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Run Windows RT apps on the Windows 8 desktop with ModernMix

As many of you know, I've been using two monitors on my workstation for over ten years. I like being able to view two or more programs all at the same time. So when Windows 8 came out, I was happy to see better multiple monitor support. Still, I didn't particularly appreciate running Windows RT / Metro apps, as they took up the full display area. They are nice, but it was just too much for me with a screen size of 2560 x 1024. Then the folks at Stardock came out with a program to run Windows RT / Metro apps in a window on the desktop called ModernMix.

Two Windows RT apps running on a desktop with two monitors using ModernMix in Windows 8
Two Windows RT apps running on a desktop with two monitors using ModernMix in Windows 8

ModernMix allows almost any Windows RT / Metro app to run inside a window on the desktop in Windows 8. It remembers the settings of all of the Windows RT apps you have run, and you can manually modify them if needed. I came across a couple of apps that would only run in full screen. It also has a screen overlay you can enable in the upper right-hand corner that allows you to switch between modes (full screen, maximized, and windowed) and bring up the Settings charm for that app. You can even Pin a program to the Taskbar with ModernMix.

Application settings page inside of ModernMix
Application settings page inside of ModernMix

Here's a quote from the ModernMix website:

What is ModernMix?

ModernMix is a revolutionary new program that lets you run Windows 8 "Modern" apps in a window on the desktop. Windows 8 Modern apps, also known as Metro or RT apps, will use the full screen on your display regardless of how much of the screen they really need. As a result, that weather app, mail program or stock ticker is going to use the entirety of your computer display.


    Run modern apps in windows
  • ModernMix enables you to run multiple Modern apps in individual separate windows on the desktop as well as launch them from the desktop.
    Apply custom settings
  • Modern app window sizes are remembered the next time you launch them.
    Pin modern apps to the taskbar
  • Active Modern apps will also appear on your taskbar where they can be pinned for quick access later. Also create desktop shortcuts for Modern apps.
    Bring back the familiar Windows look
  • Standard Windows 8 title bar is enabled for Modern apps.
  • Explicitly close Modern apps by clicking its close button.

The price of ModernMix is $4.99 (at the time this article was written). For more information on ModernMix and Stardock, just follow the links below:



Using touch commands in Windows 8 with a keyboard and mouse

Note: the Windows 8 Release Preview program expired on 8/27/13 and is no longer available.

Recently Microsoft introduced the Windows 8 Release Preview. With the significant changes with the Start menu and the Metro apps, I wanted to get 'under-the-hood' of this new operating system. Now, for the record, I never recommend installing a beta operating system on a production system. But this time, I needed something more than a virtual machine. So being a fan of dual-boot systems, I decided that was the way to go. (see How to dual-boot with Windows 7 and Windows 8).

I have been using Windows 8 Preview Release for two weeks now and have almost gotten adjusted to the new Start menu. And with the release of Surface by Microsoft, we see what Windows 8 can do on touch-sensitive devices. But if you're a die-hard Windows user like me, you want to know, "How are the new Start menu and Metro apps going to affect the way I work with Windows?".

The Windows you have come to know and love, or hate, is still here. Accessing things have changed, that's for sure. But with the new Start menu and the Metro apps also comes new ways to navigate, Swipe, Slide, Pinch, and Stretch. Don't worry if you don't have a touch-enabled screen; Microsoft created keyboard and mouse equivalents.

I have to say I was overwhelmed by the new Start menu interface at first. But with some of the Windows 7 tricks, like 'Godmode', I was able to find some pretty cool features. It was my priority to get productive as fast as possible with Windows 8, the new Start menu, and the Swipe, Slide, Pinch, and Stretch features. Swipe is integrated into both the Desktop and the Start menu, with Slide, Pinch and Stretch only for the touch-screen focused Start menu and Metro apps. So here's a list of some of the new touch-based commands and the keyboard and mouse equivalent:

Swipe - Right side (Desktop, Start menu, and Metro apps)

Swiping from the right side of the screen reveals the charms with system commands.
Mouse equivalent: Place the mouse pointer in the lower or upper right corner of the screen and move your mouse up the right edge.
Keyboard equivalent: Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + C to open charms.

Swipe - Left side (Desktop, Start menu, and Metro apps)

Swiping in from the left reveals thumbnails of your open Metro apps so you can switch to them quickly. It does not display open programs on the Desktop.
Mouse equivalent: Place the mouse pointer in the upper-left and click to cycle through apps or lower-left corner of the screen to see the Start screen.
Keyboard equivalent: Using the Task Switcher (Alt + Tab) has the same functionally and also displays the open programs on the Desktop.

Swiping in and back out on the left brings up the most recently used apps, and you can select an app from that list.
Mouse equivalent: Place the mouse in the upper left and slide down the left side of the screen to see the most recently used apps.
Keyboard equivalent: Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + Tab to cycle through the Metro app history.

Swipe - Bottom (Start menu and Metro apps)

Metro App commands are revealed by swiping from the bottom or top edge. You can swipe from the top to the bottom of the screen to dock or close the current app.
Mouse equivalent: Right-click the app to see the app's commands.
Keyboard equivalent: Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + Z to open the app bar.

Swipe - Top (Metro apps)

If you want to close a Metro app, drag the app to the bottom of the screen.
Mouse equivalent: Click the top of the app and drag it to the bottom of the screen.

Slide to drag (Start menu and Metro apps)

This is mostly used to pan or scroll through lists and pages, but you can use it for moving an object or for drawing and writing.
Mouse equivalent: Rotate mouse wheel to scroll horizontally. Click, hold, and drag to pan or scroll. A scroll bar also appears at the bottom of the screen.

Pinch or stretch to zoom (Start menu and Metro apps)

Zooming provides a way to jump to the beginning, end, or a specific location within a list. You can start zooming by pinching or stretching two fingers on the screen.
Mouse and keyboard equivalent: Hold down the control key on the keyboard while using the mouse wheel to expand or shrink an item or tiles on the screen.

It's still too early in the programming phase for me to criticize Windows 8 Preview Release. Yes, I have had some issues, but nothing catastrophic (mainly video drivers). But with the new Start menu, I expected that. I have installed some of my favorite Windows programs and a couple of Metro apps from the Windows Store, and they seem to work well together. We will have to wait and see what the final release looks like.

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