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How to Get to the Classic Interface in Windows 8

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Windows 8's new tile-based interface works best on mobile devices, and the world of computing looks increasingly mobile. But the Desktop, which is the classic Windows interface, is only a click or two away.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

For most users, Windows is defined by the Desktop, the Start menu, and the windowing system (I always look at a window to see what operating system a device is running). In the tile-based interface, there’s no Start menu and there are no windows.

The Start menu, which was introduced in Windows 95 to the strains of the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up,” is gone. But pretty much everything else you’ve grown accustomed to about the Desktop is still there, with a few improvements. It’s a good thing too, because the tens of thousands of applications that depend on the Microsoft windowing system—such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat, and Intuit Quicken—still require the Desktop to run correctly.

If you long for the days of yesteryear and want to live on the Desktop, this chapter tells you how. For this chapter at least, bid the tile-based interface adieu, don your Mouseketeer hat, and whip out your clicky keyboard.

Start Me Up

The tile-based interface starts by default when you install Windows 8. This is by design, because the tile-based interface works best on mobile devices, and the world of computing looks increasingly mobile. But the Desktop, which is the classic Windows interface, is only a click or two away.

To launch the Desktop

  • If there are open windows, press newbutton02+D (for Desktop) to close the windows and show only the Desktop. Press newbutton02+D a second time to see the Desktop with all open windows restored.

    Press newbutton02 to toggle between the Start screen interface and the Desktop.

  • On the Start screen, tap or click the Desktop tile red-circle-a.
  • On the Start screen, tap or click a tile for a legacy application or web page; that item opens on the Desktop.
  • On the Start screen, tap or click the lower-left corner of the screen to toggle between the tile-based interface and the Desktop.
  • On the Start screen, tap or click the upper-left corner of the display, and cycle through the icons until you can tap or click the Desktop icon.

You might think that the Desktop is an application, because it launches from a tile in the tile-based interface, but it is not. The Desktop is a shell—specifically, a graphical user interface (GUI). In that regard, it is the same thing that the tile-based interface is.

When you install Windows 8, the Desktop tile is placed in another group lower down the screen than is shown in gray-circle-a. In gray-circle-a, the tile has been moved to the upper-left position, which leads me to one of my favorite tips: To move a tile, tap and hold it, and then drag it to a new position; or with the mouse, just drag it.

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