Understanding the Windows 8 Start Screen

How to Work in Windows 8

The Windows 8 Start Screen is the complete replacement for the ubiquitous start menu which most PC users have been accustomed to since the launch of Windows 95 some seventeen years ago. The changes are profound as they are controversial but, fortunately, there is not a particularly steep learning curve involved in finding your way around the new interface. As your chosen Denver IT Support company, we’re here to get you started with Windows 8 the right way.


The new Start Screen is Windows 8’s one-and-only start menu. There is no way to get the original start menu back as there was in some of the earlier pre-release development versions of the operating system. The code has been completely removed, so if you want to work with a more familiar interface like that of previous editions of Windows, you will need a third-party program such as Stardock’s Start8.

The full-screen interface, previously dubbed “Metro,” will be the first thing you see when you log into Windows. When you log in for the first time, you will be given the chance to choose a color scheme and a background. If it’s your first time using Windows 8, you will likely find yourself a little overwhelmed at first. While the Start Screen is heavily biased towards touch-screen platforms, it is also perfectly adequate with the traditional desktop or laptop computer. The following guide will help you to acquaint yourself with the all-new interface.

An Overview of the Start Screen

The first thing you will notice when you start Windows 8 for the first time is the various tiles on the left-hand side of the Start Screen. These tiles represent the new Windows 8 default apps such as News, Sports, Messaging, Mail, Weather, Photos and Desktop among others. Some of them will also show live information on them. The weather tile, for example, shows weather forecasts for your location. When you click on one of the tiles, the full app will open, providing further details and functionality. Desktop applications will be represented by square-shaped tiles with the icon and name of the program they are connected to.

To access the settings, networking, search and device features, move the mouse pointer to either the top- or bottom-right corner of the Start Screen. A new menu will appear. To zoom out of the Start Screen, move the mouse pointer to the bottom-right of the screen and click on the “-” symbol in the corner. To access the advanced system menu, right-click in the bottom-left corner of the Start Screen. If you want to use the traditional Windows desktop, click on the Desktop tile. The desktop will automatically open if you attempt to run a desktop program such as any program designed for a previous edition of Windows. By moving the mouse pointer to the top-left corner of the Start Screen, you will be able to glance through a list of open applications including desktop applications and the new Windows 8 apps. If you are on the desktop, simply moving the pointer to the bottom-left corner of the screen will bring up the Start Screen option.

Adding Shortcuts to the Start Screen

Be aware that the following instructions do not apply to Windows 8 apps.

When you install a new program, it should add a shortcut to the Start Screen automatically, even if it is a program designed for an older version of Windows. The same is true of the new Windows 8 apps which are installed through the Windows 8 Store. However, adding a custom shortcut to the screen may not be immediately obvious for some. The quickest way to do this is to open the advanced system menu by right-clicking in the bottom-left corner of the screen and clicking “File Explorer.” Navigate to the program, drive, folder or file that you want to add to the Start Screen and click “Pin to Start.” When you return to the Start Screen, you will see the new shortcut.

Renaming a shortcut is not quite so obvious. To do this, right-click on the shortcut and click “Open file location” in the menu bar which appears at the bottom of the screen. This will open the Start Menu folder in Windows Explorer. Press “F2” and type in a name for the highlighted file before pressing Enter. You can also right-click and select “Rename”, then type in a new name. You can close the window when you’re done.

To remove a shortcut on the Start Screen, right-click on it and click “Unpin from Start.” Do NOT click “Uninstall” unless you want to completely remove the shortcut. You will still be able to find the shortcut by right-clicking anywhere on the Start Screen and clicking “All apps.” You can add the shortcut back to the main Start Screen by right-clicking on it and clicking “Pin to Start” again.

Organizing Your Start Screen

Organizing the Start Screen is easier and quicker than organizing the traditional Start Menu in Windows 7 and earlier. To separate tiles into groups, drag each tile to the far-right of the Start Screen until a white bar appears. Drop the tile to the right of the bar. Drag each tile into the section you want it to be in. You can, for example, have a separate section for video games and another one for utilities and another for multimedia and Internet applications.

To name the groups, zoom out of the Start Screen by clicking on the small “-” button in the bottom-right corner. Right-click on the group you want to rename and click “Name Group,” type in a name and press Enter.

Customizing Your Start Screen

You can customize your Start Screen only in a limited variety of ways using Windows 8’s built-in tools. This includes changing the color scheme and choosing from a preinstalled set of background images.

To customize the Start Screen, move the mouse pointer to the bottom- or top-right corner and click “Settings” followed by “Change PC settings.” Click “Start Screen” and choose your preferred color and background by clicking once on the desired option. The changes will take effect immediately.

If you want help in upgrading your business office to Windows 8, contact the expert Denver IT Support team at North Star, Inc. We’re here to help. Call us at 303-552-0018.

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