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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.

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