods for getting into and out of apps and switching between them. This section will walk though some of those.

Switch Apps Using Touch

Using your finger, swipe from the left side of the screen. As you complete this gesture, you will see a large thumbnail for the previous app slide in and fill the screen, bringing that app back into the foreground. Repeat this swipe gesture from the left to cycle through all of your currently running Windows Store apps.

Switch Apps Using Mouse

The action for switching apps using the mouse is to move your mouse to the top left corner of the screen and click the thumbnail that appears. This will open the previous app that you had open. The desktop is treated as a single app in this case, so individual running desktop apps will not be shown here.

Figure 26: Switching to previous app using corner

Table 5: App switching bar

After moving the mouse into one of the left corners, moving it toward the middle will show the App Switching bar. This bar will show you thumbnails of the apps that you had open previously. Selecting any of the apps in the bar will switch to the app.

You can also open this App Switching bar by placing your mouse pointer in the lower-left corner of the screen, which opens the Start flyout, and then moving your mouse pointer up towards the center of the screen.

Note: You can also right-click on these thumbnails to either close the app or snap it to the left or ride side of the screen.

Figure 27: Control app from app switching bar

Figure 28: App switching bar

Switch Apps from the Keyboard

The Alt-Tab and <Windows Key>+Tab keyboard shortcuts still function in Windows 8 but with slightly different results:

  • Alt-Tab will show a pane in the center of the screen with thumbnails for all running apps. Tabbing through the different app thumbnails will show the app behind the Alt-Tab pane. You can cycle through both Windows Store and desktop apps using this method.
  • <Windows Key>+Tab no longer triggers the Flip3D functionality. Instead, holding down the <Windows key> and pressing tab will open the App Switching bar, where you can switch between all of your currently running Windows Store apps and the desktop. Note that this method will not switch between desktop apps.

Switch Apps from Start

If a Windows Store app is already running in the background, clicking its tile on Start will switch back into that app where you left off.

Snap

Although the default view for Windows Store apps is full screen, the user does have the ability to view two apps next to each other using Snap. Snap allows the user to show two Windows Store apps or the desktop on the screen at the same time. In this mode, one app is a main app and takes up the majority of the screen. The other app is the snapped app and takes only a narrow strip on the left or right side of the screen. There is no mechanism for viewing the apps split evenly on the screen.

Figure 29: Snapped app

To snap an app, that app must be open:

  • If you are using a mouse, start by dragging the thumbnail from the upper-left corner of the screen as you normally would to switch to a previous app, but instead of releasing the mouse drag the thumbnail to the side of the screen that you want to snap the app to. As you move the thumbnail to either side of the screen, you will see the app behind jump to the opposite side. Once you see this jump, you can release the mouse and the app will snap.
    • You can also snap an app by right-clicking on its thumbnail in the app switching bar that you see when you press <Windows Key>+Tab.
  • Snapping an app with touch is much the same as with a mouse, except you start by dragging the thumbnail from the left edge of the screen instead of the corner.
  • When you raise your mouse button or finger while the thumbnail is over the left or right portion of the screen, that app will become the snapped app. The existing app will be the main app on the screen. There will be a narrow divider between the two apps.
  • To switch an app from being the snapped app to the main app, drag the divider toward the opposite side of the screen. As you are sliding the divider, you will see the main app become a snapped app. If you continue sliding past the border of the snapped app, the snapped app will disappear and the main app will take up the full screen.

Tip: You can control which snap using keyboard shortcuts.
<Windows Key>+. (period) moves the split to the right.
<Windows Key>+Shift+. (period) moves the split to the left.
<Windows Key>+' (single-quote) changes focus between the apps.

  • As you are sliding the divider, you will see the state of the apps on the screen change to reflect what would happen if you let go of the divider at that point. None of the changes are committed until you actually let go of the divider.
  • To change the main app or snapped app to take up the full screen, drag the divider in the opposite direction from the app until it reaches the edge of the screen.

Screen Resolution Requirements

In order to open a Windows Store app, your screen resolution must meet certain minimum requirements:

  • To run Windows Store apps, you need a screen height of at least 768 pixels, meaning a resolution of at least 1024x768.
  • To run Windows Store apps using the Snap feature, you need a screen width of at least 1366 pixels, meaning a resolution of at least 1366x768.

Closing Apps

Windows Store apps are designed so that the user does not ever have to think about closing apps. When users are finished with apps, Windows 8 just does the right thing related to handling resources and saving state. However, there may be scenarios where a user wants to close an app on their own, such as if the app has hung or stopped running properly. With Windows 8, they can do that with both mouse and touch.

With the mouse, they can place the pointer against the top edge of the screen. From there, the pointer will switch to a closed hand.

Figure 30: Mouse pointer switches to a hand

Pulling down while holding down the left mouse button will shrink the app to a thumbnail. Releasing the app will return the app its previous state.

Figure 31: Pulling the app down from the top edge of the screen

Moving that thumbnail to the left or right edge of the screen will snap the app on that side.

Figure 32: Using the close gesture to snap

Moving the medium-sized thumbnail down to the bottom of the screen will close the app and take the user back to the Start screen.

Figure 33: Drag to the bottom to close

With touch, the experience is much the same, except you are swiping down starting from the top bezel past the top edge of the screen.

Note: When the app is closed, it is also removed from the list of previous apps in the App Switching bar.

Additionally, you can close apps by right-clicking on them in the App Switching bar on the left edge of the screen. Simply open the bar and right-click on the thumbnail for the app that you would like to close.

Figure 34: Close app from App Switching bar

Tip: Like desktop apps, you can also use Alt+F4 to close a Windows Store app. Of course, you can also use Task Manager to close an app.

Navigating with Corners

The four corners of the screen are given new significance in Windows 8. For the majority of Windows users who have a single monitor, the corners of the screen are the easiest places to quickly target with a mouse without having to be very accurate. You can throw the mouse pointer into a corner and trust that the pointer will likely make it all the way to the corner you are aiming for. Windows 8 makes it easy to perform some of the most commonly used actions by just moving the mouse to the corner of the screen and clicking.

The exact behavior that occurs when you click the corner will depend on the specific corner that you are clicking.

  • Upper-left - Switch to your previously open main app.
  • Lower-left - Navigate to the Start Screen or back to your app.
  • Upper and lower right - Displays the charms. Activating charms is a two-step process using this method. First, move the mouse pointer to the correct corner to make the charms appears, and then move the pointer toward the charm. If done properly, the charms will stay visible so that you can select one.

The diagram below shows this in more detail.

Figure 35: Navigating with corners

On a touch device, the focus moves from the corners to the edges. Swiping in from the edges of the screen performs a consistent action regardless of where you are in Windows.

  • Swipe in from the right edge to reveal the charms.
  • Swipe down from the top edge or up from the bottom edge to reveal the app commands.
  • Swipe in from the left edge to switch to the previous app.
    • If you move your finger in from the left edge and then back out all the way to the edge, the app switching bar will be displayed.

Note: Right-clicking in the bottom-left corner reveals a menu that you can use to quickly access many of the tools and system settings that we commonly use in support, as shown in the screenshot below.

This menu can also be accessed using the keyboard shortcut Win+X.

Figure 36: Win+X menu

Notifications

Windows 8 also includes a new mechanism for communicating information and status updates to users in an unobtrusive manner. This mechanism is referred to as Notifications. Notifications display in a small pane on the upper-right portion of the screen and communicate information such as new mail alerts and can ask questions of a user, such as how they would like to handle a USB flash drive that they inserted.

Figure 37: Notification from the Store app

Notifications are an improvement over previous methods of displaying alerts on the desktop in many ways. Desktop alerts are implemented using many different methods including balloon notifications in the system tray, alert windows or dialog boxes, or even opening a whole new instance of an app in order to get the user's attention. The issue with this beyond just the inconsistency in their implementation is that there was no clear single place to disable these notifications.

Windows 7 provided a mechanism for hiding things like tray icons and balloon prompts from the user, but apps that used a dialog box or some other mechanism to get the users attention would be unaffected. These dialog boxes were distracting to the user and in many cases could take focus away from the window that the user was interacting with. For example, a user might be mid-sentence in typing an email message while looking at the keyboard, and when they look up they see that the last several words they were typing were either lost or had been entered into an unintended window.

Notifications in Windows 8 address these issues on many levels:

  • For Windows 8, the only way for Windows Store apps to alert a user to important information is to use notifications:
    • Desktop apps will still be able to use the same mechanisms they used in the past for alerts and notifications, but those messages will only ever be displayed on the desktop.
    • If the user is not on the desktop, but is instead in a Windows Store app, those notifications will not be seen.
  • These notifications never steal focus from the app the user is interacting with.
  • Notifications are automatically dismissed after five seconds.
    • This number is configurable from the Ease of Access Control Panel.
  • Notifications can be manually dismissed by swiping them to the right.
  • Notifications are configurable by the user in one central location.
    • From the Notification Control Panel, the users can disable notifications globally, on a per-app basis, or disable sounds for notifications.

PC Settings

Windows 8 has relocated many of the most commonly used Windows settings to a new PC Settings app that can be thought of as a Control Panel within the new Windows Experience. PC Settings is not a complete replacement for the desktop Control Panel, and both will continue to exist. The interface for the PC Settings is much simpler than the desktop Control Panel, works better with touch, and in general, there are far fewer options, which makes for less complexity for the user:

  • Some options exposed in PC Settings are also duplicated in the desktop Control Panel.
  • All settings related to Windows Store apps and UI are only shown in PC Settings.
  • The desktop Control Panel can be accessed by selecting the Control Panel link that appears when you open the Settings Charm on the desktop.

Figure 38: PC settings

PC Settings does not have its own tile on the Start Screen. Instead, you access PC Settings using the Change PC settings link in the Settings charm.

Figure 39: Change PC settings link in Settings charm

Lock Screen

The Lock screen is a new interface that covers the Sign in screen in Windows 8. The Lock screen shows a full screen image and other information that is customizable by the user.

Figure 40: Lock screen

The following are some features of the Lock screen:

  • The Lock screen picture is customizable in the Personalize section of PC Settings.
  • The Lock screen can display the following information:
    • Date and time in a large Segoe font on the lower-left corner.
    • Network connection status icon.
    • Lock screen apps can display information on the Lock screen:
      • One Windows Store app can display detailed status and text on the Lock screen.
        • The Calendar app is configured by default.
      • Up to seven Windows Store apps can display status badges on the Lock screen:
        • Messaging, Mail, and Calendar are configured by default.
      • Apps that are designated as Lock screen apps can display notifications on the Lock screen. All other apps are restricted to displaying notifications only when the PC is unlocked.

Figure 41: Lock screen apps

  • The Lock screen slides up to reveal the Sign on screen. There are several methods you can use to slide the Lock screen away:
    • With touch, swipe your finger up the screen.
    • With your mouse, click and drag the Lock screen up off the screen.
    • With your mouse, scroll up.
    • Press any key on your keyboard.

Touch Keyboard

Windows 8 also includes a new touch keyboard optimized for the new Windows UI. The touch keyboard is designed to make text entry on a touch screen fast and fluid, and the experience is customizable based on your specific needs.

The default view of the keyboard shows the most commonly used keyboard keys and fills the entire width of the screen.

Figure 42: Default touch keyboard view

The touch keyboard has the following features:

  • You can access additional keys like symbols and numbers using the &123 button in the lower-left corner.
  • Hundreds of emoticons are available from the emoticon key to the left of the space bar.

Several different touch keyboards are available, allowing you to pick the input experience that works best for you. You can quickly switch between all of the available touch keyboards using the Keyboard Switcher button on the lower-right corner of the keyboard.

Figure 43: Switching keyboard views

The various keyboards offer the following features:

  • The thumb keyboard view optimizes for thumb typing while grasping the tablet from the sides.

Figure 44: Split keyboard

  • You can change the size of these keys by placing your finger on the three dots and sliding left or right.

Figure 45: Split keyboard size

  • The full keyboard displays all of the keys that you see on most physical keyboards, including the number keys, the F1-F12 function keys and modifier keys, such as the Tab key.

Figure 46: Full touch keyboard

  • To access the full keyboard, you need to enable the Make the standard keyboard layout available option in the General section of PC Settings.
  • The Handwriting panel enables written text, which makes for a great input experience on PCs that include a stylus.

Figure 47: Handwriting panel

  • If you have an alternate input language installed, the touch keyboard will display in that language.

Figure 48: Alternate language keyboard

Accessing the Touch Keyboard

You have multiple options for opening the touch keyboard on a touch device:

  • Select any text field in a Windows Store app or from the Start screen (such as in the Search charm).
  • Tap the keyboard button in the Settings charm, and select Touch keyboard and handwriting panel.

Figure 49: Open keyboard from Settings charm

  • The touch keyboard icon on the taskbar. When the touch keyboard is opened on the desktop, you have the option to unpin it from the bottom of the screen so you can move the keyboard around. This is great for scenarios where the keyboard is obscuring a text field in a desktop app.

Figure 50: Open keyboard from taskbar

Note: Most desktop apps do not report the necessary status to Windows to indicate that a text field is selected, so in most cases, it will be necessary to manually bring up the keyboard for these desktop apps. Desktop apps are given the ability to add functionality that reports this info to Windows so that the keyboard opens seamlessly when needed, but this is not guaranteed across all apps.

If Windows 8 detects that the PC is not touch enabled, the touch keyboard will not be exposed to the user:

  • The touch keyboard will not be displayed when selecting a text input field.
  • The option to display the keyboard from the Settings charm and the taskbar will not be displayed.

For More Information 

Index of UX guidelines for Windows Store apps

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/apps/hh465424.aspx

 

ONiehus, Microsoft