With Windows 8, Microsoft is standardizing a lot of common tasks through new system-level features such as charms, contracts, and settings. But this standardization is causing some users fits, so I’m starting a new series of tips aimed at helping you overcome some common gotcha’s. In this new tip, I look at the new device-based ways in which you can adjust the system volume, particularly in Metro-style apps.
Previous to Windows 8, most users knew to use the Volume icon in the system tray to control the system volume and access more advance controls such as the mixer, which could be used to individually control the volume of individual applications and playback devices. These interfaces still exist in Windows 8, of course, but with the addition of the Metro environment, a more consistent method for controlling system volume was required.
In keeping with its mobile device-like design, Windows 8 of course works with hardware volume buttons. So when you press Volume Up or Volume Down, the volume will change and, if the screen is on, a volume overlay will appear. (This overlay appears over the Lock screen as well.)
The volume overlay also appears if you press a hardware mute button, if present. (This button is often found on Windows laptop and Ultrabook keyboards.)
Windows 8 also provides a software-based interface for accessing the system volume, one that works consistently in all Metro experiences—the Start screen, PC Settings, and individual Metro-style apps and games—and on the Windows desktop. This interface is provided as part of the system-wide Settings pane, which appears when you type WINKEY + I or select Settings from the Charms bar. As you can see, a number of system settings appear at the bottom of this pane, including Volume.
To adjust the volume, simply tap the Volume icon in the Settings pane. A pop-up volume control will appear, allowing you to manually select a volume level from 0 to 100 percent. Or you can tap the speaker icon at the top of the pop-up control to mute the system volume. This icon is a toggle, so tapping it again will unmute the volume and return it to its previous level.
Incidentally, Windows 8’s new Metro-style volume controls lack many of the more sophisticated controls that are available via the desktop. There’s no way to control the volume of individual Metro-style apps, for example, and that’s true of both the new Metro volume controls and the legacy desktop interfaces. Instead, the system automatically controls app volume, muting or lowering the volume of background apps when needed.