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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.

How to dual-boot with Windows 7 and Windows 8

I wanted to install Windows 8 on one of my production systems but didn't want to perform an upgrade to my existing version of Windows 7. I have had dual-boot systems in the past, so why not try it with Windows 7 and Windows 8. And to have some fun with it, I decided to use my Netbook.

Windows 7 / Windows 8 boot manager screen
Windows 7 / Windows 8 boot manager screen

I was surprised as to how easy it was. All that is required is an existing Windows 7 installation, Windows 8 installation media, and enough free space on your hard drive. I didn't even have to edit the boot loader; Windows 8 did it automatically. Here's how I did it.

Rename the existing Windows 7 partition/volume

Once your system is dual-booting, you will need to identify which partition has what operating system. Renaming the existing partition now will make things easier later (see image below).

  • Open My Computer and right-click on the C: drive and select Rename. Give it a name that indicates which operating system is installed on it, something like Win7 or Windows 7.

Create a system image of your existing hard drive

The next thing to do is create a system image, just in case you need to recover your system back to its original state.

  1. Click the Start button, then click on Control Panel. Inside the Control Panel, click on System and Security, then click on Backup and Restore
  2. or
  3. Click the Start button. In the search box, type Backup, and then, in the list of results, click on Backup and Restore

In the left pane, click Create a system image, and then follow the wizard's steps. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

Shrink the existing Windows 7 volume

You will need some free space on your hard drive to install Windows 8. Windows 7 makes shrinking the existing partition easy. If you are logged in as an administrator, you can repartition your hard disk using the Shrink feature in Disk Management. You shrink the existing partition to create unallocated disk space, from which you make a new partition during the installation of Windows 8.

  • Click the Start button, then click on Computer, which will bring up Windows Explorer. Inside of Windows Explorer, right-click on Computer, then click on Manage
  • or
  • Click the Start button. In the search box, type Management, and then, in the list of results, click on Computer Management.
  • If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  • In the left pane, under Storage, click Disk Management.
  • Right-click the volume you want to shrink, and then click Shrink Volume. Follow the instructions.

install windows 8 on the free space

Insert the Windows 8 installation media (DVD or USB drive) and reboot your system. If your system does not automatically boot up on the Windows 8 media, you may have to modify the boot options in the system's BIOS.

Once the installation starts, you will be prompted to do an Upgrade or Custom installation. Select Custom, and then you will be asked which partition you would like to install Windows 8 on. Select the unnamed, unallocated disk space you just created and let the installation complete.

I have built quite a few dual-boot systems in the past and used a third party boot editor to finish the setup. Not this time. Windows 8 modified the existing boot loader.

The reversed drive letters on a Windows 7 / Windows 8 dual-boot system
The reversed drive letters on a Windows 7 / Windows 8 dual-boot system

Once the installation is complete, open up Windows Explorer using the instructions above. You will notice that the drive letters associated with the partitions have changed. The partition you renamed earlier is not the C: drive anymore under Windows 8. Both Windows 7 and Windows 8, when in operation, will make their active partition the C: drive. Rename the unnamed Windows 8 partition Win8 or Windows 8, and you're set.

View everything in the Control Panel in one folder in Windows 8

With the new Metro interface for Windows 8, finding things can be kind of hard. So I thought I would give the 'God' mode trick from Windows 7 a try, and sure enough, it works. The way it works is you create a new folder and give it a specific name. Then, when you open that folder, it displays the complete contains of the Control Panel.

Complete listing of Control Panel in one folder inside of Windows 8
A complete listing of Control Panel in one folder inside of Windows 8

All you have to do is create a new folder (I like having one on my Desktop) and cut & paste the following code in the name (check out How to create a shortcut on the Desktop and Start menu in Windows 8).

Control Panel Expanded.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}

Note:
For this article, I am going to use the name Control Panel Expanded. You can use whatever you like; just keep the GUID (Global Unique Identifier) extension (.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}) at the end
.

The first thing you will notice is that the folder now has a Control Panel icon. Double-clicking it reveals the complete contains of the Control Panel. How does it work? The folder extension references the GUID for the Control Panel in the registry and lists everything contained in it.

Try Windows 8 for free with Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Note: the Windows 8 Consumer Preview program expired on 8/1/12 and is no longer available.

You would think that doing computer repair for a living, the last thing I would want to try out is a beta operating system. But I have to admit that I love playing around with new operating systems (been doing it since Windows 95). And now it's time to try out Windows 8. And you can try it out, too, for free, with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

Desktop interface inside of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview
Desktop interface inside of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview

The first thing you will notice is that the Start button is gone. It's been replaced by a row of charms that appears when you swipe away from the right side of the screen. And the Start menu from previous versions of Windows is also gone, replaced by the Metro interface. You can access it by clicking on the Start charm on the ride side of the screen or pressing the Windows logo key.

Metro interface inside of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview
Metro interface inside of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview

The Metro interface inside Windows 8 is more touch screen intensive, incorporating gestures like pinch/stretch and press/hold. But with a little customizing, I made the Metro interface work for me on my desktop computer without a touch screen (I'm a big Windows logo key user). Here's a quote from the Microsoft website:

It's Windows reimagined and reinvented from a solid core of Windows 7 speed and reliability. It's an all-new touch interface. It's a new Windows for new devices. And it's your chance to be one of the first to try it out.

See what's new

Swipe, slide, and zoom
Touch a full-powered PC. It's fast and it's fluid. Take natural, direct, hands-on control.

Apps, front and center
Apps in Windows 8 work together to get things done faster. Get them from the Windows Store.

Your Windows, everywhere
Windows 8 can connect you to your files, photos, people, and settings, wherever you sign in.

Wall-to-wall web
Internet Explorer 10 Consumer Preview brings you immersive web browsing on screens big and small.

The familiar, made better
Still devoted to your mouse and keyboard? Windows 8 makes the tried-and-true feel brand new.

Geek note:
Windows 8 Consumer Preview is a beta version of Windows 8. Fun to play around with but in no way should you use it in a production environment. It is recommended to install it on a virtual machine like VirtualBox or a non-production computer. And remember that some of the features and functions may not work correctly.

Try Windows 8 for free with Windows 8 Developer Preview

By now, you have probability started hearing the buzz about Windows 8. Maybe it's the new interface, Metro, which brings touch screen ease of use and the simple tile look of the Windows 7 phone to the desktop. Or maybe it's the Metro apps, that with a connected Windows Live account, can be downloaded and used on any Windows 8 computer you login to. Or, my favorite, the improved multi-monitor options. But did you know you can try it out right now for free with the Windows 8 Developer Preview?

Login Screen inside of Windows 8Developer Preview
The login screen inside of Windows 8 Developer Preview. You slide the screen upwards to get to the username and password fields.

Windows 8 Metro Interface
The Metro interface inside of Windows 8 Developer Preview. You scroll from left to right to access the different categories of tiles.

Now I have to warn you that the Windows 8 Developer Preview is a pre-beta version of Windows 8. Fun to play around with but in no way should you use it in a production environment. And remember that some of the features and/or functions may not work properly.

Windows 8 Windows Explorer
The new look of Windows Explorer inside of Windows 8 Developer Preview. Windows Explorer now sports a ribbon style toolbar.

You can upgrade an existing version of Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7. But be forewarned that you cannot uninstall this release. You can also create a multi-boot setup, with Windows 8 on a separate partition. I use Oracle's VirtualBox to run experimental operating systems like this. I downloaded to latest version and it already had pre-configured settings for Windows 8.

Here's a quote from the Windows 8 Developer website:

The Windows 8 Developer Preview is a pre-beta version of Windows 8 for developers. These downloads include prerelease software that may change without notice. The software is provided as is, and you bear the risk of using it. It may not be stable, operate correctly or work the way the final version of the software will. It should not be used in a production environment. The features and functionality in the prerelease software may not appear in the final version. Some product features and functionality may require advanced or additional hardware, or installation of other software.

Note: You can't uninstall the Windows 8 Developer Preview. To go back to your previous operating system, you must reinstall it from restore or installation media.

System Requirements

The Windows 8 Developer Preview works great on the same hardware that powers Windows Vista and Windows 7:

  • 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
  • Taking advantage of touch input requires a screen that supports multi-touch
  • To run Metro style Apps, you need a screen resolution of 1024 X 768 or greater

Notes about installing the Windows 8 Developer Preview

A clean install is supported on all builds, but you can upgrade if you are installing a download without the developer tools. You will receive the full set of migration options when setup is launched in Windows. To dual-boot, you must first boot from media and choose an alternative partition.

For more information on the Windows 8 Developer Preview, just follow the links below:

Windows Dev Center

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