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There’s been a lot of press about the new Windows 8 software, mostly focusing on the removal of the Start menu. This has led some people to forgo the upgrade. It’s an ironic criticism of a move intended to be innovative, given that Microsoft is frequently viewed as behind the times.

Spurred by the success of the iPad and other tablets, Microsoft created operating software that takes a unified approach. Whether you’re using a laptop, desktop, tablet, Xbox or smartphone, Windows 8 has a modern tile-like look.

Even better, the Windows 8 OS lets conventional software and apps run concurrently.

Using the software on a laptop or desktop

Windows 8 comes with touchscreen capabilities, which can be used on tablets, specialized desktops and ultrabooks. But the majority of computer users are still on conventional desktops or laptops, rendering those capabilities irrelevant.

Is it still worth upgrading? Absolutely.

First, Windows 8 takes up less disk space than Windows 7. The manufacturer has streamlined and automated many processes, built in several features, and worked to blend the newest computing concepts, such as apps, interconnectedness and cloud computing into a seamless package.

I’ve found my three-year-old desktop starts quicker and runs faster using Windows 8. It’s simply a better software than Windows XP or 7.

Further, Windows 8 now allows those with newer laptops to take full advantage of the multi-touch mouse pad by pinching, swiping, tapping and double-tapping to zoom, scroll, flip and select websites, software, or documents.

And here’s a secret: The fancy new Start screen that’s caused so many negative reactions is really just the old Start menu, updated and stretched open.

To navigate this operating system as easily as—or more quickly than—Windows 7 or XP, you just need to learn three keyboard shortcuts:

  1. To launch a program that’s not on the Start screen, simply type its name. For example, to open up Word, type “wo.” That pops open the search screen and all apps with names containing “wo” will be listed.

    The search screen also will display any contacts, mail, and documents (e.g. PDFs, spreadsheets) that have those letters in their names, or within the body of the document. You can even click the Bing icon to use Microsoft’s search engine to trawl the Internet for those two letters.

  2. Holding down the Windows and hitting the D (Win+D) key at the Start screen gets you to the familiar Windows desktop, so you can add icons or flip between opened programs just like you would in XP. Press Win to open the Start screen again.

  3. Hold down the Alt button, then use Tab to jump between opened programs and apps (this shortcut has been around since at least XP).

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Other tips

  • Alt+F4 shuts down the program or app you have open
  • Win+E to open Windows Explorer (now called Files Explorer)
  • Win+F to open the search
  • Win+L locks the screen
  • When you first turn on the computer, hitting any key gets you to the lock screen
  • Logging in with a Live, Outlook, Hotmail, Xbox, MSN ID and password allows you to access all your information and pre-populates your People and Mail apps.
  • Windows To Go allows you to load your settings, desktop, apps or files into a thumb drive so you can use any computer running the Windows 8 OS as if it’s your own.

Given the new features and faster speed, it makes sense for users with XP, Vista or 7 to upgrade; at press time, Windows 8 cost $70 at Microsoftstore.com. If you bought a computer running Windows 7 between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013, you’re eligible for a $15 upgrade.

Kevin Cork, CFP, is President of TheAbsoluteGroup.com with 19 years financial planning experience. He has written for The Globe and Mail, Calgary Herald, AOL, FundLibrary, Registered Representative, KRAVE and Zi Magazine. His national best-seller, ‘The Money Book’, was followed by ‘The Investment Book’. Kevin has lectured at Banff School, Mount Royal College and the Universities of Calgary & Alberta and has appeared on Vicki Gabereau, CBC/Newsworld, A-Channel, ROB TV, Global, CTV, QR77, TVOntario, CityTV, MOJO Radio, CJAD Montreal, Country 105, JACK FM and Canada Learning Television.

Originally published in Advisor's Edge

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