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Six ways to make Windows 8 easier to use

Repairing computers for a living requires working on different versions of Windows. Windows 8 must have the most changes out of all the Windows releases I've seen in the last decade or so. It seems like what worked in previous versions of Windows doesn't work in Windows 8. So here are six ways to make Windows 8 easier to use.

1. Create Shutdown, Restart, and Logoff shortcuts

Microsoft made shutting down and restarting Windows 8 kind of hard. You have to go to the Start screen and log-off before you can get to these options. It just seemed like too many steps for me, so I just created my own shortcuts and toolbar for shutting down, restarting, and logging off.

How to create log-off, restart, and shutdown shortcuts on the Start screen in Windows 8.

2. Start menu replacements

Windows 7 style Start menu in Windows 8 using Start8
Windows 7 style Start menu in Windows 8 using Start8

If you're a die-hard Windows user and find the Start screen just doesn't work for you, there is hope. There are numerous third-party shell menus out there like Start8, Open Shell, and Pokki's Windows 8 Start Menu. Get one, and Windows 8 will feel just like Windows 7.

3. Power users command menu

The desktop and laptop versions of the Windows 8 Power User command menu
The desktop and laptop versions of the Windows 8 Power User command menu

This is one of the Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 8 (see below), but I think it deserves to be listed separately. It contains links to some of the most used programs inside of Windows. From the Control Panel, Computer Management, and an Admin Command Prompt, if it's a commonly used Windows program, you'll probably find it here. Add it works on both the Desktop and Start screen.

Press To
Windows logo key + X Open the Power User command menu. There are over a dozen different apps you can run from this menu.

4. Start screen hidden search feature

Most people find it hard to find programs on the Start screen (Windows RT). But there is one cool feature that actually will help you search for programs. If you go to the Start screen and just type the first couple of letters of the name of the program you're looking for, Windows RT will bring up the Search charm with Apps pre-selected. Remember that there is no box or form field associated with this feature; you just type.

5. Windows 8 Keyboard shortcuts

The Windows logo key Windows logo key has been around since Windows 95, and with every new version of Windows, Microsoft just adds more key combinations. There are now forty (40) different Windows logo key shortcuts in Windows 8.

Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 8.

6. Windows 8 restart options

Windows 8 restart option screen
Windows 8 restart option screen

It used to be when you had a problem with Windows, you could press F8 at startup and get to the boot options. This was the primary way to start Windows in Safe Mode or boot to other media. But with newer computers using Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) and Windows 8 booting faster, pressing F8 at boot is hard, if not impossible. But there are a couple of ways to get there once Windows 8 is started. Note: If you want to boot from removable media, make sure that the media you want to boot to is attached (USB) or inserted (CD/DVD) before proceeding.

If you are logged off:

  1. On the logon screen, in the lower right-hand corner, tap or left-click the Power Icon. Hold the Shift key down while you tap or left-click on Restart.
  2. On the restart options screen, tap or left-click Troubleshoot.
  3. Tap or left-click on Advanced options.
  4. From here, you can choose what startup settings you want to use or boot to a bootable CD/DVD or USB drive.

If you are logged on:

  1. Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + C to bring up the Charms bar.
  2. Tap or left-click Change PC Settings.
  3. Tap or left-click General.
  4. Scroll down to Advanced startup and tap or left-click Restart now.
  5. On the restart options screen, tap or left-click Troubleshoot.
  6. Tap or left-click on Advanced options.
  7. From here, you can choose what startup settings you want to use or boot to a bootable CD/DVD or USB drive.

And if you would like to enable the Advanced Boot Options menu, you can do that too. Just remember that there is no timer on the Advanced Boot menu anymore. If enabled, Windows 8 will wait for user input every time the system starts. How to enable the Advanced Boot Options menu at start up in Windows 8.

Left hand keyboard shortcuts for Windows 8

A while back, I wrote an article on left-hand keyboard shortcuts for Windows. I like to use them, so I don't have to take my right hand off the mouse. With the release of Windows 8, Microsoft added in more shortcuts, primarily for the Start screen. So here is a list of Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts for just your left hand.

The desktop and laptop versions of the Windows 8 Power User command menu
The desktop and laptop versions of the Windows 8 Power User command menu

Left-hand keyboard shortcuts for Windows 8

text

Press To

Windows shortcuts

Windows logo key Show the Start screen. If you have the Desktop running, you can also use this key to toggle back and forth between the Start screen and the Desktop.
Windows logo key + D Show just the Desktop (all running applications will be minimized). You can also use this combo to start the Desktop.
Windows logo key + E Start a new instance of Windows Explorer / File Explorer.
Windows logo key + C Open the Charms bar. When you open the Charms bar inside of a Windows RT app and select Settings, it displays the options for that app.
Windows logo key + F Open Files in the Search charm.
Windows logo key + Q Open Apps in the Search charm.
Windows logo key + W Open Settings in the Search charm.
Windows logo key + X Open the Power User command menu. There are over a dozen different apps you can run from this menu.
ALT + TAB Switch between open apps using Task Switcher.

Application shortcuts

CTRL + A Select all
CTRL + C Copy
CTRL + S Save
CTRL + V Paste
CTRL + X Cut
CTRL + Y Redo
CTRL + Z Undo

Check out these related articles:

A complete list of Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts

General Windows keyboard shortcuts

Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 8

In 1995, Microsoft introduced Windows 95 with a new feature called the Start menu. To make it easy to use, they added a key to the standard keyboard and called it the Windows logo key. Microsoft even added a hand full of keyboard shortcuts to go along with it. The Windows logo key is now standard on Windows based computers, and Windows 8 takes full advantage of it.

The Windows logo key from a Microsoft keyboard
The Windows logo key from a Microsoft keyboard

There are now over forty different Windows logo key shortcuts inside of Windows 8 (all of them are listed below). For more keyboard shortcuts for Windows, see the links at the bottom of this article.

Windows logo key shortcuts for Windows 8

Press To
Windows logo key Start screen
Windows logo key + C Open charms
Windows logo key + D Show desktop
Windows logo key + E Open Windows Explorer
Windows logo key + F Go to Files in Search charm (+Ctrl to find computers on a network)
Windows logo key + G Cycle through desktop gadgets
Windows logo key + H Share charm
Windows logo key + I Settings charm
Windows logo key + J Switch focus between snapped and larger
Windows logo key + K Devices charm
Windows logo key + L Switch users (Lock computer if on a domain)
Windows logo key + M Minimize all windows (desktop)
Windows logo key + O Lock screen orientation
Windows logo key + P Projection options
Windows logo key + Q Search charm
Windows logo key + R Run...
Windows logo key + T Set focus on taskbar and cycle through running desktop apps
Windows logo key + U Ease of Access Center
Windows logo key + V Cycle through notifications (+Shift to go backward)
Windows logo key + W Go to Settings in Search charm
Windows logo key + X Quick link power user commands (Opens Windows Mobility Center if present)
Windows logo key + Z Open app bar
Windows logo key + 1-9 Go to the app at the given position on the taskbar
Windows logo key + + (plus) Zoom in (Magnifier)
Windows logo key + - (minus) Zoom out (Magnifier)
Windows logo key + , (comma) Peek at the desktop
Windows logo key + . (period) Snap a metro app to the right (+Shift to snap to the left)
Windows logo key + Enter Narrator (+Alt to open Windows Media Center if installed)
Windows logo key + Spacebar Switch input language and keyboard layout
Windows logo key + Tab Cycle through metro app history (use Ctrl to use arrow keys)
Windows logo key + Esc Exit Magnifier
Windows logo key + Home Minimize non-active desktop windows
Windows logo key + Page Up Move Start screen to left monitor
Windows logo key + Page Down Move Start screen to right monitor
Windows logo key + Break System Properties
Windows logo key + Left Arrow Snap desktop window to the left (+Shift to move window to left monitor)
Windows logo key + Right Arrow Snap desktop window to the right (+Shift to move window to right monitor)
Windows logo key + Up Arrow Maximize desktop window (+Shift to keep width)
Windows logo key + Down Arrow Restore/minimize desktop window (+Shift to keep width)
Windows logo key + F1 Windows Help and Support

For more keyboard shortcuts for Windows, see the links below:

Windows logo key keyboard shortcuts

General keyboard shortcuts

Natural keyboard shortcuts

Dialog box keyboard shortcuts

Accessibility keyboard shortcuts

Windows explorer keyboard shortcuts

My favorite left hand Windows keyboard shortcuts

Updated April 19, 2023

One of the most useful items I use daily is keyboard shortcuts. Especially shortcuts that I can perform with just my left hand, allowing me to keep my right hand on the mouse. You can use keyboard shortcuts to open frequently used files, folders, and programs like File Explorer. Windows has a ton of built-in keyboard shortcuts (see links at the bottom of this article), plus you can create your own custom keyboard shortcuts. Here are my favorite left-hand keyboard shortcuts.

Left hand Windows keyboard shortcuts

Press To
Windows logo key + E Open File Explorer
Windows logo key + R Open the Run dialog box
Windows logo key + D Display the Desktop
Windows logo key + F Search for a file or folder (Windows 7 / 8.1)
Windows logo key + S Search for a file or folder (Windows 10 / Windows 11)
CTRL + A Select all
CTRL + X Cut
CTRL + C Copy
CTRL+ V Paste
CTRL + ALT + (KEY) Custom keyboard shortcut (see below)

Create your own Windows keyboard shortcuts

You can create keyboard shortcuts that use CTRL + ALT + (your choice of a key) for frequently used files, folders, and programs. You will need to have a shortcut to the file, folder, or program you want to open first. You can use an existing shortcut (on your desktop or the Start menu) or create a new one.

How to create a shortcut in Windows

Once you have a shortcut:

  1. Right-click on the shortcut
  2. From the context menu, click Properties
  3. On the Properties box, select the Shortcut tab
    The shortcut key box inside of a Windows shortcut
  4. Click inside the Shortcut key box and press the key which you want to combine with CTRL + ALT

Note:
You can not use the following keys for keyboard shortcuts: ESC, ENTER, TAB, SPACEBAR, PRINT SCREEN, SHIFT, or BACKSPACE.

For more information on Windows keyboard shortcuts, follow the links below:

Windows 11 keyboard shortcuts

Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts

Windows logo key keyboard shortcuts

General keyboard shortcuts

Natural keyboard shortcuts

Dialog box keyboard shortcuts

Accessibility keyboard shortcuts

Windows Explorer keyboard shortcuts

Windows logo key keyboard shortcuts

Windows logo key Windows logo key keyboard shortcuts (based on Windows 7)

Press To
Windows logo key Open or close the Start menu
Windows logo key + Pause Display the System Properties dialog box
Windows logo key + D Display the desktop
Windows logo key + M Minimize all windows
Windows logo key + Shift + M Restore minimized windows to the desktop
Windows logo key + E Open Computer
Windows logo key + F Search for a file or folder
Ctrl + Windows logo key + F Search for computers (if you're on a network)
Windows logo key + L Lock your computer or switch users
Windows logo key + R Open the Run dialog box
Windows logo key + T Cycle through programs on the taskbar
Windows logo key + number Start the program pinned to the taskbar in the position indicated by the number. If the program is already running, switch to that program
Shift + Windows logo key + number Start a new instance of the program pinned to the taskbar in the position indicated by the number
Ctrl + Windows logo key + number Switch to the last active window of the program pinned to the taskbar in the position indicated by the number
Alt + Windows logo key + number Open the Jump List for the program pinned to the taskbar in the position indicated by the number
Windows logo key + Tab Cycle through programs on the taskbar by using Aero Flip 3-D
Ctrl + Windows logo key + Tab Use the arrow keys to cycle through programs on the taskbar by using Aero Flip 3-D
Ctrl + Windows logo key + B Switch to the program that displayed a message in the notification area
Windows logo key + Spacebar Preview the desktop
Windows logo key + Up Arrow Maximize the window
Windows logo key + Left Arrow Maximize the window to the left side of the screen
Windows logo key + Right Arrow Maximize the window to the right side of the screen
Windows logo key + Down Arrow Minimize the window
Windows logo key + Home Minimize all but the active window
Windows logo key + Shift + Up Arrow Stretch the window to the top and bottom of the screen
Windows logo key + Shift + Left Arrow or Right Arrow Move a window from one monitor to another
Windows logo key + P Choose a presentation display mode
Windows logo key + G Cycle through gadgets
Windows logo key + U Open Ease of Access Center
Windows logo key + X Open Windows Mobility Center

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